Chapter Three

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Mist swirled around me in billowing waves, creeping across the carpeted forest floor. It climbed up the tree trunks, making the glow of greying moss and ivy magnified in the dimming sun.

Fallen leaves crunched under foot as my black flats trekked through the dense wooded area. The distinct feel of eyes following me caused the hair to stand on end along my neck and arms. I cast a weary glance toward the trees and crossed my arms in front of me, rubbing at them. I kept up the fast pace and made my way through the fog. The forest seemed to quieten down out of nowhere. Even the wind stopped rustling through indigenous trees.

I've been walking for what felt like hours, but knew it was only minutes. At least from what I remembered. The fog seemed to cloud my mind too. I shook my head to clear it as I tried recalling how I happened to be in the forest. Nothing came to me. I shrugged and continued to hasten down the leaf strewn path.

I knew as long as I didn't stray from the path, I would be safe from getting lost, but the fact of danger possibly lurking in the woods didn't help calm my nerves.

The trees kept thinning the more I walked, until a minute or two passed, they grew far apart. I slowed my steps as the ground began to slant downward, and carefully descended the hill while avoiding any fallen foliage. Purple stylized lilies dotted the ground every couple of feet. A tinge of confusion flitted across my consciousness. It was mid November, so everything should be dying off, not growing. I shrugged it off and pressed onward. France could possibly have some weird flower which grows in the winter.  My eyes remained downcast, but a quick glance upward had me pausing.

A faint silhouette could be seen through the mist, its outline barely visible, but there was no mistaking the female figure. My eyes narrowed as I tried depicting who it could be. I took a few hesitant steps forward and froze in terror when a deep baritone voice sounded behind me in a whisper, the person's breath hitting my ear.

“Elisabeth.”

****

“- Elisabeth.”

A cry lodged in my throat as I bolted upright in my seat. My wide eyes went to Felix's as he frowned at me from his seat. He withdrew his hand from my shoulder, raising an eyebrow.

“Are you okay, Darling? You seemed restless.”

I placed a hand over my beating heart and slumped backwards in my seat, rubbing my eyes with the other.

“Ye-.” I said, voice cracking and hoarse from sleep. I cleared my throat and swallowed before replying again. “Yeah. Just an interesting dream is all. I'm fine.”

Felix flashed a smile and unbuckled, his head tilting to the window beside him. “Let's get going then. The plane just landed.”

“Oh, okay.”

Trying to shake the vivid dream from my mind, I unbuckled too and got up from my seat. Hollie had already gotten out of her aisle seat to let an older man go by. I looked over at her to get her attention, but she still avoided looking at me and Felix. Annoyance flooded me. I turned to reach for my things stored in the overhead compartment, dragging them down to noisily land on the floor. I bit my tongue to keep from saying anything I would regret. Hopefully, this trip goes by in a blink of an eye. I don't know how much I can stand being around these two.

Felix watches me with a frown. His mouth opened to talk, but I quickly turned heel and carried my things over to the curtain separating me from my two actual friends. Straightening my spine I part the tawny fabric and step into first class and am met with Maya's brown, wistful eyes and Kera’s lively, blue ones.

They were standing next to the first row of seats as they got their carry ons from the storage compartment. Maya happened to catch my gaze first and gave me a questioning look. I shook my head, lips pressed in a firm line as I fixed the strap on my shoulder. I didn't think I would be able to voice everything I was feeling into a brief sentence. Knowing Felix he was about to walk up behind me any minute now. She gave me a sympathetic smile and grabbed her luggage. Kera’s smile brightened and she threw her hands up in the air.

“Can you believe it, El? We’re in France!”

Her voice carried throughout the whole plane. I cringed as people around us shot angry glances our way. A stewardess not too far away spoke to Kera in a french accent.

“Please keep all voices lowered until you exit the plane.”

Kera's eyes widened and she gave the stewardess a sheepish smile. “Sorry, bout that.”

Maya rolled her eyes and poked Kera in the arm, “Let's get going before France thinks twice about letting you step on their soil.”

“Hey! I'm not that bad!”

Kera froze and plopped a hand over her mouth, eyes widening at the stewardess who shot another warning look. Kera tuned to us, nodding as she ushered us out of coach with her hands. “Yeah. I agree. Let's go ladies.”

Maya and I chuckled as we walked on ahead of her. As we reached the door leading from the plane I caught a glimpse of Hollie and Felix. They had stepped out of the aisle into a row of seats with their luggage. Their heads bent down together, speaking in hushed tones. A pang of hurt surged through me. I turned away, blinking back unwanted tears, when the blonde male flight attendant captured our attention. He was very handsome and spoke to us in a cheerful voice, but his eyes locked with mine.

“Enjoy France, Mademoiselle. It is the country of romance after all.”

“Um. Thank you, Monsieur.”

He sent a wink my way which caused a blush to tint the crest of my cheeks,

“Anytime, Belle.”

Confused I gave a sheepish smile and descended the stairs leading to the ground. Footsteps clamped down behind me before Kera's voice shot through the air.

“El, did he just call you beautiful in French?”

I paused turned to them with widened eyes. “Nuh uh! That's what Belle means?”

“Eli, I do believe Kera is right. He was flirting with you” Maya said from next to Kera. A wry grin on her face.

“Oh. Beauty and the Beast makes more sense now.”

We broke into a fit of giggles and continued our way to the bottom. I had almost reached the bottom before Kera spoke under her breath.

“Yeah, Felix is gonna have his hands full of keeping all the hotties from hitting on El.”

Maya hushed her, “Let's save the teasing for another time Kera.”

I could practically hear the pout in Keras voice when she replied, “Yesssss, mum.”

Their banter brought a small smile to my face. It made this trip easier to handle with them here. I opened my mouth to ask them where we were first headed, but once my foot landed on the ground my mind went blank as darkness overtook my vision. The last thing I remember was my body crumpling to the ground as panicked voices shouted around me.

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