A Fine Line (3)

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Tom woke up with a great sense of peace, which he lost quickly when he realized that Dunell wasn't beside him.

“Hope?” He sat up, shedding a thin layer of leaves and looked around desperately. “Hope?”

“Oh!” Tom whirled around and saw a small group of fairies guarding the enclosure's entrance. They stared around for a moment and then one glared at them all, pushed them back and turned toward him. Her features and build were like Dunell's, but her hair was golden.

“Hello, Tom.” She smiled at him and took a hesitant step forward. “Dunell will be back soon.”

“Hope…Dunell…she left.”

“Yes, but she asked us to watch you.” The fairy waited for Tom's reaction, but he just stared at her. “I'm Inna.”

“Inna…were you the one who was arguing with Hope last night?”

Inna cocked her head and gave him a calculating look. “What makes you think we were arguing?”

Tom shrugged his shoulders.

“Yes, that was me. Can you really tell us apart?”

“Just you two.”

Inna looked surprised, then smiled at him, pleased. “Are you well?”

“Um…”

“Are you hungry?” She gestured toward the other fairies, who were eating some kind of fruit.

“Yes.”

“Then come. We don't bite.” When Tom continued to stare at them as if afraid, Inna sighed, took two fruits from the other fairies and tossed them to him.

“Entertain yourself, then.”

Tom retreated to sit next to the small pool and played with the small waves the wind made. Suddenly, a larger wave splashed right into his face. He sputtered and turned to look at a fairy who gave a short laugh and winked at him. Inna glared at him, and the fairy turned away quickly, the wind dying down a second later.

After a while, Inna asked politely if he was hungry again. A male fairy brought him a handful of fruits. Tom nodded his silent thanks and waited for him to retreat, but the fairy sat down next to him.

“Suta fruit,” he said and pointed to what Tom was eating. Tom nodded.

“Niro.” He pointed to himself, then to Tom. “Tom?”

Tom nodded, but refused to look him in the eye. He tried to edge away, but Niro didn't seem to notice. He tried to interest Tom with details about the forest. When Tom remained silent, he tried coaxing information about his own world from him.

“Niro.” Dunell approached the fairy. He stood, giving Tom a sheepish look and left with the others.

“Tom.” Dunell knelt before him, hands behind her back.

Tom's lips quivered slightly. “You were gone awhile.”

“I'm sorry. I'll try to return sooner next time. But look what I brought you.” She showed him the two leaves of bread that she'd brought from his world. “You can't live on suta fruit alone.”

Tom's mouth began to water just looking at the bread. It was the kind that he'd eat whenever his father or sister forgot to feed him; packed with bits of fruit and nut, it was very filling. He snatched them from her and bit into one hungrily.

Dunell frowned. “Didn't Inna feed you?”

“Yes, but—“

“You can't live on suta fruit alone.” Dunna reached over to squeeze Tom's hand. “Are you happy?”

“Of course, I'm here with you…and you're friends. No one ever forgets about me.”

Dunell smiled and stood to kiss his forehead.
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Dunell kept leaving Tom alone. She usually left while he was sleeping, because she found it was easier for him. Sometimes she seemed to be gone for only a few minutes, sometimes for hours, but Dunell never stopped saying how much she'd missed him.

Once, Dunell was gone long enough for Tom to grow sleepy. He approached the fairies lounging on the other side of the enclosure.

“Inna?”

The fairies all looked up, surprised, and some shot her a jealous glare.

“Yes, Tom, is there something you need?”

“Where's Hope?”

“Dea is keeping her.”

“Dea?”

“Yes…” Tom yawned and Inna gave him a curious look. “You're tired, yes?”

He nodded. Inna turned to shush the other fairies and clapped her hands, dimming the tree lights. She took his hand and led him to his bed. Tom instinctively pulled away.

Inna gave him a hurt look. “Dunell always touches you.” She watched from a distance as Tom curled inside the tree roots. She bent to pull his blanket of leaves around him, moving slowly, afraid she'd startle him again. Then she knelt by his head and looked at him. Tom stared back and she sighed.

“Dunell always sings to you in your mind.”

“In my mind…I don't hear anything.”

Inna stalked off and Tom sighed happily, wrapping his arms around his legs and burrowing deep under the leaves.
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