Captive to Her Fated Mate by Cynthia Wilde
Brynn Brucie was about to embark on a trip she’d planned since she was ten years old. For the last sixteen years, she’d literally dreamed of this day since she’d seen a poster for the Ravenstone Realm Renaissance faire. Even then, she had wanted to go so badly, which led to her begging her parents to take her. However, the drive would have been over ten hours, and her mom and dad were not the road trip sort of people. “You'll go there one day, sweetheart," her father would say to her every time she asked. "Just not right now."
Thinking of him was always a little bittersweet. He had been a good man. She just wished he had stuck around in this world awhile longer. She had to look her best when she rolled onto site. She adjusted her vintage VW van's rearview mirror then unfolded the old paper to look at it again. Brynn studied the 16-year-old photo of the beautiful fairy with prominent pink wings that sat on an enchanted throne covered with flowers; she tilted her head upward as she gazed at the knight in shining armor standing before her. Over the last several years, Brynn fashioned her make-up just like that fairy. She lined her eyes with dark brown liner in the same style, she elongated her lashes with black mascara, and she dusted her eyelids with a light green, glittering powder. She looked just like the fairy from that photo except for one thing; the fairy had flowing brown hair while Brynn's hair was red.
Ever since she was a little girl, she wanted to be that woman on the poster. Over the years, Brynn had often fantasized that she was a fairy who could fly away to the most magical places on Earth; if it had been true, that faire would have been the first place she would go. Since fairies weren't real, and people couldn't grow wings and fly, she would have to settle for her van with new tires and a tune-up. Her make-up was on pointe. She added a touch more lip gloss and stared at herself in the mirror.
Her eyes seemed even more green today with the excitement of her trip, and she had piled her long red hair on top of her head for a more comfortable driving experience. Today was the beginning of her new adventure. Today, she would leave the place she'd called home until now. Today, she would take control of the ever-spinning spiral of anxiety that plagued her. At twenty-six years old, she'd rarely left her small hometown on the lake for one reason or another.
Every time Brynn attempted to think about venturing away from the restricting borders of the area where she had lived her whole life so far, she'd felt a constriction in her heart, like someone was squeezing it. When she thought about going to the faire, she knew she had to overcome her fears. It was as though something was pulling her soul to that place. It was almost as if an invisible hand had taken her in its grip and compelled her to go with an urgency she could feel in her bones.
Her entire persona of being the odd person out, the fifth wheel, the strange one, the weirdo, the nerd, and the geek wouldn't matter here because she knew she would be among her own people. They would understand and accept her, and there was no question in her mind that was the truth. That terrified her a bit because Brynn knew that she was susceptible to the pull of controlling groups. She had always been looking for a place where she could fit in. On a couple of occasions, she had found herself involved with a man who used her naivete, vulnerability, and desire to fit in to lure her into a group that she later found out was a cult or pretty damn close at least.
The embarrassment and heartbreak of those two instances were a bit too much for her to bear. After her mother came to save her both times, she vowed never to allow herself to be taken in again by a lover who used his charms to make her do things she didn't want to do. She would guard her heart and not allow others to take advantage of her desire to find some sense of belonging in the world. This was foremost in her mind as she contemplated a fresh start at the renaissance faire. She was optimistic that she would be able to get a job and hopefully find a group of supportive, like-minded, new friends. Friends that were not a cult, that was. She also knew it would be best to steer clear of men for a while. She needed to figure out more about herself before she would be ready for that again.
She touched her naturally slightly pointed ears, inspecting them in the mirror. She'd always looked a little fairy-like, even without the glitter. Her aquiline nose, her high cheekbones, and her slight build always made her look different from others around her. She certainly didn't look like her parents. She was adopted and had no idea what her lineage was. She liked to imagine that she was born in the forest to a fairy princess who had to give her up to the world of man or something like that. Brynn hadn't worked out the exact details. Her fantasy often changed around a bit.
Sometimes, she imagined that her birth parents would come to find her and tell her that she was a magical creature, and they needed her help to learn about humans. She fancied that she would be the queen of the fairies and marry the knight on the poster. Other times, she fantasized that she had been abandoned on the doorstep of the orphanage because she was a special child that they had to keep hidden; no one was to know that she was born, or some dark magic would come for her. All of it was ridiculous and childish, but sometimes she couldn't help herself. It was less depressing than imagining that her birth mother just hadn't wanted her.
Brynn wanted everything to be perfect, and at this moment, she felt like she was ready. She had one last thing to do before embarking on her adventure; pulling out her drawing book, she did a quick sketch of herself. Brynn wasn't into phone selfies; what she liked was art selfies. The feel of a pencil and paper in her hands was familiar. Brynn had been drawing herself like a fairy since she could remember, even before seeing the poster.
She would sometimes draw others with her, like old friends she'd never met. There was one in particular that she sketched a lot, a man with sharp features and long silver hair. She imagined his eyes to be sky blue, and sometimes she even drew glasses on him just for fun. She liked her men bookish, which was fine; it was just some of the other traits they seemed to have that she wished she could change. She sighed as she finished up her sketch. This particular sketchbook was quite old. She reserved it only for the drawings that she felt almost compelled to sketch. The binding had torn many years ago, and it was almost full of her artwork. Her father had given it to her before he passed on and she carried it with her to remember him.
Brynn felt a little heaviness sink over her heart as she thought about her dad. “Come on, girlie,” she said out loud to herself, with a smile, or at least as much of one as she could muster. Her father had always been supportive, and that was one of his catch phrases, always said as an encouragement. He would want her to get her adventure started. Yet, she was still sitting in her mother's driveway, with his present in her hands, and she couldn't help a few feelings. He would have been proud of her though. I am sure he is proud of me, she thought, wherever he is now.
The day he died, she drew him in her sketchbook. She had pictured him asleep in a meadow, curled up on a patch of soft grass surrounded by all of her magical creatures along with the silver-haired man. She never questioned her drawings, they were just her way of relating to the world. Some people danced, others sang, she drew. Brynn had felt that the man and creatures would protect him on his way to wherever the next step took him. She didn't have to flip to the page with the images drawn in pencil. Every single detail of it was already etched onto her heart.
It was time, though, so she tucked the book away for the trip. She'd promised herself she wouldn't cry as she stared at the house she'd lived in for so long. She felt like a child right now and wanted a hug, but her mom, Sandy, had already said her goodbyes, and they had agreed not to prolong the inevitable. It was painful for both of them. “May your journey be splendid,” she'd said and kissed the top of her head.
Get a grip, Brynn, she thought. With that she turned the key in the ignition and the soothing sound of the engine instantly surrounded her. She looked at herself in the mirror one more time. This is it, she thought. I'm finally going to where I belong. Or at least, she held the hope that she would belong. If all else failed, she could come back home and live with her mom. Not a terrible thing to do, but not the ideal situation.
She adjusted all of her mirrors to no longer see herself, only the back window and the road on either side. This was going to be a long drive, and she needed to make sure that she could do it safely. It was nice to finally almost feel comfortable in her own skin. It took her years and some therapy to get where she was now, but she felt pretty confident that she knew who she was and wanted to be, well, sort of. She still wasn't sure about meeting new people and their intentions, but she would never know what the festival was like if she didn't do this. In her mind, that would be the worst thing of all.
Taking one last long look at the place, she decisively nodded then slowly backed her van down the driveway. Mr. Wiggles, her large tabby cat, meowed from the back seat and then jumped into the front. He always knew when she needed him close by. He circled the seat until he found just the right spot; he then lay down, purring loudly like a furry motorboat. She called him Mr. Wiggles because she knew in a few moments he would decide he wasn't comfortable and wiggle around the seat until he was happy again. She loved his little quirks, she'd chosen him because he'd been in the shelter for months, and no one wanted him. She knew exactly how he felt; so, she adopted him.
Having him on her trip made her feel like she wasn't alone. Being adopted and feeling as though no one really understood her was something she grappled with on an ongoing basis. Deep down, Brynn knew that her adoptive parents chose her out of the thousands of kids they could have had, and they loved her despite her being different or even because of it. The two of them were always her biggest cheerleaders.
Brynn shook her full head of long, naturally wavy red hair to clear her mind. She was now driving toward a place she'd wanted to go since she was small, and she didn't need the old familiar feeling of not being wanted by her birth parents to come floating into what should be an exciting time in her life. The bullies of her past shouldn't affect her anymore. Still, as the road grew longer and broader, and her insecurities filled her with anxiety. It all came unbidden to her, wrapping itself around her like an old familiar lover.
She'd graduated ten years ago at sixteen to get away from that place; academics were easy for her; the social part was not. Despite her trying to block it all out, it still haunted her from time to time. For some, high school was their glory days of football and proms. For her, it was an endless bad dream that she sought every day to forget. But today, she was winning the battle. Despite a few mixed feelings, her overall mood was one of elation. She was finally doing it. She was actually on her way to a new place, with new faces, and new experiences. A whole new life awaited her, or so she hoped.
Mr. Wiggles chirped loudly in his unusual squeaky voice as he wiggled onto his back. "Are you ready, my meowy boy?" she said, rubbing his belly with her right hand as she carefully steered with the left. "Well, I am!" She gave him one last belly rub before he rolled off the seat in annoyance and whipped his tail back and forth as he went to the back seat. "Love you too," she said, sighing with a slight smile. "Cats."
Brynn hit the CD button, and her favorite renaissance-style band started playing a lively tune filled with drums, violins, and bagpipes. The van filled with joyful singing about running away with a boy into the heather as she turned onto the main highway. She felt her heart grow even lighter as she looked toward her future and thought about what the faire might hold for her.
She'd wanted to take this trip and leave town as soon as she received her high school diploma, but that was when her dad had had his first heart attack. So, she accepted a full scholarship to the local university, which she attended without any enthusiasm as it was full of the people she wanted to get away from. The only saving grace was the art department, where Brynn threw herself into every project that the class had to offer. She loved drawing and spent every extra moment filling several sketchbooks with various drawings. But on weekends, she found herself in the studio experimenting with papier-mâché, cardboard, resins, foam, moldable plastic, and various other materials that were there for her use. On a whim one day, she'd started fashioning ornate sets of curly horns and fairy wreaths that she'd seen in her dreams so often that she could close her eyes and imagine them in 3D. At times, when she was simply messing around with different mediums, her hands worked without thought, and she was often surprised by her own creations.
On several occasions, Brynn would be daydreaming about walking through a vast forest where she herself wore horns with chains of flowers cascading down her long locks of flaming hair. Then she'd look down at her hands which were busy adding the final touches to the same horns from her dream. After a while, she'd made so many of them, and she started selling them to her classmates. With one of her newfound friends' help, she set up a website, which ended up selling out after the second day. This led to special orders, and the creating of her horns became a full-time job. After a while, she'd put aside enough money for a decent down payment on her van and enough to get out of town after graduation.
Her plan didn't work out as she'd first imagined, however. Paul's cancer went into remission her first year of college but returned with a vengeance as she was just finishing the second semester of her final year. She chose to stay with her parents, putting aside her business, school, and dreams of traveling but still managed to graduate online. She'd wanted to stick around as her father healed from his first attack. All had been going well, or so they had thought. She was grateful she had stayed during that time, even though it had not worked out as they had all hoped. She had been with him the morning he finally passed. The road seemed to disappear as she remembered how his face looked during breakfast. He appeared bright and clear in her vision. He'd been cheery and optimistic. There was a twinkle in his eyes, and it seemed his old energy had finally returned. She would always be grateful that they had shared that breakfast.
She didn't realize how many hours had gone by her until her brain suddenly registered the lights of an oncoming car on the other side of the road flashing its brights vigorously. She had just enough time to swerve away from the deer standing in the middle of the road. Her van spun in a perfect circle until she finally came to a stop a foot away from the concrete wall. Her heart was beating rapidly as though it were trying to leap out of her chest; Mr. Wiggles had flopped to the floor off of his seat and squeaked at her in aggravation. She mentally checked herself, she felt cold and shaky, but she was okay and very awake as her adrenaline pumped through her veins. Thank God she hadn’t had an accident. She was grateful that no other traffic was going her way on the almost deserted road.
She turned the van the right way and checked for the deer, but he was nowhere to be found. She blinked her eyes, the vision of his massive rack of antlers stayed with her. She shivered with the thought of what could have happened if anyone had been on the highway at the same time as her. Then she glanced at the clock; it was almost ten at night, and she'd driven nearly halfway to the faire. It was time to take a rest. "Let’s find a place to sleep for the night,” she said to her disgruntled cat, who managed to find a spot on the front seat again as she got the van back on track.
Brynn pulled into a rest area, parked near the semi-trucks, and cut the engine. She felt tired all of a sudden. The adrenaline from the near miss was rapidly draining from her body. No one would bother her as she nestled between two large tractor-trailers who were doing the same thing. She pulled the back seat until it went flat into a bed, then she grabbed her foam mattress and blankets, quickly making a place to sleep. As she curled up with her favorite pillow, Mr. Wiggles jumped up and made his bed too. His furry head-butted her hand for a scratch and the sound of his purring filling the muggy van.
Brynn rolled over and flipped on the small battery-operated AC unit she installed for nights just like this. The van was comfortable and gave her a sense of safety and coziness, and it would be her home for the time being while she went on her solo adventure. She snuggled up to her warm friend, who was slightly drooling on her hand. She finally felt excitement flow through her. If she drove all day tomorrow, she could make it in time to find a good spot to camp and wake up the following day on the grounds of the place she’d wanted to go since she was a little girl, the place she’d dreamed about, the place she drew in her many sketchbooks: the Ravenstone Realm Renaissance Faire. In this place, she would finally belong. That was the hope at least.