Chapter 14: Avoidance
Two days later…
Everything was set. In an hour or so, I’d leave for Midgard. I had spent the last two days doing extra combat training with Sif and extra magic lessons with Loki, since I wasn’t sure when I’d be coming back. I planned of staying a few days, since it was the holidays.
I’d seen Heimdall, who described to me what earth was doing at the moment, and basically described to me Christmas decorations, people frantically looking for present, and snow falling. I was glad I wasn’t going to miss Christmas with my mom. I know eventually I would probably not see her much, but I wanted to make sure she wouldn’t be alone for this Christmas.
There were a few things I had to do before I left though: find my mom a gift, which I was doing now, and talk to Loki before I leave.
I wanted to give my mom something from Asgard, but I wasn’t sure what to give her. I didn’t have enough time to go to the City and buy her something. I thought of giving her one of my dresses, but I would have to have it altered a bit, since my mom was shorter and a bit bigger in the bust than I was. I wish I had thought of getting a dress made for her earlier though. I had plenty of money from my father. I could have gone into the City to have one made for her.
I was rifling through my jewelry chest, looking for something she could wear every day. The chest was pretty, dark carved wood, with little gems encrusted on the lid. I had a few necklaces I could maybe look through. I knew my mom loved necklaces. I had a few chains, gold and silver, with some assorted pendants. I pulled out a gold chain and started looking through pendants. They were mainly plain jewels, so pretty and vibrant that you didn’t need any intricate designs on them. There were some pendants, simple, delicate metals twisted into simple shapes.
I was deciding between a small emerald gem and a ruby gem when something caught my eye in the light, which was coming from my window. I saw something glimmering in the light, half buried by other pendants and such. Reaching in, I moved the chains and pendants to see the loveliest piece of jewelry I had ever seen. I pulled it out gently, marveling at it. How had I not noticed it before?
It was shaped as a flower, one I’d never seen. It was incredibly delicate, medium in size, made of crystal, the petals thin and curving. It didn’t seem to have just one colour, but a variety of shades of purple, outlined with gold. I caught and refracted the light when I turned it in my hand, admiring how it shone in the light. The chain it was on matched the pendant perfectly. The metal links were larger, and when I put it on the pendant fell between my belly button and my chest. Holding the pendant again, it didn’t feel as heavy nor as delicate as I thought. It was light, as if I wasn’t wearing anything, and it had this force that exuded from it. It was mysterious and tempting.
Which is why I left it in my jewelry box. It wasn’t something I could ever see my mother wearing, and I was also keeping it for myself. I didn’t think I’d ever find an occasion to wear it, but it was pretty to look at. Besides, my father had given it to me. He wanted me to have it.
I decided on the ruby pendant and a gold chain for my mother the wear. The ruby was the size of my thumbnail, and she could easily wear it for anything. I grabbed some silk cloth I had found in my closet and wrapped it up in that, setting it down on my vanity. I’d remember to grab it before I left.
Now, for the second and more difficult task: talking to Loki before I left. For the last two days, since the night on the balcony, Loki has been so different. That night, he was flirty, openly giving me the impression that he didn’t exactly know his feelings, but came off as maybe liking me.
But the last two days, he barely talks to me. He looks me in the eye, but they don’t hold the same friendliness as they did before. When my lessons roll around, he just starts them immediately, and leaves quickly after. No more little chit chats. He was now actively avoiding sitting next to me at dinner. It was getting to be ridiculous, and a little hurtful.
I kept wondering if I had done something wrong. I didn’t think I had said anything, and if I did, I’m sure he would let me know how irritated he was. Loki didn’t seem like the silent treatment kind of guy.
I sighed, leaving my room, locking the door. Whatever Loki’s problem was, I was going to find out. Loki was my friend, and he was also becoming something more. I didn’t want to lose that. I decided I would look in the library first. That was most likely the place he would be.
I opened the double doors, looking around the dimly lit room. I passed the familiar bookshelves loaded with books, walking to the middle of the library, where Loki’s desk was. My heart sank a bit when he wasn’t there. His books were laying open on the desk, a small pile forming on it. I smiled. Loki was a neat and organised person, but he couldn’t seem to ever keep his desk clean.
I decided to go to the feasting hall next. There was usually fruit, bread and cheese out for anyone who needed a midday meal. Even if Loki wasn’t there, maybe someone had seen him, or at least give me a few ideas as to where he might be.
I ended up getting lucky on that. I was walking in, when I saw Volstag enjoying his lunch. I laughed, knowing he had a huge appetite. He spotted me and waved me over, a big smile gracing his features. Out of all the people I had grown close to, Volstag was by far the happiest person I had ever met. It seemed like nothing could get his mood down. He always had a smile for everyone, something positive to say.
“Volstag, I see you are enjoying the midday meal.” At that, my stomach rumbled a bit as well. I sat down across from him on the bench, and helped myself to some bread and cheese on the table.
“I am, Lady Noelle. And I see you are searching for someone?” His eyes twinkled.
“Nothing slips past you, does it, Volstag?” The guy was also incredibly perceptive. “Have you by chance seen Loki? I wish to speak to him before I depart.”
“He was not in the library?”
I shook my head. “He was not.”
Volstag thought about it for a few minutes while I ate my food. I had to admit, everything tasted better on Asgard. Even though I missed my mom’s cooking, Asgardian food was amazing, even if it was only bread and cheese. “Have you checked the stables?” Volstag said finally.
“No, but I believe I will check them now.” I smiled, happy I had a new lead. I finished my lunch and stood up. “Thank you Volstag, for your help.”
He waved me off. “Happy hunting.”
I walked out into the bright sun, feeling it warm my face. There a breeze today, my bronze dress lightly billowing around me, rippling. I made my way down to the stables, enjoying the time outside. One thing I loved about Asgard was the weather. It was never cold. The nights were cool, but never cold. The sun always shone, and it was always warm. It would be very different when I went back to earth. When I left, it was cold and blowing. There might even be a little snow.
I was walking down the stone steps when the smell of the stables hit me. I entered the stables, greeting the horses I knew. No one was in sight in the stables, so I looked for one horse in particular. Not finding Tempest, Loki’s stallion, I went over to see Frost, my horse. She whinnied restlessly as I patted her. “You want to go riding?”
She whinnied impatiently and I reached for the silver and black leather saddle. “May I help you with that, my Lady?” The gangly teenage stable boy emerged from a room in the back, offering to help me. I nodded, and he took the saddle from me, entering the stall to put it on Frost.
“Have you by chance seen Prince Loki?” I asked the stable boy, who nodded eagerly.
“The Prince left a short while ago, heading west.” He finished saddling my horse and putting her bridle on.
“Thank you for your help.” I mounted Frost and gently urged her to a gallop, heading west. The riding pastures and forest trails were a private and beautiful place to ride. Frost was glad to be, that’s for sure. She was enjoying stretching her legs, and I had to keep her from galloping ahead. Not that I didn’t like going fast, but I needed to be able to spot Loki’s tracks to find him.
I had been riding for at least a half hour when I spotted Loki’s tracks on a trail I had taken. I urged Frost to a gallop, and she happily obliged. Frost was fast, her legs lean and muscled. I had to keep glancing down to make sure we were still following the tracks. The tracks looked as if Loki had been just trotting along, like I had been. Hopefully he still was so I could catch up with him. I had to leave soon and I didn’t want to leave without clearing the air with him beforehand. I had a feeling that if I didn’t, I would be thinking about it the whole time I was gone.
Eventually I saw a black speck in the distance. That has to be Loki, I thought. I got closer, and my sights were confirmed. It was Loki. He must have been in deep thought, because he didn’t even seem to register my approach until I was directly behind him.
He jumped when he heard Frost whiny as we slowed down. He turned, his eyes widening at the sight of me. “How in the name of Odin did you find me?” Was the first thing he said.
I put my hands on my hips. “That is how you greet me? I’ve been searching for you all day Loki!”
“And why is that? I wanted to be alone. Can a man not have some peace to himself?” He was coming off as indifferent, like I didn’t have any logical reason to go searching for him.
“I wanted to talk to you before I left.” I was feeling the resentment pouring off him in waves. What was his problem?
“Then talk.” He said, not even turning to hear me speak.
I felt my temper rise, and urged Frost forward. I shot past Loki and Tempest, and stopped in front of him, turning to face him. He wasn’t going to blow me off like this. I was his friend. I think I had a right to know why he was so mad.
“Why have you been acting so cold toward me, Loki? What have a done to offend you?” I asked him. I blocked his way completely. If he wanted to get past me, he would have to literally run Frost and I down.
“I do not know what you are talking about.” He said, his voice detached. He tried to maneuver around me. “Let me pass. I have a meeting with my father.”
I stood my ground. “Not until you speak to me. I will be leaving shortly Loki. I do not wish to leave and wonder why you are so upset with me while I am gone. I wish to resolve the issue.”
“Why? Why would that be a priority? You have to prepare for Midgard.” He sneered a bit, spurring my anger.
“Because you are my friend Loki, and I do not want to lose your friendship!”
“Is that all you fear losing?” He looked away as he said that. My heart stopped for a split second.
“I…Loki what are you implying?” I didn’t want to have to admit that I liked Loki right now, before I left.
“Never mind. You have done nothing wrong.” He said, and managed to move past Frost and I.
“Loki.” I walked alongside him. “Please, speak to me.” He ignored me. “Loki!” I hated how distressed my voice sounded, but my anger was dissipating. I was becoming more and more upset. Why was Loki acting this way? What did I do? I felt a bit of helplessness slither into my feelings at the thought of Loki never speaking to me again. I feared he wouldn’t turn around, he would keep going.
But that didn’t happen. The distress in my voice must have shown, because he stopped. I had his attention.
“Loki, please don’t leave me like this. Tell me what I have done, so I can make amends. I do not wish to lose your friendship.” I pleaded with him.
“You have not done anything Noelle. Please, do not make this harder.” He turned at the last part.
I guided Frost to meet him. “Loki, why do you avoid me?”
He avoid my gaze. “I…” He seemed at a loss for words, for explanation. “I cannot be close you to you Noelle.”
His confession hit me hard, harder than I thought it would. “What do you mean?” My voice was strained.
“Noelle…” He sighed. “I have not had the best experience with…becoming close…emotionally…to another being. I do not wish to experience what I have a second time. It is nothing personal to you-”
“But you are afraid.” I said. I was still scared he would walk away, but I was calming down a bit, now that he was talking to me.
He nodded. “Then why avoid me?” I asked.
“Because it was easier than informing you that I wanted distance between us.” He admitted, his eyes meeting mine. “I do not trust easily, yet I trust you more than anyone. And it frightens me.”
I nodded, understanding him. “It frightens me as well Loki. I have never had a friend like you, no one to trust the way I trust you. But I am willing to take the chance.” To me, it felt like after I said that, the atmosphere around us shifted and changed, became something else. It was like we were having two conversations at once.
I realized we had been out quite some time. “I should go back.” I said, turning Frost around. “I need to leave soon.”
“How long will you be gone?” Loki asked me.
I shrugged. “I do not know. It is a tradition to spend the time with my family. I may be gone three or four days.”
“Four day?” Loki asked, a bit of disbelief slipping through. “You do not fear going alone?”
His mood shifted quickly. Something was definitely going on with Loki. One minute he was avoiding me, next he is worried or me. Boys are so confusing. “I was alone last time.”
“That was only a few short hours. You will be gone for days. Do you not fear the danger on Midgard?” He asked.
I shook my head. “I have nothing to fear.” Loki opened his mouth to say something, but quickly shut it. Then a thought came to my head. “Are you upset with me because I am leaving? You know I will come back.” I smiled at him. If that was the case, I might even laugh. I would always love Midgard. It was where I grew up, my mother was there. But I would always come home to Asgard. I loved it here. I was among people more like myself.
He went to shake his head, then thought better of it. “Yes. That is why.” He said a little too quickly.
I found that strange, but ignored it, glad he was finally talking to me. “Loki, I won’t be gone long. I will be fine.” I assured him. “I am glad we talked this out.” I smiled. He smiled back, though it was a little strained. I was hoping it was because he worried over me, nothing else. “I will always return to Asgard.” I promised him. His smile seemed less strained now, and that made me happy.
We turned around and walked back together. “I will definitely be late meeting with my father.” Loki said, sounding grumpy but the smile on his face told otherwise. It was infectious.
“I will most definitely be late for my mother.” I joked back. Heimdall had sent word to her that I was coming home, so she would be expecting me.
“Your mother is not the King of the nine realms.” He joked back, smirking at me. I knew that Loki took pride in who his father was, as much as I did for mine.
“You have never met my mother.” He smirked again, but mischievously this time. I was immediately on guard. All of a sudden, he gave a shout and shot past Frost and I. I didn’t know what he was doing, but I sped after him. I had confidence that Frost was fast, maybe even faster than Tempest. I urged her to go faster, until I was side by side with Loki.
I had to admit, with the wind blowing his hair, his signature smirk on his lips and the reckless joy I could see in his luminous green eyes, Loki was handsome. Even beautiful. That was the only way I could describe him, when he looked this happy. Beautiful. My heart sped up with the speed of our horses. We came to a stop by the stables at the same time, still looking at each other, both of us with windblown hair and smiles on our faces.
We dismounted, and I stumbled a bit in doing so. I still wasn’t as graceful as he was on a horse. I stabled Frost, patting her. I regretted not bringing her a treat, but I also hadn’t planned on going ridding. A hand tapped my shoulder, and I turned to see Loki holding an apple to me. He placed it in my palm, and I fed it to Frost. I debated having her take me to the Bifrost, but someone would have to take her back. Someone would have to take me.
I felt the familiar tug of my mind, and I knew Loki was reading it. In the weeks that had passed, I had learned to identify the feeling when someone was probing my mind. I turned to face him.
“I cannot take you to the Bifrost, but I can arrange for Thor to do it.” He offered. I was taken off guard, since Loki always offered to do things himself. He also didn’t like how Thor had wanted to court me. I nodded anyways, accepting the offer. I needed to get to the Bifrost, and if Thor would do it, that was fine. “I must meet with my Father. I will have Thor wait for you here?” I nodded again. I needed to go get my mom’s gift.
“I will see you when I return.” I said to Loki. It was getting awkward. I wanted to hug him or something. When I said goodbye to my friends back home, even if they were guys, hugs went all around. But Asgard was different that way. I was touchy-feely. They weren’t.
Loki put his forearm out, and I stuck mine out. We grasped each other’s wrists, a warriors greeting and farewell. I was surprised he had decided to even give me a friendly gesture, since he had told me he wanted some space, due to his fear of getting too close. Well, the next few days would be space enough I guessed.
My surprise went even further when he pulled me in close, a half hug. “Stay out of trouble Noelle. Do not forget your friends here.” He whispered to me. I didn’t even have time to react, it was so quick. The he let go, and stepped away. “I wish you a good journey. Enjoy yourself on Midgard.” I saw the stable watching, and that was probably why he moved away so quickly. Rumours spread like wildfire around here.
“Until we meet again Loki.” I said, smiling.
“Until we meet again.” He matched my smile before going up the steps. I watched him concentrate, then vanish.
I sighed, glad that Loki was returning to his normal behaviour towards me. I patted Frost once more, before heading up the stairs myself. I couldn’t transport myself yet, so I had to walk back to the palace. I would miss Asgard while I was gone. But I wanted to see my mother. She deserved my time right now. I would have plenty of time in Asgard.