I’ve spent the whole day in my room, leaving it only for food, and all I could manage to decode is a series of letters that mean nothing, and the number 8. Basically, the chain is made up of a loop that goes “LEETAH8LEETAH8LEETAH8…”
I suddenly realize that I have no nails left to bite into, and my reflection in the mirror next to the bedroom door peeks at me sideways, and almost shakes her head disapprovingly when she sees the rings around my eyes start to show. I ignore her and desperately try toying with anagrams. I come across “Tale Eh”, “At Heel”, “Late He”, and the very French “Le Hate”, none of which makes any sense. Argh!!
Miss Reflection tsk tsk tsk’s at me. I distractedly get up to meet her. She’s right, the rings around my eyes are already a grayish purple. I see small brownish spots in them too, and I know from experience that some tiny veins must have popped while I was forcing my eyes to decipher the link letters. And my skin is so bad it looks like it’s gone from normal to advanced PMS state in just a few hours. Sometimes I just wish I could shed this skin and just have a tiny hope at normalcy…
It reminds me of my very first kiss. Consequence: chronic angular cheilitis. The first time I used contacts; eyelid cysts that required surgery. The first time I decided not to wear another layer of cotton under my shirt; excruciating stomach pain and memorable public embarrassment. The first time I wore fake jewelry; an extremely irritating rash that had to get worse before it got better… Miss Reflection’s eyes slightly start to redden and water up. I am not normal! Nor will I ever be…
And yet some random guy makes my skin look like a beautiful thing. A thing worth drawing, memorizing, perfecting... I have to find him!
Okay, why am I complicating things? I’ll just look up “Leetah” online, although the odds don’t – … huh?! The very first result: Leetah – Elfquest. Healer and gatherer. What the… ? Lifemate of Cutter; mother of Ember and Suntop. Is this from a comic book or something? Status: Immortal; living. Wow, what is this? A comic book about Elves! If this is what Green-Eyes really meant to draw, then I’m pretty sure I’m currently looking for a very cute Geek! It’s endearing! I click on Gallery, and find myself face to face with Leetah, the Sun Elf. Red hair, green eyes, pouty lips. She’s beyond beautiful, for a comic book character…
It’s extremely unsettling. I feel my ears burning, and I know the blushing tsunami is quite close. I stare at her and I know straight away that if this turns out to be what my stranger meant to slip into the drawing, then his skills might not be that accurate after all. I’m not at all this magnificent, elfish creature!... But I still want to know everything about her.
And that site goes way beyond my expectations: I let out a choked squeak when I find, under “Comics”, a digital gallery of the whole collection! I can almost feel my eyes popping out of their sockets, as I rush to start the first comic…
Three hours and one avoided dinner later – Cramps is always the ultimate excuse out of a thorough questioning by a suspecting father – I lie back on the bed, hiding my eyes with the back of my hands, and shake my head with disbelief. What the hell was that?!... It’s anything but a children’s comic, that’s for sure! It’s the story of Cutter, a Wolfrider who is made to leave the forest because of the Humans, and crosses the desert with his pack, coming across a village where the Sun Folk live… He sees Leetah, and immediately experiences the power of Recognition, a telepathic instance wherein one recognizes their soul mate, and denying that just causes them lack of focus and pain. I literally stressed over whether or not they should be together, or if Leetah should resist what seems to be imposed by Nature…
The entire plot is smart, quick, funny, tear-inducing, dreamy, and much to my surprise, sexy! There’s one particular love scene, on a cliff, on a deep bluish night, between a once reluctant Leetah and an intensely loving Cutter, which makes my heart race noticeably… Who would have thought that reading a comic would be so incredibly fulfilling?!
Oh my God, I’m officially a Geek!!!.. Great, that’s what was still missing to my flawless profile! I chuckle and stretch my rusty muscles. Have I really been in this room all day? Jeez, I need to move my butt!
I go downstairs, leaping happily and almost breaking my neck on the last few steps. Erik watches me all throughout my bouncing routine, with a crooked eyebrow, and just as I’m about to enter the living room, he asks, “So, have you found your missing person?”
I stop dead in my tracks. Busted! He sees my cheeks turn blotchy-crimson and laughs out loud. I hate it when he does that! I try to look contrite, but end up smiling guiltily, and going for total honesty. “I think I might have some leads actually!” He finally looks away and lets out a last laugh that sounds more like a proud harrumph and replies smugly, “That’s my girl.”
The rest of the evening is spent in front of the TV, with my dad being too much into a German reality show, and translating it to me whenever he felt like it, while my mind swam with thoughts of portraits, of ash brown hair, and of eerily real Elf stories…
The next morning, I hear a light rasp on my bedroom door. Erik pokes his head through, only to find me at my computer, at 8 a.m., smiling sheepishly at him. So instead of saying “Moin”, he cautiously walks in, trying his best not to peep at my screen, and delicately offers to help. I think that since our discussion about missing persons, he’s been really curious to know whom I was really looking for. And I just let him, perhaps out of guilt for being in Germany, yet spending the weekend in my room. There was also this tiny pang I usually felt every Sunday spent here, knowing that once more I would have to say goodbye at the station , sometime around five…
But I needed a new version to my story. I surely wasn’t going to tell him the whole thing unfiltered. So I just go for the first thing that comes to mind.
“Well... I met this really talented guy who volunteered to draw my portrait. But then he had to leave, and I think I might have omitted to ask for his name…”
Erik observes me, looking obviously uncomfortable.
“What?” I ask.
“Nothing, I just…” He rubs his chin and does a funny mimic with his teeth. “I’m just not entirely comfortable with the idea of you letting some guy draw you, and then keep a trace of it…”
Ah, thank goodness, he’s just being a dad. “No, no, he gave it to me!” He visibly relaxes. “But he didn’t sign it. Or so I thought. How-everrr…” I stress on every syllable to increase the suspense, as if giving him a real-life scene from Tatort, “based on our discussion yesterday…” He raises his eyebrows and already looks smug, “I found out he had added a chain necklace, which turned out to be made up of a series of letters and the number 8. I found out what the letters stood for; a character from a comic book. The 8, however, is still a mystery. I tried reading the comics, and there was no 8 in there.”
He looks at me with some warm emotion. Pride? Then he rubs his chin absentmindedly, and comes up, again, with the only logical question left. “What if it really is in the comic after all? Count the main characters, their symbols, their habits… and also look up the meaning of their names.”
“Well, the one from the necklace is called Leetah, which means “healing light” according to the site. The other main character is called Cutter, which is pretty explicit… Oh. Wait…”
I suddenly remember something crucial: upon “Recognition”, the elves know each other’s “soul names”, or secret alternative names that are only known through recognizing a soul mate. Leetah’s soul name is also Leetah, but Cutter’s is “Tam”. I don’t even know if it exists in the real world; I look it up anyway. Dad finally allows himself to look at the computer screen, and together we see the dumbfounding results:
“Name: TAM. Gender: Male.
1. The Hebrew name Tam means: Heart, Twin.”
How convenient, considering the very principle of Recognition…
2. “The Vietnamese name Tam means: The number 8.”
“Gotcha!…” Erik whispers, relishing.
But I’m in no mood for celebration. This discovery might mean that the necklace simply reads “Leetah and Tam”. Don’t get me wrong, I squirm and blush at the thought that Green-Eyes might have experienced “Recognition” for me. It’s beyond flattering, but also beyond frustrating …because I’m nowhere closer to finding this guy than I was on Friday.
After the usual train station hug that grows a little bit tighter every time, I say bye to Erik, and go through the usual pissed-passenger-crowd ordeal to get to my seat. And soon enough, I start imagining my own Elf, sitting across from me again… All sorts of different scenarios weave themselves inside my head, like him recognizing me straight away, and how he would find an excuse to come talk to me… Or that he would be in a different coach, and we would bump into each other by pure coincidence, while headed to the bar… All sorts of corniness that seems to stem out of a desperate teen’s imagination rather than mine. Am I that emotionally immature? I thought that not having relationships would make me kind of cynical and resistant, instead of clueless and gaga over the first crush that pops along. I frown at the thought. I need to get over this, fast...
As we near Strasbourg, my obsession has already reached a painful peak. I need to see him! Maybe he’s spent the weekend in this city and is going back to Paris today too? The odds aren’t all that bad. I tense as my eyes search the platform, while the train slowly enters the station. I even say a small prayer, with my eyes fixated on the coach entrance, and demand my own private miracle…
But no one comes.
The train doors close, and my brain refuses to let go. This is it, this is the official peak of my obsession, and the disappointment over losing the last hope of seeing the guy again floors me. So is that all? I’m never crossing his path again? I’m never discussing the portrait with him? I’m never asking him if he really meant to include elf references in the drawing? So many questions, so much anticipation… for nothing. That should teach me to be such a pubescent enthusiast. Someone drew you, what’s the big deal? Keep the picture with you for good luck, and just stop thinking about this, it’s not healthy!
I’m startled by the ticket inspector, creeping up again, then I gladly hand him my ticket as I notice that his eyes are one green shade darker than… oh my God! I need Ginny now. Only she could get me out of this!