My friend Alyth and I are opposites in so many ways that it’s unlikely our paths would ever have crossed had it not been for Lindsay. Alyth is the youngest of four siblings. Her sister Lindsay is the eldest, ten years (and three days) separating them.
Physically there is a clear resemblance between the sisters, similar facial features and the same large grey-blue eyes. Lindsay’s curls are strawberry blonde and kept short, in contrast to Alyth’s fiery mane, and she dresses with an elegant severity.
Side by side, Alyth always draws the focus, eclipsing her sister. Alyth is like a simmering cauldron of exotic power, a passionate extrovert, a bright star casting her introverted sister into dark shadows. But Lindsay is the beautiful one, really, and the passing years have only refined that.
Lindsay sees her beauty as something of a handicap. Within a year of moving to the village where she lives now, after being appointed as headmistress of the primary school there, Lindsay had received three offers of marriage. Proposing to beautiful young women you’ve only just met seems to be a popular pastime in Scotland. (Maybe everywhere – I don’t know.) It’s flattering in a way, I guess.
And then there was all the attention she got (as a young, free, single woman) from the men in the village, and a fair degree of hostility from the women. It’s a sad truth that, even in this day and age, society expects young women to want to settle down, get married, have children, the whole shebang – whatever a shebang is…
Eventually she got fed up with all the unwanted attention and outed herself in the local monthly:
I won’t be young forever, but I will always be free and single. I welcome friendship, but romantic advances will be met with pained incomprehension.
If you’re interested in me, be warned: Don’t waste your time. I have not met the right person, and never will. It certainly won’t be you.
– An Aromantic Archer
It caused quite a stir. Ironically, it hasn’t stopped marriage proposals rolling in, and unfortunately for Lindsay it has become the only topic of conversation at parties, with endless helpful advice on how she can find true love and live happily ever after.
Lindsay and I shared a house back when she was a student, and we’ve remained close friends ever since.
My earliest memory of Alyth is as a fifteen year old, as bright and restless as a flame, the centre of attention. We got talking about Underworld and this turned into a long and unnecessarily fanatical argument about the relative merits of vampires and werewolves, and we’re continuing that argument to this day.
However, I never really got the sense that she thought they were real, not until just recently. I phoned Lindsay last night to voice my concerns.
‘It’s not a recent thing,’ she told me. ‘Alyth’s always had strange ideas about magic and monsters. She just got distracted by boys for a while.’
‘She thinks her boyfriend is a werewolf.’
‘I hear they’re great in bed.’
‘Don’t tell me you believe it!’
‘Well, of course not. But what’s the harm in a fantasy? And it’s not like we’re going to tell her to stop seeing him just because she thinks he’s a werewolf.’
‘No,’ I agreed with a heavy sigh. ‘So, she believed in the paranormal when she was younger?’
‘Well, she was always looking for fairies and elves in the forest, and I remember she got really upset with Harry Potter because, how did she put it, “magic doesn’t work like that”. Not that she could ever explain how magic does work.’
‘Do you think Alyth could be a real witch?’
She laughed. ‘Alyth doesn’t need magic to cast spells.’