“Now, when I say ‘go’, we kiss. Ready?”
“No.” Ecthelion looked around once again to be sure they were alone, hidden in the orchards behind the farmer’s house. “Now I am ready,” he said, settling back down again.
“Right. Good. G-“
“What?” pouted Artanis, a sour look on her face. “You keep telling me to wait,” she sighed heavily. “I want to get this over with, now what is it?”
“Well...” Ecthelion craned his neck and listened. “Nevermind.”
Rolling her eyes, Artanis asked, “Never mind what?”
“Well... maybe you should count it.”
“Count it? We are only going to kiss once,” Artanis explained to him.
“Well, yes, but... I mean, like this: One, two, three, go. To give us time to prepare for it.”
Artanis stood with her hands on her hips. “To prepare for it? Would you like some time to practice on your arm first?”
“My what? No,” Ecthelion said. “What are you talking about?”
“Like this.” Artanis lifted her arm and pressed a kiss on it. “Kissing practice.”
Ecthelion blinked and then gave her an odd sort of look. “That is the dumbest thing ever.”
“No, the dumbest thing ever is counting off to kiss someone!” she retorted. “Are you going to do this or not?”
“Fine.” Ecthelion took a step closer. “Let us just do this and get it over with.”
“I am as thrilled as you are,” Artanis told him with a look of disdain. “But we cannot have it that Thranduil has kissed at least a dozen girls, and neither of us has been kissed by anyone. It is just not right.”
“Because he is ten years younger,” nodded Ecthelion, and Artanis clicked her tongue.
“Because he is Thranduil,” she corrected. “Now, are you ready this time?”
“Yes, yes,” said Ecthelion. He tensed as Artanis slid up next to him, closing her eyes and puckering her lips. Making a sour face that she did not see, Ecthelion suddenly pushed her away.
“Maybe we should not do this,” he said as he distanced himself.
“Why not?” demanded Artanis.
“Well... because... I just had onions with my steak this morning, you would have to taste that and it is fairly vile now,” he said.
“So?” Artanis tried to close their distance once more. “I had garlic toast with my tea.” She backed him into a tree, and then wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Wait, wait, wait,” he pleaded as she stood up upon her tiptoes.
Nearly growling, she asked, “What?”
“Uhm...” Ecthelion squirmed to get away, but only succeeded in scratching his hand on the bark.
“I- can you at least take your hair down?” questioned Ecthelion.
“My hair?” Artanis looked simply confused.
“Yes, your hair,” repeated Ecthelion. “It almost makes you look like a boy with it all braided up around your head. And kissing a boy... that would be... more vile than onions for breakfast.”
“Will you kiss me then?” asked Artanis, already working to remove the pins that held her locks up.
Ecthelion swallowed. “Um... I think so?”
“Honestly?” pressed Artanis.
“Sure,” Ecthelion finally said.
“You boys are so silly,” Artanis admonished. “Thranduil runs around kissing girls who do not want to be, and you will not kiss the one who does. There,” she said, shaking her hair so that a mass of soft, silver-gold cascaded down her back. “How is that?”
“That is nice,” Ecthelion said truthfully. “You look like a girl again.”
“Well? Are you going to kiss me now?” Artanis asked. Ecthelion leaned forward, but Artanis scolded him, “No, not like that! Sheesh!” Looping her arms around him again, she leaned in a little. “You have to be romantic about it.”
“Fine. Hurry up, though,” begged Ecthelion. Artanis smiled and leaned closer yet, closing her eyes and puckering her lips. Just as Ecthelion was about to kiss her as quick as he could, none other than Thranduil turned the corner. The younger elfling gave the pair an odd look for a moment, but then scrambled to stay silent while he approached them.
With his finger to his lips, Thranduil hushed Ecthelion, motioning for him to lean his head to the side a little. As soon as he had access, Thranduil, standing on the tips of his toes, touched his lips to those of the unsuspecting Artanis.
“Oh, my, Ecthelion, that was—Aiya! Ai!” Artanis reared back, pulling away from Ecthelion while Thranduil leered at her.
“You were not so bad yourself,” he answered.
Her vengeful gaze was set upon Thranduil, but one snicker from the other youth sent Artanis to pummeling Ecthelion with both fists. While he let out a series of ouches and ows and he brought his arms up to defend himself, Thranduil backed out of Artanis' range. It was not too long before the farmer was alerted and came running in from his field, waving a rake at the boys and causing them to run off. Artanis flopped down onto the ground, sobbing loudly as Erestor approached, shaking his head.
Kneeling down, he produced a handkerchief from his pocket. “What were they up to this time?”
“I wanted to- to- they tricked me,” she cried, sniffling and watching over her shoulder in the direction they had run. “I just- I only- just a kiss- from Ecthelion- but he- and Thranduil-“ Her chin was turned back, and once facing Erestor, she cast her eyes down as he shook his head and dried her tears, and spoke to her this poem:
Thranduil was a naughty lad
But deep down, he is not really bad
All the same, I can not lie
‘Tis a shame to kiss the girls and make them cry
But when bigger boys come out to play
Thranduil hides or runs away
Eyes red but dry now, Artanis said sadly, “That is so true. Except for Ecthelion, Thranduil does not play with the other boys.”
“Do you know why?” asked Erestor. Artanis shook her head. “Because he is very bright. He is younger than you, younger than Ecthelion, and yet sometimes he proves he knows more than I do,” smiled the elf. “I wager he will be one of great intelligence some day. But for now, the others tease and taunt him. So when he sees them, he runs off. I can not blame him,” added Erestor. He offered Artanis his hand, and helped her to stand up. “Shall I walk you home?”
She nodded to him, and all the while they walked in silence as they took the path that would lead to the house of Finarfin. At the small stone path that led from the walkway up to the house itself, Erestor stopped and held open the gate for her. As she passed through and the gate was closed behind her, she sighed. “Is something else the matter?” Erestor asked.
“Only that, well, it is silly... but I fear I shall never be kissed properly,” she said.
Taking hold of her hand after only a moment’s hesitation, Erestor lifted it to his lips, his eyes meeting hers. He kissed the back of her hand gently, and then let go and gave a bow. “A proper kiss for a proper young lady,” he said, and with a warm smile, turned back down the path for home.