Midsummer

Wild world

She pushed aside the soaked sacking that hung across the entrance to her rough stone shelter and peered out. She could make no sense of the all-too-familiar mountainside through the solid wall of rain. The longest day! It had taken a long time coming. If she hadn’t been counting the days with marks scored on the wall of her hovel she might never have known today was the day. Despite the years she’d spent alone on the mountainside tending the sheep, she had no natural feeling for the elements. Bessie Trumpet, down in the village always knew when the special days were upon them. But not her. She felt the rain and the cold in her bones, and sometimes the sun on her wrinkled skin, but nothing more. ┬áNo deep movements of mother earth echoed inside her. If there was anything, it was a faint hint of distant promise in the smells bourn by the air. Once she thought she smelt the sea. On rare occasions when the rain held off, you could see its silver line on the horizon.
She turned back to her room, stuck a fresh log on the fire, stirred the soup with a large piece of wood and then pulled down her plaid off its hook. She’d woven it herself a long time ago in the days when she been welcome in the village. It was still heavy and wet from rescuing one of the sheep trapped in the rocks. She shook the drops of rain from the cloth, wrapped it around her head and shoulders and stepped outside. To her surprise, the rain had ceased, but the sun was still masked by the heavy clouds scudding across the sky. A momentary finger of light pierced the clouds and pointed at the distant lake, catching a fishing boat unawares. Several of the sheep, seeing her coming, huddled close, their cold, wet woollen coats soaking her dress. She shoved them away. They were hungry. So was she. But they’d all have to wait till nightfall.
She picked up a large kettle that hung from the doorframe and trudged along the sodden path that wound its way between the scattered rocks. The rain had washed the air clean. When she moved away from the ever present reek of sheep, all that remained was the smell of drenched rocks and the occasional soggy soil. And then, from nowhere, there was something that didn’t belong: a distinct scent of a flower she’d never come across before. Few flowers grew where she lived. What with the continuous rain and the lack of sun, it wasn’t surprising. And the farther she went the stronger the scent grew. It was alarming. Such unbidden smells didn’t bode well. She decided to turn back. They’d have to do without water from the spring. But as she began to turn, a voice stopped her. “Don’t leave yet,” its bell-like tones rang out.
She fought against a growing desire to glance at whoever it was that spoke. But she knew better than that. She stared fixedly at the sodden ground. “What do you want?” she asked gruffly, shocked at the rough sound of her own voice. Being alone all the time, she rarely had a chance to talk and her voice sounded so course in comparison. “Surely we can exchange a few words in peace, you and I,” the voice asked. It was high and melodious, but she wasn’t sure it was a woman’s. She’d never heard anything like it. It made her hungry and thirsty in one go. Like the smell of a newly baked cake and fresh malt beer rolled into one. She sighed, struggling with a deep yearning that threatened to drown her completely.
To her alarm she felt a gentle touch on her arm, warm and inviting. A pale hand with slender fingers and sharp nails brushed the back of her hand lightly, sending wild sparks into the deepest reaches of her body. She had just the time to catch a glimpse of the intricately embroidered tissue of a sleeve before the hand flitted away. “I know what you think,” the voice continued, moving closer, its sweet breath wafting around her. “People say frightening things about us. But what they say is not true. Not of me, at least. You know that, don’t you?” The soft fingers were back, flirting with her hair this time, tugging at burrs that had got stuck there. Such thoughtful tenderness and loving attention almost undid her. A sob caught in her throat. How could she have lived so long and not known she was missing this? The realisation was like a bitter sweet balm that eased its way into her every pore, defying all resistance. She reached up and cupped the slender hand in hers, bringing it to her lips, pressing them against the pale fingertips. The smell of wild flowers they gave off was delicate but intoxicating.
She couldn’t help herself, she looked up into the exquisite face: the soft rosebud lips, the pert little nose, the rosy cheeks, the delicate curls of auburn hair cascading down over her ears and on to her shoulders and the eyes, dark brown and fascinating. Any further resistance was useless. She stepped forward and the waiting arms closed around her. She buried her face in the swirls of hair and was enveloped in a cloud of delight that soothed with her own long years of regret and suffering. “Hush, hush,” the voice said as she sobbed uncontrollably. “It’s over. No need to shut yourself away. Your exile is over.” And she felt the warmth of the soft lips pressed against her cheek, kissing the tears that streamed down over her face. “It is time to return home, my sister.

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