She had always liked the color white.
Her mother hadn’t though. White always stained far too easily - a slave to earth and grass. White wasn’t a color for people to wear. It was a color for snowbanks and clouds and fair maids of myth. It did not belong to the hard toiling people of the soil that they were. Their features were always smudged in mud or freckles.
So it was, she only had one white dress which she only wore once every year. The day of the spring dance, a festival of Ēostre. Though she wore the iron cross of Christianity around her neck, the old ways never did really die out. The dance came every year and with it, the maids all dressed in white. Those rich enough would braid pearls or diamonds into their hair, making it so that every time they caught the sun's attention, they glittered.
She was not rich, nor was she meant to glitter. She was deep and dark. She was the earth and she had always been the earth. Her mother said that the people of the earth were always much more hardy than those made of seafoam or silk. So she wore her white dress - made of cotton and rough against her skin. It wasn’t in the state of tatters just yet but in a few years' time, it would be. But then again this might be her last dance, her last chance to wear white.
That morning she woke early, bathed quickly, and then ran out into the orchards. She picked the blooms she found waking from their winter slumber. She filled a basket with them and once her hair was dry, she took care to weave the small white flowers into the rich brown of her braid. She was made of earth and would never sparkle. Her skin was dark and her cheeks covered in freckles.
A person made of earth. A hearty soul with a body that was even more so. When she returned, she put on the white dress. It had been her elder sister’s and then her mother’s before her so it never had fit quite right. Too big in some places, too small in others. She had always been assured she’d grow into it but she looked more like her father - more like the bull than her willow tree mother and sister.
When she was dressed in white and flowers, she left her cottage home and headed to the town. The stones of the road which had always felt so familiar beneath her bare feet sounded like a stranger’s voice when she walked across them in black-buckled and heeled shoes. It was like she’d grown hooves and was click-clacking her way into town as the shoes pinched her heels and squeezed her toes.
In town, there were already people gathered. Girls in white chittered excitedly, like the birds high above. Some of them did look like birds. Small and thin - elegant in every sense of the word. Though none of them were born with the silver spoon of nobility between their lips, some were merchant’s daughters. One, in particular, had hair like threads of gold was speaking - laughing - nearby. How she glittered in pearls and white and looked so comfortable in her shoes.
She could watch that merchant’s daughter for an eternity. Watch the way her body moved like some great beast beneath the fabric that bound her. She was like an elegant pastry hidden behind the glass walls of the bakery. Not for her to touch and devour. Just looked at and admired beyond the invisible barrier that separated them. The privilege of touching and devouring belonged to some man with enough money to waste it on things like pretty pastries.
Then the music started - the hum of fiddles, the pounding of the drum, and then the whistle of flutes. How lovely it sounded. It was like honey and the color white all mixed together in the fervent blend. And when the other maids in white stepped out from the crowd, making a circle, she found her feet leading her to join them.
Her heart was beating in an erratic manner when she found herself positioned beside the maid with golden thread hair. She trembled slightly before taking her hand and then they lost themselves to the way the music sounded on their ears. Spinning around and around. They broke and danced in a different way. Two by two. Hands-on hips. Power and innocence. Flowers and pearls and all things white mixed together.
The music ended but the dance did not. They were still twisting and twirling inside one another’s minds. She stood with her chest heaving as the maids in white dispersed and new couples began to dance. She tried to find the girl with golden thread hair - to catch her eye for just a moment - but she was gone. Lost to the wiles of men as she spoke to one rather handsome one, one rather rich one, one who could afford pretty pastries.
She sighed and turned her head. As it was. She should at least enjoy wearing white for a while longer. But that was when something caught her eye. It was the horns of a stag. Her brow creased together as she slipped from the crowd, from the eyes of the village, following the horns into the forest. And it was only through the forest’s eyes that she saw the horns belonged to no stag, but a man.
He might as well have been a stag for how transfixed he made her feel. His skin was like hers - dark brown and earthy - but he had hair like snow. A white stag, the animal of the hunt and he stood here, simply waiting in the forest. She held her breath, not like a hunter, but rather an unexpecting witness of great and terrible beauty. She held her breath and he held his and then all the creatures and plants of the forest held their breaths as well. All except one bird who continued to whistle a mournful tune.
Which was when she appeared.
She was not like the maid with golden thread hair. She was not a girl or a maid or anything less than a woman. The first thing she saw of her was her skin. It was white. Like milk. Like marble. Her hair was dark though. The darkest green that she had ever bear witness to in her entire life. It was short hair too. Straight hair. The woman looked like all the darkened colors of spring. Like the thunderstorm and budding trees. Like songbirds before the sun rose. Like Ēostre incarnate.
The woman who was all these things and more took the hand of the stag and they walked deeper into the forest still. It was impossible not to follow them. Not to be completely allured by the way they moved. So she followed them and she was completely allured. She tried to move quietly but the shoes made that impossible. She kicked them off. This was not the place for shoes.
And then, when the woman and the stag were so deep into the forest that she could not see the sky through the tangle of branches, they began to dance. At first, it was odd watching them dance with no music, but then she realized there was music. Where had it come from? When had it started? Perhaps it was as old as the forest itself and she had just been deaf to it before.
She took a step closer and finally saw the woman’s face which was rather odd since she didn’t appear to have one. No eyes, or lips, or curve of a nose. But instead of this being frightening, it only seemed to make her even more ethereal. However, in coming closer, she must’ve been seen by the woman without eyes because she smiled, though she had no lips, and said:
Come dance with us.
This was not the place for a spring dance but she couldn’t contain herself any longer. She took the woman’s hand and then the stag’s and then the three of them began to dance to the music that only the forest could hear.