Decided to post a very short story this week as I’ve been away and not blogging. This won the May Competition on the Word Cloud- which was great!
The bell is a hollow thing in the darkness. It winds its way into my mind, its steady chime luring me from strange dreams. Whispers outside the door announce the arrival of the women. I push the covers aside and turn to the paler shadow of the window. It is almost dawn.
Calli opens the door, giggling. ‘Did you have a restful sleep, Ama?’ she asks, her smile betraying the fact that she knows I won’t have slept much. Older women, village elders, bustle into the room, placing bowls of steaming water, oils, a fine dress and trinkets for my hair. And they begin.
I stand as I am washed from head to foot and painted in flowers and vines. Oils are rubbed into my hair and it is plaited and bound in ivy and mayflower. The old women are careless of me. It hurts and I let out a little yelp. Mara, eldest in the village looks at me in disgust. ‘You think this hurts, child? Wait until later.’ They cackle. Even Calli laughs, as if she knows what they are talking about.
Outside I hear the sounds of the village rising. The maypole is ready. I helped make the ribbons and trained the younger children in the dance. The boys are off with the men today, collecting firewood, drinking mead. Rather I was with them. I wonder if Mat is thinking of me?
I will take no food today. The old women give me herbs to drink in tea, with honey to stave off the hunger. The herbs make me feel odd. Different. I sense a fire, low in my belly. When the music starts up I want to dance. I laugh and Calli joins in. ‘Alright, now, Ama? Ready?’ I am ready, the fear has gone.
The women lead me to the fire. My heart pounds with the rhythm of the drums. People are changed- it is Beltane. They dance and shout and sing. Wildness grips my heart, and I want to dance too.
Into the circle comes the Green man. He is tall and shrouded in a cloak of green leaves and moss. He casts off his winter coat. My heart skips. I know Mat’s red hair. It cannot be disguised by mud and leaves. ‘May Queen,’ he says, taking my hand, and I go willingly with him to bless this new year, this May Day.