YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).
The bonfire illuminates the dancers’ painted bodies as they sway in time with the flames. Their bare feet kick clouds of dirt into the air that mix with the hazy smoke.
The skin I wear is both familiar and foreign. Many seasons have passed since I have known this form. My chance will not come again and I leave my hiding place in search of her.
“Are you going to dance this year?” Becca asks.
“Hell yeah,” I say, braiding flowers into her long blond hair. “Aren’t you?”
“Nah. Mom said I’m not old enough yet.”
“That’s crap. It’s not like anything happens out there. She should know, she’s been dancing the Beltane for years.” I wipe my hands against my jeans, trying to get rid of the sticky flower residue.
“I know. But there’s just something weird about dancing nearly naked in the same circle as your mom,” she says and inspects my handiwork with a small mirror hung from the branch of an old oak.
I chuckle. “I guess that’s true. But I'll be there and I'll protect you from the horror of your mom's nearly nakedness.”
“Shut up.” She lunges at me, and then giggles as I give way to chase.
“You’ll ruin your hair,” I call back to her. The brush crushing beneath my shoeless strides, I dash between elder trees.
“Gottcha!” Becca’s fingers capture my wrist.
“Okay, okay. You win,” I say and we tumble to the ground laughing. “You did ruin your hair.”
She pats it blindly. “I’m sure it’s fine.”
My hand trembles as I tuck a stray beneath a bobby pin. “There. Now it’s fine.” I fear her rejection if she knew my true feelings and my gaze slides to my hands.
A deep pink spreads across her freckled cheeks. “Come on. They’ve already started, let’s go get you painted up for the dance.”
I glimpse my freedom through the flames. Strawberry curls wrapped up in a crown of Ivy and Marigolds, her curves exposed and painted in swirling patterns of orange and red. My heart quickens and at once the length and strength of these legs, my legs, become comfortable again. The rhythm beats beneath my skin and I enter the sway of the Beltane bonfire.
The subtle scent of the earth sweetens the spice of ripe bodies. My skin afire, I move with the pounding of the drums. On the other side of the blaze, a girl I’ve never seen watches me. Her long black hair shines with an iridescent emerald and stands out painted in hues of blue, green and gold. The intricate paisley pattern shimmers in the light of the flames.
She catches me staring back at her and begins to dance toward me. Suddenly, my body paint is thin and I shiver with the embarrassment of exposure.
“Hello,” she says, her voice the music of the earth and my secret crush on Becca becomes a distant memory.
“Gwinn.” She’s inches away, in time with the tempo of the drums. I join her.
My hands find their way to her hair then down her neck and shoulders. My hips and stomach brush against hers and I know freedom is close.
She is the one.
“Theda,” I whisper.
Tendrils of swirling silver is magic in the air when she says my name. Her skin is cool despite the heat around us and she leaves blue fingerprints atop the dark red of my shoulders. The pulse of the night brings me closer. My arms encircle her, tracing the line of her spine and still we dance. I suck in deep breathes of warm air.
She pulls away, her eyes catch mine and sadness radiates within them. “I am sorry, Theda.”
A blush rushes to my cheeks and I’m thankful for my crimson paint. “Don’t be,” I say, reaching for her.
She backs away, and my outstretched hand freezes in front of me. My Beltane red replaced by the same patterns Gwinn wears. Cold dread fills my heart as I watch her sink away from the fire, painted in reds and oranges.
I go after her, into the darkness of the forest.
She chases me. I knew she would, but I remain out of her grasp and as the sun crests in the east, I know I am safe. Free after a century, I stop running and return to the Beltane camp.
“Theda! Where have you been?” A blond girl asks me.
“Dancing,” I say.
Her fine brows knit together. “The dance has been over for hours.” She shakes her head. “Never mind. It’s time to go, everyone’s waiting.”
I follow the girl to a truck as a high pitch squawk pierces the morning air.
“What was that?” she asks.
My lips curve into a slow smile. “A peacock,” I say.
We drive out of camp, and the girl points through the window. “There it is! It was a peacock. Wow. It’s a pretty one too.”
“Yes, the very prettiest,” I say.
Trapped in a body that is not my own, I open my mouth to scream, to beg them to return to me but all I hear is a harsh, ugly cry. I see her – me – staring from the rear window. She raises a hand to her mouth and blows me a kiss.
Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo: