Caranthe struggled around the edge of the ballroom floor. There was a narrow winding gap between the ebb and flow of dancers and those standing watching at the side of the room. Careful to avoid the elbows of gesticulating people, and not step on the toes of closely passing dancers, she moved towards the wide glass doors at the far end of the room. Dipping her elegant head to one side to avoid a random waving arm, she felt the knot in her russet ribbon slip a little in her loosely held dark hair. Just a breath of air, a moment of silence, just soft darkness in place of these glaring lights, just a moment of peace, of freedom. That was all she craved.
Her floor length purple silk gown shushed gently, rhythmically, as she passed swiftly through the door and onto the softly lit patio. The garden, brimming with darkness, lay beyond. The noise and glitter faded immediately.
“Ohhhh!” Caranthe sighed with relief as the cool night air touched her heated cheeks, slid over her shoulders and down her arms. The sense of suffocation and stress slid away with the passage of the air. She moved a last few steps and leaned forwards, her hands coming to rest against the top of the wide stone balustrade, and gazed down into the shadowed garden, where the full moon was rising behind the trees.
Sliding long delicate fingers across the stone as she walked, Caranthe drifted slowly along the patio to where the broad steps led down into the garden. An owl called softly somewhere in the darkness, and just for a moment the sense of a wing was illuminated by the cool light of the moon over towards the trees. Her breath catching in her throat, she turned, poised, at the top of the stairs.
“But I must find her,” a sharp masculine voice intruded from the ballroom, “they will be making the announcement soon. She should know better than to disappear now!” The voice was commanding.
Caranthe leaned into the shadows and placed her foot on the top step, torn between duty and longing.
“Irritating woman!” continued the voice, getting closer, “Why does she have to cavort in the garden tonight of all nights!”
Caution fled. Caranthe grabbed handfuls of susurrating purple silk and flew down the stairs, her soft slippers barely touching each step. Into the garden she ran, her dark dress and hair swiftly blending with the shadows. She captured the russet ribbon as it finally slipped free. Her long hair tumbled around her shoulders, cloaking the paleness of her skin from view.
“Well I don’t see her anywhere,” the crisp voice in the doorway was responding to a subdued murmur from someone, “you must have been mistaken!” In brusque annoyance he turned and pushed his way back into the ballroom.
Again the soft sound of an owl threaded its way through the shadows. Caranthe ran quickly down the gentle slope of the grass and onto the wide pathway that curved through the trees. She would not turn back now, not for anything, not now she had twice heard that sound.
Shadowy movement on her left caught her peripheral vision as the huge white owl flew over her, making a swooping turn and hovering a little distance ahead, a russet ribbon caught in his claw.
“I have done my best,” she said, walking towards him. He moved his wings slowly and tilted his head.
“I have tried. I turned him away from her, and she is gone to another. Can I not be forgiven now? Please don’t make me go further with this.” She halted before him and raised the russet ribbon in her hand. Her throat moved convulsively. “Please,” it was a choked whisper, “please come back to me. Take me home.”
The wide wings spread, reached, and enfolded her like a soft cloak of moonlight as the moon itself swam silently free of the trees at last, one tall branch leaning towards it like an earthbound tether.
In the soft cadence of the breeze through the trees he answered. “I forgave you long ago my love, and I never left you. Let us go home.”
A flurry of wings beat the air and rose towards the moonlight.
As the eddies settled, two lengths of russet ribbon twined and softly fell to settle on the cloud of purple silk lying upon the grassy path. Followed by one brown feather, and one white.
Hello and Happy New Year to everyone at “the Ghoul”! I am stepping out of the wings just to let you know I do actually exist. I read all your posts every week, and am consistently impressed with the high calibre of writing. I usually vote as well, but I have been known to miss voting deadline, whereupon I gnash my teeth — a pretty impressive sight if you look at my avatar!
I look forward to reading more of your superlative (Suzanne — there’s a word!) fiction throughout 2015. Bring friends, have fun, but above all — keep writing.
This week, I loaned my blog to Jennifer so she could compete in the Grammar Ghoul Writing Challenge #14. You should go read the other entries (or write one yourself, before Monday at noon!), then vote for your favourites on Monday or Tuesday.
Image credit: Awe Inspiring Images