The night air was cold, slithering around her and settling on her skin. A graceful fog flowed from her lips as she exhaled, her eyes searching around her through the trees for the path she knew so well. Her hair seemed to dance like flames in the breeze that swept around her, but the brisk wind did nothing to shake her resolve. She continued her trek upward stopping periodically to look up at the sky, the light of the moon her only source of comfort and security, preventing her from losing her footing in the otherwise dark night that covered the forest. The sounds of the forest at night glided toward her ears on the wind, a haunting melody for those unaccustomed to this atmosphere. Still the woman pushed on, a comfortable, well-worn cloak pulled tightly around her frame. Her grey eyes pierced the night, searching for her goal, more sure footed with each step she took closer to her goal. The sounds of a brook flowing joined the myriad of nighttime noises surrounding her and in its quiet babbling she found peace, a smile ghosting across her lips. The woman walked for what felt like hours until finally she reached her destination, a clearing at the top of the mountain where there were no trees growing to obstruct her view of the moon and stars. The night beckoned to her to join it, the darkness not so unsettling now that the moon seemed so close, and she was all too happy to accept her place here. She removed a pack from her shoulder tossing it gently to the ground, disturbing the peace of the night. Removing a warm, familiar blanket from the bag she unfurled it quickly letting it settle on the grass as it had done so many times before. The woman laid the bag beneath her head and took comfort in the moon shining above her, ethereal and serene. The cold could not touch her, and neither could the problems of her day-to-day life, beneath the moon in the peace of the night she was free. With that thought settled into her mind she closed her eyes and drifted off into peaceful and uninterrupted sleep, the moon standing guard never once wavering until the morning.
Harsh light and sharp heat greeted the red-haired women the next morning, and with a groan she rolled over burying her face into the comforting scent of her blanket. A chuckle coming from behind her startled her briefly as the last remnants of sleep quickly left her body, but after a moment she recognized the familiarity of the sound and sighed deeply. Peeking her head up from where she had buried it she was greeted with familiar green eyes, filled with mischief.
“What are you doing here?”
“Apparently waking you up in the middle of the day, you may look like a fox but that doesn’t mean you have to behave like one as well. Sleeping on the ground in the middle of the forest until the afternoon. Honestly, some might think you belong in the wild instead of the castle Cor.”
The man’s tone was light and jovial though he tried to portray a serious expression, Corinne had never seen a truly serious expression on his face in his life.
“Well then some people may just be right” Cor flopped back onto the blanket trying to soak in just a couple more moments of peace. The man came to sit next to her, steps silent but confident like a wolf through the trees, unhurried and completely at ease. He put a hand on Cor’s back, prompting her to turn her head to look at him, her eyes seeming older boring into his own.
“Sometimes I just want to breath for a minute, to escape all of their dreams and expectations for me and I just like to remind myself of who I was before all of this. If I don’t, I’m truly afraid I will forget and become who they want me to be completely Alder, and that would be something I could never forgive them for.”
Alder looked down on her in silent understanding, relaxed expression bringing Cor peace knowing he would let her talk with no judgements. Silently she rolled over taking his large hand in her own, his were wide and hers were long but somehow their fingers still managed to intertwine like they were molded together. Light seemed to fill Alder’s eyes at the gesture, elation lighting up every part of his face as he leaned closer as if to share a secret.
“Cor I don’t think there is a single person on this planet who could take the wild nature from your soul. No amount of money or power could change who you are at your core, they know that, I know that and deep down I think you know that too.”
She did, she knew she could never stop being the girl who was raised in this forest, she may have to be more diplomatic, she would have to sit through their boring meetings about policy and responsibilities, but she would always make sure she remembered where she came from.
With one last squeeze to his hand Corinne released her grip on Alder’s hand and rolled back over before standing up. She extended her hand downward to him and he took it with a shake of his head and a chuckle. They made quick work of gathering Corrine’s blanket and bag which Alder promptly threw over his shoulder. Corinne took a deep breath took one last look around started for home, Alder’s hand once again holding hers as they settled in for the long walk back.
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