She stood by the water. Alone, the moon shone down and painted itself onto the ripples of the lake that almost touched her bare toes. The water knew to let her alone tonight. It had memory. And recalled the words that had been spat between them; although, the wind was not so considerate. Its breeze pulled strands of her hair free from their confines atop her brunette head and whistled through the fir trees around the lake without a second thought. She stared out over the water, unseeing and oblivious, as the moon sketched its portrait out across the lake. And she barely registered the gentle tug of the wind.
She sighed. Then removed the thin shawl from her shoulders and let it fall to the sand. This time she watched as a tassel on her shawl soaked up the fresh water and became a deeper shade of red that could have blood in the water. She tipped her head back. Her eyes were met with a clear sky and a million stars.
Four winters had passed since she and her sister had been to the Solstice Market. Night had arrived early and with it all the stars. All of the candles and torches made rosey cheeks glow and all the stalls were luminous in the firelight. The night was more than cold – that was evident from all of the hats, gloves, scarves, and thick winter coats – but neither of the sisters felt the chill. Their stomachs were too full of hot food and mulled wine and their hearts were too warm for any whisper of cold to sneak through their coats.
They walked arm in arm down a row of fire lit stalls. Each vendor had something unique to give. One stall they passed was filled with glittering sweets, of every shape, size, and colour you could imagine. Another was selling all manner of perfumes. The smell was so divine as they passed that they couldn’t help but stop and sample each and every one. The sisters stood before the salesman; he was a small man with a round, pot belly, the broadest of smiles, and a feeling of warmth and kind gentleness about him. His plump fingers plucked out a particularly curious purple bottle that was half filled with a clear liquid. The small man removed the stopper from the bottle and carefully swirled the purple vial beneath their noses. The scent that overwhelmed their senses seemed so impossible to contain inside something so simple as a bottle, that it could’ve been witchcraft. But this kindly man had done it. It was like roses after rain, when petrichor fills the air and underlines the sweetness of the pink petals with a familiar bitterness that brings back memories of tall boots and muddy puddles. The women both hummed together in delight of the perfume, and one reached for her purse to dig out thirty silver pieces. They clinked together in the palm of the small man and his grin widened as he packed the purple vial in tissue paper that matched the small bag that he placed it inside. The sisters linked arms again and continued to amble down the row of stalls, a small neatly packed bag in hand.
A woman with a lilted voice beckoned them over to look at her fabrics of every conceivable colour. Her stall was an ocean of reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, purples, lilacs, and pinks, all glinting in the warm torchlight. The woman – tall, with long, fair hair and lilac eyes – gestured for the sisters to handle the fabrics. The younger of the sisters reached down to a fabric of deep red. She held it between her fingertips and the material was so soft that if she wasn’t watching herself hold it, she wouldn’t have known it was there. “Elven silk,” said the woman with lilac eyes; her voice was almost as soft as the silk the youngest sister held between her fingertips. She lifted up the silk to admire it even more beneath the firelight. The eldest sister lent over the fabrics, that were elegantly woven around each other across the stall, and handed over four gold pieces for a shawl in the blood red elven silk that her little sister was so admiring.
At the end of the row of stalls the market opened out and a band of bards were playing on a makeshift stage. Men, women, and children were dancing before them as their skirts, scarves, and coattails twirled and twisted in perfect rhythm with the music, forever following the movements of their wearers.
The sisters lead each other into the murmuration of dancers. They began spinning together, holding hands, moving apart and back together in time with the bards’ playing. The woman’s shawl of eleven silk flowed out behind her, as she tipped her head back and laughed at the stars.
“I thought I would find you here,” Her older sister’s voice drifted down to where she stood at the water’s edge. The damp sand crumped, forming foot-shaped ovals that followed the woman as she walked down to where her little sister stood at the water’s edge. She smelled of roses after rain, the scent of her older sister’s perfume took her back to that night, one sniff and she was there again – spinning and swirling, laughing at the stars. “I know,” Her voice was so small in the night air, but her sister smiled to herself and reached down for the blood-red shawl that rested in the sand. She shook it and they watched as grains of sand were lit up by the moon as they fell. Then she skilfully swirled it across her little sister’s shoulders and the elven silk shimmered in the moonlight like morning dew on fresh strawberries.
“I know,” A smile laced her words, and she nudged her sister playfully.
They stood by the water. Shoulder to shoulder, watching as the moon painted itself onto the ripples of the lake as it gently lapped at their bare toes.