Alivina’s life is almost done but she has been blessed long enough to see one more Beltane. As the village celebrates the beginning of summer, Alvina revisits her past and receives a gift for a long forgotten kindness.
Alvina sat still as the dappled sunlight warmed her old body. It was good to breathe the sweet air and listen to the music of the young.
She opened her eyes and watched the scene before her. The village had made their annual journey to the scared grove in the middle of the deep forest. It was Beltane and all had gathered to give thanks to the gods for their bounty.
A great fire burned brightly in the middle of the clearing and tonight the bride would be presented to Cernunnos. It was symbolic, as not one of the brides was ever taken but the tradition carried on. The people must give thanks for the fruits of the forest, its wildlife and the trees and herbs which sustained them.
The women wore crowns on their unbound hair, made from twigs, leaves, berries and flowers. They danced to the rhythmic beat of the drum around the ancient elderberry tree. Children ran about weaving this way and that through the trees, their laughter carried on the wind.
“Old mother – this is for you.”
Alvina turned her head and saw a girl holding out a floral crown.
“You are kind, child – to think of an old woman.”
“It would not be the festival without you, mother. You are always here... just like the forest itself.”
Alvina smiled as she allowed the girl to put the crown on her head.
“There, you look beautiful.”
Alvina chuckled. “Ah, you are as sweet as honey. I thank thee for my crown but go and dance while you can.”
“I have all day and night to dance, mother.”
“Ah, but the days slip by as quickly as droplets in a fast running stream. Go and enjoy yourself. Besides, I see that young man looking at you...you can see in his eyes that he wants you, child. I might be old but even I can remember such a look. The question is, do you want him?”
“Aye,” the girl whispered as she leant forward. “But I have not told him yet.”
“By the way his eyes follow you, Jenet – I would say you have hooked him as surely as any fish on a line. Go and make it a Beltane that you will both always remember.”
Jenet dipped down and kiss Alvina’s cheek.
“You are a wise woman.”
“I am an old woman,” she said with a smile. “Go now, enjoy your day and I will sit here and let the sun warm my bones.”
This short story is available for free on my website.
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