“Tell me again, father, of my mother. How you found her”
She knew the stories, better than he by now, but still she asked. Familiar tales for bedtime
“Of course, little one. Well, she was dancing wild, first time I spied her, underneath full clear moon. As fair of form and face as I had heard tossed about in the alehouse. Right then, I knew she was for my marriage bed.
A feral thing; of the forest not the field. Did not matter to all those boys and men, high born and low, that sought her. All thought to tame her; domesticate and claim her. I, well, I thought different.
If I could keep house by my own, as I done until then, why turn her into cook, maid, and drudge?
Though she shaped my heart, I would that she stay as wild as she pleased. I should have no say in such matters as truly fell to her devising.”
“Is that why she chose you, then, father?”
“Byhaps, my sweet. When she looked into the eyes of the others, she saw their reflection of her.”
“What were in your eyes?”
“Why, only her true self stared back.”
The little one yawned; her father adjusted the bedlinens so the material cuddled her.
Sleepily, she asked, “What did she wear to the weddingrite?”
“A dress as blue as summer sky; an over-apron of woodlands green; her hair all plaited with meadow flowers. I near lost my breathe to her beauty.”
“What next befell you both?”
“So, as I thought myself a stabler, we came here to make hearth and home. I hoped that she could be happy; free to dance in the forest whenever she pleased. She did so under full clear moons; returning blissful on the morn; dawn streaks upon her hair. Every season of the year she danced; I never feared of her leaving as she always back to our marriage bed.”
He smiled down at her, and holding her hand continued.
“Oh, once you were of us, my love, she would no further than our dooryard to dance.”
“Am I like her, then, father? Do I have her eyes? Will I to dance?”
“No, my sweet, poor thing, you are your father’s daughter. You her smile, though.”
The child asked quietly, “Has she danced away forever?”
“Your mother a long journey to make; she knew you were too small, so I have the keep of you.
When she has done her quest, byhaps she will pass back this way.”
“A promise she made?”
“Yes, a promise.”
He bent over the now sleeping child, and brushing strands of raven’s breath hair from her forehead, he kissed her.
For that was the thing, he thought softly, of taking a shapeshifter to the marriage bed. No promise was truly as it seemed.
An early nod to Father’s Day for mlmm Sunday writing prompt: “shapeshifter.”
feature image: Inna Koleva, illustrator