The day was warm, and a balmy breeze blew across the fields just outside the old forest. The sun shone down without a single cloud to block its loving rays. The scent of sun-kissed blueberries clung to the noses of the three boys who laid in the fields, their backs resting on the cool, damp ground beneath the grass. With closed eyes and slow breathing, they napped.
Each of them was supposed to be working at their family shops, but none cared to on such a lazy, sunny day. Every one of the three boys simply soaked up the sun as he dreamed of the only thing any solid boy of thirteen cared for: girls. One dreamed of the baker’s daughter, plain and pretty. She always smelled of cinnamon. Another fantasized about the smith’s daughter, and how dark and mysterious she was. The young woman always avoided talking to boys, and none of the other girls in town spoke of her, save in passing. The third boy dreamed of the tailor and her round, womanly figure. She was a widow who was kind, but kept distant from the local children, as though she was wary of becoming too friendly with them.
During their day dreams, the boys didn’t hear the approach of soft footsteps. Bare feet barely disturbed the ground as the stranger gently pushed the tall grass from her path. She was young, with an impish look to her eyes, and a wide, playful smile on her lips. She snuck close and leaned over the boy who dreamed of the baker’s daughter. Bent at the waist, she peered down at his face. Absently, she shoved her hair behind her ears as she stared down at him. After several long moments, she turned on her heel to look at the second, whose dreams led him to the back of the smith’s shop, to play at marriage with the burly man’s daughter.
Neither of the two seemed to interest her, and she sighed, and stood up, then paused as she noticed the third boy. Her head tilted to one side, and she stepped toward him. She bent once more at her waist and looked down at him. Her hair fell freely down, and she furrowed her brow as she inspected his face.
Finally, the girl was satisfied, and rose rapidly, like a springy sapling held down and finally released. For a brief moment, she wobbled on her heels before she finally stood straight. She was short, and looked quite young. Several moments passed by as she tried to decide what to do now that she found someone that satisfied her.
Soon, she sat on the dirt as she watched the third boy. She was rapidly becoming bored.
When she could stand the dullness no longer, she lifted one thin leg and slammed it suddenly onto her favored boy’s groin, then jumped up as he howled in pain and gripped himself. A giggle escaped her lips as the two others woke and looked around, disoriented by sudden outcry.
Their gazes found the girl, who giggled uncontrollably as she gripped her dress and bent over. The force of her laughter bowed her back, and she couldn’t see through the merry tears that filled her eyes.
One at a time, the uninjured two rose, then helped their friend to his feet as they beheld the tiny, helplessly giggling girl.
“Get her.” the aching boy grunted through clenched teeth. As his friends let go to give chase, he forced himself to stay upright and help with the pursuit.
The girl gasped as she heard the order, and whirled toward the forest. She began to run, fear gripping her throat in a grasp like a strangling-vine that only tightened as she dashed. “No!” She cried.
The three boys pursued her doggedly, eager to avenge the injured heirlooms of the damaged boy.
As she ran, the girl zigzagged among the trees with the adroitness of one who only rarely left their company. She turned around a thick trunk and jumped automatically over a fallen limb of the great tree. Once behind it, she pressed her back against its rough bark and held her breath. The boys stopped on the other side, out of breath.
“Where’d she go?” The taller of the boys asked as he looked around. He was the least winded of the three.
The most muscular shook his head as he puffed. “I didn’t see her.”
“She has to be here somewhere. She’s just a girl.” The boy who spoke paused to catch his breath. “They can’t go that fast for very long, right?” He looked from one friend to the other. “Right?”
Instead of answering, the strongest of the three friends asked a question of the previous speaker. “Why’d she even do that to you, James?”
“I dunno.” James shook his head. “Let’s split up.” He paused again for breath. “We can find her faster that way.”
The tall boy paused. “So, what are we going to do when we catch her?”
James scowled. “I dunno.”
The other two laughed and shook their heads. “Let’s just wait here. She’ll get lost if she keeps running, and then she’ll call out for help. Until then, you can think about why we’re even bothering to try to catch her, just because she managed to hit your little berries!”
“Oh, shut up. Just never mind. Let’s head back.” James urged. His face was flushed with chagrin as he looked away from his friends. They agreed, and the three boys turned around, only to find the way back looked different. The sticks they broke in their pursuit were absent, and the forest seemed more dense.
The tall boy bit his lower lip. “Wait… Which way do we go?”
From the other side of the tree, the girl giggled. “Nowhere.” She peeked around. Her eyes, visible now to the boys, were multifaceted, wide, and black. In the dim light of the forest, her hair seemed darker– a black that seemed to suck away the light. “Welcome to my home. You won’t be leaving.”