Winters flew by and each kiss of ice stole more life out of the garden that was once loved. What warmth the cottage held was now long gone, not even an echo remained. A wisp was left of the woman who had once glowed as a mother, a ghost that haunted the moss covered stones. The years had not been kind to Yvonne and the strength built from hate and rage were the only things that kept her alive. The small and frightened child had become a young woman with a toe dipped into adolescence. Her thin, starved frame hid the years she had gained, trapping her as her mother's child in body... but no longer in mind and heart.
As morning faded and the sky swelled with red and pink clouds, Odenia tucked her mother into her bed and softly kissed her forehead. The kiss tasted bitter. Before Odenia could fully stand to leave a bony hand snapped out from beneath the sheets and wrapped itself around her wrist tightly.
“Wh...where do you think you are going?” croaked Yvonne as her eyes darted erratically.
Pulling herself away from her mother's grip Odenia stood upright, rubbed her wrist and sighed.
“I'm just going out to the garden. Try and salvage what's left.” Odenia mumbled her words as she avoided Yvonne's accusing eyes. “We have nothing left to eat. If we don't do something soon we'll both starve. Just let me go down to the town and...”
“Never!” cried Yvonne as she fought through a flood of coughing. “You're never to go there. You understand child?” Yvonne's eyes bore into Odenia's flesh and chilled the girl's skin.
“Yes, I know, I know,” sighed Odenia as she wrapped herself up in her hooded cloak and made her way to the door.
Odenia stood silently amongst the weeds and twisted vines that had chocked the last breath out of the garden. There was nothing left, not even a rotting root. With her mind a blur her feet took her to her a place she felt safe, a place she could let it all slip away and just be herself. The tree stood taller than any other, reaching out towards the stars with it's ancient branches. Odenia loved to climb it's dizzying heights and let the wind blow through her wild and knotted hair. From up there nothing could touch her. As she pulled herself up she noticed the light that shone from Stormglen. She could faintly hear the music that whispered from the Inn and it filled her heart with joy. She had spent many nights watching from afar and imagining the beauty the village held within. Her stomach scratched and tore at her as she dreamed about the foods they would be eating. The hot fat dripping from the roasted boar and the burst of colours from the variety of fruits and berries. Everyone would be drinking down sweet meads and laughing with full bellies and hearts.
The pull was just too great.
Before she realised it Odenia found herself at the wall that surrounded Stormglen. Her heart was pounding fiercely in her chest out of excitement and fear. This had been the closest she had even been to the village and her body began to shake uncontrollably. Here she could hear the fiddles play their uplifting tune clearly and smell the intoxicating scent of food from the Inn. Taking a deep breath she clambered over the wall and tip toed towards a window to have a peek inside. It was exactly as she had dreamt it would be. Everyone was smiling and joking, with bright red faces and a bounce in their steps.
How could these people be evil when they have so much joy? How could they be the twisted monsters mother always told her they were?
Odenia felt the music pulse through her and she felt light as a feather. Closing her eyes she let the rhythm move her, swaying her arms and jumping from foot to foot. She had never felt so alive and free. Although her body was weak she felt like she could dance forever and stay in this moment for eternity.
“Er, what are you doing?” chuckled the voice.
With a squeak Odenia tripped over her own feet and landed heavily on her backside. Panic ran through her veins as she tried to pull herself up. As the stranger stepped towards her Odenia found herself frozen in fear, unable to move or run away. Her lips whispered “I'm sorry” over and over again as she stared blankly in front of her.
“Silly thing. What do you have to be sorry for?” spoke the voice warmly as it stretched out a hand towards her and helped pull her on to her feet.
Still shaking Odenia looked up at the grinning face of the boy whose hand held hers. He could have only been a little older than Odenia, but his height and strong build made the gap between them seem huge. His soft green eyes were filled with compassion and Odenia found herself staring into them. The boy laughed and ruffled Odenia's hair.
“What a weird little thing you are! OK, you can stop with the staring now, you're freaking me out! Who are you anyway?” asked the boy with an ever growing grin.
Odenia silently looked out towards the woods and the boy's smile dropped. He looked her up and down curiously and nodded solemnly.
“I see,” he spoke with a mournful tone.
Gently stroking the girl's shoulder he told her to “Stay here,” and disappeared into the Inn. Odenia could barely moved out of shock. As she waited as still as a statue her mind was frantically trying to make sense of it all. The boy ran out of the Inn towards he with a napkin filled with food and held it out towards her. Odenia looked up at the boy confused, unsure of what he was doing. Smiling widely again and sat down in front of her.
“This is for you, you know, to eat. You barely look like you can stand so I figured you'd...”
As he spoke Odenia fell to her knees and without hesitation snatched at the food and tore at it wildly with her teeth.
“I'm Edwin by the way, but people call me Eddie,” chirped the boy happily as he watched the tiny girl gorge herself.
With a full mouth she mumbled “Odenia,” before grabbing at another chunk of bread.
Eddie sat entranced by the wild hair girl and watched her finish every last crumb, wipe her face ungracefully and immediately fall asleep with exhaustion. Picking her up carefully, Eddie cradled Odenia and carried her into the Inn. A faint smile appeared on the girl's face as he laid her into a bed and tucked her in, before kissing her softly on the forehead. The kiss tasted sweet.