PREVIOUSLY: Willow Skye’s Eyes By Sharon Collins

Word Count 499
Willow Skye’s Eyes By Sharon Collins

The Mathair, our river, washes out of Abandoned Mountains full of roaring falls and furious rapids. When she reaches the Midlands, she gentles until she meets the Mid-Highlands, or as foreigners say, the High-Midlands. There the Mathair spreads her arms all the way ‘round us. Our castle sits on the Southside, protectin’ us. The Northside don’t need no protectin’; its rapids and rocks are killers. The Northside is so unwelcomin’, even the whisperin’ willows won’t grow there. It’s all empty cliffs, fierce beaks, ice-blue water, and icier- blue sky. On the sunnier Southside though, the willows grow right down to the water’s edge and dip their tangles in. Whisperin’ their silver-green sighs, they welcome travelers. On each Summer Gift-Giving Festival Day, before we climb to the castle with our gifts, we stop to offer thanks and tie a ribbon to a branch on the grandest of the willows. Dame Willow is so grand, she blocks out the sky-blue. There ain’t no sight prettier than Our Dame with hundreds of thankful ribbons flutterin’ in her hair.

Being grateful and givin’ is important to our folk, and previously, the Gate Keeper kept track that the bein’ and givin’ was done proper like, four times a year on High Festival Days. That year, he was just startin’ to train Willow Skye. Now bein’ in charge is a fine thing as long as you’ve got someone to show you how. But when that skinny Summer Traveller and his rude question broke the Gate Keeper’s eyebrows, there was only me to help and what good is a Bee Keeper’s Boy to a strange-eyed girl like Willow Skye on Summer Gift-Giving Day? So off I snuck to charm some granny outta her bannocks and jam or butter or both!

Willow Skye did her best all that afternoon, collectin’ baskets and tallyin’ ribbon tyin’, while the Gate Keeper stewed over folks with plain bad manners. Sure Willow Skye looked different, but that was no good reason for rudeness. But I suppose, bein’ that we were all used to her looks, they didn’t seem so strange to us. As I already let on, Willow Skye ain’t no one’s kin; she’s taller and fairer by far than folk ‘round here and her hair, well her hair is just plain marvelous-strange. It’s long, really long and a rare kind of red, like barely-brewed strawberry tea. She won’t comb it, so it’s mighty tangly. When the Gate Keeper threatens to cut it, she braids it ‘til he’s unbothered again. Then she pulls the ribbons and lets it loose and lawless. Now, if her strange hair and terrible tallness don’t bother a body, and her frog-belly-white skin don’t give you chills, her odd eyes will certainly cause you to cross your fingers, and toes, for luck. She’s got herself one green eye and one blue! In fact that’s how she got her name when the Gate Keeper found her washed up on the willow bank that Gift-Giving Day eleven summers ago.

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