A young woman and her suitor escape a community celebration to reclaim a bit of childhood.
|She looked out across the large room to find her companion, Connor. Her light green dress glittered in the torchlight as she made her way through the dancing crowd toward someone she recognized.
“Connor?” She inquired, touching his shoulder. Her suitor turned, a smile on his face.
“Shannon!” He exclaimed. “You look fantastic tonight! That dress suits your eyes,” Connor added.
“Thank you,” she replied, blushing a little. “Your coat is lovely, too. I was worried you’d gone missing, love.” Connor laughed a little.
“Nonsense, dearie,” he reassured her. “I went to relieve myself and got caught by Aiden and Finbar. They came stag tonight. I was just leaving, to come back to you, actually.”
“Alright,” Shannon conceded, pleased with his transparency.
“Shall we dance, then? The music just turned softer,” Connor insisted. Shannon nodded, her heart rising in tempo with the music. Her mind raced to a distant time, when her world was still young and the moments were more important than the future.
“I’m Connor,” a little boy told a little girl. His yellow hair waved a little in the wind, blue eyes peering into her face through her bangs.
“I-I’m Shannon,” she replied, hiding behind her fiery red curls. “Do you want to play on the rocks with me?” Her patched and tattered dress bounced with her on her way to the large formation nearby. Connor followed, laughing.
The song ended, and Shannon looked up at the now grown young man she’d fallen in love with.
“What are you thinking about, dearie? Your mind is elsewhere,” he explained.
“Do you want to play on the rocks with me?” She asked him, a mischeivous glint in her eye.
“But your dress, Shannon? It’s so pretty, it’d be a shame to ruin it,” Connor told her.
“I don’t care, Connor. I’ll mend it tomorrow. Come play, let us be as children while we’re still able to think like them!” She pulled, her melodious laughter casting a spell on the man.
“Alright already, but what do we tell your parents? Or mine, for that matter. You know they want us to behave now.” Shannon glared at him, her expressive eyes pouting as much as her rosy lips.
“I don’t want to behave,” she mumbled. “This world is too big to be trapped in such a mundane thought. Come now, let’s make the rocks our fortress, and nobody can tell us to be what we aren’t.” Connor relented and went with her, enjoying the cool night air on his face.
They laughed and danced to their own music, grabbing sticks and fighting to the death. She became a dragon and he was the archer who knew how to stop her from pillaging the towns. He was a mighty prince and she his lovely princess fast on her way to being queen. The rocks were a ship on the high seas, and they its pirate captains in search of treasure. The grass growing at the edges of the rocks were magical sea creatures aiming to stop them from finding the gold. After a while, they laid on the flat rock together and stared at the stars, counting constellations.
“Why are you such a child at heart, Shannon? I’m not complaining, mind you.” Connor added quickly, remembering her temper as wild as her hair. She sighed, staring off into the darker part of the sky.
“Childhood is simple. I can play, sing, and dance and nobody cares how I act as long as I’m pleasant. I like the freedom to run off as I please and escape life. Responsibility, parenthood, being tied down like that is frightening. I’m not ready for it.” Connor watched her as she spoke.
“What if I’m with you? I like to play too, but we are adults now. We could be adults together and still play sometimes. I don’t think it’ll be as scary as you think,” he finished.
“Oh, Connor,” she sighed, sitting up. “You’re not a boy anymore. I’m still a girl at heart. You don’t understand anymore why I’m afraid.” Connor sat up quickly.
“I do understand, Shannon. I’m afraid too, but it’s going to happen whether we like it or not. Being afraid of growing up is futile. It’s inevitable, and I can either run from it or embrace it with the intent of keeping as much youth in my life as possible. It’s scary to think about growing old and no longer enjoying the simple things like tonight. But I think it’d be less scary to take those steps together. Don’t you, dearie?” Shannon sighed, knowing he was right.
“I know, love,” she told him. “I can’t run forever. I keep thinking there must be a way to run, a place to go where we can be young forever, and live with pure joy. I know it doesn’t exist, but I want it. I want you to be my partner in crime, the prince to my princess, the only knight who could best me at swordplay. I just want us to be like this forever.” Connor touched her face.
“I do too,” he whispered, pulling her closer for a kiss. Their lips touched and she was sent to the land in her dreams, that hidden world of bliss and utter joy. Shannon understood finally what she must do, and pulled him to his feet.
“Come, Connor,” she ordered matter-of-factly. “We must return to the village and announce our intent to marry.” Connor stammered for a few moments.
“Our intent to marry?” He echoed.
“Of course, love,” Shannon insisted with a smile.
“But… I didn’t… When… But…” Connor was flabbergasted.
“You love me, don’t you?” He nodded. “You do want to marry me, right?” Another nod. “Then it’s settled. Come on, love. Time to go.” He pulled her back when she turned to go home.
“Wait a minute, Shannon!” He insisted. “What’s gotten into you? There’s things that need to be done before we just go and announce something like that. We must talk to our parents, and I’m supposed to be asking you for your hand. You’re not ready to marry anyway, you’ve said yourself.” Connor pressed, wanting an answer for her erratic behavior. Shannon crossed her arms and took to a higher rock.
“You’ve already asked them to court me,” she explained, waving an imaginary sword. “You’ve already been given permission to win my heart, and you’ve won it. You won it the day we met, Connor McCarthy. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be, and if you really want to ask me, I’ll save you the trouble.” She hopped down and grabbed his hand.
“What are you--!” He started.
“Connor McCarthy, I pledge my heart to you this day.” The wind picked up, blowing her vibrant locks. “You are my north star, my best friend, and the only man I think about. I have grown up with you by my side, and I am ready to grow old the same way.” She stopped and waited. He watched her eyes, jade green and staring right into his soul. “This is where you ask me to marry you,” she whispered.
“Shannon Kenny,” Connor murmured, pulling her close so not even the wind could hear him. “I was going to ask you tonight anyway. Will you wear this?” He pulled out a small gold ring. She looked up at him in surprise.
“You were?” Tears sprung to her eyes as he nodded, slipping the ring over her finger. She looked at it, following the intricate braided designs with her little finger. “Oh, Connor, this is lovely…” Shannon trailed off, captivated by the gold band. “Yes, I will wear it. Come, let us show everyone.” Connor smiled and pulled her close again.
“My bonnie Shannon,” he started, cupping her face and tangling his fingers in her hair. “You have made me the happiest man alive.” They embraced, and the wind picked up, whipping their hair about and blowing leaves all around them. Shannon looked around and saw the leaves flying in the same pattern as her ring. She was stunned. “You think you weren’t drawn to these rocks for a reason, Shannon?” She stared at Connor. “This is sacred ground. The earth has given us its blessing. Our harmony complements that of the trees and birds and water and everything we’ve loved as children here. We’re meant to be together.” A moment of silence passed as Shannon mulled over the magic in the wind.
“I’m glad, then, that it’s you I’m meant to be with,” she said finally. They kissed under the moonlight, wind kicking up leaves and dust all around them. “Come on, now. The night is still young, and the moon still high. Let us return to the festivities and reveal our betrothal.” Shannon and Connor made their way back to the village, laughing and smiling all the way.