Sunday, January 13, 2019

Skating in Moonlight



                                    Skating in Moonlight
                                                            By Valerie L. Egar
           
Ingrid stood on the cold floor and peeked from her bedroom window at the moon shining on the frozen pond at the far edge of the Maine farm. Newly fallen snow glittered in the moonlight. Stars sparkled through bare tree branches.
            Ingrid shivered. Her loft bedroom was always colder than the rest of the house except in the summer, when it was the hottest. The woodstove fire that warmed the house had died. Momma and Papa were sleeping, her baby sister Gretchen in her crib beside them.
Moonlight shining through her window into her eyes wakened her. She loved looking at the silvery light, but her feet were cold, even though she was wearing wool socks. She turned to jump back into bed, but glimpsed something moving on the pond. Deer?
She squinted to see better.  Not deer.
A lone figure glided across the ice, twirled, leapt high and landed. Someone was skating!
Ingrid pulled the wool blanket from her bed and wrapped it around herself.  From her distance, she couldn’t see who the skater might be. She couldn’t even tell
 whether it was a man or woman. Ingrid watched until she fell asleep.
At breakfast, Ingrid announced, “Papa, I saw someone skating on the pond last night.”
Her father frowned. “That doesn’t seem likely. No one lives near. Too late for skating.”
Mama served Ingrid scrambled eggs and a big slice of homemade bread. “Are you sure you weren’t dreaming?”
“I was awake!” insisted Ingrid.
At supper Papa announced he’d walked to the pond to see if anything was amiss. “No foot steps in the snow except the ones I made walking there. The snow on top of the ice isn’t disturbed. No one was skating last night.”
“But I saw them!”
“Sometimes dreams seem real.”
          Late that night, Ingrid woke herself up. She looked out the window. The moon shone bright upon the pond and the glittering snow. Back and forth, a  person skated, twirling and leaping.


Ingrid ran to her parent’s room and shook her father. “The skater’s back!”
Groggy from sleep, her father and mother rose and looked. Nothing.
“She was there! I saw her!”
Her father shook his head. “So now it’s a ‘she’? No one could tell from this distance.”
 Ingrid was embarrassed. She couldn’t really tell, but something inside told her it was a woman.
“Go back to bed, Ingrid,” Papa said. “It’s a dream.”
The next night, Ingrid hid her hat, boots and coat under her bed, determined to prove she wasn’t dreaming.  When she awoke and saw the skater, she put on her clothes and snuck out the door, running to the pond.
She watched the skater from behind a tree. Tall and thin, the woman glowed in moonlight. Ingrid was surprised she wasn’t dressed for the cold. Instead of a heavy winter coat and mittens, her hands were ungloved. She was clothed in white, in a dress one might wear to a summer picnic.
Fascinated, Ingrid stepped out from behind the tree. The woman stopped and stared, the way a startled deer might. Wordlessly, she pointed to a pair of skates at the edge of the pond and motioned for Ingrid to join her.
Ingrid laced up the skates, which fit perfectly. Though she wobbled the first few steps, she found her skating legs quickly. The woman took her by the hand and together, they glided across the ice. When the woman leaped, Ingrid leaped. When the woman twirled, so did Ingrid. Faster and faster they went, until the stars overhead spun. Ingrid felt more alive than she ever had.
Clouds covered the moon and snow began falling. Without a word, the woman disappeared.  Ingrid found herself at the edge of the pond back in her boots, the skates she’d worn disappearing  with the woman.
 “Where are you?” Ingrid called. “Come back! Tell me your name.”
The next night, Ingrid looked for the woman, but she wasn’t there and Ingrid never saw her again. For the rest of her long life, she remembered flying over the ice in moonlight with a mysterious woman whose name she never knew.

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Copyright 2019 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published January 12, 2019 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).

Monday, January 7, 2019

Kira's Great Escape




                                 Kira’s Great Escape
                                       By Valerie L. Egar
            
           Once upon a time long ago, when unicorns inhabited the forests and dragons ruled the skies, two water nymphs, Imani and Kira, lived in a clear river not far from the ocean. They were sisters and spent their days frolicking in the water with the other nymphs and tending lotus flowers that grew near the riverbank.


            On sunny days, they assumed human form and lounged on warm rocks at the river’s edge. Though they sometimes wandered into the woods or picked flowers in the nearby meadow, they never strayed too far from the river they loved. In the water, they became one with it, sparkling in moonlight, flowing with currents, rippling in the wind.
            One day, as Kira skipped through the meadow following a dragonfly, a merchant and his caravan stopped by the river to water the horses and refresh themselves.  Seeing them coming, Imani called to her sister, but it was too late.  Kira did not have time to run back to the river. She hid herself as best she could among the weeds.
            “What’s that over there?” Did you see it?” One of the men pointed.
            “I did. A shimmer of light in the meadow. What do you suppose it is?”
           The men walked towards the meadow. Imani splashed 


in the water to try and distract them, but it did no good.  They easily discovered Kira crouched behind a stand of weeds.
“What a pale child!”
“Her hair! So silvery, it’s almost blue!”
Kira looked for a chance to run to the river, where she could easily meld with the water, but the men were strong and held her tight.
“Can you say something?” one asked.
Kira remained silent.
“We found a strange little girl,” the men called to the merchant.
Alkar, a disagreeable man with greedy eyes and a nose 


for profit, looked at Kira. He noticed the way her eyes changed color in the light, like water. He saw the slight shimmer on her skin. He observed her hands moving like waves. “Get a cage!” he shouted.  “That’s a water nymph you’ve caught.”
Alkar knew Kira would be the perfect addition to the King’s zoo and that he would pay handsomely for her. He imagined piles of gold at his feet.  Surely today was the luckiest of days for him.
Kira remained silent, but she heard Imani’s voice, calling from the river. “Where ever you go, where ever you are, I will find you. Have faith, I will find you.”
 The men tied Kira’s cage to the back of a wagon and the caravan went on its way, plodding over rough roads and over high mountains, fording streams. Kira cried. She was getting further and further away from her river home. How would Imani ever find her?
Months passed before the caravan arrived at its destination. Kira had grown thin, her eyes dulled. Though she had been lovely when she was captured, now she looked wan and brittle.
“What’s this you’ve brought me?” shouted the King to Alkar.  “A sick creature you probably stole? I’ll not pay you a penny!”
Kira hoped the King would release her into the water, but he put her in the zoo with a sign, “Water Nymph?”
She curled up in her cage, longing for her river, her sister and the other water nymphs. She needed to hear the river babbling on the rocks. She yearned to float on the water in moonlight, making sparkles. She ached to swim with the fish and play hide and seek with dragonflies among the lotus.  
Kira’s heart was sad and she began to cry, big wet tears. Then she remembered the stories Mother Water told. At the time, the stories seemed intended only to entertain, but now Kira understood they were the key to her freedom. 




           Kira paced her cage. Mother Water spoke of water’s patience. Pointing to the smooth rocks lining the riverbank, she said, “Rocks are not born smooth. We make them that way, but it takes years. We patiently flow over the roughness, year after year and smooth the rocks.”
            Kira took a deep breath and steadied herself. She would be patient.
            Then, she took her food bowl and dumped it. She had no idea why anyone would think a water nymph would eat earthworms and turnips. She thought of her sister Imani and yearned to be reunited with her, wishing to swim once again in the river she loved so much. She had an idea how to send her a message, because unlike most things, water can appear in many forms, can change its shape and move place to place in many ways.
Kira cried, tears almost filling the bowl. She held the bowl up to the sun’s rays. “Evaporate my tears and change them to drops of rain, “ she pleaded.
Every day, she filled the bowl with tears and every day they evaporated until a rain cloud formed. “Wind, blow the rain cloud to Imani.”
The cloud blew across the land and rained tears on the river where Imani lived. Imani knew they were Kira’s.  She could feel Kira’s presence and hear her voice. “Come for me, sister. ” Imani knew where Kira was from the direction of the wind and the message in the rain.
It would be a long journey, but Imani was determined and persuaded a few brave water nymphs to come with her. They swam the length of the river to the place it joined the ocean, then swam hundreds of miles through the ocean to another river.  They finally arrived in the Kingdom where Kira was held captive.
Imani told the other water nymphs to wait. “I will need your help when I return.” Disguising herself in a shroud of mist, Imani moved through the city unseen until she reached Kira. “Sister!”
Kira cried with joy. “You have come for me!”
Imani looked at the lock on the cage. She breathed water into the lock and then held it until the water froze and expanded, breaking the lock.
Watery mist enveloped both of them as they ran towards the river.
A zookeeper discovered the open cage. “The water nymph has escaped,” he yelled. He knew water nymphs always returned to water.  “Head towards the river! After her!” he screamed as all the keepers came running.
Imani could hear them approaching. “Mother Water! Help us!” In an instant, huge hail stones began falling from the sky and filled the road behind them. The hail pelted everyone, making them take cover indoors, including those in pursuit of Kira.
When they reached the river, Kira quickly jumped in and melded with the water. The river sparkled brightly and whirled as she swam in circles making whirlpools. “Let’s go home,” she shouted.



“Not quite yet,” said Imani. “You’re safe now. Give us a few minutes.”
Imani whispered to the other water nymphs. Twirling in the river, they created a huge cloud of vapor that rose to the sky. The wind made it bigger and sculpted the cloud into the shape of a dragon.


People leaving their cottages to assess the damage from the hail looked up and shuddered.  They saw huge dragon looming over them, fiery sun rays shooting from its eyes, an omen.
The water nymphs joyfully swam back to their river home, splashing  and making rainbows in the water.
In the Kingdom where Kira was held captive, drought came, drying up the streams and river, withering the crops, until the Kingdom turned into a desert without a drop of water anywhere.

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Copyright 2019 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be reproduced, copied or distributed without permission from the author.
Published December 29, 2018 and January 5, 2019 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).