209 The Winter Solstice*
A month passed by pretty quickly. Rassa's injury recovered and he went back to the harder labour in the fields rather than the work in the orchard. He still hadn't recovered his memories, but now that he knew that this was an illusion he realised that it was unlikely he'd ever remember seeing as they never happened.
Still, it didn't change the sad and longing look in the eyes of those who loved him. His parents grew to understand, and simply reminded him of something if he 'forgot' how to do it, but the look in Jane's eyes when they met was different, it was longing and a little broken. If Rassa was being honest, he missed his best friend too. He wanted to talk to her, but the part of him that had been the prisoner and pushed her away was afraid of acceptance. If he'd pushed her away once, what would it take for him to push her away again? Just how many times could he do it before she refused to let him back in?
Rassa was honestly afraid of the answer, but his fear wouldn't change the look in her eyes. That raw desire for a friend. To just talk. He'd fought against that look, his mind telling him it was just the illusion, but his heart called out to answer. To meet her for that talk they both wanted.
Eventually, the Winter Solstice arrived in Cordon. A celebration of the village to thank the gods for guiding them through the longest night of the years. He'd loved it when he was a kid. The tasty, warm treats made by the baker, the stories the elders told of times long past. Then there were the dances. The Winter Solstice was the best time for the traditional dances. A chance to keep one's body warm with the exercise, then snuggle up with warm, sweet teas that chased the last of the chill away.
Of course, Rassa had only ever had a chance to participate in the dances as a child. Those dances were playful and fun, often made more fun when the boys purposely messed up and ran into each other. The girls knew no such foolishness, and often scolded the boys back into their places.
The dances of the adults were more partner orientated, and took up a large portion of the night after the feast. However, the greatest portion of the night, the one that everyone looked forward to, was the Ribbon Dance.
All the young adults who were unattached or uncommitted were encouraged to join. A long ribbon was tied to each person's wrist, the other end attached to the top of a tall pole. With the men on the outside and women on the inside, the dance proceeded in a fashion that by the end of the dance, the ribbons had been woven in and out between each other therefore creating a net of sorts. The tradition was that the couples who finished closest to each other would owe each other a favour of sorts. Sometimes it was to share a meal or a drink, other times it pertained to work. It was said the dance spin the relationships of fate that were available to us in our darkest hours.
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It had always been entrancing to watch. Some of the couples even ended up marrying after ending up together in a Ribbon Dance. Rassa only ever remembered watching them as a child, he'd never participated as he was too young.
"Here, Rassa". His mother handed him a warm apricot bun, encouraging him to each the sweet treat. Gods he'd missed these. They were his favourite as a child. He sweetness of the apricot jam inside the doughy bread filled his mouth and warmed his stomach, Rassa blowing out mouth fulls of steam in between bites.
"There's more, no need to burn your tongue," Anna chuckled as she blew on her own.
Rassa smiled, "I know, that's why I should eat faster, that way I get more".
Anna rolled her eyes as she turned to her husband who ate his own apricot bun with just as much vigor, "I can't even tell him it'll rot his teeth seeing as you've still got all of yours".
Phillip smiled, "He's only having them tonight, besides, he's an adult, you don't have to mother him".
Anna pouted, "He doesn't mind".
She turned to Rassa for his approval. Rassa leaned down and kissed her cheek, "Thank you for your mothering, mother".
the tray went past again and Rassa picked up another. Anna's eyes narrowed.
"What? I'm still having another".
Anna sighed, nibbling on her own bun as she turned back to watch the children dancing in their rings around the Ribbon Pole in between the two bonfires.
Rassa turned to watch as well, and noticed Jane standing on the other side with a few of her friends. Rassa met her gaze, holding it for a moment. He contemplated calling out to her, but then she turned away.
It wasn't as if he'd meant to ignore her over the past month. He'd been so busy enjoying the time with his parents that he hadn't thought about Jane as much as he probably should have.
The music for the children's dance finished and the village clapped and cheered for the young ones. The Baron stepped forward, grinning from ear to ear, "And now, the highlight of the evening...may we have our participants for the Ribbon Dance move into place?"
The crowd shifted ever so slightly to view the Ribbon Pole. A few young men and women stepped forward, including Jane and her friends. Rassa watched, contemplating what to do. So she didn't see herself as attached to him? Well, she had said that there wasn't any pressure on him to reciprocate. But still...
Rassa felt the small morsel of food left in his hand snatched away, and he turned to protest, only to have his mother push him forward.
"Go on, have fun!"
Rassa opened his mouth to protest, but meeting Jane's eyes, he realised that he didn't really want to. Rassa stepped forward, waiting as a ribbon was tied to his wrist. He recognised a few of the others, but he found his eyes kept straying back to Jane on the opposite side of the circle.
"Very well everyone, let the dance begin!"
The music flowed through the air and Rassa found himself instinctively moving into the first steps of the dance.