Anna danced in the snow, her heart as light as the footsteps of her partner. Round and round the stones she went, their path weaving in loops and curves. Snow fell, but she barely felt the cold. She was buoyed on delight and a song only she and her partner could hear.
They danced on and on, faster then slower, to no discernible style. Some steps wafted like a waltz, others more sharply akin to the tango. Featherlight snowflakes dusted her skin and settled on her eyelashes, highlighting the growing ruddiness of her cheeks.
She didn’t feel the burn of the growing chill, or pay attention to the growing fuzziness of her thoughts. Her eyes were fixed on her suitor, her mind on the dance that swept away everything else in the world beyond the glorious moment she was in.
They found her huddled body the next morning at the foot of the fallen stone called the long man. Her eyes were still open, twinkling in the frost that glazed her. Her bare feet were raw, blood staining the snows where her feet had passed in intricate delicate swirls that suggested a pattern maddeningly just beyond perception. No one knew where she’d come from, or why she was there, and the locals didn’t comment on how there was only one set of footprints that led up to and around the stones.
A quiet morning was broken by the sound of the church clock exploding again. No one was entirely sure why this kept happening, but as yet no one had the heart to just give up on replacing it. Sometimes it melted, just for a bit of variety, and on one memorable occasion it had turned briefly into a sundial before launching itself at the duck pond.
Today was pretty restrained by those standards – a short shower of sparks erupted from the central mechanism and a brief gout of flame scorched the clock face with a dull boom. Bits of ironwork and masonry sprayed across the carpark in front of the church shortly afterwards. Fortunately it was empty at the time, mostly because it wouldn’t be time for the school run for another couple of hours. A skip hired from the council for just these sort of occasions was the only casualty, taking a direct hit from a high velocity iron number three that punched a hole in the side.
There was a few stunned moments of silence, and then the dawn chorus piped up, guaranteeing that the now wide awake vicar had no chance of getting back to sleep. He briefly wondered if someone, somewhere, was trying to send him a message. If so, he hoped they could learn a less oblique way of doing it soon.
She half sang, half murmured the beginning of a poem she’d written when she was fifteen – a song of being missing a puzzle piece, or of being a piece for the wrong puzzle. It was a simple cadence with a soft lilt, bearing with it another thirty years of experience and new insight.
A pint glass sat before her, symbol of this foreign land now more familiar than her native stars and stripes. She’d seen such things, both painful and joyous, and yet right in this moment she still wasn’t sure if she was the puzzle or the piece.