On a well-traveled path in the middle of a forest walked two princesses. To enhance their journey, they stopped daily at various places, but were otherwise constantly on their feet. The bright-eyed girls wanted to escape their kingdom that they knew too well, and for two weeks were free from their princess duties.
The first princess, Willa, always walked ahead of her companion in a mystified movement to her step. The second princess, Cora, preferred to watch in desire of Willa’s confident strides than join in her peaceful dance. Willa moved her arms in likeness to the neck of a swan in the warm breeze, her feet gliding over the misted grass, and her face glowing, at ease with the long journey. Willa’s dancing never lasted longer than the length of a folklore song, for she grew tired quickly, but after a short break would speedily recommence.
Unlike Willa’s natural ability to manipulate her body, Cora had no magic step or will in her to move. She could not act like Willa, for every time she tried, her limbs stiffened in protest. Although Cora enjoyed watching her friend’s beautiful skill, she was embarrassed at her incompetence in joining alongside Willa.
There was nothing but the sounds of nature, like singing birds and the rustle of trees, that accompanied Willa’s movements. It confused Cora to see a lone girl dancing without the sounds of instruments to guide her, yet Willa could move her body slowly – or sometimes quickly – and still feel centered with the quiet forest around her.
On day five of their adventure, Cora braved to ask the very question that had been on her mind since day one: “How can you dance without music to help you?”
Willa, who was far in front of her, turned around to look at Cora. “I dance to express my emotions,” she answered, her voice rising with each new word. “It’s just you and me, and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Music is not needed.”
Willa stopped to allow Cora to walk beside her. They linked arms, and Willa’s smile grew, influencing Cora’s rose-colored lips to turn upward slightly.
“You wouldn’t rather hear music, though?” Cora asked.
“I hear music all the time in Rosadore. There’s a party almost every week,” Willa explained, referring to the name of the kingdom that the two friends were from.
A strand of Willa’s curled, golden hair fell over her cheeks, and she tucked it behind her ear with a free hand.
“You’re right, of course,” said Cora.
Willa looked away. “The silence is almost like music of its own.”
Willa parted from Cora and rushed up the partly inclined hill. Willa followed her, but could not keep up with Cora’s fast pace. Willa kicked off her white lace-up shoes and danced from her toes, pointing them up to help her reach the sky. Willa continued to dance the same way that Cora had been watching for days, but still Cora could not understand why her friend continuously moved.
Cora stood among the speckled flowers as Willa glided along the top of the hill in unstructured movements. After hearing the sound of her own heart, Cora brought her hand to her chest, and felt it moving up and down. Time slowed as she listened to the rhythmic thumping, and she watched the perfect way in which Willa expressed herself.
Willa reached closer and closer to the side of hill. Cora’s eyes fell to the edge, and saw that the hill was actually a cliff. She watched Willa jump as part of her dance, and time now flew faster than before. Cora’s mouth parted slightly, but it was too late for her to warn Willa of the obstacle, because Willa was soon out of her sight.
“Willa!” Cora screamed, running towards the cliff to find out the fate of her friend that she cherished the most.
She peered off the edge, and saw that it dropped into a clearing surrounded by coral peonies. Willa was on the bed of flowers, unmoving, and appeared like a doll from where Cora stood.
Cora found her way down and cried over her friend’s deadly fall. It took her several minutes to work up the courage to find a pulse on the girl, and when she did she was overjoyed. Willa was still alive.
Cora carried Willa to some shelter under a large tree that grew bright green leaves. She lay Willa there and searched for something more comfortable to keep her on. Eventually Cora found a dead tree trunk that had a flat surface, and used the blanket from her bag as a cover.
The pair had been invited to Willa’s relatives from another kingdom and were due in just a few hours. Cora considered going to them for help, but it was too far away to leave her. She might not be able to find Willa again. Sitting next to the unconscious girl, Cora wept with her head in her hands.
By the time the sky had turned from bright blue to starry blackness, Willa had not even stirred. Cora remembered Willa’s white lace-up shoes that were still on the top of the cliff, so she put them next to Willa in the hopes that she would have them when she woke up.
“Please, Willa, will you wake?” Cora said, lightly touching Willa’s arm. “For me?” she added, her voice cracking.
There was little food to eat considering that the family they were meant to stay with had planned on serving them dinner. Cora pictured roasted vegetables and potato soup in their warm cottage, and wondered how long Willa would survive without having eaten.
Cora slept little that night, terrified of being left alone outside. The thought that she had caused her friend’s fall emerged and she could not push it away. She kept some of her belongings to her chest as a reminder of her kingdom that was several more days’ journey away. For the first time during her journey with Willa, she wished that she could be back home in the safety of her room in the castle.
A little after sunrise, Cora woke, tear-faced from the night before. Her sleep had not lasted long at all. She struggled to look at Willa, whom she hoped had woken sometime during the night.
When Cora faced her friend, Willa was still lying down, her features expressionless. Cora resisted the urge to continue crying. Instead, she dug through Willa’s bag to find some food that she could pass off as breakfast.
By lunchtime she was starving again, and Cora was slowly going crazy without the company of her companion and the knowledge that she may never enjoy it again. There were no more tears left to cry. If she listened and concentrated well, Cora could hear the sound of Willa’s breaths going in and out, almost like her own personal beat.
Cora brought her hand to Willa’s chest, relishing in the rhythmic beat of Willa’s heart that was akin to her own.
“I can feel your heart beating,” Cora said softly.
Cora stood and turned around towards the clearing that was covered with the coral peonies. She brought her hands above her head, slowly bringing them up and down to generate movements that Willa would have liked to see. Her hips moved from side to side, and she moved without thinking. Her feet soared over the display of flowers. The warmth in the air made her forehead glisten and she thrived at the sound of stillness and peace.
After what seemed like five minutes of dancing, Cora started to understand what Willa had said about dancing to express one’s emotions. She was fearful of her friend’s condition, but happy that she was still alive. The dancing helped her out of her painful grieving that had already lasted a day.
The more she danced, the more her fear subdued. Her breaths were no longer as labored as they were during the night, for now they were even and controlled.
Because of her closed eyes, Cora thought that she had imagined the light touch she felt on her shoulder. When she opened them with a jolt, Cora smiled widely when she saw Willa standing in front of her.
Willa grabbed Cora’s face with her two hands and pressed her lips onto Cora’s, who softened under Willa’s gentle touch. Their mouths danced as Cora lightly grasped the back of Willa’s neck, and breathed in the sweet scent of the flowers surrounding them.
When they stopped, Cora held Willa’s hand in hers, in awe that her fellow princess was awake from her short coma.
“You’re okay?” asked Cora.
“I’m okay.” Willa smiled.
“I saved you some food.”
“Thank you, I’m very hungry.”
Cora ran over to their makeshift home, taking out a box full of nuts and an apple. She then found Willa by the lake, slurping water from her hands.
“You dance very well,” Willa said. “I watched you for a while. It makes you the more beautiful.”
Cora said nothing in return, but tears formed behind her eyes.
Once Willa had finished the snack, they packed up their possessions and headed forward on their journey. It would be prolonged an extra day, but it was another day that Cora could spend with Willa.
On the way to the cottage to visit Willa’s family for their well-deserved meal, they moved in rhythm with each other and laughed on repeat. Now that they were dancing together, Cora would always be able to warn Willa of any danger that lay in her step.