• Meg Gaertner

Bear Maiden and the Boy Magician (4/10)

Chapter Three

As she approached the far edge of The Village, The Tower slowly disappeared from view, hidden by the tall wall bordering the town. Bear Maiden climbed the ivy-covered stone and sat down to dangle her legs over the side of the wall. She turned her eyes skyward, expecting to see the boy standing in the small window that broke the monotony of The Tower’s stone façade. But the window was empty and dark. Bear Maiden sat, confused, until a low creak brought her attention to the door at the base of The Tower, which slowly opened. Framed by the doorway was the boy she had seen before. He smiled tentatively at her, but did not cross the door’s threshold, and very carefully did he avoid letting the morning sun reach his skin. He beckoned the girl to join him. Intrigued by his mystery, Bear Maiden jumped off the wall and ventured for the first time outside the borders of The Village to join the boy in The Tower’s shadow.

They introduced themselves, Boy Magician speaking out loud and to another person for the first time in a long while. His words, rusty and sharp from disuse, slowly softened and flowed, tripping off his tongue in haste as they sought to be released from his thoughts, expressed and heard. Bear Maiden listened in awe to Boy Magician, who spoke words from the deepest part of his soul and memory. He spoke words that had been stored inside him for years, words that resonated with power for being held so close and coveted so tightly. He spoke words of passion and truth and life. The very air around them seemed poised with magic as the boy’s eyes brightened and hair gleamed by some unseen light. And his words stirred Bear Maiden’s imagination, the bear spirit inside stretching languidly from snout to paw before rolling over in sleep.

Pausing for breath, Boy Magician cleared his throat to dust off these dreams and poetries. During this pause, Bear Maiden noticed the broken heart on his sleeve and was concerned. She could not quite figure out what this sweet, poetic boy was missing. But his moving words captivated her attention and she pushed any thought for his broken heart out of her mind. On his end, Boy Magician was thrilled at how Bear Maiden seemed to take no notice of his differences. He delighted at how easy it was to speak to her. He marveled at how he even enjoyed speaking to her, when before he had craved only silence and distance from others.

When Boy Magician invited her to join him inside The Tower, Bear Maiden jumped at the opportunity to explore his mystery further. They climbed the long staircase, circling round and round towards the top of The Tower to end at a landing with a high, circular roof. In this single room were a bed, a table, and a chair, and leaning against the chair was a worn-out stuffed animal. It was covered in dirt and grime and was on the verge of falling apart, with large sections of the stitching coming undone and cotton stuffing peeking out. For all its dirt, the stuffed animal was clearly much loved, a favorite toy worn out from so much play.

Boy Magician cleared his throat and Bear Maiden turned toward the sound. Catching sight of the single window he stood by, Bear Maiden rushed over to see the view and marveled at the incredible sight of the whole Village and the world beyond spread out before her. She grinned at the boy and he returned an easy smile and laugh. Bear Maiden climbed the windowsill and Boy Magician joined her. For hours, they sat and watched the sun rise and set and marked how its movements changed the shadows and colors of everything its light touched. They shared stories and as day turned to dusk, pointed out to each other the first stars. Catching sight of the bright, round moon, Bear Maiden jumped to her feet, reminded of the late hour. She had to return to The Village and the broken woman’s garden for the night.

Bear Maiden grinned brightly as she began bounding down the stairs, already bringing to mind all of the fun memories of the day to comb over and treasure. Lost in her thoughts, she missed the stricken look that troubled the boy’s face as she left. She merely heard him call out to invite her return the next day. Absentmindedly, she agreed. Running from The Tower door to The Village wall, she paused at its base to turn and wave eagerly at the boy. He waved and walked back up the stairs to his room. Lost in thought and memory, thrilled that he had found a companion, Boy Magician was caught off-guard by his reflection in the mirror. He paused in front of it, and touched his fingers to the corners of his upward curving mouth. He was smiling, and it was sincere. Boy Magician gleefully collapsed onto his bed, pulled the worn stuffed animal to his chest and did not sleep, impatient as he was for daybreak and Bear Maiden’s return.

They spent the next day playing in the room at the top of The Tower. But this time when night fell and Bear Maiden stood up to leave, she saw the sadness in Boy Magician’s eyes and a darkness come over him that she did not understand. She heard loneliness in his voice as he invited her to stay and be his playmate and companion, as he encouraged her to view The Tower as her new home. Filled with compassion and wonder at the mystery that the boy carried around him like a shroud, Bear Maiden decided to stay awhile—to keep him company as she had kept the broken woman company. She sat back down and they continued playing, and she pushed down any misgivings she felt when she heard The Tower door below click shut and lock.

For the next few days, Bear Maiden enjoyed her time with the boy and they spent hours making up stories about the villagers they saw from their window. But Bear Maiden could not stay cooped up for too long. She felt a growing restlessness and yearning for the world outside. The bear spirit within her chest grumbled in its sleep, each rumble sparking memories of the music of rustling branches and bird song, and the dance of windblown leaves and butterflies. Bear Maiden stood at the window of The Tower and longed for sunshine warming her skin and grass tickling her feet.


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