The Florende river defined the border between the human town and the elven lands. Near town, it looked almost peaceful as it wove its way through the pastures, but Matthew knew it was just a clever disguise for the cold, deep waters that raced their way to the ocean. The river had already claimed two of his sheep this year, dragging them into the crack so quickly their bodies had never been recovered. He was guiding the sheep away from the deceptively greedy maw of the river when he saw her.
She stood on the wrong side of the river, her back to the pine trees that lined the forest. Chestnut brown hair fell in a braid to her waist and and a rough leather vest covered her green blouse, but Matthew was drawn to her eyes. Sparkling blue; the colour of the sky on a crisp autumn day, or the ocean in summer, they called to him even across the meadow, like an invitation to come swimming. A smile crossed her chapped lips as their eyes met, and she opened her mouth as if to call out, but a shout rose from the town, and in a flash she was gone, leaving nothing but pine branches jostling in the wind.
As the summer heat grew, Matthew settled into a routine. Herd the sheep to the pasture, settle in on his rock to watch them. Once there, the spray of the Florende fought back the sun, and if the rock offered a perfect view of the pine grove, Matthew never mentioned it to the people in town. But the pines remained empty, a dark hole against the wall of trees.
Caught up in a dream, he watched all summer long, as the cicadas cried and wildflowers bloomed thick across the river, tempting the sheep with their honey-like scent. But it was as the moon rose yellow and full on the first day of harvest that he next caught sight of the girl.
Wordlessly, she slipped through the branches, her dress of pure white standing stark against the dark green of the pines. With glance and a finger to her lips, she set off downriver without looking back. He followed the river without question, not daring to cross but not daring to lose sight of his ghost. She vanished over a rocky ledge, and he scrambled to keep up.
The sight at the bottom made him bite his cracked lips. The ground fell away to a clearing below, and the Florende river, barely 3 feet across at the top, sprayed out in a waterfall before widening below, a meandering strip of twilight cutting a path through the corn fields. A tree lay across the twin river banks, forming a bridge between the orderly rows and the unbroken meadow. And his lady in white stood on that log, a smile on her lips as she watched him descend.
Carefully he crossed the moss covered log until he stood before her, close enough to smell the pine sap in her hair. Close enough to touch her, yet he kept his hands at his sides. He licked his dry lips as he met her crystal blue gaze. He broke the silence first.