He came with chrysanthemums and tart-sweet apples red as sunsets. He checked the spell one last time, and laid out his offering while he said the words. Then he waited.
At the round edge of evening, she stepped out from behind a tree. The setting sun kissed the wild tumble of her hair, all red and gold. She danced on silent feet, and sang in the voice of the wind, haunting and tricky and true. She leapt by him, smelling of spice and earth and rain. She crouched by the offering, smiling. She didn’t see the sack.
When there was light again, it was false: not sun nor moon nor stars. He watched her with awe on the first night. On the second night, he invited her to his bed. She looked long at him, then turned back to the window. It was closed. On the third night, he shouted.
“Why don’t you sing? Where is your dancing? You won’t eat with me, you won’t sleep with me. You barely even move, except to sigh.” She’d been such a breathtaking thing, once. But now she was slow, her once-wild cloud of hair dull and lank. “You could try be grateful,” he said, with an imperious pout. “I’ve given you a home.”
She stood with an echo of her old grace and pinched a chrysanthemum head from the bunch he’d left to wilt on the table. The apples smelled too sweet, turning to rot.
“This isn’t a home,” she said, petals falling from her fingers. “It’s a cage. And if you don’t let me go, I’ll die here.” She met his gaze with eyes the blue-gray of an autumn storm. He saw the truth in her eyes, and turned to open the window. When he turned again, she was already gone. He sat alone in silence, and the wind’s laughter skirled up to the sky.