She opened her eyes slowly, sensing the bright sunshine as it streamed in through the opening of her shelter. She had grown accustomed to waking up in this way, feeling the light hit her face, warm her body, stir her into rising.
She sat up and lolled her head to the side easily, stretching her long, well-tanned arms up above her head and arching her back deeply. She would drink up this feeling, keep it with her and revel in it when the darkness came. As it inevitably did.
The darkness lasted for months at a time, forcing her into a sort of twilight, an automatic existence of sleeping and eating, of long stretches in front of the fire. There were even longer stretches when she heard the wolves howling, and other, larger creatures prowling about the woods behind her little thicket. Then she sat inside in the darkness, resting her chin on her knees and counting her own breaths.
Today was a warm day, though. It was a day full of sunshine, and thus of busyness. She had food to gather, as well as wood. She would go down to the stream and wash. She would mend her favorite dress today. It would be a good day.
She found her tasks easy and joyful today, and she hummed softly to herself as she carried bundles of kindling over the threshold of her small dwelling. She sat down on the dirt floor and brushed her hands off, her lips pressing up into a smile as she stretched her legs out in front of her. Her sewing basket sat nearby, and she pulled it closer to start her mending, then pushed it away again.
"You'll have to wait," she called to the streams of purple cloth that hung from the rafters. She was already running before she was out of her own circular yard. The fabric of her plain brown skirt flapped against her ankles as she ran, and she laughed aloud just to hear herself. It wouldn't be long before she reached the stream, and she shivered in anticipation of the cool water she would find there.
She stripped down quickly and efficiently as soon as got there, folding her clothes into tidy squares and nestling them up into the limbs of a tree. She took a great deal of pleasure in dipping her toes into the water, pressing her feet down into the soft mud of the bank. She felt intensely peaceful. She waded farther into the water and then knelt, letting the ends of her long chestnut hair brush the surface of the water. She cupped the water in her two hands and, in one swift motion, splashed the water into the hollow of her neck, letting the water stream down in rivulets over her breasts and stomach. She let her head fall back, lowering more of her hair into the water.
The world around her shattered like a pane of glass, cracks first, then big jagged chunks that fell, leaving vacuous blackness in their stead. The shook her head frantically from side to side, willing it to stop, and felt the skin of her arms prickle in fear. Slowly the blackness relented, leaving a single image in her vision - a man.
He was tall with dark eyes and darker hair that curled around the nape of his neck, just brushing the collar of his dark green shirt. He was handsome, she thought to herself, watching as his visage became clearer. He looked rough but clean, and he wore clothes that told her he was more than just a common man. Though her visions were frightening, what she saw usually wasn't. With his image came the man's name, and she tucked it away in her mind. With that the image began to dissipate, and her vision cleared, leaving her in the now-frigid water of the stream.
Blinking twice she stood up and rushed out of the water, gathering her clothes. She forced her clothes on and felt them cling to her wet body. She had to get home quickly, now. The sky was almost dark.