Painting stories is a series where I share my current works. Sometimes it is how they came about. Sometimes it’s more of a story I associate with them.
To tell her or not to tell her. The ent thought about it for a while, then cleared his throat. “Excuse me.”
The woman jumped as if she’d been stung. Then again, she had been leaning on him.
“I’m so sorry!” she cried, looking genuinely piqued. “I didn’t see you there!”
The ent nodded. This happened a lot too. Even in winter. Yet the simple statement was not enough – she went on to apologize and apologize, drawing the eyes of more and more people. He wondered if he ought to walk away – but then would he not seem even more rude?
“That is enough,” he said, when she paused for breath. “You made a simple mistake. No need to overdo it.”
Her face paled, then went bright red. “Why! I never!”
Bemused chatter surrounded him as she turned and flounced away. Had he done something to offend her anyway?
The ent sighed. He really preferred the parties back in the forest, but… well…
“That was mean of her,” someone said. He turned to find a dryad in a blue dress sitting next to him.
The ent had a fairly good mind, but it took him a while to catch up without context. He paused for a beat too long, then asked, cautiously, “What was?”
“Saying that she did not see you there, and then putting you on the spot,” she said.
“Ah.” The ent considered this. “What spot?”
The dryad gave him an appraising look. Would she be mad too? But all she said was, “You aren’t too fond of proverbs, are you?”
“On the contrary,” he said. “I am here because of a proverb.”
A raised eyebrow, then, “How so?”
So many questions, the ent thought. Compared to this, the parties back at his home were downright tame. Everyone knew everyone and communicated with minimal words. Here, everything was shiny and bright, a sensory overload. He wasn’t even sure if he liked this dryad or if she was just nice to answer to.
“The humans say you must try everything once,” he said, finally. “At first I thought it was just something they uttered before mating, but from my observations, it seems like it applies to any number of activities that appear unpleasant to the doer. Of course, that made no sense to me, so I thought I would investigate for myself.”
“I take it that this is an activity that is unpleasant for you,” the dryad said. Then she asked him why he had not simply asked the humans for more clarity.
“They seem very frightened of me,” the ent said. “I am not sure why.”
For a while, they sat and watched the revelry in silence. The ent did not make a move to leave, and neither did the dryad. Eventually, he stirred. “Do you not wish to dance?” he asked. “Or is it simply an activity for pairings.”
“Not necessarily,” she replied. “But people do tend to talk if you go out dancing by yourself. I mean… they gossip about you. Saying unpleasant things.”
“So an activity for pairings then?”
“Yes. It is an activity for pairings.”
He thought that a very strange thing indeed. But then, his kind did not dance much. He wondered if he ought to ask her, out of courtesy, but he’d committed enough social faux pas for one night. He did not need another.
The dryad sighed and asked him, “I don’t suppose you’ll stay long. At this party, I mean.”
“No,” the ent said.
“It is very unpleasant, is it not?”
“It is. Why do you come?”
“The hostess invited me personally. And she tends to remember slights. Don’t worry,” she added. “You will not be judged if you leave.”
He said he did not care about that, and immediately his mouth filled with the taste of copper. He hated to lie.
Slowly, the ent rose to his feet. “Well,” he said at length. “I suppose I should go.”
She raised her face up. “If you suppose so.”
A long pause. “I find it hard to leave you here,” he said.
“You took root.” For a second, he wondered if that was an elaborate figure of speech, then he looked down and realized that he had, indeed, been sitting for too long. Little sprouts had found their ways out of his shoes and dug into the soil.
“Very embarrassing,” he said, trying to stomp himself free without drawing too much attention. The dryad offered him her hand to balance him out. A few good tugs and he was free.
He looked down at her. “I appreciate you help.” Then, “I don’t suppose you would like to dance.”
“You don’t have to.” But her body was already leaning forward, drawn towards the music despite her attempt to seem detached.
The ent was still holding her hand, and he gave a gentle tug. “Come. I am still unclear about that proverb – you can help me out.”
Wildwood Dancing is available on my Red Bubble shop.