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Smoke rose from the fire and curled into the starry sky as the town's youth gallivanted on the outskirts of the forest. The flame swayed along with the dancers that circled it, and the crackles kept time with the sound of the Irish drums. Shadows stretched and shook across the trunks of the old woods like the ancient spirits joining in the fun. The pattering of the nearby woodland's creatures dashing through the thicket was drowned out by the sounds of the festivities. Drinks flowed nearly as rich as the laughter, and no one could deny that there was much fun still to be had. It was a wonderful night to be young.

No one felt luckier that night than Cullen McCarthy. After all, the fire wouldn't be burning if it weren't for his quick thinking. He watched and laughed as his friends swung around the fire with abandon and clapped along to his favorite tune, all the while grabbing the hand of any fair lady he came across to join him in a whirl. However, even the luckiest of men require breaks. Cullen found himself to the side of the crowd catching his breath. Not too long after, Gilligan and Samantha broke from the pack to join him at one of the log seats.

Samantha nudged Cullen's shoulder to move him over and plopped down at his side. "Enjoying the view there, McCarthy?"

"Oh, with you two away from the fire, who could I possibly have to watch?" Gilligan chuckled at that and grabbed the water from Cullen's hands. He took a long swig and tossed it to Samantha before Cullen even had the chance to try and snatch it back.

"Nice thinking using that old Hawthorn tree for the firewood, Lenny. It's burning really well. Might be the first smart thing you've ever done," Samantha remarked and finished off the drink. Cullen stuck his tongue at the comment.

"Ha-ha, very funny. Well, we couldn't have all this without the fire, and that tree had been an eyesore for ages. It's doing more for us as kindling than it ever did just sitting in that field. What was I supposed to do? Not cut the thing down? We had dancing to do! We wouldn't want to spoil the fun, now would we?"

"Well, if you're done basking in your own triumphs, oh lord of the flame, I happen to know a certain someone has been watching you all evening," Gilligan motioned across the fire. "That red-headed lass has had her eyes on you all night. Reckon she's waiting for you to make a move." Cullen looked over Gilligan's shoulder and past the rising flames to spot a lovely girl at the entrance of the woods, watching the spinning youths with curiosity. When she eventually looked at him, she caught his eyes with a piercing gaze of emerald green. She smiled at him in an endearingly crooked way and turned to go deeper into the trees.

As he stood to follow, Samantha grabbed his arm, "Where are you going Lenny? I thought the view was right here," she snickered.

"Why don't you two go back to dancing." He pointedly ignored his friends' laughter in favor of following the red-haired lass into the woods.

By the time he caught up to her, the noises of the drums were already drowned out by the sounds of the forest surrounding them. The girl had not stopped, and Cullen had to run to meet her pace. "You sure walk fast. I could hardly catch up to you. I hope you don't mind me walking with you," he said.

"Hmm," she hummed. "No, I don't mind. You'll have to keep up though." Her voice seemed to echo off the trees like chimes, and Cullen realized he would quite like to hear it some more.

"Are we going somewhere special?" he leaned down to ask her. A breeze rustled through the brush, and the girl finally paused to close her eyes and breathe it in. Her hair waved around her in a movement reminiscent of the warm fire they had left, and when she opened her eyes again, she gave no warning before she turned off into another direction.

"We are now."

Cullen had two choices: Go back to the party where he is certain his friends will laugh at his eagerness or follow this nameless girl into the uncertainty of the night. He turned back to look down the path they had come from but found that the way looked less than inviting. Branches stretched behind him and reached their spindly limbs across the opening. Cullen was sure he could go back if he tried, but the night was certainly much darker when the leaves hid the moon's light. Cullen was also never one to shake at the thought of the unknown. He looked back to see the red-haired lass holding out her hand to him. "Will you join me?" It seemed the choice had been made for him.

They walked for a while, hand-in-hand. The sounds of the forest serenaded their stroll, and Cullen found that he wasn't so worried about where they were headed. The crickets chirped, and a few frogs let out a melancholy croak, but all Cullen could focus on was the fiery woman walking at his side. She tugged Cullen along until they were racing through the trees. Her laughter rang through the air, and the sound was so melodic Cullen couldn't stop himself from joining in.

Eventually, they came to a clearing. The girl stopped. "I wanted to bring you here. I knew I had to get you to dance with me." She smiled once again, that gorgeous, crooked smile, and started to sway in his arms. "Dance with me, won't you?"

Cullen blushed. "I'm more than happy to dance with you if that's what you're after. Too bad there's no music,"

"No music?" The girl replied. "Don't you hear it?"

"If the sounds of the forest must be our music then I will gladly dance with you to the wind's song, miss?"

"You can call me Shay. What was your name again?" she batted her pretty eyelashes at him. Her eyes were that hypnotic sort of green that should have only been set in the finest of gems, and yet there they were, sparkling in her lovely face.

"My name? You don't even know who you dragged all the way out here?" he chuckled. "My friends call me Lenny sometimes, but my real name is Cullen—Cullen McCarthy at your service, Miss Shay," he bowed and left a kiss on her knuckles.

"Cullen. How wonderful. Dance with me now." The wind picked up again and blew through her auburn tresses. Noises of the forest seemed to increase at her command as she spun him around the clearing. Leaves rustled and branches hit against each other in a strange imitation of the clapping from the festivities they had abandoned. Birds twittered a tune and the crickets that had once been senselessly chirping picked up the song. The two spun around to the sounds of the woods until Cullen felt dizzy. Whether it be from the spinning or from being so close to Shay he couldn't tell. He finally collapsed to the ground to catch his breath from the dancing and the laughter and noticed something odd on the ground. Their spinning had started to leave marks in the grass, and something had been left in the wake of their footsteps: a ring of small, bright mushrooms.

They were standing in a Fairy Circle.

The music that had once been simply the sounds of the creatures transformed until the crickets became fiddles and the birds became flutes. Those branches that had once been knocked by the wind were now little hands attached to captive audience members. Shay stalked over to him.

"I didn't say to stop dancing Cullen McCarthy. You said you would be at my service. You cut down our tree just to dance, and now you're stopping? Come on, you have dancing to do! You wouldn't want to spoil the fun now, would you?"

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Image of james murphy
james murphy · ago
Tomo ese.
Image of james murphy
james murphy · ago
Of all my Grandaughters, you are the one who listened - you are best.
Image of Anne Heath
Anne Heath · ago
Lovely and creative, you got my attention. Well done!
Image of L. Murphy
L. Murphy · ago
Magical story - Satisfying ending! Well done!