One wave of her arms, two pirouettes, three flips, and the Raven girl reached the middle of the rope. It was here that she extended an arm longingly to the other side of the tent. As if puppets stringed to her hands, the crowd followed her reach.
On the opposite end of the tent, upon a parallel rope, a man in black leapt onto the wire with a flip. He danced the girls exact dance, more brusquely, but just as beautiful. When he looked across the tent to the Raven girl, she danced for him. Yet, in all her beauty, he ignored her.
When he went on with his dance toward the opposite platform, the girl stopped. For a moment, she didn’t move and only hugged herself. Leanna felt her heart stir and everything turned into specs of color around her. She felt his rejection as if her very own.
Slowly the Raven girl unlaced her arms from around her body. Hundreds of small lights flew from her dress, as if she were exhaling her soul of fireflies. They flickered around her, swaying and illuminating as she flipped and twirled. The more she danced impossibly on the thin wire, the more incandescent the fireflies grew until suddenly the entire tent basked in their soft glow. It was in this hue Leanna noticed that with every wave of her arms, wisps of black smoke emmanated from the Raven girl, until the dress she wore was no longer black, but luminous white feathers.
The man stopped and turned to her. Seeing her as her true self, a beautiful Dove, he reached out to her. She too reached for him, but in all her excitement, the rope wobbled. She shot her hands out to her sides again. Only this time, they flailed, grasping for thin air and fireflies. Leanna cupped her mouth and looked around frantically. The girl was not tied to anything. Leanna looked down. There was no net to catch her. Only confetti and glitter illuminated the cold, hard ground.
Leanna dug her nails into the wooden column beside her as the girl above could no longer keep her balance. There was no denying it. She would fall. And slowly, under the light of the flickering fireflies and the melancholy cries of the violins, she surrendered and tipped back into the open.
Leanna crawled out from her hiding spot with balled fists to her to her mouth, that hardly suppressed her screams. She forgot she was not supposed to be there. But she was, and could only watch the Dove's white gown bellow in the air like the glittering wings of a bird.
Suddenly the Raven swooped in and caught her midair! Leanna gasped, her screams cut short. It was here she saw the wings that arched from his back. He held the Dove against him, and with a flap of his wings whirled her in the air, faster and faster, until her own wings sprouted out. They embraced, and their bodies joined wing in wing, they whirled slowly, wholly enamored. Entwined, they glided the rest of the way down, until their tipped toes gently touched the ground. From above them, snow began to fall.
One collective gasp resounded from the crowd of performers, and the music warped to a stop. The crowd jumped to their feet, wide eyes and shocked expressions everywhere. Leanna tried to digest what had just happened as the gathered performers lifted their hands to the snow that seemed to materialize from thin air. There were murmurs, and they were all more shocked to see the snow than they were to see Leanna standing there in their midst.
The Dove falling and being caught by the Raven was all part of the performance, that much Leanna knew. But this snow was not, and whatever it meant, affected them all.
"The Raven and his Dove," Finvarra’s haunting voice spoke quietly through the snowflakes, only now, it was touched by an undeniable melancholy. Affected them all indeed.
Leanna looked back to the Raven and his Dove, and tears prickled the back of her eyes. Never having been in love herself, what she witnessed then was how she’d always imagined love to be. Free from appearances, free of make-believe, and always there if one should fall.
But, clutching her chest as the first tear fell, Leanna realized that her broken heart was real, and no one would ever love her because of it. Worse, if she could not trust her own heart, how could she ever trust anyone else's? The emotions spilled from her eyes now, and she retracted her outstretched hand to her chest.