All around me, the night is so still, so gentle. One can hear a symphony of grasshoppers and toads singing through the forest. A cool evening breeze carries the scent of magnolias, brought from the village lying in sleep. I stay perfectly still, attempting to focus solely on the scenery. It is so beautiful.
But instead, I only hear the loud beating of drums which disturb me alone. Crashing in my chest, resonating in my ears. My thoughts, in turn, only exacerbate the noise. In spite of the peace around me, my head throbs from the cacophony within.
Am I truly doing this?
All my life, I worked diligently to become what was expected of me…but standing here, on the brink of tossing everything away, I do not even understand why anymore. What is the purpose of wasting years of your life to please others who never loved you? Why did I ever believe doing such things would bring me happiness? I wish I was wise enough to ask this before marrying that man; yet, it is too late now.
Thinking of him, I swiftly scan my surroundings, making sure he has not discovered my absence; I loathe to think of what might become of me if he discovers I am leaving, and especially whom I am leaving with. Just the mere thought of it fills me with dread; although, logically speaking, I am certain he is sleeping soundly as always. It is not as though he cared for me before. Surely, he will be glad that his burden is lifted. But soon he will be the least of my fears.
Where am I going to go? Will I be able to survive there? Will I even be able to survive the journey?
I am so excited to at last be free, so grateful that I will not have to traverse this alone. Yet, even so…I am still terrified.
The drums continue on.
Finally, I merely close my eyes and cease trying to fight it. Maybe that is not the safest action in this situation; yet ironically, it helps me calm down more than anything else. After some minutes, my mind is at last able to quiet—until I am jolted back by a soft, deep voice speaking my name. Instinctively I jump back, not immediately registering who it is; but, when I see the long white of his hair even in the darkness, I am relieved to know it is who I have been waiting for. Before I can speak to him, he begins talking once more.
“You certainly look…different,” he says, eyeing my own hair. Just hours ago, it was not nearly so long as his, yet still an impressive length for my height—yet now, it scarcely reaches the top of my shoulders. I know it is “unnatural” for a woman to have hair this short…but, considering how his is just as unnatural for a man, I suppose one could say we match.
“If I shall practically live as a new person, I may as well look the part, yes?”
In reply he furrows his brow and sighs.
“You truly are very serious about this…”
As he says this, all my fears flurry in my mind once more. Yet even so, in spite of his fears—in spite of my own—I stiffen my posture and sharpen my voice.
“I would not have asked this of you if I were not,” I say.
“All right then,” he mutters, “Let’s get going.
And soon, the both of us disappear into the woods without another word.