I sighed. “Two minutes,” I spat at Ollie angrily. “Randi, go ahead, I will come in in a minute.”

I turned back to Ollie and he was opening the passenger door for me.

“We can talk right here,” I said, gesturing at her driveway.

“I want privacy,” he said, picking me up by the waist and setting me in his truck, sliding me over to the middle before shutting the door. He came around and got in and I scooted back to the door.

When he put it in gear and started driving, I felt a little panic well up. “You said talk, not leave! Stop, Ollie!”

“I just want to go somewhere private so we can talk!” he yelled with a scowl.

“You said two minutes!”

“Two minutes when we get there!”

“Ollie, pull over!”

“NO! Just sit tight till we get there.”

I crossed my arms and hunkered down angrily. He was getting ridiculous!

“Det,” he said more softly, anguish in his voice. “I don’t want you to go!”

“Ollie, my whole life is back there! I don’t feel the same about you. We are too different, you aren’t who I thought you were at all.”

“Because the girls?”

“No. I mean, not just the girls. We are different.”

“That doesn’t really matter though, does it?” he said angrily. “Opposites attract and all that. And who is the liar? I was there when we kissed, remember? I know how you felt, I felt it too. And I know how you looked at me.”

“Ollie, I was lost. I am still lost. I was grasping for something solid to hold on to. It was nice for a minute, but we really are too different. Please let this go? I don’t like you like that.”

“We’ll see,” he half snarled.

He was driving the opposite way out of town, passing by the trailer park where I thought he was taking me.

“Ollie? Where are we going?” I asked fearfully.

“I said we were going somewhere.”

“I don’t want to! Take me back home, please?”

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said, turning to look at me like I had offended him.

“What are you going to do?”

“I told you, I want to talk to you.”


“Just hold on,” he grumped. “Wait and see.”

I sighed and let my head fall back miserably. When he turned and started up a small gravel road up the side of the mountain, I got curious. It took twenty long minutes for him to pull off the road. He helped me out of the truck, took my phone and set it on his dash, then led me to a huge cliff overlooking the town.

I pulled back and stayed well back, feeling queasy and lightheaded.

“Don’t like heights?” he asked, concerned.

“No,” I answered, backing up even more.

He nodded, then moved closer and caught my hand. To my horror, he went to one knee and pulled a little box out of his pocket.

“Ollie, don’t you dare!”

He looked at me with a scowl, not letting go of my hand. On his knee, he was only slightly taller than I was. “Odette, I think you are wrong. We are meant to be, you and me. That’s why you ended up here in such a weird way. You came so we could meet. I fell hard, the second I saw you. You have to know that. You say you can’t stay, but you could if you wanted to, and if you refuse? I’m eighteen. I can come to Atlanta with you. I wouldn’t like it much, but I would do it. For you I would do anything.” He flipped open the box with his thumb, still holding tight to my hand with his other hand. There was a little silver filigree ring inside, it looked like an antique. “It was my grandmothers.”

“Ollie! Let me go! This is ridiculous!”

He snapped the lid shut angrily, then shoved it in his pocket. As soon as his hand was free, he pulled me against him and took hold of my face, kissing me. I pulled back and shoved with my hands, but he held me, forcing the kiss on me.

“Stop!” I pleaded when he finally pulled back, but he pulled me against him and held my face in his hand.

“Det, don’t you see how much…”

“The girl said let her go,” A deep voice rumbled.

I cried out in fear as Ollie stood up, still holding me against him. I couldn’t turn and see where the voice was coming from, he was holding me tight against his legs.

“Let her go,” the voice repeated.

“It’s a misunderstanding, a lovers spat, that’s all. She is about to become my wife!” Ollie said desperately, moving and shoving me behind him. “Get in the truck!” he hissed to me.

“I heard her say no. Let her go,” the man repeated. The man… was monstrously huge. Taller even than Ollie, at least by a few inches, but he was wide and solid and huge where Ollie was skinny. He wore buckskin pants, a vest made of a darker leather and a fur cape. His hair was long, down to his backside and he had it pulled back with braids on the sides. There were feathers and beads and cloth braided into the braids on both sides. He was young, mid twenties, but had a beard long enough to cover his neck. There were bone necklaces circling his neck and down his exposed chest. He wore no shoes.

He was terrifying.

Ollie nudged me towards the truck, but I was frozen in place, staring in terror at the mountain man. “The truck,” Ollie hissed.

“Step off the girl,” the man demanded, moving in closer.

“We don’t want any trouble! We were just leaving. We aren’t on your mountain, not here. I come here all the time!”

“Always with a different girl. This one said no. Step away from her,” he said dangerously, moving closer. “Girl, come over here. I won’t let the boy hurt you.”

I stepped away from both of them, the three of us forming a triangle.

“You can’t take her man,” Ollie said desperately. “I love her! I want to marry her.”

The mountain man looked back at me, reconsidering me as he looked me over. “What age do I put to you?” he asked.

I blinked. What? “I’m eighteen?” I answered, thinking that was what he was asking.

“So you are,” he said, turning back to Ollie. “Lady said no. Go back down to your rolling house. Go alone.”

“Let me take her with me,” Ollie said, edging closer to me.

“Your hand touches the lady, your hand stays on the mountain,” the mountain man said darkly, moving closer to me as well. I saw the long knife hanging in a leather sheath on his belt. It was huge.

I backed up, but a single stride from the mountain man closed the distance and he picked me up, his forearm under my bottom like a toddler. He backed away from Ollie as I tried to push off of him. He ignored my efforts.

“She is under my protection,” he said loudly, making me jump and go still. “Leave my mountain. Or stay and let the mountain take you,” he said, then turned and walked away, still carrying me.

“Please! I love her! Det! Tell him!”

I stared at the man carrying me, my eyes wide and my heart hammering. “Are… are you going to let me go? Go home? You saved me from him so I could go home, right?” I asked, panicking as we went deeper into the woods and up the mountain.

He didn’t answer, he just kept walking.

“Are you going to kill me?” I asked fearfully.

“No,” he answered, ducking under a branch.

“Are… are you going to rape me?”

He looked at me then as if I had accused him of something foul and he resented it. “No,” he said angrily.

“What then? You saved me, I mean sort of. You thought you were. He wouldn’t have hurt me.”

“He would have.”

“He is harmless!”

“He isn’t.”

“He isn’t?” I asked, my gut twisting. “How do you know?”

“Seen’m. He has anger. You say no once too often, he’d’ve gotten rough. He wouldn’t’a let you leave.”

“Are you? Going to let me leave?”

“Aint nothin’ for ya down there.”

“Please, I…”

“Quiet now, girl,” he rumbled.

The walk went that way for hours. Every time I tried to speak, he would ignore me or tell me to be quiet. I asked to walk, or squirmed and he tightened his grip until I stopped. It was pitch black and I could see nothing, but he kept walking, and ducking and moving as if he could see perfectly. It was surreal. I eventually got tired enough I began nodding off. Twice I caught myself with my head on his shoulder, dozing. I woke up with my face buried in his neck when he finally stopped. I lifted my head and looked around sleepily, surprised to find myself in what looked like a small log cabin.

He finally set me down on the bed, pulled my shoes off and pulled a crocheted blanket over me. I watched him wide eyed as he moved a chair in front of the only door and sat in it, then hunkered down with his arms crossed and closed his eyes like he was going to sleep.

I looked around at the cluttered little cabin and realized dim light was coming in the small window. It was morning!?! I turned to my side to keep an eye on the giant guarding the door and wondered if I could make it to his knife before he woke up.

I fell asleep weighing my chances.

A knock on the door woke us both up. He stood and moved his chair, then opened the door. “Mill said he saw you come in last night? Had something you brought in? Cailleach Willa sent for ya,” a woman’s voice said, and I could see her trying to peek in.

“I’ll be along. Brought up a lady. Tell Cailleach Willa to arrange a bond.”

“For true, Feen?”

“Go on then,” he said, shutting the door.

I sat up when he turned to me, looking me over again. He went over to a pile of clothes and rummaged around, then tossed a white shirt at me.

“Cain’t go in front of the Cailleach in pants,” he said, then turned his back like he expected me to change into the giant shirt.

“Who is Cailleach?” I asked instead, pulling the blankets in tighter.

“You get it on or I will.”

“It won’t fit! It’s huge! The neck opening would fall right off my shoulders! And the sleeves would touch the ground! I can’t wear that!”

He turned and looked at me, his nostrils flaring and a panic coursed through me. I jumped up and snatched up the shirt, pulling it on over my clothes. I hoped hiding my yoga pants would work! The hem pooled on the ground and the sleeves did as well, but I held the collar closed around my neck, pulling the hood of my hoodie out to help hold it in place. He stepped closer and scooped me up like he had the day before, then carried me outside.

I wanted to tell him I could walk, but I was too afraid.

When he ducked under the doorframe, I looked around, a little in shock. There were cabins and houses, buildings with things inside that made me blink. An old fashioned blacksmith with a man hammering away. And the people. All the men were in layers of odd clothes, leather and cotton alike. The women all had on long dresses. Not old fashioned, more bohemian hippie style with all kinds of beads around their necks, all colors. Many of them had dreads with cloth woven in and larger beads as well. All of them looked at me curiously as they walked around the little… village? Town? What was it exactly?

He took me to a large, open shelter with rows of tables and a kitchen along the only wall. There were four women cooking. Four men were standing next to a tall chair and in the chair was an ancient woman with a long oak staff in her hand.

“Cailleach,” the giant said, taking a knee and nodding in greeting. He set me on his knee.

“Feen,” she nodded back, her voice old and raspy. “Bonn’ a chil’e?”

“A woman,” he answered, then to my horror, cupped my breast in his hand as if to show her. I hunched away and pushed his hand away, but he was moving it already. It hadn’t been sexual, just… proof?

The old woman nodded, then lifted the staff and pounded it on the ground. “Ain’ one’a us Feen.”

“No’m. Mine to teach, Cailleach.”

“O’m,” she nodded, then pounded her staff again.

“Name, chil’e?”

“Name,” he demanded, jostling me.


“Allit,” the old woman spat.

“Odette Springmeyer? Odette May Springmeyer?”

The woman nodded, then rapped her staff again. The giant stood and turned away, carrying me back to his little cabin.

“What was that?” I asked. “Is that your name? Finn?”

“Feen,” he corrected.

“Feen,” I repeated. “What just happened out there? Who was that woman? Were those men her bodyguards?”

“Cailleach Willa. Her husbands.”

“Husbands?” I asked faintly. “They were all so young!”

He shrugged and set me on the bed, then pulled his shirt off of me, tossing it back to the pile. “Choice was theirs. Nore and Bliss will come to dress you. You willin?”

“You mean will I make a fuss? Can’t you please tell me what is happening? Can I please go home now?”

“Willin?” he asked again, more forcefully this time.

“Yes! Yes. I won’t fight or make trouble for them, I promise.”

He frowned at me like he was trying to figure out what I said. There was a knock at the door and he opened it. A tall woman stepped in, willowy and graceful with her long white blonde hair. She said nothing as she moved close and looked me over, then shook her head. “Nothin’,” she shrugged. “I’ll hafta go to Rossa.”

He scowled, but nodded.

The woman came closer and started to pull my hoodie off.

“What are you doing?” I demanded, dancing away.

Feen stepped closer, his hands going to fists. Right. I’d said I wouldn’t fight.

“You have to turn around!” I said to him, making myself be still.

He turned.

I let the woman pull my hoodie off, then my pants. She left my underthings alone as she turned me and poked and prodded. “What are you doing?” I whispered, wiping tears out of my eyes.

“Takin’ stock,” she answered, turning me again. She took my bra off, then took my breasts in her hands. She moved to my hair, pulling on my curls, then pushed my lips back to look at my teeth. She picked up my clothes, then turned to Feen and moved so he could see her. “Good hips for birthin’, she’s got her full growth though. Won’t get no bigger.” With that, she turned and left.

With my clothes.

“Hey!” I yelled, starting after her, but then spun and dove under the blankets when he turned around. He looked down at me, hands on his hips. “You stay back!” I yelled, terrified.

He cocked his head slightly. “S’my place, girl.”

“Odette. My name is Odette.”

He nodded. “Still my place. Odette.”

“Be that as it may, you still stay over there till she brings my clothes back!”

“She aint,” he said, moving to sit down. He watched me as I looked around for a weapon, something to use to keep him away.

He pulled his knife out and I tensed, then squealed as he drew back and threw it. It landed with a ‘k-thunk’, sticking into the wall next to my head.

“You could have killed me!” I screeched.

He shrugged, then nodded. “If I’d wanted to. Tha’s what you wanted, isn’t it?” he asked, gesturing to the knife.

I scowled and worked the long knife out of the wall with a great effort. He was grinning when I turned back around, holding the knife in both hands, pointed at him. I sat glowering until there was another knock at the door.

This time she didn’t wait, the woman came in with a younger girl, holding a white gown that looked small enough for me. She stopped when she saw me holding the knife. She looked at Feen, confused. He shrugged, grinning. He motioned me to get up as he stood and turned away.

The woman brought the gown to me as I stood and she slipped it over my head, then held my arm up and poked under my arm curiously. “Sh’aint got all’r hair on’r,” she told Feen.

Feen looked over his shoulder as she held my arm up, then frowned as he turned and moved closer. “Eighteen?” he asked me, concerned.

“Yes,” I hissed, yanking my arm down. “I shave there.”

“Why?” the woman asked, confused. She bent to lift the hem as if she intended to look other places, but I held the gown down and stepped back.

“Because it’s how we do things in the real world,” I said, jerking the hem from her hands. “Do you have something with sleeves? I’m freezing!”

The woman laughed and turned to Feen. “Tiny fires burn hottest, Col?” She was still laughing as she left and Feen was smiling.

He looked me over, his head cocked, then nodded. He started pulling his clothes off and I backed up, pulling the knife up in front of me again. He glanced at me, but ignored me as he pulled on the white shirt and a pair of white cotton pants that looked like sleep pants.

He moved to me, then picked me up, ignoring the knife like I wasn’t pointing it at him. I was beginning to feel a little ridiculous.

“I can walk!” I said as he ducked out of the cabin again. I flinched down when there was yelling and cheering, then peeked around at the gathered people. They were all yelling, hands raised, some of them shaking cans with rocks or beans or something in them, some banging sticks together, some banging pots. I put my hands over my ears, holding the knife in one hand, then tried to lock my arms around my head as panic welled up all over again.

They were about to eat me, I just knew it. They were going to roast me over a fire, or sacrifice me to the mountain, something. When he sat me down and tried to pry my arms down, I shook my head and burrowed against his legs. The cacophony was overwhelming and I screamed at them wordlessly, wanting them to stop.

To my shock and relief, they did. I lifted my head slowly, panting. Feen took a knee and squatted low, lifting my face to his with a single finger. He studied my face, then thumbed my tears away before standing. He turned and I noticed Cailleach Willa then, watching me with her head cocked like I was crazy. They were all looking at me like I was crazy.

“Feen?” the old woman asked.

“Yes,” he answered. Not a question, an answer to a question I must not have heard.

The old woman nodded, then stood with the help of the staff. She stood stooped and was barely taller than I was. She looked at the knife in my hand. “She fi’n ta gut ya?”

He shrugged. “Makes her happy. Makes her quiet.”

The old woman nodded, then looked down at me. “Odette May and Feengun Marius. Hands.”

Feen held out his left hand, palm down, then looked down at me. “Hand, girl.”

“Odette,” I insisted.

There were chuckles and he smirked. He bent down and took my left hand, turning it palm up and holding out towards Cailleach Willa as he held his left hand out again.

The old woman spoke in a language I did not know, but it sounded familiar, like I should know it. Gaelic with latin roots. Something about binding and bright days and snakes? It seemed to be trying to make itself make sense in my head.

She rapped her staff and Feen turned to face me, making me face him. He put his left hand on my left wrist and clasped it, using his right hand to make me clasp his wrist. At least, put my fingers on his wrists. There was no clasping for me.

Cailleach Willa chanted as she laid a white rope over our wrists, where each of our hands ended. Goddess and west and something about the sky?

She rapped her staff and Feen stepped to the side, using his grip on me to make me step the opposite way. He had his back to her now and I was facing her, though I couldn’t see her through him. A woman in white with red beads stepped up and wound the rope around our wrists twice, then layed it over our forearms as Cailleach Willa chanted about a goddess again, then fertility.

They were going to sacrifice me as a virgin.

Another rap and he turned me again. We were now the opposite of where we had started. I was in his spot and he was in mine. Cailleach Willa wove the rope up our forearms, making a design with the knots as she chanted about a goddess and the mountain? And I think it was longevity? There was more but I could not decipher it.

Another rap and we spun again. Now Cailleach Willa was behind me. The woman with the red beads wove the rope back down to our wrists as Cailleach Willa went on with her chants. Still with the goddess, and more with the mountain, and bonded in death? Something close to that.

Another rap and we spun, going back to where we began. Cailleach Willa shouted the last of the chanting and everyone repeated it. From what I gathered, it was the name of the goddess, Bheinn. She tied the rope over the top of the first knot, then there was cheering again as she raised her hand up. “Feengun! Odette! Mor!!”