He brings her flowers and the tiny sweet secrets of mice. He takes off his crown of oak-branch and star-bit, sighing as the weight leaves him, and he lays down slow and soft beside her in the moonlight. She has loved him since a morning in May, when the trees were fatly flowered and little birds leapt into his long black gaze. When he turned that gaze on her, she was caught.
But perhaps she had gone to the forest wanting capture. She does not remember. It does not matter at all. He has her, gold ring and signed register, heart and soul.
She is like a bird herself, quiet and lithely dreaming of sunlight - and knowing at any moment he might swallow her. When she says this to him he agrees, and yet he answers in turn that she could fly away from him, out of his forest, where he can not follow. The words falter as if his heart is breaking at the very thought. Even though his eyes are so dark. His mouth so brittle. Who knows what he might do. Uncertainty is the only sure thing when married to the Owl King. Soft feathers, blood-stained claws.
He says she must be made of wild roses and the evening song of sparrows. He says if they opened his gizzard they would find there all the bones of her words. By this, she thinks he loves her. By his cold smile, she remembers though those claws.
Her mother calls to offer an escape route - come out of the forest, she pleads; come back to the warm walled world. Her friends shake their heads worriedly - you are going to get eaten up, spit out. Black bryony will grow from your body left scattered amongst tree roots.
But she has seen him in flight. Beneath the soar of moon-white wings, in the deeps of night-black eyes, with the forest singing around her and the owl's sensuous silence, she has wed herself utterly, freely, madly, to the wild in him.
illustration by susan seddon blouet