Alanesia had been gone far too long.
She’d grown up in this village and yearned to leave every day, yet at the same time feeling guilty for the desires that would take her away. A year studying in New York, two more at l’Académie de Danse in Paris, and a grueling world tour were enough to assuage the hunger that started her journey and eventually brought her acclaim in theatres on six continents.
So she’d decided to come home to this little, paved square in the middle of town, with its small wooden tables and stemmed glasses filled with the tart and fragrant native wine.
She’d dressed with care, bridging who she’d been when she left with who she’d become, and she arrived early, before sunset. She’d watched for the past hour as life around her transitioned from work to family, and now the warm, humid air hung heavy with the expectation of a night of play.
People ambled toward the cantina in small groups, the sophisticated, dark-haired beauty causing looks of surprise that soon turned to startled gasps of recognition. Could this be Alanesia, the girl who’d left years ago after her mother’s death to pursue some crazy dream?
She met their curious gazes with an enigmatic smile and a confidence she’d never had then, direct but not threatening. Then she turned away, as if watching for someone else to arrive, and no one needed two guesses about who it was.
A few moments later, he walked their way in the gathering twilight, looking cool in a white linen shirt and slacks, a braided brown leather belt circling his trim waist. Alanesia stood when she saw him and he paused, his expression neutral at first, before a slow, easy smile spread across his tanned face, lighting his dark eyes with pleasure.
At the edge of the square, music began to play. People rose, pushing the tables aside, found their partners and started to move, finding the beat of the lively melody. He came closer. “Alanesia.” His voice was a low, welcoming murmur she barely heard over the pluck and strum of guitar strings. “You have returned.”
“Raul.” Taking a step forward, she cautiously placed one elegant hand against his chest. “You’re shorter than I remembered.”
He glanced down and back up again with another smile and a look of mischief in his eyes. “You’re wearing such tall and dangerous shoes. You’ll never be able to dance in those, Nesia. Take them off.”
She did, then moved wordlessly into his embrace, her bare feet comfortable on the smooth, sun-warmed paving stones. With her shoes went her last reservations about whether or not she’d made the right decision in coming back to the village.
“Yes, this is how it should be.” She reached up to place her hands on his shoulders as he urged her toward the center of the square, and they fell in with the others, swaying to the rhythm of the same music their ancestors had danced to. He leaned down and just before his lips met hers, she whispered, “I’m home.”