"When the stars are gone, we'll race to meet the dawn."
-"White Horses," All About Eve
On early mornings, when blue and green and yellow streaks across the hazy pale sky, Wendla creeps out of bed and wanders outside. Her nightdress, long and linen, flaps in the gentle dawn breeze. Cool air and mist greet her face. In the distance, the horses graze- the fat white one munching wet grass and the underfed palomino licking at the dew hungrily.
Wendla adores mornings- the quiet colours, the dampness and light green shadows that rest across the ground. She watches the sun rise slowly, burning away the mist and clearing the fog that floats across corn fields near the horizon.
She dreams too. Dreams about people and maybes, dreams that tickle her mind. But she doesn't tell these dreams to Ann and Thea and Martha because they are private dreams. Thea tells the girls all of her dreams, but Wendla thinks Thea is silly, and still thirteen (as opposed to Wendla's worldly fourteen.) Thea won't keep anything to herself, not her grades or her opinions, or which boy currently makes her fair skin turn red. There are always girls like these, Wendla's mother has told her. Girls that let their dusty wool skirts drift in the spring wind, who let the older children catch glimpses of their petticoats.
Ilse was that kind of girl, thinks Wendla as the dim white moon fades in the morning light. Ilse played pirates, yes, she played with us and Melchior Gabor and Moritz Stiefel. But Ilse is gone now- off with those strange artists, carrying on and such.
Melchior doesn't believe there is any difference between girls like Thea and Ilse and the others. He won't believe in anything he is told to believe. Perhaps that's his allure…or maybe just a youthful foolishness. But Wendla likes foolishness, for she is foolish and inexperienced and she still doesn't know why the mother goose near her pond lays eggs after the snow melts and that will be her downfall.
Some girls glow with exuberance, and some are dull. Martha knows this, Wendla ponders, for Martha is dull and not pretty. Not like Thea is pretty, or Marianna. I am pretty, and I know, because Melchior Gabor told me this while we picked apples last autumn.
"Your eyes are very dark," Melchior had said warmly. "You have lovely eyes."
Blushing, Wendla had averted her eyes and picked a rotting, wormy apple off the ground, studying it so she would not have to look at Melchior.
"Your skin is turning pink!" he laughed. "You're as crimson as the leaves."
She giggled and let the worm, brown and moist, crawl out onto her palm. It slid over her thumb and she tossed it to the ground.
And now the morning's awakening lights up the dusty road and bales of hay by Wendla's house, and she is dreaming again of Melchior. Melchior, who believed she had pretty eyes. Melchior, who carried her textbooks on the way home from geometry last week so he could tell her all about Aphrodite, and his book on mythology- Wendla lets the soft wind tangle her hair when she thinks about him.
"I brought a basket of fruit," she imagines telling him, "So that you might read to me from your novels, and perhaps we would eat strawberries while I listen. And afterwards we'd walk by the river, and toss the leaves into the water, and perhaps we could watch them float away."
Wendla is entranced in her fantasy, because she enjoys strawberries and she thinks Melchior would tell her "Wendla, your cheeks have gotten as rosy as the berries," or maybe "Those strawberries you've brought are as sweet as you," and Wendla would blush and look down, but secretly be pleased.
Melchior might say those nice things to her, if she tried very hard to please him. He might.
He just might.