The first day of the festival could not have been more perfect. It was a bit cool in the morning, but the sun was shining, rapidly warming the air to comfortable temperatures. Rachel excitedly prepared for her first dance. She donned the flowing costume that was recently made for her. She felt beautiful in her new costume and hoped it would accentuate the feelings and message that she desired to convey in her dance.
Rachel and Salali, along with Salali’s family, excitedly walked to the theater. Rachel looked for Pahana, but did not see him. As they arrived at the theater, Rachel and Micah went to the side of the stage since Rachel was in the first group to perform. Salali hugged her friend and wished her luck.
Rachel nervously, but excitedly watched the first two dancers while warming up. Then it was her turn. Micah gave her a quick hug and reminded her how beautiful, graceful, and talented she was and that she would have a magnificent performance. Rachel elegantly walked to the middle of the stage, positioned herself in her beginning pose, then waited for the musicians from her dance troupe to begin the music. She heard the familiar beat then spent the next several minutes lost in the music and her dance. She danced eloquently and with passion! As she finished, the audience immediately stood on their feet and cheered. Rachel bowed in appreciation. As she stood up and began to walk off the stage waving to the audience, she saw Pahana smiling at her and then he waved. Rachel’s heart about melted! As she walked off the stage, Micah hugged her and congratulated her on a spectacular and practically perfect performance.
After her group finished their dances, they took a break to eat. Rachel looked for Salali and soon found her. Salali hugged her and excitedly congratulated her on a perfect performance. She remarked that the audience was completely mesmerized while she performed; the passion for her dance was felt by all.
Just then, Pahana came up to Rachel and Salali. He enthusiastically congratulated her on her performance and informed her that he had become so entirely caught up in her dance that he actually forget where he was. Rachel thanked him then introduced him to Salali. After talking for a few minutes Pahana asked Rachel and Salali if they would like to join him for a small meal. They looked at each other, Rachel with stars in her eyes. Salali quickly mentioned that she promised her parents that she would find them immediately after the first dance group was finished but told Rachel that she could go and she would tell her mother where she was at. Rachel also said that she needed to change out of her costume then she would be able to go with him.
At her tent, Rachel put on her favorite tunic made out of a soft blue linen fabric with flowers embroidered around the neckline and hemline. The tunic lightly accentuated Rachel’s soft curves and accentuated her light colored eyes. Pahana took her arm and guided her toward his tent as he continued to praise her performance. Once they arrived, he introduced her to his parents, Len and Azelia. They both expressed their honor at meeting such a beautiful and graceful dancer. They indicated that they had watched her dance in other festivals and competitions and had always desired to meet her. They sat down on bright-colored and soft cushions and ate some dried meat and fruit while they talked.
Rachel learned that Len and Azelia were also dancers and would be dancing in two days. She enthusiastically expressed that she looked forward to watching them. Just then, a beautiful young women who Rachel thought was about her age, with long light-colored hair and eyes, came up and immediately hugged Pahana. He smiled and warmly hugged her back. Len and Azelia also warmly greeted her. Rachel suddenly felt foolish. She was beginning to really like Pahana, and now to learn that it appeared he may already be committed to someone. She felt foolish inside as she concluded that Pahana was just being kind to her, but she wondered for what reason. She tried not to let it show, but feared that her disappointment was so great that it would be quite obvious.
Then Pahana took the beautiful young woman by the hand and introduced her to Rachel, as his cousin and dance partner, Carmen. She looked at Rachel with awe and also a bit of humor in her eyes. Surprising Rachel, Carmen hugged her and told her how happy she was to meet her. She congratulated Rachel on the expressive and entrancing dance that she performed, then looked at Pahana with knowing eyes. He smiled and imperceptibly nodded at her. Carmen sat down next to Rachel and began chatting with her while they both ate some dried fruit. Rachel felt sudden relief as she realized who this beautiful girl was and took comfort that it appeared that Pahana had talked to Carmen about her.
When they had finished their meal, Rachel thanked Len and Azelia for the food and then excused herself as she wanted to see if Salali needed any help preparing for her performance. Azelia and Carmen hugged her and Pahana informed her that he would like to walk with her back to her tent. Rachel told him that it was not really necessary, but Pahana gently insisted. She could not resist his piercing eyes and agreed. As they began to walk away, Rachel just happened to notice Carmen give Pahana an approving look.
They enjoyed their walk. She thanked Pahana for the food and for walking her back. He then asked if she would sit with him during the afternoon performances. Rachel, her stomach full of butterflies, enthusiastically replied that she would love to sit with him. He informed her where he would be sitting and that he would look for her.
From that time on, Pahana and Rachel were practically inseparable. To the disappointment of many young women, Rachel had his complete attention during the open dances in the evening hours. Rachel and Pahana gracefully and easily danced together; it was as though they had been dancing together their whole lives.
The five day festival quickly came to a close; much too soon for Rachel who was completely smitten with Pahana. During the last evening of the festival, Rachel spent the entire evening with Pahana. They danced, and oh how Rachel enjoyed dancing with Pahana. They talked, they laughed, and they even cried as they thought about departing their separate ways. After all, they lived about a three days journey from each other.
While they were talking about their dreams, Len and Azelia strolled up to them. They looked at Pahana and Rachel, seeing the love and adoration in both of their eyes, and with parental concern and wisdom, asked them what was next. Pahana replied that they were just discussing that, trying to determine what they wanted and needed to do. He looked at his parents with pleading in his eyes and expressed that he did not want to leave Rachel. He confessed that he felt a familiarity about her and already believed that he desired to be with her forever. Rachel was a bit taken back by this revelation but felt elated. He looked at her and gently told her that he loved her and did not want to be away from her. Then (in front of his parents) tenderly leaned into her and gently kissed her lips.
Len, with wisdom and concern in his voice, asked Pahana what they had discussed doing. Pahana responded that he desired go home with them and tie up a few loose ends, then he wanted to travel to Rachel’s city, join the dance troupe there, and explore their relationship. He lovingly looked at Rachel then to his parents asking for their opinion and advice. Azelia gave him a big, long motherly hug and agreed with his plan. With a tear in her eye, she said that she would deeply miss him, but that he needed to follow his heart. She admitted that she already loved Rachel and would most enthusiastically welcome her to the family.
She turned to Rachel and asked her what she wanted. Rachel replied that she was a bit stunned how quickly this relationship developed; yet she really liked Pahana and wanted to be with him. She confessed that she had not yet given much though about being with him forever, but fervently desired to have the opportunity to see where this relationship would go. Pahana took her in his arms, kissed her and then hugged her like he never wanted to let her go, with his parents delightedly looking on.
(To be continued…)