The moss beneath my toes was cool, a sprinkle of dew still resting gently on the soft spores. She was up ahead dancing on the riverbank; songbird-esque but not quite. Something more. Her rapture emanated, sweeping between the tree branches, across the rocks, and through my hair. My formerly tight braid had slowly unraveled and long wisps of ginger found themselves caught in my eyelashes.
I was unwound.
The silk skirt of my dress lay somewhere in my past and all that remained were my underskirt and my corset, half untied and stained with dirt. I stepped off the moss-covered log towards the river. The rush of water over rocks broke against my ears. Light bounced from stone to stone beneath the current like scattered pearls dripping from the neck of a debutante. The silks which had overlaid the evergreen twine of my corset were of my former reality. The one shrouded in primness, where I could see the world only from behind a veil of tulle. She had lifted the veil and now I knew just how fiercely the leaves sparkled; emeralds dancing.
I would never go back. I’d known that from the day I arrived, when she found me bathing bare in an inlet, my clothes receiving their first stains as they lay on the riverbank. She showed me what existed beyond the walls that had contained me, beyond my mother’s rubies and wrath. She taught me green and impurity.
I’d forgotten my desire for doilies and dowries. Now, I just wanted to be like her – like all of them. I wanted to have ears so sharp I could hear the wind sprinkle sand on the surface of water, to be lofty, idealized, and selfless all at once.
I waded into the water and leapt from one rock to the next to catch up to her. They were slick against the balls of my feet but I managed to balance, arms spread like a tightrope walker. She’d disappeared beyond the trees up ahead. But now and again, I’d catch the familiar glint of her wing— a pocket of gold in the cool landscape.
Creative Direction Lea bond and Erica Coven
Words Julia Stewart
Photographs Anjali Reddy
Editor Haley Joy Harris
Stylists Josie Zimmerman and Emily Hanson
Featuring Sari Bircoll and Avi Arora
Armour Magazine Season 26 — S/S 2021