"I don't know how you scored tickets to the ballet, Anna," Chelsea said as they pushed open the door to the Women's Co-op. "And not just any ballet, either, but the Kirov."
"They just dropped into my hands," Anna said. She unbuttoned her coat and headed for her ledgers, stopping when she saw movement in the back of the room. "Who's there?"
"What... ? Oh." The figure appeared out of the dimness, Kalliste Periakes. "I didn't expect you back." She was a slender woman of an indeterminate age, an archaeology grad student at nearby Northwestern University. Her dark hair was pinned back, and there was a slight sheen of sweat on her olive skin. She was also barefoot, which was unusual.
"I have some bills to pay," Anna said, waving at the ledgers.
"We went to the ballet," Chelsea said, her voice bubbling with enthusiasm. "The Kirov Ballet. They're touring the US, and Anna got two tickets."
"I saw them last night," Kalliste said.
Anna looked at her in disbelief. "... last night? I thought tickets were impossible to get."
"Not so hard if you know the right person," Kalliste said. She began moving around the room, picking up candles.
"What were you doing?" Chelsea asked.
"I was... it's complicated." For once Kalliste looked uncomfortable. "This night's important, and, well, I was..." Her voice trailed off and she looked way.
"Important?" Chelsea glanced at Anna, who shrugged. "It's the end of September. I can't think of any holiday, unless there's a Greek one."
The edges of Kalliste's generous mouth twisted momentarily. "There are a lot of holy days in the Orthodox calendar, but this wasn't one of them. No, I..."
"What's bothering you, Kalliste?" Anna asked. "This is so unlike you."
"Bothering me? I don't know what you mean."
Anna turned on the light over her desk. There was a CD player on the desk. She looked at Kalliste, her finger hovering over the Play button. "May I?"
After a moment Kalliste nodded.
Anna pushed the button- the room was filled with the sound of flutes, cymbals and drums. After a few seconds she shut it off. "Is that music from where you're from?"
"It sounds, I don't know, complex."
"It's an old piece. You wouldn't believe how old."
Anna looked at the way everything had been pushed back from the floor. Something clicked deep in her mind. "Kalliste, were you dancing?"
Kalliste looked down, nodding.
"Some dances are best done alone, Anna."
Kalliste shrugged. "It's in my blood." She sighed and sat on the table in the corner of the room. "Crete, dance, life, they're all entwined. Let me tell you a story."
The land of your birth is always your Home; no matter where you live, your Home never leaves you. And the things of Home never leave you, either. In Crete it is the Dance.
Legend has it dance was invented in Crete. Logically speaking we know that isn't so. The whole Human Race has been dancing since music was invented. But our hearts tell us otherwise. The simple truth is that Dance and Crete are inseparable. Millennia have marched across this land and the people of K'ftiu, of Caphtor, of Crete are still circling, arms around one another, stamping their feet in time to the music. Dancing may have arisen spontaneously around the world, but in Crete Dance is far more than just recreation. Dance--Crete--Life, they are all one, all the same in the hills and vales of my Home.
Every few years, as I have for the past two or three hundred years when the harvest is in, I return to my homeland in secret. It is the same every time. I assume the guise of an old woman and travel deep into the countryside. I look for a small village tucked away in the hills. It must be a small village filled with the people of this land. Once I find a place that feels right I wait for one particular day, for one particular night. Thousands of years ago, on this day, was celebrated The Festival to The Lady, and it was celebrated with dance.
Dusk creeps over the Land, but the Land does not rest, not on this night. There is a restless feeling in the air, as if everyone knows something is going to happen. Across the land lamps and hearth fires beckon. I hear the music begin. I hear the slap of feet on the ground as the people of the village dance, and the Land calls out to me. I resist the call, waiting until it is right, and then I step out of shadows to enter their dancing. I appear to them as an old woman with my gray hair unbound, my feet unshod, and I join their dance.
At first they do not notice me, for this is their work, their harvest which they celebrate and at this celebration all K'ftiu are welcome. Then one of the elders, or perhaps one of the very young who has listened well to a storyteller, sees me, truly sees me. At first there is question--can it really be her? For they know of me, the stories have circulated quietly from village to village, passed on from mother to child, from neighbor to neighbor. There is that moment of realization, then recognition quickly whispered to neighbor and kin. I hear the excited murmur race through them as the dancing continues.
Though they see me as a woman, they know me to be more than just a woman, and I am given respect far more than I would have received walking their streets in daylight a few hours before.
We dance, all of us together, for the Harvest. We dance, all of us together, for the bounty of the Land. We dance, all of us together, for ourselves, and we dance, all of us together, for the sake of the Dance. I show them all of the old steps, and they respond as they always have no matter the year, the century or the millennium. We dance until our breath is short, our arms are tired, our feet are sore, and our minds are blank.
There is silence, then, but it is the silence of expectation. They know what will follow. They have heard it from their fathers and mothers, from their grandfathers and grandmothers. They have heard it over a quiet glass of wine in a taverna, over a glass of fiery óuzo late at night or over a fence in the lazy heat of the afternoon. They know what is to come--it is as carefully scripted as a play, it is engraved in the very stones of the Land.