If she crosses the thicket, the prick of the hawthorn is her least concern. The woods swallow like a dulcet door that opens and closes just once. She will see: this is a den, not a house, and the bonnet frames teeth. If she asks questions, curiosity brings her closer to the mouth. If aloud she notes the teeth, they begin their work. If she succumbs to her own hunger, satiation commands a price. Neither beauty nor ugliness is a protection. And if she forsakes her gender, raises her fists, says, fuck this; unnaturalness perverts her. Not even the story can like her. Her options are few and tricky. A good plan is to play dead or, even better, fall asleep. No one can accuse her of inciting trouble if she stays curled in slumber. If sorcery touches and lengthens the inculpable sleep, this is excellent. Enchantment will keep her young. She might dream her willfulness out of her system. She might stop wanting the woods.
He does not see his journey companion in all the hair he fists and looses, lifts, releases, in deliberate play to film the sun with its web. In the sifting, he watches the strands seize a flare. Each lock has a way of curling over his arm and hooking his clothes. The cling pleases him, as does the modesty the hair effects: this girl can never be quite naked. Its heaviness slows the team, so the travelers walk outside the wagon and lead the oxen. A coil circles one animal at his horns. The hair veils the travelers from choking dust when the wind tries the road. At nightfall, they sleep under it, more tent than quilt. And when the fire dies, its luxuriance worries the wolves—what great beast is this?—and holds them at bay. The travelers will use it, rope-like, to ford the river. It will net their supper of fish. If the rainy season persists, the man can hitch the girl to the wagon, and she will help pull their belongings through the muck. A ladder, a tether, her hair has done as much before. It is burden and beauty, both. Still, she can carry the weight. She knows how.