Born Lynn Johnston in a tiny backwater town at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Utah, she was graced with an uncanny skill with the fiddle; with people driving from all the nearby towns to hear her play at the festivals. There were many young men who wanted to catch her eye, but she only ever had time for Jason Mills, who sang with a voice that could rival her skills with the fiddle. They were a bold couple, she with sun kissed skin and warm auburn hair and he with hair as dark as night and pale white skin. They loved each other fiercely, but their families had forbidden them to marry. They were just as hard headed as their parents, running away in the dead of night, headed to California in the hopes of finding a new life.
They were scrapping by, with Lynn busking on the street corners to pay for food while Jason looked for work. Then one day a woman came to Lynn while she played, listening with a frightening intensity. She was dressed in an unusual fashion, stylish, but out of date, as if she was wearing her grandmother’s cloths. She seemed, washed out somehow.
“You’re good my dear; so very good. Have you ever wanted to be a professional?”
Lynn smiled and shook her head. “No, thank you ma’am. I just play for the joy of it most of the time; the busking is just till my fiancé and I find our feet.” The woman smiled at that, a thin smile with a sort of edge that Lynn couldn’t identify.
“Well my dear, I’m in need of someone with your skills. I have a, retreat not to far from here. If you were to come play for me for the next, say year or so? I could make sure that you never had to worry about money again and you and your fiancé could always be together.” A giggle escaped her. “Let’s make it a year and a day. That’s what they did in the old tales, after all. And I do so love traditions.”
Lynn cleared her throat and started to pack away her fiddle. “Thanks for the offer ma’am, but it’s not the sort of thing that I would feel comfortable doing.” She swung the case to her shoulder, starting to edge away. The woman stepped closer, far closer than was comfortable.
“Ah my dear. I understand. Take my card and think about it, you may decide that it’s something that you want to do after all.” She pressed a small square a stiff paper into Lynn’s hand.
Later that night, Lynn pushed open the door to the tiny apartment that they had managed to rent. She had just opened her mouth to Jason about her day when she noticed the way he slumped into his chair, staring despairingly at a newspaper in his hands. “What’s wrong, love?” Lynn brushed a kiss over his hair and sat down next to him, wrapping her arms around him. Jason turned and smiled sadly, wrapping his arms around her and burying his face in her hair for a moment before leaning back. “There’s no jobs that I can get, love. I’ve tried everything, they either never call me back or I never hear from them again. Even the ones that seem really glad to see me, turn me down eventually. I’ve tried everything. I can’t find anything.” Lynn bit her lip, feeling the small paper square tucked in her pocket.
“My dear, I’m so glad you decided that you could come and play for me.” The pale woman, grinned, her teeth seeming to be unusually white and sharp. “Here, this will be your uniform,” she gestured to a gown of pale silk, “And you can set up just over there.” She waved her hand to a corner of the room. Lynn set her shoulders and nodded, following one of the silent staff off to another room to dress. She reappeared again several minutes later, to see the woman, who had never really introduced herself. She held out a wineglass full of some pale wine, smiling. Her teeth seemed even sharper than before, but Lynn fought down her shudders and accepted the wine, telling herself that she would be gone at the end of the night. If Jason agreed that it was dangerous, she’d never be back. She took the glass and sipped, and the world . . . went . . . . strange. It was as if she was in a never ending dream, playing endlessly. She never seemed to tire and the fiddle she played never went out of tune. It was a strange fiddle, pale wood and silver strings, that had been presented to her some time during her dreaming. The crowds that she played for would have frightened her, if fear hadn’t been denied to her in her current state.
Finally she woke, coming back to herself with a sharp lurch. The White Lady stood before her, and there was no hiding the strangeness to her any longer. “My dear, you have fulfilled your end of the bargain.” She gestured and they were outside, standing near a road. “You have played for a year and a day in my court and you shall never want for money again.” Lynn looked around, feeling a spark of panic for the first time. “Where is Jason? He said he’d be waiting for me.” The White Lady laughed, cruelly. “Why child, look to your hand! For he’s been with you the entire time!” Lynn looked down at the fiddle and saw for the first time that it was carved of bone, with a portrait of Jason carved upon it. She saw, and she screamed; for a very long time. She tried to bury it in the forest. She tried to send it away. But the White Lady spoke truly. She could not be parted from her love; or what remained of him.
Now she was walking the roads of the new time that she found herself in, for while but a day had passed in her endless dreaming, twenty years had passed in the world outside. She had found that she now possessed ‘credit cards’ that allowed her to purchase whatever she wished, although she didn’t want much. She had made her way to the city of Sacramento, California and was looking around for others like herself. She had had enough of walking the roads alone and wanted to find a community of some sort. Her family wouldn’t know her if she tried to go home; she found out later that they thought her dead. And she supposed that the girl that they knew was gone, she changed her name to Mills, to honor her dead love. Lynn Mills was the face she showed the world now and she would wander no longer.