Near a small lake in the countryside of Laraford, five sisters and two young men were enjoying the last day of summer. On the far side of the park, a large gathering of aspen trees guarded dusty dirt parthways with their speckled white trunks and a ceiling of crisp green and yellow leaves. Beside the forest, a dry meadow of breezy grass and elm trees spread across the remainder of the park, its only partner the aforementioned lake.

The eldest girl, Meredith St. James, was strolling along a path in the woods wearing a simple, periwinkle blue dress; her hand placed delicately upon the arm of her beau. Considered to be the most beautiful of the five sisters, she bore shiny black ringlets, eyes as blue as the summer sky, milky white skin, and pleasant features that stole the hearts of many a men. An undeniable coquette, her flirtatious smile and twinkling eyes had gained her many admirers over the years. But because she was the oldest, with twenty-one years behind her, she had taken up the role of mother with her younger sisters since their parents died two years ago- both of scarlet fever.

Walking beside Mary was her sweetheart, Ethan Lindsey. His chestnut-colored hair was cut short and his eyes, a sparkling navy, were framed by long lashes. With a defined jaw, a fit and favorable physique, and a face free of flaws, Mary thought he was the one of the most handsome men she'd ever seen. And her sisters heartily agreed. His one imperfection, in his own humble opinion, was his height. Although he'd always dreamed as a boy that he might stretch over six feet, he stood at a humble five feet and nine inches. But as long as he was still taller than his Mary, his pride was never threatened. Ethan had graduated from one of the most prestigious universities in the country just a few months before and in two weeks he would head across the ocean to a medical school in Brighton, where he would study to become a doctor; Mary knew how desperately she would miss him while he was away.

As they walked along, Ethan whispered sweet nothings into Mary's ear. In an attempt to be romantic he stopped to grab a handful of wildflowers for her but they were harder to pull out then he'd imagined. And once he'd yanked the crocuses out of the dirt and landed on his bottom, he gave a little shout of surprise to find that they were covered in bugs. Although he had to throw them back, Mary giggled and thanked him for the effort anyway.

The pair headed deeper into the forest, past thin white trunks and bushy shrubbery. The sky had nearly disappeared from view and all that could be seen were the tiny green and yellow leaves, flickering with the breeze.

Noticing a small wooden bush coming into view up ahead, Ethan grabbed Mary's hand and led her to it earnestly. She sat down as directed, though silent, and watched Ethan curiously, wondering what he was up to, for he did seem awfully apprehensive.

And then, without any warning at all, her curiosity was answered as Ethan knelt down on one knee. Taking her hands in his, his eyes glowing with affection, he began, "Mary, you mean the world to me. I love you more than you'll ever know and I can't even begin to imagine what my life would be like without you. And frankly, I should never like to know."

He pulled a ring from his pocket and Mary gasped, placing her hands to her mouth as her eyes filled with tears. She was so shocked she couldn't breathe, couldn't move, couldn't think.

Ethan continued, squeezing her hand, "You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen and I would give anything to see your lovely face every morning for the rest of my life. You have a spirit I can only dream of possessing a heart I hope will always be mine. I love you and I always will. Meredith St. James, will you marry me?"


Back at the lake, Mary's four younger sisters were relaxing and enjoying the wonderful weather.

Sara, the second oldest with nineteen years behind her, was sitting beneath a large beech tree with her back against the trunk and her nose stuck in a book. She'd already read this particular novel several times before, but she never seemed to tire of it; her love of reading surpassed all other amusements and she lost herself each time she entered the world of fiction. Her long, dark brown hair was parted on the side and pulled back in a ponytail and one could barely see her dark eyes for they were looking downward and hidden beneath black lashes. In appearance, she was a rather ordinary girl, but one most certainly could not describe her as ugly. Nevertheless, she found little pleasure in men and courtships. Sara could never find a man quite as wonderful as the ones she read about in books.

In the distance, if she shielded her eyes from the sun, she could just make out the figures of her sisters.

Leonora and Emmeline had removed their shoes, tied back their hair, and hiked up their skirts to wade in the lake's cool water.

Nora held a net in one hand and was trying to catch minnows, completely unaware that they were so small they could simply escape through the holes of her net, while Emy stood a few feet away, walking through the water lilies and humming a little tune as her toes rubbed against the lake's tiny pebbles.

Only one year separated the sisters, for Nora was sixteen and Emy was fifteen. While their hair was similar in its color, a light, chestnut brown, Nora's was thick and straight and Emy's was soft and wavy. Nora stole her eyes from Sara, dark and brown, while Emy's resembled Mary's, a bright, beautiful blue. And their personalities were as different as good could be. Like a lovesick teenager, sociable Nora adored walking into town with her sisters to search the streets for handsome men. But Emy, reserved and shy, could only blush and drop her head when attention was brought upon her.

Several meters away in a field of blowing grass, the youngest sister, Abigail, was running around wildly in an attempt to get her kite into the air. The lively, fourteen-year-old girl was still rather like a child, always searching for amusement with no thoughts towards beaux or marriage or love. Letting the tail fly behind her, with bows in colors of pink, orange, and violet, Gail threw the kite into the air and ran, holding onto the end of the string with all her might. Her auburn locks flew about her madly, like excitable red flames, and her soft brown eyes seemed to laugh as she watched the kite fly higher and higher till it almost seemed to touch the clouds.

Although none of the St. James sisters could be considered unattractive, the only true beauty was Mary. The others, I believe, were rather ordinary and plain. And despite the horrible deaths of their parents, the girls tried their best to recover from the tragedy and continue on with their lives as well as they could. They thought of their poor parents often though, as should be expected, and wondered what life would have been like were they still alive. Now, the sisters spent their days in a tiny house with their only income being the money left behind by their parents and donations from their relatives.

Across from Sara, another young man, Brook Lindsey, was lounging against a tree with his knees bent. He was the cousin of Mary's Ethan, but yet looked nothing like him in appearance. While Ethan was rather short and more fit, Brook was tall, thin, and lanky. His skin was pale white and atop his head sat a shock of hair as black as the night sky. His hazel eyes continually glanced from the girl sitting opposite him to a notebook that lay on his knees, where he was using a charcoal pencil to portray her on the paper.

Mary had always hoped Sara would someday fall in love with handsome Brook, for she thought them a perfect match, but Sara wouldn't have it. She liked Brook, of course, but only as a friendly companion and not as a beau. But no matter how many times Sara assured Mary that she didn't fancy Brook and didn't want to marry him, Mary still believed there was hope and enjoyed playing the matchmaker and inviting him along for outings to the park or dinners at the house when Ethan was coming as well.

Sara suddenly looked up from her book with a glimmer of suspicion in her eyes.

"You're drawing me, aren't you?" she accused of Brook, anger in her voice.

"How could I not? You make such a lovely model when you're reading so contently."

"But I told you I hate it when you do so," Sara groaned, "I don't like you staring at me when I'm not aware of it."

"So you wouldn't mind it if you were aware of it?" Brook mused.

"I mind it either way!"

"Since I'm almost done, won't you at least go back to your story and let me finish? It's really quite good, I think. You'll like it, I'm sure."

"I detest any drawing of myself," said she, "No matter how talented the artist is or how much he changes my appearance to make it more beautiful on the page, I hate it. And you know that, Brook!"

"Yes, but I just couldn't resist such an opportunity."

Sara sighed, but a small grin escaped her lips, "I'll try to return to my book so you can finish, but you'd better do it quickly!"

Brook agreed and set to work, adding a few last strokes to her hair and reconstructing the folds of her skirt. When the picture was completed he held it up for Sara to see, and she couldn't help but smile.

"It's very nice, Brook," she admitted, "But I still don't like to act as your model!"

"Very well, very well. I shall use your sisters from now on, though it's not quite so easy. Mary's always running off with Ethan and Gail can't sit still for more than a moment. Nora finds it all rather boring and Emy is so bashful she can't bear to have me staring at her."

"Well I'm not much better am I?"

Brook shrugged, "I'll admit it's not easy when you're constantly refusing, but if I catch you at a moment when you're so enraptured in a novel that you don't even notice what's going on around you, it's not terribly difficult."

Sara sighed, "Well that's the last drawing you're getting of me for a long while, Brook Lindsey."

"We shall see, my dear. We shall see."

At that moment, Nora came running up to the pair with her net held out in front of her. Inside it, a greenish-gray fish was thrashing around uncomfortably, wishing he were back in the lake's cool water.

"Look Sara! Brook!" she called, "I caught a fish! Can you believe it? And I didn't even have a pole!"

She stood between them and held out the net with a grin.

"Very nice," said Sara, "But keep it away from my book, he's getting the pages all wet!"

Brook set down his notebook to get a better look, "Good catch, Leo," he said, eyeing the poor carp, "But if you keep him out beneath this warm sun for too long he'll die. He needs the water to breathe."

"I know, I know," Nora assured, "But wouldn't it be nice if I could keep him as a pet?"

As she headed back to the lake to return the dying fish to his home, Sara began to read again while Brook found a new page in his notebook and began looking around himself for something else to draw. He was considering the forest, gazing at the aspen trees and debating whether it would take too long to sketch all those skinny, white trunks, when Mary appeared in the distance. She was running towards Brook and Sara from the woods, her straw hat in her hand and a grin upon her face. Ethan walked casually behind her, wearing a sheepish smile with his hands in his pockets.

Brook set down his art supplies and stood up, placing a hand to his forehead to shield the sun, and Sara soon followed. She knew instantly that something odd was going on. Ladylike Mary would never run wildly across the grass without good reason.

"'Something wrong?" Brook called out, for he couldn't see the wide smile spread across Mary's face.

"No!" Mary laughed, "Of course not! Everything is perfect! Absolutely perfect!"

Sara raised an eyebrow and looked curiously towards Brook, but he simply shrugged.

By this time, the three younger sisters had seen Mary and heard her shouts as well. Gail was sprinting over with her kite still flying behind her and Nora was close behind. Emy, attempting to dry off her shins as she walked, was still near the lake but moving as quickly as she could.

"What's happened?" Gail panted to Mary, dropping her kite beside her, "You don't seem yourself."

Mary slowed her pace as she came nearer, her face flushed and her dark curls surrounding her face like a halo. All four of her younger sisters, as well as Brook, stood silently, staring at her and Ethan and wondering had happened to make them both so giddy. But Mary would say nothing and only giggled, turning around apprehensively to wait for Ethan. He was several meters behind her, his head dropping bashfully and his hands still stuffed in his pockets. But once he'd reached her, he took her hand and lifted his head to reveal eyes that were bright and alit.

Bouncing back on his heels and squeezing Mary's hand, he exclaimed happily, "Mary and I are getting married!"

(A/N) For any readers who are also reading one of my other two stories, no, I'm not abandoning either of them. I just had a sudden inspiration to write this story and wanted to post it. I promise I'll finish both the other stories though, for I'm still sticking to my pledge of never leaving a story unfinished.

But anyway, what does everyone think of this new story? I'm not sure if this was such a great first chapter. Does it have too much description? Is it terribly boring? I promise it'll get better in future chapters. I, personally, am rather excited about it because instead of just having one romance plotline, this time I have five! I'm going to try and weave them all together into one story and hopefully it'll come out as I've planned.

I'm not exactly definite about the title yet, so be aware that it may change.

And just to clear up any confusion, this isn't technically a historical story because, like a lot of other stuff I've done, it has no definite time period it's taking place in. It's definitely occuring some time in the past, but the date isn't definite.

Please remember to review! Thanks for reading!

-S. Renee