For The Summer

Part I: Full of Marriages & Magnolias

"Tell us again about Magnolias?" Flora sighed breathlessly- betraying her sixteen years and sounding for all the world like a small child awaiting a favourite faerie tale. (Flora was always the one to ask for the magnolia story).

"Well, they only grow in the south, in the heart of Castille, where the water lays hot and sluggish in shallow marshes as far as the eye can see. It looks dead, for nothing ever stirs, and tangled vines creep along the murky bottom and begin to rot, filling the air with their awful stagnant stench, like a million rotting eggs. And then…." West paused dramatically, and Flora sighed again, lost in West's dark and dreary marshland.

"And then, suddenly small green shoots begin to burst forth from the slimy water, pushing their way through the decaying tangles of creepers, and they begin to grow and grow and grow until they are this tall!" West reached his long, skinny arm high into the air for emphasis. "They are covered in dark, rough bark, and their leaves are broad and waxy, spreading and spreading until their pure white blooms reach towards the top, yearning for their first drink of sunlight…"

West didn't finish the sentence, leaving his words to float like gossamer among the fluffy clouds so like sailing ships, drifting above them in the bright summer sky. All three youths were quiet then, imagining the soft white blooms in the deadly heart of the Castillan swamps, struggling for a taste of the sun that warmed them even as they sat daydreaming in the expansive field.

Eventually, June broke the silence, though quite regretfully, with: "Well, I suppose Ashleigh is missing me right about now, or will be soon." Reluctantly, the tall boy pulled a battered golden pocket watch from his vest pocket, which, upon opening it, only confirmed his fears.

"Confound it! It's already five o'clock!"

"Is it really?" Flora yawned and then stretched languidly in the soft grass.

"I suppose I'd better hurry back with you, June. Father is inviting the Hargraves to supper, and he shan't be pleased if I'm late."

"Not looking like that, at any rate." West teased the short girl, and rumpled her orange braids, which were stuck with numerous blades of dry grass. Flora scowled initially, but soon joined in the laughter good naturedly, linking her arm through June's in the process. With much jostling and playful rough housing, the three disheveled friends made their way up over the hill to the dirt road that lead to Brighton Manor, where Flora lived with her father, Augustus Perrault.

Brighton Manor was the ancestral home of the rural lords of Sommershire and the center of the town that had sprung up around. Four years ago, Flora had moved to the grand house with her father after the death of her mother. Augustus was a wealthy merchant, and had the thought the fresh air and slow pace of country life would suit his small daughter. Flora took to it like a duck takes to water, and soon became fast friends with the somewhat reckless sons of the neighbouring gentry, June Aubrey of Ridgewood Park, and West Brook of Brookhall. From then on Flora, West and June were an inseparable trio, who spent many a lazy summer day sprawled in the grass of Sommershire's numerous meadows daydreaming about heroes and dragons under the bright blue sky. In the winter when they couldn't venture outside, they created pandemonium and havoc inside Ridgewood park, folding paper birds out of the pages of books they were supposed to be studying and then chasing each with them around the house, and generally making life hard for June's older sister Ashleigh. The town's folk shook their heads at the trio's antics, and Ashleigh often despaired over what was to become of June, but nothing could deter the three from their wild celebration of life.

Soon the dusty road branched, and it was at this point that June and West bid Flora farewell, to continue on their way towards Ridgewood Park, and Brookhall beyond. As Flora made her way down the road, the two boys paused and contemplated her retreating form.

"Do you think Flora's pretty?" June idly asked, tilting his head to one side.

"Sure." replied West, wryly "If you fancy scrawny red-haired girls with their hair full of weeds and sticks."

June lightly punched him on the shoulder.

"No, I mean, do you think she'll ever find some rich gentlemen to settle down with and become the lady of an awe inspiring marble mansion?"

"I think Flora's father will make sure of that, and with the size of her dowry I think she won't be entirely displeased with the groom. Flora could have any man she wanted."

"Oh." June replied shortly, and became suddenly interested in a patch of particularly fascinating dust.

"Is Ashleigh nagging you again?" West asked shrewdly, "Because if she is, I'll have to talk to her again. You don't love Flora, and she doesn't return the sentiment either, so don't even start to entertain the thought."

"It's not that I don't love Flora, because I do, I really do," June burst out, "It's just that I can't help feeling that there's something, someone, out there that will make me the happiest man alive, and it's not Flora."

West nodded. "That's the way it should be, and Ashleigh doesn't have any right to interfere with that, older sister or no."

"But then there's the future to think of" said June with a helpless gesture of his hands. "We're not rich West, and Ashleigh is constantly worried about money- there never seems to be enough."

"Do you think my family is rich?" West retorted sharply, throwing June off guard with the intensity of his voice. "There's nine of us, June, I have six sisters to worry about, so don't think you can use those words with me."

"What about Ashleigh?" June asked softly, almost hesitantly.

"What about her?" West tossed back at him.

"Well….you know she's always, had, er, plans, involving you."

"To hell with Ashleigh's plans, sometimes I wonder if that girl still has a heart behind that manipulative mind of hers." West said so bitterly, that June physically stepped back. Regaining his courage though, he defended his sister.

"But don't you see? It's not in her mind that she wishes for you, it's her heart that longs for you."

"Until Ashleigh remembers how to laugh again, and own up to her feelings, I won't have anything to do with her beyond the expected courtesy." Said West with an unfamiliar iciness in his voice. With the final comment, the two men continued their way down the road in an uncomfortable and unaccustomed silence, until they reached the gates of Ridgewood Park.

"Look," West said, making an effort to be gentle, "I wasn't trying to slander your sister, or hurt you, but it needed to be said. Now," he said in the light, playful voice June was used to hearing him speak with, "Chin up, or Ashleigh will pounce on you the minute you walk inside the door."

"She already will," June, responded ruefully, "I'm twenty minutes late."

"Well, best of luck then." West clapped him on the shoulder, and sent the younger man stumbling through the gate with a grin on his face. When June reached the stairs he turned and waved to West before disappearing inside.

At last, Heaving one long sigh, West turned on his heal and began the long upward climb to Brookhall.

- - - - - - (author blurt): and you all thought I could only write scraps like 'this was beautiful' and delirious poetry- well, proves you wrong.

Nah, not really, this isn't really that great, but maybe in time I'll improve it, and I definitely plan to try to crank out more chapters. I don't have any outlines or anything spiffy like that, just a great number or scrawly-scribble notes in a comp. book about character stats and a veeeeery general plot overview. The reason this is all summery is because I thought of, and wrote all of my concept notes while I was laid back, waiting for surgery this past summer (hey, anything to help with the anxiety).