Hey, this is just a new story I had thought of recently and I thought I would give it a spin and put it out there to see what people thought. I hope to write and devleop it more soon and I think it has potential. It would be a great help and pleasure if you could R&R and of course, I will return the favor. Enjoy!

The Apple Orchard

"Ohh! Revolting, I stepped in a rotten apple again!" whispered a girl crossly, wiping the smeared mess on the ground some distance away from where her bare foot had found the deceased fruit. A peal of laughter followed.

"Shh!" giggled another, shushing her companions as they slipped through the orchard. She ducked under a low hanging branch, holding it back for her friends to pass, and then she took the lead once more. Whispers flitted between the group followed by a stern reprimanding for talking, though everyone doubled up with silent laughter once more.

The leader of the group of girls led them steadily deeper through the wild apple orchard, the warm autumn night air caressing their skin lovingly. She stepped through a patch of moonlight that illuminated each of them with a soft silver glow, taking a deep breath of the apple sweetened night air, before moving along..

The first girl had long blonde hair that cascaded in loose waves down her thin back. Her blue eyes sparkled like diamonds, her skin milky white. Her arms and legs were thin as beanpoles, her tiny hands delicately pulling branches out of their way as the procession moved, her equally small bare feet feeling the path onward. She wore a simple home-spun dress in a light sky blue that floated around her slim figure like water which she hoisted out of the way of anymore decaying fruit. Waving a hand behind her, she indicated that their destination was not far now.

The second girl took her spot in the dappled light, her raven-black hair pinned back in an elegant bun at the nape of her neck Her face was strong with deep, piercing black eyes and a slender but prominent nose. Graceful red lips were curled into a faint smile, the laughter still easily detectable on her features. A deep, blood red gown rustled around her and she gathered it into a fistful to keep the itchy lace away from her chaffing legs. She was slightly bigger than the leader, but with limbs more supple, muscles that were built on many happy days climbing trees.

The third and final girl followed the other two, looking around cautiously. Her face carried a harried, chased look, contorting her beautiful features. Thick red curls that tumbled to her shoulders framed a slim, pale face with forest green eyes. Freckles were sprinkled lightly over her small nose and cheekbones, and her pale pink lips seemed to have trouble keeping the carefree smile her companions held so tightly onto. A green dress embroidered with gold flowers clung to her and though she hated the way the fabric pricked uncomfortably at her neck and back, it was the last thing on her distant mind at the moment.

"We're here," whispered the leader, coming to a halt at the base of a huge, wizened apple tree. Great thick braches that doubled back on each other and intertwined rose with open arms to the sky all bearing ripe fruit, each one the perfect size of the girl's palm. Its trunk was wider than the three nearest saplings put together, pockmarked but smooth in its old age. Though it was clearly unremarkable in any way except its age and size, the tree represented a sanctuary to the girls who were bonded in their dislike for the society they lived it. True, the society was tolerable, but there was room for change and each of the girls felt the beginnings of it stir in their heart, valiantly trying to break free.

The blonde clamored up the tree first, her dirty feet easily finding the foot holes that held her securely as her hands groped in the dark to find another branch to hold her weight. As soon as she had found her usual spot in the knot of woven branches, her friends followed suit, each finding their respective places within the tree.

The red-haired girl continued to survey the quiet orchard, a suspicious look alight in her eyes. An owl called from somewhere in the dark night and she jumped, a twig catching her sharply in her back so she gasped in silent pain.

"What's the matter Arrey? Scared of the dark?" taunted the blond playfully.

"No, just…overtired," mumbled Arrey, massaging the sore spot on her back.

"You've been jumpy lately. Something wrong?" asked the raven-haired girl, her eyebrows rising in curiosity. Arrey shook her head.

"It's nothing, just haven't been feeling well…" she muttered.

"Beth's right, something hasn't been right about you. Is there something you're not telling us?" piped the blonde, her tone slightly suspicious. She leaned closer, her long hair slipping off her narrow shoulder to frame her pretty face like a picture.

"No, Janie," snapped Arrey, curling her hands into fists at her side. Why couldn't they accept the fact she simply didn't feel well? It was the truth after all, well… mostly.

"Fine, fine. We will find out sooner or later though," she said, matter-of fact. Reaching behind her, she pulled three apples from the branches and handed one to each of the girls. Without a moment's hesitation Janie and Beth bit into the sweet fruit, the juice dribbling down their chins. At any party or dinner their behavior would have been chastised, but here, they could do whatever they wanted without fear. Arrey, however, didn't feel hungry. Turning the offering around and around in her hands, she stared hard at it, thinking.

Suddenly, a strange warmth crept through her hands up to the tips of her fingers. It grew steadily hotter until it was almost a burning sensation, like she had submerged her hands into a pot of boiling water. A soft pulsing became present as well, as though there was a separate heart beat in each of her shaking fingers.

Beneath her hands, she felt the smooth flesh of the apple begin to change. Its curves began to flatten, its firmness decreasing until it was almost spongy in her hands. Horrified, she threw the apple as far as she could. Seconds later, she heard it collide with a hollow thud into another tree before it came to a rest on the ground some forty feet away. She didn't know what it looked like now, but it certainly wasn't an apple.

"What did you do that for?" complained Janie.

"Worm," replied Arrey. The other two made disgusted faces and then laughed. Janie made to get Arrey another apple, but Arrey politely refused. She didn't want it happening again. She had thought that if she didn't use it, as she referred to the magic she now possessed, it would just go away, find someone else, but she had been wrong.

She felt herself fall back into deep thought while her friends joked and laughed beside her. Why had it picked her of all people? She didn't want it, had never wished for the magic to choose her. She had actually wished for it to choose someone else, and yet, that one morning, two weeks ago on this day, she had woken up and found herself to be in possession of the one thing in the world she did not want.

"Arrey!" said Beth, shaking her shoulder roughly to reclaim her attention.

"Sorry, what were you saying?" asked Arrey, sheepishly.

"We were asking you how long you think it will be until we have a new Queen," said Janie, her mouth hard at Arrey's apparent lack of interest in the subject.

"O-oh, um…I'm not sure. Can't be long now though, right?" Arrey said.

"The royal family is getting restless I hear," said Beth, "It's never taken this long before, not after the prince's sixteenth birthday."

Arrey and Janie both murmured in agreement.

Tapping her chin thoughtfully Janie replied, "I wonder who it will be. The Millar family was chosen last time, at least that what my mother told me. Do you think it will choose Gabrielle?"

"Nah, Gabrielle is only twelve. She's too young. The Law clearly states the girl must be sixteen or older," said Beth, smoothing her dress out and reclining back with a sigh on the old bark. Reaching backwards, she extracted the pins that kept her hair back and let her hair fall flat to her shoulders.

"Than that leaves seven in our village, counting us three, and there are only another dozen or so other villages. It could very well be one of us!" exclaimed Janie, her eyes glowing with pleasure at the thought of being chosen.

"Wouldn't that be wonderful?" said Beth, unconsciously touching the top of her head as though wondering how a gold crown would feel sitting among her locks of hair. The two looked towards Arrey who had remained silent, thinking once more.

"Erm, yeah…wonderful," said Arrey in a pitiful attempt to sound excited at the thought. The other girls had not noticed however, and switched ideas.

"And then of course, it's not only being Queen, but having all that magic at your disposal! Just think you could turn apples into plums, blankets into coats, or Elizabeth into a pig!" gushed Janie.

Beth erupted into peals of laughter that brought tears of mirth to her eyes. The color rose hot and fast in her cheeks as she struggled to draw breath. Arrey chuckled half-heartedly. Even the thought of turning one of the most self-absorbed, pompous girls in their town into a pig could not cheer her up.

"It would be fantastic to be able to perform magic. You would never have to lift a finger again, no more cleaning, no more cooking, you could eat whatever you wanted and still fit into these stupid gowns," said Beth wistfully, gesturing with an annoyed expression at her own ensemble.

Arrey mumbled what she hoped would sound like an agreement. She shifted uncomfortably on her natural seat though not because the branches beneath her were poking her. What would her friends think if they knew she could do all those things she mentioned? Would they be delighted, jealous, scared? Arrey didn't know, but what she did know is that she wanted to rid herself of these stupid powers forever. She had no interest in becoming Queen nor did she want to explore any more branches of magic she may be able to do. She wanted her old life back.

"You've been right quiet tonight Arrey, please tell us what's bothering you," said Beth suddenly. Her eyes were concerned as they regarded Arrey's drawn and worried face.

"Yes, come on then, you usually won't shut up," said Janie.

"It's nothing," said Arrey. Placing her hands on the bark once more so she would be able to move deeper into the confines of safety the branches held behind her, Arrey felt the same sensation returning.

The warmth raced faster to her hands this time, the pulsing more insistent. The magic wanted to be given free reign. It wanted to be used. Arrey, however, wanted no part in anything magical. If she could bottle it up and give it away she would in a heart beat. She felt the bark beginning to melt beneath her finger tips, the beginning of the changes she caused were working faster now.

Arrey had no intention of the magic working its course or letting her friends find out. Without an explanation, she vaulted from her spot on the tree, her hair whipping out behind her as she fell the fifteen feet to the ground. Landing catlike among the soft, whispering grasses and old apples, she took off into the darkness. The fall could have broken her legs or should have buckled her knees at least, but she had known the magic would cushion her fall and it was the fastest way out of the tree without her friends stopping her.

Janie and Beth called loudly from behind her.

"Arrey! Come back!"

She heard them trying to dismount from the tree, but she wasn't worried about them catching up. She could outrun them easily even without a head start. What she was worried about was the near-constant thrumming in her fingertips that felt like pins and needles.

Folding her hands and keeping them close to her chest, Arrey fled into the darkness, not once looking back.