Ch 1 The Beginning

My life started as a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel spliced with an Arthur Miller play and later turned into an episode of the Twilight Zone. Funny, that I was born before any of these were written.

I don't remember my mother or my father. My mother was killed a few short days after my birth, and I was raised in a convent. She gave me two things, life and my name – Alessandra. I had no need of a surname since I was expected to live out my life in the convent, secluded from the world.

That plan was right on track until my thirteenth birthday. I had been given the privilege of picking berries in a small grove near the convent. Sister Isabel carried a large basket, and we moved slowly through the bushes together gathering the fruit. Although it was contrary to normal procedure, Sister Isabel allowed me to stay in the grove alone while she went to empty the basket.

Isabel was one of the youngest of the sisters, about twenty years old. Perhaps she left me on purpose, or maybe she just wasn't thinking of the rules. This was the first time I had been unsupervised outside the walls of the convent. Although, when I was with Isabel I didn't necessarily feel as though she was a chaperon, but more like a friend or an older sister.

As I waited for Isabel to return, I picked a handful of berries and wandered to an opening in the trees. I spread my long skirt flat behind me and sat on the ground to enjoy my snack. I held my face up to the sun, closed my eyes, and soaked in the warmth.

When I opened my eyes, I saw a movement far in the distance. There were two people walking amongst a row of trees. I watched as they moved closer, and within a few minutes I could see them clearly. They were boys. One was about my height, and the other was taller. I had never seen a boy before, so I couldn't judge their ages very well. The older one could have been a man, but he had no beard and they both seemed to be laughing and dancing around – although I had never seen dancing before either.

"Alessandra," Sister Isabel's voice carried to me. I flinched, startled. Guiltily, I jumped up and ran back to the bushes and quickly picked another handful of berries, my back turned to the boys in the distance.

"Yes," I said, "I am here, Sister. Please bring the basket." By the time Isabel reached me, my hands were overflowing with berries, enough evidence to convince her that I had been picking them most of the time she had been gone.

I dumped my haul into the basket and we continued picking berries. Every couple of minutes, I turned and looked back but the boys had disappeared between the trees. When the basket was three quarters full, there was a rustling in the trees.

"Hello, Sisters," came a masculine voice. Isabel and I turned to see the two boys about 100 feet away, walking toward us. The older one had spoken, and he looked a little younger than Isabel although he was several inches taller than her.

The other boy, with light brown hair, smiled at me, and I smiled back. I looked down at my black dress, which looked very similar to Sister Isabel's habit, although I had nothing covering my long ash brown hair.

"Hello, young men," Sister Isabel responded. "That's enough," she said to me as I dumped a handful of berries into the basket. I frowned. We had been planning to pick two full baskets. "Goodbye, young men," Isabel said and turned away from the boys, pulling on my elbow. "Time to go, Alessandra."

"I'm James and this is my brother Roland," the younger boy said to our backs as Sister Isabel pulled me away.