Linc heard a muted crack and smelled something faintly salty, and he rolled over to wrap his arms around Macie, smiling because she was cracking peanuts in bed again. But instead of soft sheets and feather pillows, he felt the dampness of earth and the lump of tree roots under him. Not in bed...not with Macie...never with Macie ever again.
Shaking the residue of blurriness from his brain, he raised up on his elbows, looking around. To his right, Egaeus munched on the new spring grass, calmly and normally. But on his left, a girl sat against a tree -- his tree, not more than six inches from him -- reading and spitting sunflower shells on the ground. For a moment, he thought he was still dreaming. His uninvited guest was younger than Macie, yet the girl looked remarkably a lot like the love of his life. The same sable hair, the same dainty nose, the same oval face. Even the same sparkling blue eyes. But Macie wouldn't be caught anywhere with a book in her hand. She had rarely stood still long enough to read the menu at MacDonald's.
Linc blinked at the girl and the way her long curls folded along her shoulders, and instantly recounted the Lord Byron poem, “...the lovely girl of Cadiz...As along her bosom steal In lengthen’d flow her raven tresses, You’d swear each clustering lock could feel, And curl’d to give her neck caresses...” Only, the Spanish beauty in the poem did not have eyes the same blue as the sky.
Linc snorted and jerked his shoulders, bringing her attention back to him. Now, he was comparing wedding guests to heroines in nineteenth century poetry. Time to lay off the drinking for a while. Next thing he’d know, he’d be picking wildflowers and making little necklaces out of them, while spouting sonnets from Shakespeare.
The intruder -- maybe twenty-five years of age and too young for him to be thinking poetic thoughts about in any case -- flicked her eyes at him again, smiled faintly, and silently offered him some seeds from a small package. She sat cross-legged next to him, her feet tucked under a white, lacey skirt and topped off with a thin pink sweater. Her white canvas shoes had been kicked off, and tiny pink toenails peeked out from under her skirt. Shaking his head at the seeds, he sat upright, shoved his feet into his boots and questioned her, "Who are you? Why are you here? What time is it?"
She leaned forward, curled her forehead a bit, watching him closely as he spoke, and in an oddly accented voice, said, "Amber. Almost four."
Linc waited...and waited, but instead of supplying more information, her pansy-blue eyes stared patiently back.
Okay. So she wasn't the chattiest of females. Good. Right now, his temples throbbed too heavily to care. He groaned, pressed a dirty palm to his head and said, “Never mind.” She shrugged aloofly and returned to her reading, but she kept peeking at him from the corner of her eye, waiting to see if he’d say anything else, he assumed, but he really didn’t care to have a conversations with someone who encroached on his special spot. Shooting Egaeus -- who was supposed to watching over him -- a glare, he muttered, “I should have named you Judas.”
Egaeus stamped his hoof, shook his mane and resumed eating. Linc grimaced. “What? You’ve got nothing to say for yourself? You could have warned me or something.” Egaeus lifted his soulful dark eyes to look at him and glance at the girl next to him. Then the damn horse rolled those dark eyes and showed Linc his rump. That made Linc chuckle a little. He always thought Egaeus understood more than the average horse.
Linc noticed that the girl had crept around to watch him and Egaeus converse, and he was brought back to the problem at hand. A stranger under his tree, invading his privacy. He’d made love to Macie the first time under this tree...on a blue quilt his grandmother made. Right now, it’d be wonderful if this strangely quiet girl just left him alone.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, running a hand over his face to clear the rest of the sleep away. She didn’t answer, so he glared at her. She stared back...calmly.