Chapter 1

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 ©Copyright 2012 Misty Moncur

Chapter 1

I had seen the guard on my uncle’s estate before, but usually from a distance. If possible, he was even more handsome up close, but I disregarded that and said, “The garden is not big enough for you? Get out of my way.”

I could see he was torn between his impeccably good manners, which I had noticed on previous occasions, and doing something childish like pulling my hair or dropping a snake down my sarong. But his mother would have been so proud—he opted for manners.

“Excuse me,” he said and stepped to the side with the clipped movements of the soldier he was, but he couldn’t push aside the irritation in his sharp, cocoa-colored eyes.

After we had passed each other, I turned to watch him continue on along the garden path alone. Strong shoulders, assessing eyes, long strides—he was hardly out for a pleasurable stroll through the gardens. Most probably he was doing a security check of the grounds, I thought. But then I noticed he held a missive in his hand, and I figured he was headed to the stream to read it in private.

I thought of the irritation in his eyes.

Well, I consoled myself, irritation was better than the complete indifference he had shown me yesterday and the outright ignoring me of the day before. All things considered, I thought irritation was a promising sign.

I paused next to a hedge that intersected a tall rock wall. When I saw the guard slow uncertainly, turn his face a little, and then stop and turn all the way around to catch me watching him, I quickly ducked behind the wall.

So he was not indifferent to me after all.

My face heated, but I smiled.

I had been watching him for a while. I didn’t know his name, but I knew he was lonely too.

He never looked at me if he could help it, and when he did, he avoided my eyes. So lately I had been trying to get his attention. When the guard walked with Uncle in the hallways, I would stride up and ask Uncle for something outrageous from the market—a jade and copper necklace, a little pot filled with expensive perfume, bags of cocoa, new sarongs, belts, scarves, head-dressings, bangles—anything to help the guard notice I existed. Uncle always looked at me with kind eyes and said I could have whatever it was I wanted. When the guard was standing watch at the estate gates, I would glide past him without a look, but not before I had dropped whatever I was carrying and waited for him to pick it up and return it to me with his cool, polite manner. And just now, I had accosted him in the beautiful gardens that bordered the estate.

I hurried away and took the flowers I had gathered from the gardens into the house.

I loved living here on the estate with my Uncle Helaman and my cousins and their families. I especially loved to play with their little children. It was so different from living in my small home in Noah.

Though I had once loved that too.

But my cousins were all much older than me, their life situations very different, and so I often felt lonely for someone to talk to.

Even speaking so rudely to the guard had been a kind of relief—just to talk to someone.

I felt pathetic as I thought about the encounter, as I removed the old flowers from the vases in the long hall and replaced them with the fresh ones—pink today. The seasons were changing and these would be some of the last—maybe another few weeks of blooms—but they were certainly some of the prettiest, I thought as I stroked a silken petal.

I made my way to the end of the hall where Uncle’s office was located, where he conducted his church business and coordinated with the men of the government and military.

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