Prologue I

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He had been her adventure gone sour and together, they were a stunning mismatch of moon and sun.

She was six, just about seven; when she first saw him.

It was a compelling mid-morning of April spring that smelt of sweetleaf and carnations, summer just yawning by in the grasses, its sparkle barely contained. The meadows were unrestrained, glittering of dew-drenched green pasture; its pursuit seemed just about too familiar to be crewed on that warm, wonderful day.

She had been thriving for nascent thrill, for a fresh gash on her palm. A new tear in her dress. Flints in her fingernails and wind in her hair.

Mischief.

She discovered him downhill, in the 'The Maplebell', across the fence, beyond the big oak and the heavy birches, where there was this lake. This willow. An odd, wild exotic organism.

This one boy.

It was some genuine minutes before he swam into her focus. Before she stopped regarding him to be just another wildflower.

On her expedition, she had hoped for at least a giraffe. A grizzly bear would have, say, sufficed. He, the way she saw him, seemed too gentle to be dangerous. Too lazy.

He ruined her mood but embered her curiosity.

She was offended by his lethargy, lounging on the green grass, his arm folded behind his head_ stretched under the curtains of willow, lost in the dry looking pages of a book. She was conflicted by his ease. His features betrayed idle bliss.

Eyes, honey.

His easy, lazy air of serendipity. His utter sloth and surly brevity.

She watched him closely for a while, frozen by his oddity, his redundancy seem to have diminished her own energy for adventure. So contagious.

He appalled her.

And then suddenly, he looked up at her. Most indifferently. Like he had known her all along, had known her all his life.

Gentle, warm eyes inspected her lazily. Gold dusted honey.

He tilted his head in slight regardence, as if studying a new specimen of nocturnal sparrow. Strange thing. An out of the ordinary phylum. Science gone wrong.

"Do you read books?"

No greetings? No Bonjour-who-are-you-how-do-you-do?

She narrowed her eyes at him, suspiciously. When her silence outstretched the custom interval of a civil conversation, he looked back at his book, running his small fingers through the gold-edged paper.

Slow breeze caressed his hair.

"I love to read."

And just like that, she knew, they could never ever, ever be friends.

She eyed him skeptically, then his book; took one step nearer to him, drawn by his apathy. "I never."

She hated books. Like him, they appalled her too.

He lifted his head again. Scrutinized her again. Watched her fingers, as she swept aside one chestnut lock from her face.

"Never?" There was indifference in his voice. He couldn't have cared less.

"No."

Few steps closer, yet again. She could see the words on his pages. Handwritten. Ink smudged. Aged paper. She could see his pink, pouty lips. Freckled cheek. She could see the pen, tucked in the hardcover of the book.

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