• “Leila? Leila! Wait! Come back!”

    Leila grinned as she ran through her father’s apple orchard. Ladders, sacks and buckets were littered everywhere, as it was the height of the picking season. After a glance backward to see that she was not seen, Leila scurried up a ladder into the high branches of one of the taller trees. Securing herself with one hand, Leila smoothed her dress with the other and listened to fast approaching footsteps.

    “Leila, where are you?” Jonathan Parker stopped short under another tree a few yards away. After a few moments of silence, he began to plead. “Leila, please, if you don’t come back, we’ll be late getting ready for the party. And you know Mrs. Summers doesn’t like to get a late start on anything, lest something be imperfect.”

    At the mention of her grouchy old governess, the thirteen year old girl giggled and swung her legs back and forth a bit from her perch.

    Upon hearing Leila’s giggle, Jonathan immediately looked up and spotted her.

    “Leila Marie Scott! Your father will have my hide if you don’t come down from there safely! Girls have no business being in trees. Now just make your way down that ladder, and I can escort you back to your estate.”

    In response, Leila giggled some more and made no movement indicating she would do as he told her. “Have you no sense of adventure Jon? Life would be so boring if we girls did exactly as we were told all of the time, like my wonderfully perfect cousin, Miss Elizabeth Justine.”

    Jonathan simply placed his hands on his hips and gazed steadily back at her, a movement that struck Leila as very feminine on his tall and lanky fifteen-year-old body. “Well, I would prefer you act like Miss Elizabeth Justine just now, for I am sure that if any harm were to come to you while removing yourself from that tree, I would surely be punished.”

    “Oh, I certainly don’t think my father would have you punished. He likes you far too much for that. After all, it would have been all my doing, anyway, for I am the one who placed myself in this tree. So he would most certainly do nothing of the sort.”

    “Even so, you should remove yourself from that tree and allow me to escort you home.” Jonathan said.

    Leila smiled as she reached for the ladder. “I am coming down now, but I do believe that I would like to stay here in the orchard for a few minutes longer.”

    “Well, only a few more minutes.” Jonathan replied as her gripped her round the waist and brought her down most of the way down the ladder and set her feet on the ground.

    “After all, the Mrs. Summers can wait. The party isn’t for a few hours yet!”

    “Indeed it isn’t.” Jonathan wound her arm through his own. “But you know how she likes to fuss about you to make sure you look absolutely perfect for any formal occasion, particularly a party. So we probably shouldn’t stress the poor woman too much and head back quite soon.”

    “Perhaps you are right. We could make our way back now, but a leisurely pace shouldn’t hurt. After all, it is quite a beautiful day out; I would hate to waste it fussing about inside the house.”

    “I agree. But all of that fussing is quite important if the parties are intending to be lavish.”

    “Hmmm. Indeed.” Leila looked thoughtful. “We should have a garden party, if there are to be many more days like today.”

    “Maybe we shall we put a word to your father, shall we not?” Jonathan looked down at her.

    “I think we shall.” Leila smiled back up at him.


    “Grandma?” a gray old woman looked up from her sewing.

    “Yes, darling?”

    “What was it like when you were young?”

    “Jessica Ann! Don’t bother your grandmother with such trivial questions!”

    “It’s quite all right, Bridget.” Leila looked at her daughter in the rocking chair across the hearth. “What would you like to know darling?”

    “What was it like when you first met grandpa?”

    “Well, I do remember a day, while in the midst of preparations for a party-“

    “Bah, I don’t like parties!”

    “Carl, don’t interrupt!” Bridget reprimanded her youngest son.

    “Yes mother.” Carl went back to his toys. Leila was struck by a sudden thought that, if the boy was to marry, which her certainly was, he would deserve a young girl just as she had been when she was younger. He deserved it, for all of the grief he caused with his own mischief. Maybe taming another free spirit would do him good later in life.

    “As it happens, I didn’t quite feel like attending a party that day either. So I stole away to the apple orchard, and your grandfather came looking for me...”