The words my father used, when he was standing in front of me in the darkening forest and screaming with his face turning purple, were "You've made a big mistake, Dolores!" I was a very young girl at that time...barely thirteen, with my hair in pigtails...young and naive. My father never forgave me for my mistake.

He didn't know about the other mistake.

I would of course never claim to be a saint, but those I believe are the only two mistakes I have ever made. Hardly anyone knows about them...only my parents know about the first, and only me and one other...perhaps not even him, I hope and believe he's dead now!....know about the second.

My family was very rich, and we lived in the most beautiful house. It was huge, with stained-glass windows and a lake. Beyond the lake was a forest. As a little girl I would stand by one of the big windows and stare out at it. It was of course a waste of time, but our house, big and beautiful though it was, was tremendously boring! There were no other children....just me and my older sister. Our younger brother had died at the age of two.

My sister was called Victoria. She was four years older than me, and far more beautiful....although a piece of advice my mother gave me is that true beauty comes from within. Victoria, being the oldest, prettiest, and cleverest, was spoiled and bossy. She was the favourite of our parents. I was most certainly not, but I refuse to let this haunt me. In this small story...it is barely even a story, merely me reflecting on the mistakes I have made....she plays an important part. But she didn't play an important part in my overall life, and I hardly even think about her. Indeed, while she was living I cannot say I liked her...certainly not loved her. But she did not care much for me either. We were related only by blood...not that blood isn't important, for it certainly is! But we never seemed like sisters. However....to this day I hear my father's voice ringing in my ears, telling me that if not for my mistake... I don't hear it in dreams...dreams are, I believe, quite a waste of time...and I don't hear it during the day. I just hear it.

This story...very well, it is a story, though I am certainly not fond of stories...begins on the day I was staring out of the window at the forest. I was wearing my favourite dress...the beautiful white one, with a pocket for my wand...and I had pink ribbons in my hair. Now, my parents had warned me time after time to never go in the forest...but I believe there is no child who did everything their parents told them! On that day, my sister was not around...she had gone to the town. My parents had no time for me on that day...for, I remember now, it was barely a month after my brother's death. I was lonely. So I skipped out to the garden, and kept going past the lake. I went into the forest...looked around, being careful not to get my dress too dirty. But my efforts were in vain, because I tripped over a tree root and stained it on the grass. Thinking of the trouble I could well be in...even more if they found out I had been in the forest...I started to cry. Oh, I was a whinger when I was young! But that is not wholly a bad thing, as it has helped me understand it when the children complain about life being unfair. Helped me be the good teacher I am now.

I turned to go back...but I couldn't remember the way. Panicking, I went the way I thought I'd come...but it was the wrong way. I went this way and that, but couldn't find my way back. I started crying harder, crying and running...and ran right into something.

I didn't know what it was. I thought it was a human, maybe my father, come to look for me. And when I opened my eyes, I saw it was a human face. But not one I recognized.

"Who are..." I began. But then...I realized. It was a centaur. Half human, half horse. He was glaring down at me.

I don't remember exactly what he looked like now. He looked ugly...all centaurs look ugly, what would one expect from creatures like them? I don't remember his hair colour...it could have been black or it could have been brown. Or his eye colour...sometimes I remember they were bluish-green, but why would I care about an insignificant detail such as that?

"Who are you?!" I finally managed to snap.

He looked at me...his eyes, no matter what colour they were, were dark and frightening. "My name is Parath," he said finally. "And this is not your forest."