Mary Lennox sat alone in her garden that morning. It was a typically dark day, and the ground was wet with the night's glistening dew. The birds were singing their morning song of the sort you can often hear in springtime.
She sat on soft green grass next to the small pond with her legs bent in front of her listening to the chirping of different birds. The sound of their unique voices mingled merrily in the air.
Sighing softly, she turned her head up at the sky. Large puffy grey clouds filled the sky. They weren't rain clouds, but they still made the morning look dreary. Mary hoped that they weren't an indication of the way her day would unfold.
Her fingers slowly drifted over the surface of the little reflection pond. Delicately, she lifted her finger and watched as the little droplets of water fell from her skin and plopped back into the pool. It made a tiny circle of ripples that began sharp, but extended until they were no longer visible and the surface was just as smooth as it had been before.
Today was a very important day for Mary, according to Mrs. Medlock. For it was her 17th birthday and the date of her coming out ball.
She would be presented to society as a ripe young woman ready to be wed to a handsome and rich young man.
Ripe, was not the way she thought anyone would want to be described as, but unfortunately she knew that was how she would be perceived. Soon she would become a respectable wife and society hostess.
Everyone would be there. The entire local (if it could really be called local) society, friends of her uncle Archie, and Colin, of course. There would also be various family members that she had never met or seen before. Everyone except her dearest friend would be in attendance.
Dickon had insisted that he mustn't be there. That it was no place for him, saying that even if he would go, he wouldn't be allowed. Mary had of course protested, but he wouldn't be persuaded. He had smiled a sad sort of smile and gone about his work in the garden. It had saddened her heart greatly.
He had changed a bit from the round, pink little boy she had met all of those years ago. Now he was a fine worker. He tended to the many gardens on the manor grounds as an apprentice to old Ben Weatherstaff, and had consequently become a very strong and handsome young man. He quite frankly towered over her; by head and shoulders.
Though, she thought with a hidden smile, his face was still quite round and rosy, still speckled with numerous freckles. His eyes were still the color of the sky, and held the same childish spark that they always had. They were potentially the loveliest that Mary had ever beheld. She had never seen others exactly like them, with dark navy rings surrounding irises of the liveliest cerulean and cornflower.
His hair, like his eyes, hadn't changed very much over time either; it had simply gotten longer. Often, she couldn't decide what color it was. On a day like the present it would appear a dark reddish brown, almost like chocolate. But on a bright summers day it could look as orange as a copper plate.
Yes, he had been rather handsome for quite a time now. Though, she couldn't place just when it had happened. It had sort of snuck up over time without her noticing, only to leap out and surprise her now.
Oh, the inconvenience of it all! She thought, annoyed, ripping up a blade of grass and casting it to the ground again.
So lost in her thoughts as she was, she didn't hear the door open and close as the very man strode softly into the garden.
Dickon inhaled the clean, fragrant air of spring as he entered the garden, noticing the squelching of the wet ground beneath his shoes. It had rained the previous night. He was glad. It would be good for the flowers.
There in front of the pond, as usual, sat his dear friend Mary. She always arrived before him in the mornings. She looked lovely in the light blue day dress she wore, and the straw hat perched atop her head. He saw that she was getting her skirts wet from sitting on the ground, but she didn't seem to mind.
"G'mornin', Miss Mary." He greeted cheerily.
Her head shot up suddenly, her wide eyes focusing on him.
"Oh. Good morning, Dickon." She said. "You startled me."
"I'm sorry, I dinna' mean to." He apologized, and sat himself down next to her, crossing his legs and leaning onto the nearby tree.
She smiled shyly at him, and looked down to the hem of her skirt and started fiddling with it in her fingers, suddenly nervous.
The ever-present smile fell from his lips as he watched her. She seemed lost in her thoughts. Her dark hair fell limply in front of her eyes.
"Wha's the matter, Miss Mary? Tha' is not thyself today."
The young woman's gaze flickered up to him, and she frowned slightly at his seeming ability to see right through her, still picking absently at her dress. She was afraid of what else he could notice.
"I'm only just worried about today." She murmured quietly, turning her head away towards the pond and resting it on her knees. Well it wasn't a lie, she thought, her mood beginning to drop as she thought of what lay in store for the day.
"Why's that?" He asked. "Every girl your age and stature must do the same. It canna' be so bad. It's a part of growing up."
Mary harrumphed. She had little desire to be like the girls she had seen in London. They weren't anything like the people at Misselthwaite, with the exception, somewhat, of Medlock perhaps.
"I don't want to grow up. Well, I do but…" she started, her voice trailing off, her ears becoming warm.
"Not so soon." Dickon finished for her.
"Yes." She said. "I'm not so sure that I want to live the way Medlock keeps telling me I should, either. I just wish I could stay here forever, with you and Colin in the garden."
The young man could not help but feel a bit elated at her statement. He so wished the same. He wanted her to be with him always, and the thought of her courting some rich man made his stomach churn in the most unpleasant way, but he knew he couldn't be so brave as to reveal this to her.
It was what was best for her. She deserved a man that could give her everything and anything that she desired.
Mary sighed. She would have to leave before long. The preparations for the ball would take quite a large sum of time, and Medlock wanted her back quickly to begin getting ready.
She looked back toward her friend and voiced this.
His mouth upturned the tiniest bit, and his cheeks pinked a little, in the sweetest way.
"Alrigh' then, Mary. Meet me here later on?" he asked.
"Oh yes, Dickon, of course." She answered, feeling a bit better when she remembered that they always met at nighttime on their birthdays. It was getting to be a bit of a tradition; celebrate her birthday in spring and his and Colin's in summer. And no dreadful ball was going to get in the way of it.
"Will Colin be able to come?" Dickon asked.
Mary chuckled, thinking of her slim, attractive cousin.
"Yes, if I can manage to tear him away from all of his admirers."
Dickon's eyes brightened and squinted as he laughed. It reached down into his chest, rumbling.
"Oh yes, I'd forgotten." He said. "Emily? Is her name?"
"I believe." Mary answered, giggling. "And also Miranda; you know the one visiting from Spain."
Colin spoke of this girl and that constantly; at breakfast, in the garden, at dinner, and every other hour of the day, and how he exchanged letters with them frequently.
"Aye, I remember."
Mary sighed, feeling at ease now.
"And, of course, the whole lot of them is invited." She alleged. "I suppose he would have come up with an occasion for a party even if it weren't my birthday, just to have them over."
Dickon smiled and shrugged, brushing his hands on his pants out of habit.
"You see? You are unhappy either way." He teased, standing up and offering a large calloused hand to her.
She heaved another sigh, and allowed him to pull her to her feet.
"May as well get it over with." She said, a sense of inevitable dread filling in the pit of her stomach.
A/n: The next chapter will be out once I finish revising it. Review in the meantime and tell me what you think.