The next morning, Mary hurriedly folded her nightclothes and threw them into her trunk, along with her other belongings. No one, not Colin or Dickon, had even come to see her last night. All she wanted was to get as far away from Misselthwaite as she possibly could.

There was a knock at the door and Charley peered his head around the corner. "Will you be goin' soon, Miss Mary?"

"Yes, Charley," Mary stated. She took her blue linen dress, the one she had been dressed in for her arrival at the house, and threw it into her trunk. How stupid she had been, thinking it would impress the boys. Well, they weren't boys anymore after all. They were men now. "I'm leaving. And there's nothing you can do to stop me."

"I wasn't about to, Miss," Charley said sadly. He sat at her breakfast table, looking over the food she had disregarded that morning. "I've learned there isn't a thing a person can say or do to change your mind, Miss Mary." He fiddled with the spoon in her porridge bowl. "Is it because you're embarrassed?" he asked.

Mary turned her head as she blushed miserably. "Of course I'm embarrassed, Charley. I acted horrendously last night, as if I were a spoiled little child once again. And I finally realized," she took a deep breath, "that everything I've ever dreamed of for my life just isn't going to be. So," she shut her trunk, "I'm starting over."

"And you're going where?" Charley asked curiously.

"Back to school for now," Mary replied. "And then further on. To London, perhaps, or maybe somewhere romantic like Italy or France, or somewhere exotic like Greece. Or maybe I'll have an entirely new adventure somewhere in America."

Charley chuckled and shook his head. "Miss Mary, London is a very fashionable place, where you have to fit in. And you're certainly not used to bendin' at peoples' wills. And I hardly peg you as the romantic or exotic type."

"How would you even know what these places are like?" Mary asked indignantly. "At least I've visited these places before." As soon as she said the words, she realized how rude they sounded and how Charley's cheeks reddened a bit. "Oh, I'm sorry Charley," she sighed, sitting down on her bed. "You've probably read about them in books and things, haven't you?"

"Yes," he replied quietly, coming to sit next to her on the bed.

Mary took his hand in hers and stared off, her mind wandering. "I'm sure I'll find a place in the world where I belong," she mused quietly.

"Yes," Charley said. "I'm sure you will, Miss Mary."

Mary managed to smile at him. Then remembering, she widened her eyes. "Oh! There was something I wanted to give to you before I left." She stood and walked to her suitcase, pulling from the side pocket a little envelope. "Now, please don't feel I'm intruding too badly for giving you this. But I haven't been able to think of any different future for you." She handed it to him. "Open it."

Charley quizzically took the envelope and tore it open. From it he withdrew a thin sheet of paper, with Mary's signature on it. His eyes widened to the size of saucers. "Oh, Miss Mary! I've never seen a check for this much money in my whole life!" He looked at her this time with incredible shock. "What in the world do you wish for me to do with this?"

"What do you think?" Mary asked with a smile. "Go to school. Buy books, study in the city. You were made for a life so much bigger than here at Misselthwaite, Charley. I believe that you can do it."

"Those boys in those schools are so much smarter than I am, though," Charley persisted, shaking his head. "They've had schoolin' for years and years! They know bounds more than I do!"

"And I am absolutely confident that you will catch up to them in no time."

"But..." Charley frowned and shook his head again. "I can't leave Martha and Dickon and the family. They need me. And...the house needs me."

"Charley, you remember what Martha said at the wedding. She said you and Lizzie were little troublemakers. I'm sure she wouldn't be too upset if you decided to go away for school. It would also be one less mouth to feed, which I'm sure would be helpful given John's earnings. And Colin could hire another boy for the house. This is about your future, Charley. You could do such wonderful things!"

Charley pursed his lips and looked down at the check in his hands. Mary softly put her hand over his. "Just think about it, Charley," she told him. "I'll be leaving this afternoon by carriage to go back to the city. You can join me if you wish, or you could come at a later date. Just please, consider it."

Charley nodded. "I promise I will, Miss Mary." He carefully folded the check and put it in his pocket. "But you also need to promise to consider something for me, as well."

Lina stood beyond the bushes of the garden where Martha had been married, carefully pulling weeds and nursing the surrounding blossoms. Her apron was soiled from working in the garden, and curly wisps of her dark red hair fell out from her straw hat. She reached up to brush the locks away with the back of her hand, smudging dirt on her freckled cheeks.

"Oh, Charley," Mary murmured. "I don't know if I can do this."

"You must, Miss Mary," Charley whispered back. "At least, I wish you would. You didn't have the chance to meet Lina at the wedding, and I'm sure you've formed some judgments about her. At least find out if they're true or not." He nudged her. "Come along." Charley walked into plain view of Lina, with Mary following hesitantly. "Hello, Lina!" he called, waving. She immediately stood from her work, shading her eyes from the sun and waving back, a pretty smile stretched across her face.

"Come on, I promise she won't bite," Charley said to Mary as they neared Lina.

"Hello, Charley!" Lina smiled, dusting off her hands on her apron. "Wha' a lovely surprise to see tha' here! I thought I was going to be workin' alone in this garden all day. Na' that it's such a terrible place to spend a day in!" Mary realized with a start that Lina sounded so similar to Martha and Dickon. It was as if she had been destined to be a part of their family.

"Agreed," Charley smiled. "Lina, this is Miss Mary Lennox. I'm sure you know of her. You two weren't able to meet yesterday at the wedding, so I thought I would introduce you before she goes back to school."

Lina's smile did not waver, but her eyes lost a bit of their sparkle at the mention of Mary's name. "Ah, yes. I've heard so much about tha', Miss Lennox. All the Sowerby's ne'er stop talkin' about tha'."

Mary managed a weak smile. "I hope good things?"

"Oh, always the best," Lina replied quickly.

"I would hope so," Mary said, a bit relieved. "Dickon and I were friends ever since we were tiny children. He's in every one of my fondest memories."

"Aye, he says the same about tha'," Lina nodded. "But we don't have to go on pretendin', Miss Mary. "

"What?" Mary's heartbeat quickened. "What do you mean?"

"I know about tha's past with Dickon," Lina said very plainly. "And I know he used to love tha'. He probably still does. He's told me about those feelin's."

Mary's cheeks blushed.

"I can tell you that tha' broke Dickon's heart when tha' first went away to school in the city. He was miserably sad. You were his first love and that ne'er goes away. I know I could ne'er replace that."

Tears pricked at Mary's eyes. "Do you think Dickon hates me for staying away for so long, Lina?"

Lina shook her head madly. "Oh no, Miss Mary!" She took Mary's pale, soft hands into her own callused, dirty ones. "Dickon still loves tha' dearly! No lass could e'er replace you in his heart. I know that. And even though it does pain me to say it," Lina sighed, "if tha' still cared for him n' asked for him, I think he would leave me to be with tha'."

Mary looked down at the girl's hands, so different from her own. She looked up at Lina's face, admiring the plain honestly that played in her wide, green eyes. She gently took her hand and brushed the bit of dirt off Lina's cheek. "No, Lina. I don't believe that. I don't believe Dickon could ever leave someone as wonderful as you. Not if he knows what's good for him."

"Dickon? Know what's good for himself?" Charley asked with a laugh. "That's what he has Lina for!"

Mary and Lina laughed. "See?" she asked with a smile. "Dickon needs you. And everyone needs a bit of Dickon in their lives. I'm so glad to have had mine."

Lina smiled back at Mary, and in that moment, they were alike. Just two girls, who had experienced longing for the same playful boy. They embraced for a moment.

"Goodbye, Lina," Mary said, pulling away.

"Goodbye, Miss Mary," Lina said with her pretty smile.

"Is tha' sure tha' can't stay for longer?" Martha asked sadly as she and Mary walked out of Misselthwaite's doors to the waiting carriage.

"Oh, Martha. I wish I could. But there's nothing more I can do here. My life is no longer at Misselthwaite," Mary told her, looking into her friend's big brown eyes. She quickly kissed her on the cheek. "Don't you worry. I'm sure you and John will be able to visit me in the city soon enough. I'll send money."

Martha grasped Mary's hand. "Just come visit us, too." She embraced Mary. "I'll see to it that they have the rest of tha's things packed." She walked back into the house.

Mary sighed and looked about, trying to remember every last detail of her beloved home, from the prickly bushes to the high stone walls and decorated windows. It was hardly the kind of day she would want to look back on. The skies were dreary and nearly everyone seemed in a sour mood.

"Mary!" Colin called from the steps. He ran over to her. "Mary, you're really leaving? Now?"

"Colin," Mary said shaking her head, "how can you possibly expect me to stay a place where I'm not..." she broke off and turned, setting her suitcase in the carriage.

"How did I know this visit was going to end like this?" Colin said cynically, over Mary's shoulder. "Since the moment you arrived, all you did was pick fights and bicker. Honestly Mary, sometimes it seems as if you're just bent on having an ill time. Maybe that's so you'll be able to actually complain about something real."

"Colin!" Mary turned furiously. "This is exactly why I'm leaving. You don't want me around-I'm too stubborn, I'm too difficult, I'm too argumentative, I'm too much like you! And Dickon probably doesn't want me around, either! And even if he does, he's better off with Lina. She's beautiful and wise and lovely. Why in the world would he want little old homely me?" Mary threw her purse into the carriage. "the only people who want me here are Martha and Charley. And they were hardly who I came back for."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I thought it was Martha's wedding you came back for? Or did you forget that this trip was about her? That she was only married yesterday and that she would be on holiday with John if it weren't for another one of your tantrums?"

"I came to see you, Colin!" Mary yelled, throwing out her hands. "I was so nervous to come here and see you and Dickon after so many years! I was trying to impress you by wearing nice clothes and being so elegant, but it's no matter. You're just the sour little boy you always were and there's no use in pretending we're adults now."

"Oh, yes. I'm the sour little boy. And I assume that Dickon's just the hero, like he always is in your silly little mind?"

"Dickon is twice the man you will ever be Colin!" Mary cried. "Because he stays true to who he is, and he is a remarkable person. Lina is so, so lucky to have him."

"Stop talking about Lina as if you know her!" Colin demanded.

"Oh, don't act as if you know all, Colin. I met Lina today. And I was civil and kind and, though it hurts me so much to say, I liked her. Dickon is lucky, too. "

"Of course Dickon's lucky! Lina is everything he could have ever wanted!"

"And you can say you know Lina well enough to make that statement?" Mary asked coldly.

"Yes, I do!" Colin shouted. "How do you think Dickon met Lina, Mary? It was because of me!"

Mary stopped in shock, silenced by this.

Colin nodded, his face furious. "There's so much you don't know, Mary. And you're never going to find out when you keep running from us this way."

Mary, stunned by his words, silently climbed into the carriage, and sat on the seat, staring stonily ahead, tears sprouting in her eyes and rolling down her cheeks.

"Mary," Colin said, his voice coming much more softly now. He climbed into the carriage, sitting across from her. "Mary," he repeated, as if trying to fit a hundred words, a hundred emotions into the sound of her name. He took her face between his two hands, his soft palms covering her tears. Mary finally looked at him, her eyes meeting the gray vastness of his. When she had, Colin hesitatingly drew closer to her. Mary didn't move a bit. Colin drew her face closer to his, and Mary caught the definite look of desire cross his eyes before their lips finally touched.

And this kiss wasn't like the last one they had, after the thunderstorm on her first night at the house. This was different. Colin kissed her with purpose, as if he knew certainly that this was what he wanted, who he wanted. He brushed his hands past her cheeks and into her hair, holding the back of her head with his large palm, the other hand still holding the side of her cheek. His kiss felt as if it were the most natural thing in the world, as if it had always meant to be. And at the same time, Mary felt her heart ache with pain.

"No!" she cried and shoved Colin away from her. He fell back across the seat with a startled look upon his face. "Stop it, Colin! Get out! Get out now!" Colin's startled face quickly turned to confusion, then hurt, then anger in one swift movement. "Get out!" Mary yelled once more, sobbing, and Colin finally jumped out of the carriage. He looked again at Mary's face with such anger that she had never seen from him before. For a startling moment, she thought he was going to yell back. But then, he just slammed the door of the carriage. The driver began to command the horses.

"Aren't you goin' to say goodbye, Colin?" Martha asked, coming out from the house.

As the carriage trundled away, Mary heard Colin yell, "Goodbye, Mary Lennox! And I don't care if you ever, ever come back!" His voice cracked. With sadness? With anger? Mary didn't know. She brought her knees to her chest and curled up in the corner of the cabin, shaking. Rain had begun to pour from the dreary clouds and the carriage shook with the wind.

Then, suddenly...

"Wait! Stop!"

Mary dropped her knees, looking about in surprise. What was this?

"Wait for me, Miss Mary!" she heard Charley's voice.

"Stop the carriage," she commanded the driver with a shaky voice. She opened the carriage door. "Charley!"

Charley nearly fell into the cabin, his clothes soaking wet, carrying just a bundle and a small satchel. "Miss Mary," he said breathlessly. "I know I'm late and I understand if you don't still want to take me with you, but-" he took her check from his pocket. It was a bit creased and wet, but still intact. "-I want to come. I want to see the city. I want to study. I want to make something for myself and not end up like the people back at the house. I want to come with you."

"Oh, Charley," Mary said breathlessly. "I would like nothing more than for you to come." She embraced him, so thankful to finally find someone who would be there for her. She had come to Misselthwaite hoping to rekindle love with one of her two childhood sweethearts, but instead had gotten a dear friend.

"Miss Mary, you're crying," Charley said to her, his eyes wide with concern. "Are you sad we're leaving?"

There was so much Mary wanted to say, so much that she wished she could pour out to Charley. But instead, she wiped her tears from her cheeks and watched the sun gleam from behind the rainclouds. "No, Charley. I'm not sad. Because you and I, we're going to have a new beginning. This is going to be a new chapter in our lives. You'll see. It's going to be a beautiful beginning."

A/N: Ahhh, I can't believe that after almost three years, this is what it came to! This is the end of Part I of the story. So what's next? Well, I think you'll like what's in store for Part II ;)

SYNOPSIS FOR PART II: Mary and Charley have great plans for themselves when they arrive in the city, but soon encounter great disappointments both with school and with each other. With the Great War beginning, Dickon visits Mary with startling news that could change everyone's future. But Mary could never have expected the heartbreak she could have when she gets devastating news from Misselthwaite.

As always, thanks for reading! We're almost at 10,000 views! And thanks for sticking with me for so long :) Don't worry Colin/Mary/Dickon shippers, it's not over yet! And I'm still listening to your thoughts! Right now, both have fair game at Mary. I have a poll up on my page if you'd like to vote for your favorite!

Oh, and finally, in the next part, Martha will be in a very delicate condition ;) if you'd like to predict the gender of the baby and suggest a name, please leave a review! Her baby's name will be picked out of one of your suggestions.

Okay, enough for now! Until next time!