Chapter 3: (-)

Alexander jumped off and reached up to help Melody down. Instead, she slipped off, grabbed the branch on her way and stopped just above the ground. She landed without hurting her hip too much. He smiled at her and she smiled back. "Well miss acrobat, shall we go?" Melody giggled and he chuckled lightly as they began to jog back. She had to shade her eyes and squint most of the way, but once in the buildings shade she was safe from the glare.

Bugger, that was brighter than I thought. She had to blink hard before the pesky black dots left her vision. When they cleared she looked at Alexander. He appeared to be deep in thought because he was looking back at the tree and his eyes had turned solid again. I can't believe he's real… Why do I feel like I can trust him, even though I barely know him? Alexander… you are the special one. Melody didn't disturb him. He seemed troubled for a while, then his eyes liquefied again and he turned to look at her. Her little smile popped up automatically and he copied it.

"Why is it every time I see you, you are smiling Melody? David said you were a dark and quiet person. He doesn't seem to know you like a friend should." She almost laughed at the mental image of her beside the mammoth quarter-back. ( Melody only being 5'4 tiny compared to David's 6'7 ) "David and I aren't very close. I was actually very quiet until you came. Something about you just makes me happy." She shrugged and turned to look at the others.

David was boxing in the far corner and the two girls were flipping about on the bars. Ah-ha! The bars! Melody turned back and smirked at him, "Can you help me with something? It's nothing difficult, just catch." Alexander seemed eager to do something to help her. "Sure, what do you want me to catch?" She started to walk towards the bars. Tara and Jessica had moved on, so they were clear.

She didn't turn back when she answered him, "Me."

Melody put the chalk on her hands again and walked up to the smallest pole. We might not be able to reach… That would be embarrassing. Well, all we can do is jump. She bent her knees and, just as she jumped, a pair of hands gripped her waist and lifted her the rest of the way.

She looked down to see David standing behind her. David of all people! He nodded to her and Melody smiled a little at him. This seemed to surprise him, as he blushed and smiled back with a big grin. When he had stepped back she began to swing. It only took a second for her to start spinning, then she angled and spun up to a higher pole. Her hair was still down so it looked like she was actually flying.

Melody continued to spin and flip slowly until she was at the last point in her routine, where she would go one handed on the tall bar, handstand above it, and barrel flip off backwards. Usually she would land on her feet but this time, as she finished rolling, she straightened and fell into the softest arms ever.

There was no lurch as Alexander caught her. She fell in lightly and fit perfectly against him. I'm in his arms. He is so warm… He laughed that amazing laugh and brushed a bit of hair from her face. "Well aren't you the little monkey? And you're so light as well." He stared into her eyes and smiled his beautiful smile. They stayed there for a moment, then she had to say something. Looking down she mumbled, "Um… we should move. We're not supposed to stay on the mat after a routine."

He nodded but didn't put her down. Instead, he carried her over to the bench bride-style and sat her down beside him. "So, um… I have to go soon. I have a dentist's appointment at two…" She looked at his face for a reaction. He seemed to be thinking again. Melody poked him softly, "Alexander? You zoning out because I'm boring you?" Nothing. He sat there with dull eyes. Three minutes passed, nothing happened.

Melody watched David practice with Mister Groves by the boxing equipment. He noticed her watching and raised a glove to her. That was a stupid thing to do, because then Groves hit him in the chest. That was one point to him. Sometimes, guys just make me wonder… Speaking of which, He has been really quiet… Maybe we should try again.

She looked at Alexander, and he turned and nodded to her before answering her previous question. "No, I'm just worried. My brother still isn't here, and he said he would come in today." He seemed really upset by this. She didn't know what to say. The rest of their gym class was spent watching David and Groves fight. Both were happy just sitting there.

The five classmates were in trig for the middle three classes again, so Melody and Alexander sat in the same places as the day before. Side-by-side with only a little space between them. This only served to fuel the other two girl's curiosity.

At two o'clock she was excused from class and left with her mother.

Melody hated the dentist and was fortunate to have strong teeth. She never had to get a tooth drilled or, even worse, pulled. The check up took twenty minutes and they were out in time to catch the bus to the end of their road.

"So, who's the new kid? I noticed him watching us leave the school from your class room. Seems to like you.", She smiled at Melody's blush and shook her head, "Young people these days are so shy."

Melody automatically protested, "I am not shy, I just doubt he thinks of me like that." Somehow, her own words made her… Sad? Why does that make me sad?… Because it might be true? She looked at the ground as they walked down the road, her mother noticing the quiet and left her to her thoughts.

When they arrived back at the house Melody grabbed her grooming kit and boots, ran out of the house and whistled. She wanted to get busy and avoid thinking for a little while. The two responding whinnies and one ghostly shrill whistle from nearby meant her father and the horses were in the paddock around the corner of the house. Great. Maybe dad will come out for a ride too. She smiled and jogged to the paddock gate. Both horses trotted up to her and were followed swiftly by her father.

"I was just washing them down when they ran off on me. You going out somewhere?" She nodded, "Yeah. I think I'll head up the beach, so who can I take?" Melody stroked both horses muzzles and smiled lightly. "Fire I guess. Ice is heavy right now and can't carry anyone. I think we'll have another member of the Heart Clan soon." He beamed his loving smile at Melody and she nodded and stroked Ice's stomach. "You take care now my little friend. Come out nice and strong like your Daddy, but gentle and sweet like your Mommy, ok? You'll be the best horse ever!" She rubbed Ice's belly a while longer, then started to saddle Fire. Her dad watched while he rubbed Ice's neck,

"He's been a bit… Fiery lately. Don't go too far into the woods or he might get spooked and dash on you… and watch for jellyfish, they're out early this year… Got your phones?" Melody pulled a mobile phone from her left pocket and then from one of the three saddle bags. "Pocket knifes?" She nodded and showed him the knifes in her pocket and in a secret part of the saddle. She patted Ice's nose and hugged her dad, "I'll be back later. Think I'll go to the beach for a while then through the old way home. That ok?"

She lifted into the saddle and winced as her bruise stretched. Forgot about that… Damn, we'll be sore after this. Still, let's go see the sea. She looked down at her dad and nodded. He sighed and checked some of the ties. "Be safe and don't over work him. Let Fire graze before you come home. Fifteen minutes should get him back his strength." They looked into each other's eyes and she noticed a hint of something new in his brown-gold eyes.

Melody pulled out her shades, clicked her tongue and trotted away without another word, heading towards the beach. Before long they were surrounded by trees and shadows. She could tell it would take a while to arrive at that pace so she encouraged Fire to go faster.

A minute later they were galloping along the path, trees flying past and light growing in the distance. They made good time, arriving out of the forest just as the sun began to set. "Mmm… Beautiful Fire. That was brilliant." Melody grinned at the sea, imagining how cool it would be and wishing someone was with her to mind Fire so she could swim.

They crossed the road to the sand dunes, and over them to the sandy beach and pinkish orange ocean. Amazing, every time. The sky above was clear and she could see the first stars coming out over the forest and mountains. The stars will be waking soon. We should stay until Pegasus comes out. That will be a good hour or two from now. She dismounted and winced as she hit the ground. Her legs were stiff from the saddle and had a thin layer of swet building.

"Shall we go cool off?" Fire whinnied at her and they walked to the edge of the waves. Melody took off the saddle and sat bare back on him. "Now, in we go." She clicked her tongue and they walked into the surf, staying close to the gear.

They were up to Fire's belly and enjoying the cool water before Melody noticed another two horses farther down the beach. She moved back towards land and dismounted again. Who? I thought we were the only horse riders in the area… Keeping an eye on the distant figures, Melody picked up a towel and rubbed down Fire's legs.

They didn't move closer or farther, just stayed in the one place. One horse lay down and nuzzled something beside it's shoulder. There was a man standing between them. She was close enough to see he was a new face.

Will we go talk to him? She shook her head and saddled Fire again, jumping up and turning towards the forest again. The stranger lifted an arm and waved for her to come over. She pretended not to notice for a minute as they walked forward, then he whistled. It was so loud, no one could ignore it. Melody slowly waved back and turned Fire towards him, shifting to a gentle trot.

As they got closer, the guy raised his hand towards the ocean ad called out. She turned her attention to the sea and noticed a head bobbing on the surface. The swimmer raised a hand and spun it in circles. Signing? Must be, the other guy's moving towards the surf with a towel… Melody watched the swimmer start racing towards the beach, then a small "wow" escaped as he started a strong butterfly stroke. It was one of the hardest things to do in the ocean but he made it look easy as his arms lifted and flew through the water.

Fire started twitching his tail and pranced about a bit before rearing and jumping into a gallop towards them. "Woah! Fire, calm down! Stop!" Melody pulled back and tried to turn him off his crash course with the strangers, but it was futile. They bombed up the beach and stopped just before running into them, sending up a cloud of sand.

Melody jumped from his back and griped his head with both arms, straining while he tried to shake her off. "Be steady, we are friends. Calm yourself and listen to your rider." A silky voice came from just behind her left shoulder and an arm reached over her right to touch Fire's forehead.

She could tell without looking that it was Alexander. Who else could make her heart quiver with these emotions? Oh no. He probably thinks I'm a crap rider! What made Fire so jumpy anyway? Melody glanced at his legs. A jellyfish was wrapped around his left front leg. "Crap!" She moved from his head and pulled out her pocket knife. Using the pliers and with great care, Melody removed the slimy creature from her horse's leg.

It left a red and bleeding mark.

"Dad's gonna have my head. What'll I do?" A cough from behind brought her attention back to the guys they'd almost ran over. Alexander stood beside Fire's head and the other guy stood just beside him. It was the other that spoke first. "I thought you were our sister little miss. I didn't know anyone else had a horse around these parts…" Alexander's brother then. He looks to be the same size as a bear!

He was roughly them same height as David, if not taller. He had short hair, shorter than Alexander's, and piercing brown eyes. He was obviously strong judging by the size of his muscles. He was handsome, but she knew she would only ever think of him as the brother she never had. The idea made her blush a little, bringing colour back to her face.

Melody smiled at him, a proper beam of pleasure and held out her hand. "I'm Melody Heart. You must be Alexander's brother?" He smiled back and carefully shook her hand, "Yes I am. Older brother, by… oh what was it? One year and 21 days?" Alexander nodded and smiled gently, "Yes Alastair, that's it exactly. I'm glad you're getting along so well. Now Melody, your horse here… we should bring him back to our stables. It's only in there."

He pointed to a road leading off the main one, that wound through the trees. It was only a few meters from her own road home, but she couldn't remember seeing it before. "How long will we have to walk? I don't think Fire can go too far…" Then she remembered something. "I have to tell dad about this!" She tried to pull out her phone but couldn't get her slightly shaky fingers in the pocket.

Alastair taped her on the head, "Little Miss? Why don't you stay at our house while our sisters look at him? He should be fine later tonight and we can escort you home if it gets too dark. Wha'da'ya say?" She looked at Alexander, "Is that alright? I can just walk him home if it's too much of a bother…" He stepped towards her and took her hand, surprising both Melody and Alastair, "It's no problem, not when it's you. Now lets get going, we'll call your dad on the way." He smiled and gestured towards one of the horses. A white and black stallion. He whickered when she stepped up to him. Alexander swung on smoothly and held a hand down to help her up. She just jumped and swung up behind him, ignoring the hand and put hers on his shoulders.

Alastair chuckled and heaved himself gracefully onto his own horse, a massive brown and white patch mare. She moved back beside Alexander's horse and whickered softly as he started her into a brisk walk. Melody took Fire's reigns and led him along beside them as they started towards the Knight's house.

Melody had managed to pull out her phone and was waiting for her dad to pick up when she noticed a break in the forest ahead. They'd been walking for fifteen minutes with thick trees on both sides. She was worried about Fire's injury, looking down at his leg to see if he was ok walking so much, when a nudge from Alexander brought her attention to the end of the trail.

The huge house in front of them made her worries disappear for a moment. She looked it over with wide eyes. The left side was silvery-black stone that looked like it was flowing. A few windows that were slightly tinted showed there were two floors on that side of the building. The bottom floor wall had one large, un-tinted window that seemed to wrap around the corner and move along the west side of the house.

Then her eyes were brought to the more amazing east side of the house. It was made up almost completely of glass. A sliver of silvery-black stone ran between the floors and around the edges of the windows, about a foot wide to give a refreshing break but small enough to prevent shadows inside. They were tinted a little but she could see movement. The roof was flat on the stone side and slanted on the glass side. Melody could tell the glass side had a room in it but was clueless as to what was in it. It was a building anyone would want to explore and she wanted to, really bad, to see what it was like inside.

They walked around the stone side of the building and turned left towards the trees again. She could see a small path and the stable, cleverly surrounded by trees so you only noticed them when you stood right in front of the path's entrance. Alistair's horse whickered and trotted towards home, obviously glad to be back.

Alexander's horse whinnied to her and then moved his head in a way that looked like he was gesturing to their new injured friend. She slowed down again and waited for them to catch up. Alistair sat on her laughing quietly to himself.

They stepped into the stable and seven heads turned to look at them. Melody breathed in the smell of horses and smiled at all the different colours and shapes on the seven horses' faces. They whickered and whinnied and snorted welcomes to their friends and then a few neighed to Fire who snorted and looked around. She kept him to the middle as they walked between the stables, counting seven empty stalls near the end.

Alexander stopped and dismounted at the second last stall and opened the door. After looking inside for a second he turned to Melody, "Fire can go in here to rest. We'll clean his wound and bandage it until my sisters get back, then we can go inside if you'd like. If not we can wait in here for them." He was taking off Fire's saddle while she sat on his horse. Slowly Melody slipped from his back and helped him with the ties and buckles. It only took a second, but by the time they finished and had her equipment hung up, Alistair had the other two horses un-tacked and was leading them into two stalls opposite Fire's.

That was when she noticed the names above the stall doors. Alistair's mare went into the stall with Azura on the sign and engraved in the door. He didn't seem to actually lead her, just pointed her to the door and left her to go in. Alexander's stallion didn't even need pointing. He turned and walked proudly into his stall. She read the name: "Aurelian." A hint of de-je-vu crept into her mind at the name, but she couldn't remember where she'd heard it before. I'm sure I'll remember later. Alexander tapped her shoulder and gestured towards the door, "Shall we go inside?" A quick glance at Fire's leg and Melody realized that while she was thinking, the two had been caring for Fire's wound. He was now lying on a bed of straw, looking up at her as he nibbled on some of the loose strands. Melody smiled at him before turning towards the two guys waiting for her, "Sure. Fire looks happy where he is and Dad knows what happened so I think I can relax now." The three started walking back to the house, Melody looked over her shoulder only once to see all the horses but Fire watching them leave.

((…End chapter…))