Lilly sighed as the door slammed in her face. She stepped off the porch and leaned up against the handrail. Her "father" was in one of his fits again. She was locked outside. Once again she would have to find a way to amuse herself until after dark. Then her mother would come and sneak her back inside, after the father had fallen asleep. Being locked out of her own house might have hurt if Lilly didn't love being outside so much. This way she could explore the forest and take long walks without having to answer to anyone. The only rule she had to abide by was to be home by nightfall.

She looked down at her flowered dress and bare feet. The dress barely came to her knees, but it allowed her to have some modesty. She would rather be outside dressed like this than ever allow her father to have what he wanted. She would never allow any man to steal from her the only thing she had left of herself. Her virginity.

She shook her head to clear it of the troubling thoughts. Where should she go today? Lilly looked around as she tried to decide. I'll go for a walk in Grandpa's woods. She ran across the yard, across the highway, and into her grandfather's fields. Here she slowed when she was sure that no one could see her from the road. She crossed the last cattle guard that seperated the fields from the forest. She smiled as the forest surrounded her.

A little bluebird flew down to her and around. "Hello," Lilly smiled sweetly to him. The bird came down and perched on her shoulder. He was her best friend; they had met when she saved him from becoming a fox's breakfast. She walked down the deer trails in contented silence. She smiled at Jewel, a pregnant white-tailed deer. Her baby would be coming soon. Lilly often helped with the births of her forest friends' children, and had been looking forward to Jewel's time for a long while. The girl looked around for Nomad, Jewel's mate. Being leader of the white-tail herd, he had a hard time accepting her, simply because she was human. The fact that all the females in his herd trusted her with their lives only added to his jealousy.

Lilly walked towards Jewel, giving a small wave in greeting. "And how are you today, friend?" she asked the deer, rubbing her forehead. She stepped around to the deer's side to feel her stomach. After a few moments she let her hand fall and turned to face Jewel once more. "Don't worry, Jewel, the baby's coming along just fine. I'm sure you'll be proud." Jewel seemed to beam at this news and nuzzled Lilly's hand in thanks. "It's fine, no thanks needed," Lilly said as she smiled. She was almost as excited for this baby as Jewel was!

Suddenly, Jewel jumped and bounded off deeper into the forest, bleating a warning to all the forest creatures. The bluebird flew away in a panic. Lilly, confused by all the commotion, whirled around and backed up against a tree. Those bushes were shaking! Just barely, but Lilly had trained her eyes to pick up slight movements. "Wh-who's there?" she called out in a shaky voice. The bushes shook a little more, and out stepped a little old man! He was short, had short gray hair and pointed beard, and little gold glasses perched on the end of his nose. His clothes were rags, not to the point of immodesty, but the fabric had been worn long past its age of usefulness.

Lilly's fright slowly turned to her usual curiosity. "Who are you?" she asked. "Oh, please miss, don't tell anyone you saw me! If anyone found out you saw me here, I'd be a dead man faster than a cat catches a mouse!" The man was trembling dreadfully from some fear. "Easy now," Lilly said with a small smile, talking as she did to the animals to calm them, "I won't tell anyone. What's your name?" The man tore his red stocking cap off his head and gave a small bow. "My, um, co-workers call me Smee," he said shyly. I smiled brightly. "I'm very pleased to meet you, Mr. Smee. My name is Lilly." "Yes," Smee bobbed his head up and down, "I know." Lilly was a little confused how he knew her name, but decided she would find out later. "What are you doing here in the forest?" Lilly asked him. Smee looked around, "Well, I, um. . . I saw you walking by, and, uh, I hadn't seen you before and, uh, decided to try to find out who you were."

"Well, you never need to worry about hiding in the bushes again. I'm glad to know you," Lilly replied lightly. The bluebird came and perched on a branch above their heads, whistling an angry song as fast as it's little lungs could take air. "Hey! Hey, it's okay. What's wrong?" she asked her little friend. Suddenly one long wavering whistle called from somewhere in the distance. "Oh no!" Smee exclaimed, "I've been here much too long!" He smashed through the bushes again, only once turning to say "Goodbye, Miss Lilly!" before he dashed out of sight.

Lilly was left staring in the direction the man had gone. My, he moved quickly for his age! She wondered who had been calling him to put such a fear into his heart. Watching the slowly descending sun, she decided to head for the house. It could not truly be called a home. Maybe she would see her new friend tomorrow though, when she came back to the forest. Smiling, she slipped back through the forest, reaching the house just before the sun set. "Well, that was good timing," she said to herself.

As she lay in bed that night, she couldn't help but think of the eerie whistle that had rung through the forest. Her bluebird friend hadn't seemed to recognize it. Oh well, maybe tomorrow she would find out.