Pine couldn’t resist peering into the next yard down. The neighbor’s daughters stood together, holding bundles of bright yellow flowers. Both were taking turns hitting one another with the thick stalks, giggling all the while. There was soon a coating of pollen that covered their garments and tresses, finding its way into every cavity like dream dust.

                As the girls continued their fun, one of their servants emerged from a treetop shed, eyeing them suspiciously before fluttering down for a landing. The Amukai clucked disapprovingly and straightened her plumage, seizing the plants from the girls’ hands. She muttered something in Aanao, which the older girl seemed to understand, according to her open scowl. The Amukai servant shooed them towards a nearby pavilion while meticulously attempting to groom them. She was ranting on in her own language while the older daughter rolled her eyes.

                Pine had been watching them for quite a while, he realized, pulling his chin up from his hand. Even though he knew it was impolite, he just continued to stare down from his rampart, almost dreamily, his mind wandering. The bird-woman continued dusting the pollen from their dresses, seemingly swearing as she shook her feathered head. The girls were rather sour-looking and had resorted to just staring at their bare feet.

                There was something about the older sister that quite intrigued him. She looked quite different from all the other children about, and he had never really taken the time to notice her. They didn’t cross paths all too often, which was strange as their homes lay so close together. The girls’ estate was rather small and was nestled between three larger plots of land, so they always had to pass by rather close to Pine’s own home when they went anywhere, but for some reason their mother tried to keep them indoors all the time. They were such a strange, inward kind of family; perhaps that was why he couldn’t help but be curious whenever they were about. Her skin was so golden, and she had such a strong, dark color about her, amongst all these blue-eyed and golden-haired nobles.              

                There was a sudden pang of panic as her eyes crossed paths with his, and her sour look turned to one of smug amusement. She tossed a wave of deep brown hair over her shoulder as the Amukai brushed ever more at her smock. Pine wrinkled his nose at that. The girl gave him a wink and giggled, flipping her hair a little more before the Amukai inevitably spun her around gracelessly, getting at the opposite side. With a foul taste creeping up the back of his throat, Pine scowled and turned away unceremoniously. He concluded that the girl was so interesting simply because she must be hideous.

                With an assortment of new thoughts creeping into his mind he wandered back towards the house, his hands in his pockets. He could hear his mother’s voice from within, a tone of distress about it. He didn’t want to bother. His feet took him back down into the garden, along the twisting garden walks, and he was soon at the entrance pavilion. Longingly, he pressed against their front gates, the twisting metal bars simply adding to his sense of imprisonment.

                Pine found himself just staring as messengers went to and fro, up the walks to who-knows-where. It was a mighty fine day out, and had he the nerve to disobey his mother he would be out sparring with Hiro or one of the other neighborhood boys. He could almost hear their shouts…

The End

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