The Collins’ estate extended back, covering many acres, which allowed plenty of room for an elegant garden. Flowers of every variety and color were in full bloom. Jonavon always believed as a child, and to some degree today, that this garden was the no-man’s-land between reality and fantasy. Arabella had skipped out ahead of him, twirling and dancing. She looked like she belonged in a fairytale; in one of those books that Jonavon had read to her on countless occasions.
“What should we bring back?” Arabella asked. “Not the roses; we have those already. We need something bright… something that says spring! Something yellow!” She rushed over to a patch of daffodils. Arabella examined them carefully, choosing delicately, and plucking them with the greatest care. Jonavon joined her and soon they each held a small bouquet of the golden flowers. Jonavon looked down at his own bunch, picked the largest, brightest one, and tucked it in Arabella’s chestnut hair. She smiled.
“What should we pick as the accent? Should it be blue, white, or purple?” Jonavon asked.
“Um…” Arabella posed thoughtfully, her eyebrows scrunched in consideration. “Blue,” she decided. “Light blue. It’ll brighten the house up.” Jonavon detected a hint of sadness behind the words. As much as Arabella tried to cover up and mask her grief at her father’s death, she could only accomplish that for a certain amount of time. Hiding became too much of an effort at some point.
Jonavon grabbed her hand and led her over to a small patch of Forget-Me-Not’s. Silently and together, they began to reap those chosen flowers. They exchanged no more words until both had gathered a fair amount in their hands. Even then, their thoughtful silence could not be broken. Jonavon sat down on the patio furniture and gestured for Bella to claim her seat next to him. She did, her face still a reflection of those melancholy thoughts echoing inside her head. Jonavon tried to speak, but could not find any adequate words. Instead, her put his arm around his sister, and pulled her to him. She obeyed to his touch obediently; her head resting on his shoulder.
They sat there together, in that fantasy garden, for what seemed an immeasurable amount of time. Until, that is, Jonavon’s head snapped towards the forest that acted as boundary for the estate.
“What is it?” Bella asked, tilting her face to his.
“Nothing,” Jonavon said. “I thought I saw someone.”
Bella’s eyebrows pulled together. “Who would be walking back there? It’s just forest.” She gasped. “Maybe it was a Gypsy!”
Jonavon laughed at his sister’s capacity for imagination. “Maybe,” he said. “If it is, you should probably get inside. I don’t want you to go missing.”
Bella smiled. “I’m not going to go missing, silly! I’m right here!”
“Yes, you are,” he said, standing. “Now, why don’t you bring those flowers to Cadence? Have her cut the stems to uniform length. While she’s doing that, you can gather up the old ones and toss them out. Just don’t disturb Mum’s friends in the parlor, okay? I’ll be right in.”
Bella nodded and skipped off back inside the house. Jonavon turned back to the forest. Contrary to what he’d told Bella, he hadn’t imagined someone wandering along the edge of the forest.