It had started when Mal moved to the city. Or to be more correct, had moved to the suburbs to commute in to her new city job.
The house was old, with wooden flooring and beautiful intricacies. Few like it still existed, especially this close to bustling modern metropolises. The previous owners had sold to Mal on the assurance that nothing would be changed; that this beautiful house would be protected. She had loved it the minute she set foot inside the garden. The minute she had seen the honeysuckle growing around it. It was as close to a dear old country cottage as you could get here, and it was meant to be.
Now, standing at the door with a cup of tea in her hands, she surveyed the garden with contentment. She would spend her weekends gardening, or laying in the sunshine and reading. How romanticised. Mal's lips curved in to a smile and she held the tea to her lips once more.
"Phil! Phil where are you?" A soft voice called from next door, and Mal glanced at the trees that hid her neighbours from view. She had been assured that they were a lovely family. New to the neighbourhood like Mal, but seemed pleasant in chats by the gate and through the trees. Or so the couple had told her before they'd left her with the keys.
"Phillip Thayer, you had better not be hiding in that garden again! You know the Larner's don't live there any more and-" The voice continued and Mal suddenly heard a giggle echoing from her right. She peered over her tea cup to the small cluster of bushes that sat under one of the windows. Placing her cup down on the door step, she tiptoed closer, listening all the time to the voice from next door. "-the new lady won't want you running around like a little devil in her flower beds!"
Mal chuckled to herself and peered over the bushes. Bright blue eyes met hers, small and innocent, and very mischievous.
"Phillip I presume?" She smirked, and he giggled again. "I believe someone is looking for you."
The boy made shushing sounds and held his finger against his lips to silence her. She felt her lips quirk; this boy was adorable. He looked around five or six, and his forehead was covered by unruly brown hair that had parts of her trees caught in it. The undiluted joy in his face as the voice started calling him, closer this time, was hard to ignore.
"Phillip I am not going to be happy if you're over there. You know she moves in today and we're supposed to make a good impression...!" Mal turned as the voice came even closer and saw as a blonde woman appeared at the gate. "... Oh. Hello."
More bright blue eyes stared at her from a soft and beautiful face, surrounded by waves of bright blonde hair. Mal smiled and slipped her hands in to the pockets of her jeans.
"Hi." The blonde's confusion seemed to heighten and then disappear suddenly when Mal spoke.
"I'm sorry to disturb you. Phillip... he likes to hide in the garden. Have you seen him?"
"Don't apologise; children do as they please." Mal smiled and stepped away from the bush that hid Phillip. "Although I'm sure I should be apologising to you."
The blonde's mouth fell open to a small 'o' shape.
"Why is that?"
"Because I'm afraid that half of my trees are in his hair and it might take an awfully long time to get out."
A loud giggle burst from Phillip, still hiding in the bush, and the blonde's eyes leapt past Mal to his hiding place.
"Phillip Thayer, you come out this instant." Phillip appeared, pretending to be very sorry, his head hung low and his hands clasped in front of him. The woman tutted, a small smile tugging at her lips even so, and turned back to Mal. "I am so sorry."
"I don't mind." Mal said softly. Phillip ran past her and pulled at the woman's dress; a green summer dress that went to knee length. She was only young looking, and didn't seem old enough to be his mother.
"Ra, I just wanted to see the new lady. She's pretty."
Mal felt her cheeks go pink as the blonde glanced up at her again, grinning.
"Yes she is sweet boy. Why don't you say sorry for disturbing her?"
"Sorry." He said, turning to look at her. "I didn't mean to disturb you."
"That's okay." She smiled. "It's nice to meet you Phillip." She held out her hand for him to shake almost out of habit. He looked at it for a moment and then shook it gently, his hands covered in dirt.
"Oh Phillip your hands! I am sorry. Phil you got the lady's hands dirty."
"Really it's no problem." Mal hastened to put in. The woman seemed to be making a habit of apologising. "I'm Mal, by the way."
"Oh, sorry... my manners are everywhere! I'm Rory Rose, nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you, Rory Rose."
Her smile lit up so brightly it was almost blinding. Mal felt quite stunned.
"Well, we'd better get back and get cleaned up. Welcome to your new home."
"Thank you. Goodbye."
Mal watched Rory and Phillip leave her garden and smiled. How pleasant this place was already. She only hoped it would continue that way.