Mal had two weeks left of this peace and quiet before her job began. She was lying on a rug in her garden, staring up the branches of the old oak as it waved its leaves in the late summer breeze. Her sunglasses dimmed the bright sunshine that seemed to have extra strength in the country; extra life amongst nature. She found herself thinking she could grow old here, amongst nature.
A small giggle to her left brought her lips in to a smirk, and she barely needed to glance over to see Phillip arrive through the trees to hide again. She sat up and he saw her, pausing for a moment before remembering that she was nice, and running over.
"Are you hiding from Rory again?" She murmured, picking a branch out of the boy's hair and tossing it to the side.
"'Cos she says I have to tidy my mess."
"You made a mess?"
"With my colours."
"On the wall."
Mal tutted but smiled at the boy's sheepish face.
"That was very naughty."
"Phillip! For goodness sake, your father is going to be furious when he get's back!" The strained voice of an upset Rory appeared from next door, and Mal frowned. Perhaps this time she wouldn't encourage Phillip's mischievous hiding. The poor woman sounded as though she were at her wits end.
"No hiding today Phillip." Mal said, standing up. "Time to get you back to Miss Rose. And you have to help her clean up your mess. It is very bad to colour on the walls."
Phillip took her hand and let her lead him out of her garden, his head hung low. They were met at the gate by a harassed looking Rory, who stopped and stared at Mal for a moment before she saw Phillip peering round the older woman's leg.
"Phillip!" She said and he ran over to her. "Miss... oh I never did get your last name... I am so sorry again for Phillip, he-"
"Miss Rose, just so we are clear," Mal said in a stern voice that halted Rory in her tracks, innocent blue eyes staring. Mal softened her tone. "Phillip is welcome to hide in the garden whenever he has been good. But he knows now that he is not allowed if he has done bad things, like drawing on walls." She raised an eyebrow at Phillip who nodded and then pulled at Rory's dress; a blue one this time.
"Sorry Ra." He murmured, and Rory's face softened.
"That's okay. Let's go get it cleaned up before your father gets back." She took his hand and then smiled at Mal; the same stunning smile from when they had first met only two days ago.
"Thank you. That was very sweet of you Miss..."
"Just call me Mal, Miss Rose."
"Rory. Please." Her smile widened, and got even sweeter, if that were possible. "Right then my little Prince. Gather your cleaning weapons. We must defeat the great wall scribbles."
Phillip laughed and ran towards the house, which Mal looked at for the first time. It was old, like her cottage, but not nearly as picturesque. In fact it had been modernised quite a bit. Rory caught her staring.
"I prefer yours."
"Hmmm?" Mal said, drawn back to the blonde.
"Your house. I love it. I wish the other owners hadn't made all the changes to ours. But Phillip's father likes it so..."
"Phillip's father... not yours?" Mal said, and then felt like she was intruding when the girl's smile drooped a little. "Forgive me I-"
"No, it's okay. Stephen married my mother and they had Phillip. But then she died just over a year ago, and... things changed." She shrugged. "I should go. Wouldn't want Phillip 'cleaning' all by himself." Her smile returned a little and she said goodbye to Mal, who watched her return to her house with the feeling that there was a lot more to Rory Rose than met the eye.