Authors: Leen Elle
The St James Sisters : A Novel
No part of this book may be used or reproduced, in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
CORNER OF THE HOUSETOP
Leen Elle, 2012
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and events are products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to events or locations is entirely coincidental.
A quiet breeze swept over the low dunes of the beach and through the scorched reed grass. It fled up the gentle slope of the green hill at the edge of town, hurried by the church, wound through the main street, and passed the last of the shops without pause; up and up, farther and farther from the little buildings of Shady Meadows, farther and farther from the coast.
It carried the scent of salt and surf through a small, narrow grove of apple trees and up a worn, tree-lined carriageway. At the end of the weathered road, the drive widened into a dusty spread lain out before wide, wooden steps that led up to the main door of the Worthington Plantation House. On the stark-white steps stood a boy with a broom who paused at the breeze, then continued sweeping.
Working his way from one side of the entryway to the other, he swept dust and sand into the bushes that surrounded the large porch. Humming softly to himself, he moved down to the next step. When he finished that step, he took a rag from his pocket and wiped his brow. The late spring had brought a July-worthy heat wave to Southern Virginia, and with it, humidity that seemed beyond toleration. The boy just tucked his handkerchief back into his pocket and continued sweeping.
"Derek, what are you doing? It's too hot to be working! Come swimming with us!"
Looking up, Derek suppressed a sigh.
Across the yard, his clothes wrinkled and loose around his frame, stood Gabriel, a short, fair-haired boy with shining, blue eyes. He seemed to glow in the heavy sunlight.
To the best of his own knowledge, Derek had never "glowed" the way Gabriel did. His brown hair was hardly the shining mop of angelic curls the other boy's was, and his green eyes hadn't shown with that wondering, childishly amused light for so long that he barely remembered they used to. His skin, which might have been pale porcelain like Gabriel's, was instead bronzed with hours of chores under the hot, Virginia sun. He was a striking counterpart to Gabriel, whose every feature, from his looks to his personality, radiated the light happiness of an ignorant child.
And why shouldn't he be so pleased?
Derek wondered bitterly, glaring down at his broom. "I have to finish this," he called back, not bothering to look up again, nor to point out other, more obvious reasons he wouldn't want to go along.
"Suit yourself. We'll be down by the old mill if you want to join us when you've finished." With that, Gabriel ran around behind the house. Derek could hear him ducking through the bushes that lined the back side of the lawn and disappearing into the shaded forest as he called after his friends who had gone ahead of him.
After all the years Derek had known him, Gabriel never seemed to change. The other boy had a thoughtless childishness that both intrigued and repulsed him.
Sweeping the last of the dirt off the last step, Derek sat down, arching his back and stretching his arms. That done, all he had left was to trim the hedges by the carriage house and feed the horses.
I might be done before it gets too late
, he mused, standing and walking around the opposite side of the house from where Gabriel disappeared.