O N E
Nestled in the small corner of the wood just off Primrose Path and by a constant, babbling brook sat Aurelie Stone's cottage. With the drive lined with cobblestones, the walls covered in ivy, and just off the outskirts of her small village, it was quiet there with only the sounds of the tiny, woodland animals and nature callings being her friends.
She was content with that; the lack of human interaction. She only needed the quick chat with the bakers downtown when she waltzed inside to pick up her favorite bread flour for the week and that was it. She enjoyed being secluded, her only daily interchange being with her three year old cat, Clover, and her six month old kitten, Cotton. She wouldn't have moved into the quaint cottage when she turned twenty-three if she didn't.
She was used to being alone with her mother being dead and her father making sure he was so swamped with work that he didn't think about his wife's early death. When Aurelie was fourteen, her mother found a lump on her breast and after a trip to the doctor, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a long and rough battle, lasting over two years, and the already introverted Aurelie sunk further into her shell the day when the heart monitor stopped its repetitive, slow beeps and the final breath escaped her beautiful mother's lungs.
She was "the loner" at school, nose always buried in a thick novel in the corner of the library. She sat in the back of class, never raised her hand to answer questions and her face would flush bright pink when she was called on, her blonde hair falling forward to curtain her overwhelmed, blushing face.
It got to a point where the teachers didn't even call on her anymore. The jocks, the cheerleaders, the nerds, the musical teens, and the punks and greasers would walk past her like she didn't exist and she wasn't the least bit upset about it. She actually enjoyed being invisible. She could be in the midst of an angsty teen, mental breakdown and no one would be the wiser.
The only person she really spoke to high school was the librarian, Mr. Hopper. He was an older gentleman with a warm, relaxing tone that reminded her of her grandfather and had a head full of snow white hair. He lived on a farm just off the village and adored dear Aurelie, the only student that would come in to visit the library when they didn't have a school assignment making them do so. So, when she graduated college and didn't want to stay home with an absent father, she jumped at the chance when Mr. Hopper told her about the small cottage at the end of his land.
With being so quiet and secluded, rumors were ought to start pouring from the bored, young adults mouths. She laughed at the one where people thought she was a thousand year old witch who lived off the blood of children to stay young and she found the rumor that she killed her own mother to be despicable.
She never let them bother her though and she took a job at the local veterinary clinic as the secretary. She didn't need to speak much as just handed a clipboard with paperwork for patient's owners and the animals didn't mind her silence as long as they got belly rubs and ear scratches in the meantime.
She was happy with her quiet life, lonely at times, but she never was able to give into the urge to go out. So, in her spare time, she baked pies from the fruit trees and shrubs around her little home, gardened and pruned her flowers, or read a good novel with a cup of piping hot earl grey tea - with just a hint cream and sugar - in her hands.
She also enjoyed taking long strolls along the towering garden walls that were littered with pink, climbing roses and she had to stand on her tiptoes to see over them and get a glance at the Hopper's farmhouse way across the fields. The way the sun glinted off the old window panes giving a golden haze and how the bright red shutters contrasted the white washed picket fence was breathtaking. Her small cottage could never compare to the dreamy farmhouse across the way.
Now, she stood at her small stove, two fresh eggs straight from Mr. Hopper's chicken coop cooked slowly in the pan in front of her. Two slices of bacon sizzled in another skillet next to it while a piece of bread toasted nearby.
She wipes her hand on her white apron as her baby blue skirt brushes across her ankles as she moves. Her golden blonde tresses are halfway pulled back in a lazy braid with the rest laying limp against her shoulders and her silky, white blouse feels soft against her skin.
Hearing the toast spring out from its fiery confines, she hums as she picks it out with the tips of her fingers and smoothes butter over the top of it. With a tiny, disgruntled noise in the back of her throat, she makes a mental note that this was the last of her bread and she needed to make her weekly trip to the village bakery for her favorite bread flour.
Finishing up her cooking, she is quick to scarf it all down, her stomach now full and content. With a quiet slurp, she finishes her morning tea and lets out a long sigh as she places the cup against the wooden countertop.
Her fingers drum against the wood and with a annoyed sigh, she blows a tendril of hair away from her face. It was her day off and she didn't wish to spend it with other humans in the village, but she did need to eat to live.
Feeling something soft circle her ankles, she looks down to see her two cats brushing against her lovingly as if to say, 'good morning, favorite human.'
She is about to lean over and pet their soft fur when she suddenly hears a ruckus outside and a melodic whistling outside her window. "What on earth?" she starts to say, heading straight for kitchen screen door. Peering through it, her eyes widen as she spots a boy -well, man- with golden curls on his head, a white cotton shirt, brown trousers, and brown suspenders completing his look. He's tall and lanky, his skin a bit sunburnt, and blonde, coarse hair covers his cheeks and chin, making his baby face look at bit older.
He is beautiful, a bit too beautiful to be real, but why is he in her yard and why is he carrying an axe, Aurelie wonders. He looks up when she swings the screen door open with a loud creak and she nearly stumbles when he gives her a glistening white, beaming smile so bright the sun was nearly put to shame.
"Hello," he gleams with respectful nod of his head, resting his weight on the axe. "Mr. Hooper said you liked a fire in the fireplace most nights and that you were running low on wood, so I took it upon myself to make sure you had some. Ladies like you don't need to be cold, especially with the chill coming next fortnight."
"Oh," her gaze turns towards the growing pile of wood next to her house before turning back to him. "Thank... Um, thank you... I'm sorry," she babbles, shaking her head and tucking her hair behind her ear nervously. "Who are you exactly?" She winces as she knows she sounds quite rude but there was a gorgeous man in her front yard with a sharp axe and she needed some answers.
"Oh, right!" He lets out an adorable laugh as he steps forward and reaches his hand out. "Lukas Hemmings at your service." She pauses for a moment, rubbing her sweaty, nervous palm against her skirt before she gingerly reaches out and his large palm overtakes her own. "But, most people just call me Luke." She barely is aware of him speaking as she oddly enjoys the feel of his callused fingers against her own.
It's a long moment before she snaps out of it, snatching her hand back quickly as she realizes she was shaking his hand way longer than necessary, but by the smile on his lips, he either didn't notice or was too sweet to say anything.
"You know," she looks up at him under her lashes as he begins to speak, amused. "When people tell you their name, it's polite to introduce yourself as well"
Her face blanches as he grins boyishly down at her and she bunches up her skirt with her fists. Idiot, she inwardly curses herself. "Aurelie," she chokes out. "Aurelie Stone."
"Well, it is a pleasure to finally meet you, Miss. Stone," he says as her eyebrows furrow in confusion.
"What do you mean finally meet me?" She says puzzled, her toes curling against the soft grass under her bare feet.
"Mr. Hopper speaks of you fondly from time to time. He told me you lived at the cottage, but being his farm hand is a lot of work and time, so I've never been able to introduce myself... I wish I would have come sooner though because you are certainly breathtaking, Miss. Stone."
Her mouth drops in a perfect 'o', everything now making sense before she processes his last sentence, her face flushing instantly. "Oh! Well... I'm sorry for disturbing your work," she stumbles backwards and he watches with an amused smirk as she nearly tumbles over her own feet. "Um, thank you for the wood. Okay, alright, I'm leaving now. Bye."
She nearly falls as she scrambles into her home, slamming the door behind her. She breathes heavily, overwhelmed with her encounter with the beautiful man, and leans over to take one last look at him through the window. He is laughing to himself amused, shaking his head, before he wipes his sweaty brow and walking back over to the pile of wood.
She only watches his back muscles and biceps bulge for a mere second as he swings the axe before she pulls back the curtain, eyes wide. "No man should be that pretty. It's a sin," she mutters to herself as her two cats make their way back over to her.
Finding this human interaction to be enough for her today, she decided to go to the bakery tomorrow before work and hides in her house for the rest of the morning. When she hears no more noise from the Greek god outside and the beaming afternoon sun finally sets a bit, she pries open her front door, breathing in the cooler, fresh, afternoon air.
With an impish, excited smile, she shuts the door behind her and bunches up her skirt a bit before taking off. She loves the wind breezing through her hair as she runs, her bare feet in the soft, spring grass, and the sweet smell of honeysuckle fills her senses.
She follows the babbling creek, her feet hopping from stone to mossy stone, before she finally reaches her destination. If you follow the brook long enough, you'll find the hidden treasure at the end, a brilliant, glistening, blue lake where geese and swans graze the surface elegantly and fish fly out of the water as if to show off.
Her feet hit the wooden pier with a loud slap and she twirls a bit as she runs down it.
Standing at the edge, she closes her eyes and inhales deeply, loving the way the sun felt on her skin. She loved this lake, her perfect hideaway. No one else really knew about it or didn't bother to show up and she could be finally be alon-
"Miss. Stone, what are you doing out here?"
Her eyes pop open with a startled squeal and she loses her balance. She tries to catch herself, arms flailing, but the last thing she sees before she plunges into the cool water is a worried Luke Hemmings rushing towards her.
So much for being alone.