The day was fine, or fine enough for a cloudy summer. A tepid breeze ruffled the girls hair as she set out towards a hillock, which had sprouted not too far away from her thatch cottage. It must have rained the night before, for the fabric of her shoes soon darkened and her socks became sodden. Never the less, she was not deterred.
The grassy façade of the knoll seemed to the girl like a thousand emeralds spread out before her feet, yet she knew they would be worth far less at the local market and would equally not be the most fetching centrepiece for a satin neck ribbon. However, she appreciated its priceless value in her own way.
A cry from above caught her attention and a swallow drifted down, gliding on the breeze. Its beady black eyes seemed to settle on her, but her exclamation of a greeting was not returned. Instead, the bird turned, taking the wind with it, and flew up towards the peak of the hill. Their encounter must not have been more than a handful of well spaced seconds, yet the girl was completely taken by the small creature and thought it to be the most handsome of birds she had ever laid eyes on. This was, in itself, quite the achievement, for the girl's father took great pride in his inspection and illustration of fauna (in particular those with wings and feet which were as dissimilar from his own as was possible).
Making her way up a dirt dusted path, the girl began a slow ascent up the hill, peering at bushes and into burrows as she passed them. She wondered how deep the dens delved into the hill, and if the inhabitants, like her, had a warm place to sleep, family to pass the time with, and a favourite piece of classical literature.
A stream flowed diligently through the grass, and burbled forebodingly as the girl approached.
"Come now" Said the girl, "I just wish to pass across and continue up the path please, towards the top hill."
The brook did not break its current, whether it was in a rush for some formal symposium, or otherwise simply acting in an antagonistic fashion was difficult to tell. The girl sighed and turned her back to the stream petulantly. Across from her feet, a swallow landed on a water smoothed rock, rounded from years of caresses from tenderly affectionate tides. It too seemed to turn its back irritably on the tributary, paying no attention to the sounds of gushing and splashing of water against the rough and reedy bank.
The girl placed her hand steadily on the rock's surface, which gently warmed beneath her touch. With the mass cradled heavily between her fingers, she edged towards the tides swinging her arms in a perpetual rhythm. With one final sway, she let go of the rock and it landed, with a thud, in the centre of the stream. The bubbling calmed and the slab shimmered, partially encircled in minute swirling whirlpools. The swallow flew over the girls head, calling her back to reality. Dipping one wing tip into the trembling waters, it then glided across to the other bank and onwards up the hillock.
The girl followed suit, daintily jumping from bank to rock to bank, finding herself on the other side of the stream. Giving a grateful nod over her shoulder, she continued her stride. Upon finding herself on the other side of the brook, the girl noticed that there was no path. Dirt had been replaced with foliage and wild undergrowth, mischievously placed to catch her feet and trip her up. As she stumbled on, violets and tulips danced around her legs and kissed her ankles.
Halfway up the hill, the girl looked back behind her. It was easy enough the make out the path she had taken, but the collage of brightly coloured vegetation and lazily winding streams masked her exact footprints. Suddenly tired, she slowed her pace and fell onto her back. The tulips blushing her cheeks and the violets embroidering her hair. Perhaps she wouldn't climb all the way to the top after all. Indeed, there was no certainty of what would be up there, and her current spot seemed pleasant enough. The breeze whistled through the thin cotton of her clothes. Clouds crept overhead and shadows stretched around her. Of course, having certainty in an outcome had never really gotten her anywhere. What would one be if one were solely focused on prospect, rather than endeavour? Probably rather boring, thought the girl, as she sat up and surveyed her locale. Of course, it was lovely spot, but it wasn't her spot. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds, and the grass became as sea of gems once more.
The girl stood up, her socks had dried and, although feeling slightly peckish, she felt strong and she felt happy. A swallow flickered across the sky in flashes of white of cobalt. She continued on.
It was not long before the girl found, standing resolutely in front of her, a militia of grey and weathered rocks. They were easily her height, if not superior. That is not to say that the girl was particularly tall for her age, in fact she often required stools or cardboard boxes to reach the higher shelves in the kitchen. None the less, the formation of malevolence took no notice of her culinary perils and continued to block her way, turning their eyes away from her fallen face.
"Oh bother." She muttered to herself (not that there was anyone else around to whom she could address herself without making several highly acclaimed psychologists rather distressed). What was she to do now? She could not feasibly climb the rocks, nor could she see a way to slide discreetly between them. They guarded the path stoutly and with a resolute countenance that clashed horribly with the violets now woven behind the girls ear. Not knowing quite what to do next, she scowled at the solemn soldiers and stuck out her tongue. Dropping to the ground, the girl twisted her hands together, wishing she had thought to bring a sandwich along, or some other consumable commodity.
A swallow sat on a nearby branch and cocked its head. It hopped forward and then opened its wings. The girl exclaimed as she saw its royal blue feathers, perfectly arranged and flawlessly preened. It glided effortlessly, but just out of reach. It paid no heed her presence but flew for an audience, diving and twisting and silhouetting itself across the solstice sky.
With an elegant curl of its tail and a flicker of ivory it flew up and over the rocks, disappearing from view. The girl jumped to her feet and scrambled over the craggy mass. All of a sudden, they didn't seem as large as they had before, nor as perilous. She hooked up her knee and slid down across a petite boulder, the rock cooling and graciously smooth over her reddening skin.
The breeze carried her gasp away as she found herself standing, without much of a warning, at the top of the hill. Patchwork fields and sewn up hedges laid themselves out before her for miles, covering grander, more resplendent and undiscovered hillock. Clouds raced above her at breakneck speed and the sun felt warmer and brighter than it had from the bottom. The girl was suddenly struck by the vast immensity of the sky. It seemed to go on forever, surely it must stop at some point? If not to catch its breath? And the colour of it! How could anyone find the time to paint across such a wide canvas?
She found her spot, a sapling no taller than a hay stack, or an uncommonly large bucket. She sat down next to it heavily, with the dewy grass soaking through her skirt and the sapling's twigs poking and jabbing at her bare shoulders. It wasn't particularly comfortable, but it felt right.
"I'm here everyone!" She cried, although not particularly loudly. "I'm here and I'm tired, and sore, and dying for bath, but I'm here!"
The girl gazed around her, from the top of the hill the grass looked greener and the birds chirped louder. The harder she listened the harder they called, until there was a cacophony of sound resounding around her. She threw back her head and stared up at the heavens, the sun welcomed her into the sky and the clouds wove her a skin of mists and reticence. A swallow circled once, twice around the sapling, before soaring upwards, riding on the warm summers breeze.
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