Ch 1-8 ~ A New Friend
He winced habitually from behind an outstretched arm, the broken buckle of Aurelia’s lost shoe dangling from the cradle of his hand whilst the other rubbed at a button-nose reddened by the cold. The carefree of her unexpected comment had taken him rather by surprise, his only response for which was a warm, yet unsure, smile. He had never thought much of the forest foliage which often found itself nestled in his hair, and it was strange that her attention to it made him feel an unexpected sense of insecurity, embarrassment even.
‘Oh, the twigs? That will fall out again, sure. Be plenty more for to take its place, undoubted.’ He managed to return a short, airy giggle before taking a longer look at the girl who, to him, seemed too skinny to be running through the mountain pass all by herself. He noticed her own wince as she made to feel for her shoeless foot, his expression turning to one of practical concern, ‘I’m thinking you could have caught a bad twist in the tree roots on the path. They grow fast out of nowhere up here, specials in the fall time.’
Carefully rolling down her sock to assess the injured leg, Aurelia was forced another sharp breath as it prized away against the stain which had already turned a sticky, darkened maroon. It peeled away to reveal a freshly glowing shimmer of red and a slight swelling of her ankle. She was rather annoyed that the pain felt much worse than it looked. ‘I wouldn’t doubt you right’, she replied, feeling somewhat grown-up now with the observational tone their conversation had taken, ‘but then it probably would have been a lot worse had this pile of old leaves not been gathered here. I would have been prickled to death for sure if I had taken into the holly bushes.’
Though they laughed at this together, with the eventual return of silence came the boy’s apparent awkwardness as the infamous shoe weighed heavier in his still outstretched arm. Feeling inclined to encourage progression of this chance encounter, Aurelia ventured to make the first request of her new friend:
‘I’d like very much if you could help me up so I can re-fit my lost shoe.’