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Laughter trailed in bubbling echoes after the pair of schoolroom truants. Bright midafternoon sunshine pierced the trees they were running through, dappling the ground and infecting their gaiety.
The young boy freed his hand from the grasp of his companion and burst forward in triumph. Picking up her skirts, the young woman gave chase. It took a furlong before she came within reach of him; panting had replaced the laughter. A desperate lunge put her hands on the boy's shoulders just at the moment he decided to end the race by dropping to the ground. She frantically attempted to vault over him but her legs foiled by her petticoats, succeeded only in tumbling down.
"Parker, that was decidedly unfair," the young woman complained, striving to untangle herself from the nuisance petticoats while the cause for her tumble lay doubled over with glee.
"Tommi," he gasped through his laughter, "that was splendid!"
A rueful smile appeared as Thomasina realized this was one of the few times the boy had been genuinely pleased about anything. She plucked at the small twigs and blades of grass that were tangled in her soft, fair-hued copper curls.
Parker rolled onto his stomach and propped his chin in his hands. Mischievous delight twinkled in his wide blue eyes--a look Thomasina had seen all too often since her arrival at her uncle's home ten months past.
"Wait until mama sees you, Tommi," Parker intoned seriously. "You will be required to dine in the schoolroom for a fortnight."
Thomasina halted picking the leafy debris off her skirt and watched the boy's features closely. Could it be, she wondered, that he desires company--mycompany? That he would do anything in seeking his parents' attention was beyond doubt; his behaviour ranged from utterly despicable to awkwardly loveable, and almost all of it kept her in the bad graces of her aunt. Standing, she said, "You must play here for a short time, Parker. The fresh air will be very beneficial, and I must try and repair my toilet."
"What is there for me to do?" he snapped, turning sullen at not having raised her ire.
"Run, jump. See how many different kinds of blades of grass or leaves you can find. We could look up what they are when we return to the schoolroom," she added in despairing optimism.
To her surprise, Parker obediently bounded away.
She sighed and turned her gaze from him to her dress. It was fortunate, she thought, that she had chosen one of her own older day frocks instead of one of those that her cousin, Dianna, had haughtily ordered the abigail to bring to her. Thomasina shook her skirt with more vigour than necessary as she thought of Dianna.
"I will not allow her to make me miserable," she said softly to herself. "I will not. No matter how much she talks of her London season."
Having brushed the last of the greenery from her skirt and given a grimace to the irremovable grass stains, Thomasina looked about. Parker was still playing within her sight; it would be safe to rest. Seating herself next to a large tree, she leaned back against it. The fresh stem of grass she plucked was tasty. Swirling it over her tongue, she closed her eyes.