Story22 Feb 2009 10:35 pm

“You drive like a country bumpkin,” Margarete admonished genially, her full cheeks dimpling slightly, as Rook drove his rusty old mini down the lane. 

They’d been discussing the usual – progress on their collective studies, updates on friends and colleagues, that sort of thing.  Though Margarete was several years older than Rook – she’d never wanted to ask exactly how many, but she imagined a difference of five to six years – their minds still had a very useful, and often quite comfortable, way of complementing each other.  It was fortuitous that they’d discovered each other’s work quite separately through their related studies and a mutual respect had already been established between them before ever even meeting.  On a lark, Rook had decided to spend the summer studying with her. She’d already been at her thesis for a couple years, and Rook found it absolutely fascinating – a fact that she secretly found quite flattering.  It didn’t take much to get her talking about the history of folklore and it’s basis in scientific evolution, but as the scenery became more rural, they’d found a sort of comfortable silence between them; Margarete lost in the eerie beauty of the Scottish lowland, and Rook content to rummage around in his own thoughts.

It seemed somewhat incongruous to Rook to see Margarete in such a rural setting – she wasn’t a “fair beauty” like one expected to see out among the heather, though she carried her own appeal, regardless of what she may think.  Rather, her dark hair and full figure, clad in tailored and refined clothing seemed to belong in a more civilized environment. In his mind’s eye, she was always in a library – her proverbial thinking cap firmly in place – or perhaps a museum, or possibly even tracking down old stories in nursing homes – but never outside of an urban environment.  It was odd – He rather liked the effect though; it was almost like looking at her again for the first time.  Add to that how excited he was to finally get to share his work with her, especially after piggy-backing off her research all last summer.  He smiled in anticipation – she would get a kick out of his gear, especially since it tied in with her own studies so very well.

“Rook, stop!” she said suddenly, her hand involuntarily shooting out to Rook’s shoulder. He skidded to a stop, swerving quite uncomfortably in the mud that still made up the country lane.  He felt his breath catch in his chest as adrenalin poured into his system, and was about to demand an explanation when the answer appeared before him.

A fox, shiny red, had regally stepped foot across the lane, paying little head to the comparatively massive auto that sputtered just a few feet away.  Rook smiled at Margarete’s reaction of pure, innocent enchantment as the fox was followed by four little kits, the last one nearly butting its sibling’s tail in an effort to keep up.

“Oh my,” Margarete breathed, her dark eyes alight.

Halfway across the lane, the vixen stopped, seeming to peer at the two of them. Rook tensed, and felt Margarete hold a breath as well.  The vixen’s eyes were a piercing gold, seeming far too intelligent for such a creature, and yet not out of place at all.

The moment was broken when the cry of raptor, flying above, not yet having noticed the mother and her babes.  With an odd tilt of her head, the fox bid farewell to the astonished humans, and quickly disappeared in the brush alongside the road.

Silence reigned for a few seconds more before Margarete let out her breath in a deep sigh.  “I feel as though I just dipped my proverbial toe into my very own research,” she said, a bit breathlessly.  Realizing how naïve and silly that sounded, she felt her cheeks heat up.  “So, which way is it then?” she said quickly, shaking her brush with the foxes off and returning to her usual manner of disciplined reason.  Rook looked at her somewhat oddly as she asked the question, his expression clearing only when she gestured to the sign post they’d managed to stop alongside of.

“Oh, look at that,” he said, his confusion morphing to understanding and then amusement.  He turned to Margarete with a glint in his eye.  “According to my sister, we should go left.”

Now it was Margarete’s turn to look somewhat puzzled.  “Is that wrong?”

Rook chuckled as he put the car into gear and took the right fork.  “Only if you want to get to my house.”

Oddly, he could have sworn he saw a pair of golden eyes peering at him from across the road, on the left, as he drove away, but when he surreptitiously glanced in his side view mirror, there was nothing but the bushes and mud.

 

Rowen heard the front door slam at the same time her brother called her name.  Unfortunately, this was also at the same time she’d been pouring a bit of milk into her tea.

“Crap,” she muttered briefly as her brief jump caused a bit more milk to slosh into her tea cup than she would have preferred.  Shrugging, she licked the side of the cup, sipping a bit as well to keep the over-filled cup from spilling further.

She almost risked spilling the tea entirely as Rook swept into the kitchen, nearly colliding with her.  “Rook, you moron,” she hissed, barely saving her precious liquid.

He only grinned.  “What was that?” he said playfully, putting a hand to his ear.

Rowen did her best to glare over the rim of her cup, which she was holding delicately perched by her lips.  “I said, ‘welcome home, you deserting, clumsy excuse for a brother.” Her austere expression quirked into a similarly playful half-smile.

“Oh, God, I thought you said moron,” Rook said, grinning cheekily.  Rowen sipped her tea without comment, though she set the half-empty cup down on the counter with a pointed look in Rook’s direction.

“So where were you?”

“Where’s Charlie?”

As their words collided, Rowen finally broke into a grin, shaking her head.  With a pause and a gesture from Rowen, Rook asked his question again.

“He’s upstairs, wringing out his knickers,” Rowen said, a tad smugly.  “He had a bit of an argument with the mud. Repeatedly.”

Rook laughed at that.  “You are too wonderfully harsh, dear sister,” he said with an amused shake of his head.

“Rook?” Margarete’s voice echoed from the foyer, “Where in this God-awful piece of beauty did you get off to?”

Rowen quirked a brow in Rook’s direction.  He shrugged, an impish look on his face.  “Margarete’s here.  What amazing timing, yeah?”

Rowen rolled her eyes and, abandoning her tea, walked back out into the foyer to greet his brother’s guest.

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