If all of May’s beauties could be compressed into one single, glorious day, it would be this one. Birds chased one another across the cloudless blue sky, squirrels scampered through the green-clad tree limbs, and a few butterflies fluttered across the grass in search of flowers. A light breeze stirred the air, just enough to prevent the day from growing too warm.
For the brown-and-white dog at the end of the leash in my hand, however, none of these beauties held enough attraction to keep her from racing from one side of the path to the other with her nose to the ground as fast as I would let her go. I hurried after, wondering if this would be the day my shoulder finally dislocated. Lucy, my youth group leaders’ dog, was always energetic, but she seemed especially so today.
As we rounded the bend near the playground, oddly familiar voices caught my ear. I peered through the wall of trees between me and the speakers, trying to figure out who the voices belonged to. I felt certain I’d never actually heard them before, yet I knew them nearly as well as I knew my parents’ voices. Lucy, thankfully, slowed to investigate the bushes alongside the path, allowing me to take a good look at the speakers. Three little girls, obviously sisters, clambered about on the playground equipment, watched over by two older teens, nearly identical but for the fact that one had grey eyes and hair cropped to chin length, while the other’s eyes were violet and her hair was held back in a braid that fell just past her shoulders. I blinked, recognition dawning. But no, that can’t be . . .
The youngest of the girls, a four-year-old with wavy golden hair tied in two pigtails, spotted me and dropped off the monkey bars. She approached me shyly, her eyes fixed on Lucy. “May I pet the doggy?”
“Go ahead.” I took a firmer grip on Lucy’s leash. “Lucy, stay.”
Lucy obeyed, or maybe she was just too absorbed in smelling the bushes to disobey. The little girl tentatively patted Lucy’s head and then, apparently discovering Lucy wasn’t going to jump on her, started rubbing around Lucy’s ears.
The other two girls- obvious twins- dashed over after their younger sister. They glanced at me, their question obvious in their eyes. I nodded. “Go ahead.”
“Thank you,” one of them said, politely. The other went straight to petting Lucy. The one who’d spoken added, “What’s your doggy’s name?”
“Her name’s Lucy.” I kept one eye on the dog in question, who’d given up on smelling the bushes but seemed to be submitting to the petting happily enough. “She’s not mine, though. I’m walking her for a friend.”
“Oh.” The girl joined her sisters in petting Lucy. “I’m Cara, and that’s my sister Keely, and my other sister Hope.”
“Nice to meet you.” I noticed one of the two older girls- the one with shorter hair, who seemed to be about my own age- walking over to me. I offered her a smile. “Hello.”
“Hello.” She smiled tightly back. “Thank you. I hope they aren’t bothering you.”
“Not at all. Lucy’s enjoying the attention.” I took another good look at the newcomer. Her medieval-looking tunic and pants contrasted strongly with the modern playground set, as did the swords sheathed on her back, their hilts just visible above her shoulders. “I’m Sarah, by the way. And you are?”
“Dea Alyron.” Dea held out a hand. “These three are my sisters.”
“I know.” I shook Dea’s hand, barely restraining myself from shouting or doing some kind of happy dance. Dea Alryon! And that must be Gwen over there!
“I guess you would. You’re the Author, after all.” Dea eyed me a bit suspiciously. “Should I be worried about letting the little ones near you?”
I shook my head emphatically. “No! They’re safe! You all are!” Dea gave me a disbelieving look, and I added, “Relatively speaking. Anyway, I wouldn’t actually hurt them. I may be an Author, but that doesn’t mean I’m some monster.” I change the subject. “How’d you know who I am anyway?” I’m used to my Udarean characters recognizing me, when I let them, but encountering characters outside my novels is new to me.
Dea shrugged. “Outside our Stories, we characters know a lot more than we normally would.” She bit her lip, her gaze wandering back to the three younger girls. “Normally, though, I don’t care much about that. I’m more interested in just spending as much time as I can with my family, especially considering what you did to us at the end of Destinies and Decisions.”
Her tone could’ve been a weapon, it was so pointed. I winced. “Right. Sorry. It will get better, I promise.”
“Is it?” Gwen walked over to join us. “After all, we’re-”
I held up a hand, interrupting just in time. “Spoilers!”
“Right.” Gwen sighed in annoyance. “We are where we are, and at the moment, I don’t see a way out.”
Dea scowled. “Maybe if we’d left our snake of a brother and his girlfriend where we found them . . .”
“Maybe.” Gwen shook her head. “But it’s too late to change that now. Unless . . .” She glanced almost hopefully at me.
She must really be desperate. Recalling the situation she and the others are currently in, I wasn’t surprised. “Sorry. I’m not making that major of a change. Not now that I have a draft I like, at least. Like I said, though, it’ll get better. I pro-” Abruptly, the leash jerked from my hand. I turned and lunged after it. “Lucy!”
Lucy, apparently tired of petting, took off up the hill, straight for the road. I ran after her. “Lucy! Come! Lucy! Bad dog! Come!” Dragon’s teeth! Why didn’t I bring the remote for the electric collar?
Dea passed me by, racing after Lucy as well. I heard the younger girls behind me. Lucy, however, seemed likely to outrun us all.
Then a wall of ice appeared in front of her. Lucy smacked into it and stops short, looking dazed and almost confused. Dea scooped her up, holding her tightly to prevent escape.
I slowed to a walk, breathing hard. “Thank you.” I turned back to see Gwen strolling up the hill at an easy pace. “And thank you as well.” I knew she must’ve made the ice wall; after all, she was the only ice Rider in the group. “If she’d gotten away . . .” I shook my head, not wanting to think about it. My leaders would forgive me; Lucy’s run away from them at least a dozen times. However, I still would’ve had to find her somehow. “I’d better get her home before she escapes again.”
Dea handed me the leash and waited for me to loop it securely around my wrist before setting Lucy down. “Probably a good idea.”
Lucy tugged, wanting to run free again. I clutched the leash with both hands. “Well, it was nice seeing you. Have a good day.”
“We will,” Gwen replied.
“Particularly since we’re here and not in the Story,” Dea added. She paused a moment. “But, if it’s really going to get better . . . could you hurry and write that part?”
“I’ll do my best.” Lucy’s tugging forced me to either start walking or be pulled over. I called over my shoulder to the siblings, “Bye for now! See you in the next novel!”
For the record, Lucy is very much a real dog who I walked on Fridays during the school year. And yes, she has run away from both me and my youth group leaders before quite a few times. Thankfully, she's always been found and caught (though never as quickly as in this encounter, I don't think!). Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my Character Encounter! Feel free to write your own and join the link-up!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)