Hi everybody. I wrote a new story. It's two years into the future, but all will become clear as you read it. Please review, critique, reply. (The bits in italics are Sydney's flashbacks) *** The two women walked through the park, leaves crunching under their feet. Their arms were linked and they were laughing and talking over each other as they recounted some little adventure they had had together. A blonde little girl ran before them, desperately pulling on a dog’s leash. The dog, a Dalmatian puppy, was excitedly running in circles. The woman with short brown hair was pushing a baby carriage while she chatted with her friend. They had been friends for a few years, ever since Belle had appeared in the small town. She was lying on the ground. What was she doing there? She slowly sat up and looked frantically around her. She was leaning against a tree in the middle of some kind of little park. On one side of the park were great mansions, probably plantations at one time. On the other side was a harbour, filled with small fishing boats and a few liners making their way to the ocean. She stood up shakily, holding on to one of the park benches for support. Her hand unconsciously went to her lip – there was dried blood on it. She had obviously been in some kind of fight and from the looks of it, she had lost. Walking through the park towards the barrier beside the ocean, she noticed a woman and child standing by the railing with a fishing pole. The little girl was trying to hold the pole while her mother threaded the fishing wire through. They weren’t having much luck, and Sydney couldn’t help but laugh. She walked over slowly. “May I?” she asked quietly. The woman handed her the pole and wire and Sydney quickly fixed it for them. The little girl was amazed. “Wow! Where did you learn to do that?!?” she asked, taking back her pole. Sydney smiled and shook her head. “I can’t remember” she said slowly. The woman looked at her curiously. “Are you okay?” she asked. “That’s a nasty cut on your lip.” Sydney touched her lip again. “Can you tell me where I am?” she asked. The woman was shocked. “You’re in Charleston, West Virginia. My name is Vanessa Jackson and I live right over there” she said in a soft Southern drawl, pointing to a large house down the street. “You look a little shook up, hon. Would you like to come over and get cleaned up, have something cool to drink?” Sydney nodded, surprised by the woman’s kindness. Vanessa linked her arm into Sydney’s and they walked down the street. The little girl walked beside Sydney, staring at her curiously, her fishing lesson forgotten. When they reached the house, Sydney had already heard about all of Vanessa’s neighbours and their stories. Vanessa was just starting in on the weather when she thought to ask for Sydney’s name. The truth was, Sydney had been trying to think of it the whole way home. “I…I don’t know” she stammered. The little girl, Zara, laughed gleefully. “If you don’t have a name, can I give you one? Pleeeeeeeaaaaaaase?” she pleaded. “Zara, she has a name. She just doesn’t remember it right now” Vanessa explained. “Well, how about for until you remember?” she asked. Sydney was melted by the little girl’s eyes. When Zara grew up, she would be able to get anything she wanted. With blonde curls and blue eyes, she looked just like a little cherub. “If you want to, you and I can pick out a name to use until I remember” she told Zara. The child immediately raced up the stairs and returned a moment later clutching a book. She opened it and pointed to a picture. “You could be Belle Boyd! Isn’t that a pretty name?” ‘Belle Boyd was a spy during the Civil War. She passed messages from the north on to the Southern generals’ Sydney read. “It’s a very nice name, Zara…”she looked at the little girl again, which proved to be a mistake. She couldn’t say no now! “Okay. I’ll be Belle Boyd…” “Cicero!” called Sydney. “Zara, just pull on his leash and he’ll come back.” Zara was being dragged down the pathway, her heels kicking up clouds of dust as she skidded. “Mama, can Cicero and I go play?” asked Zara. At seven, the child was even cuter than at 5, when Sydney had first met the family. “You’ll have to ask Belle, baby” her mother replied. “Belle, can Cicero and I go play?” Zara asked in her sweetest voice. “Of course, hon. But stay close so your mama and I can see you, okay?” she replied. Zara and the puppy bounded away. Sydney and Vanessa watched her running around, giggling happily and playing with the dog. “I’m so glad you got that dog, Belle. Now Zara spends more time at your house than at ours!” Sydney had found a small house in the center of Charleston, not far from Vanessa’s. Vanessa had helped her find it and move in. Then they three of them had painted it together. “Belle? Where should we put this couch?” called Vanessa from the entrance. “I have a couch?” asked Sydney, coming out of the kitchen. “I have a couch! Oh, Vanessa where did you find this?” “Garage sale” “It’s great! Kind of…gross, but I love it anyway!” Sydney said happily. She was glad to be out of Vanessa’s house and out of the way. “I’ll get Jake to move it over there, okay?” Vanessa said. Her husband, Jake, was helping them out today. Sydney couldn’t see where Vanessa was pointing, but she said “Okay!” anyway. “Vanessa, who picked out this god-awful colour?” she asked, opening the can of paint they had just bought. “You did, Belle!” was the reply. Sydney crinkled her nose and started pouring the paint into trays. “Zara, are you going to help us paint?” she asked the little girl, who was sitting on the kitchen table, eating a Popsicle and watching her. “When I’m done my Popsicle” said Zara. Later that day, after Vanessa and Sydney had painted all that needed paint, Zara had asked if she could help. “All the painting is done, love” her mother told her. “Can I put a handprint on the wall?” asked Zara sweetly. “A handprint?!?” exclaimed Vanessa. “Actually, that could look kind of cool, don’t you think?” said Sydney. She thought for a moment, then jumped up and got a different colour of paint. Taking a paintbrush, she painted Zara’s palm orange. “There. Now put your hand right….there.” she said, pointing to a spot on the wall. “And right…there. And there.” When she and Zara were finished, there was a pattern of handprints bordering the room. Zara giggled happily and clapped, making blobs of paint from her hands fly everywhere. “Ooops…” she said. It was a pretty house, and every time she walked down the hallway she thought of how much she was loved by Vanessa and Zara. “Are we going to the candy store after our walk?” asked Sydney. “Oh, don’t let Zara hear you saying that” “Saying what?” piped up Zara. “I heard my name and ‘candy.’ Oh, mamma! Can we go to the candy store?” “See what you’ve done, Belle?” said her mother, rolling her eyes. “Maybe later” she told her daughter, who was bouncing around. “Zara, where’s Cicero?” asked Sydney, noticing that the dog was nowhere to be seen. “Uh oh…” said the little girl. “Cicero! Cicero!” she called. “Zara! Come on, we have to find him before he gets lost” said Vanessa. Soon the three of them were all calling for the lost puppy.