The Shade was an odd place. Although most of my parents’ friends were technically in their late teens and early twenties, many had been alive for hundreds of years. In a sense, I got the best of both worlds when I spent time with them. They were still young at heart, yet had so much experience – with centuries’ worth of knowledge and stories to share.

“Would you do that for us, Rose?”

I looked up to see my three friends staring at me.

I’d drifted off into my own thoughts and completely lost track of their conversation.

“Sorry, what?” I mumbled.

“We want you to give us a tour of your brother’s bedroom,” Jessica said, her chestnut brown eyes wide with expectation.

“Oh,” I snorted. “No. Trust me. You don’t want that. It’s such a mess, you have no…”

My voice trailed off as I spotted Anna and Kyle taking a seat on the lawn a few feet away from us with their children, Ariana and Jason.

Although Ariana was four years younger than me, I knew that she would make for better company than my friends right now. I stood up and shook the grass off my dress.

“I’ll see you guys around,” I muttered, waving a hand and walking away before they could object.

All four looked up as I approached.

“Happy birthday, princess.” Kyle grinned. “You want to sit with us?”

“Thanks.”

I plopped myself down next to Ariana. Everyone on the island joked that we were twin sisters because our features were similar.

“Happy birthday,” Ariana said through a mouthful of cake. “What’s up?”

“Ah, nothing much.” I sighed, leaning back and looking around the lawn once again. Most of the attendees of our picnic had left by now, with just a few latecomers stopping by to drop gifts off for us and pick up some lunch. “I wanted to thank you so much for the gifts.”

“You liked them?” Jason asked, poking his head around Ariana’s shoulder to look at me. The ten year old’s mouth was covered with strawberry icing.

Anna had knitted pajamas for Ben and I, and they truly were works of art. I hated to think how many hours she must have spent on them.

“They’re the most beautiful pajamas I’ve ever seen,” I said, ruffling Jason’s hair. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, darling.” Anna smiled.

“Hi Rose.”

I swivelled around to see who had spoken.

A tall red haired boy with warm hazelnut eyes. And now possibly the best friend I had on the island: Griffin.

“Sorry I couldn’t make it earlier,” he said, grinning sheepishly.

“Oh, that’s fine.”

He had one hand hidden behind his back, while he reached the other down to pull me to my feet.

I turned back to Ariana and her family.

“Sorry, guys,” I said. “I’ll catch you later. Enjoy the rest of your cake.”

“Bye!”

I turned back to Griffin and attempted to see what he was hiding. He stepped away, blocking my view.

“Wait,” he said, laughing. “Not yet. Follow me.”

He placed his hand on the small of my back and pushed me forward toward the entrance of the woods.

“Where are we going?” I asked, looking over my shoulder and narrowing my eyes on him in mock suspicion.

“Just trust me,” he said, still smiling. “It’s a surprise.”

He led me forward, refusing to answer any of my questions until we reached the Port. We stepped onto the jetty and he walked me right up to its edge.

“Keep your eyes forward,” he said.

I placed my hands on the banister and stared out at the dark ocean. I heard a clinking behind me and then Griffin said, “Okay, you can look now.”

He stood beside me, holding out a gorgeous shell necklace.

“Happy birthday.”

“Oh my.” I gasped, reaching out to take the necklace from him.

“I’ll put it on you. It’s quite delicate.”

“Yeah, good idea,” I muttered.

I bunched up all my hair above my head and he reached his warm hands around my neck, fastening the hook.

“I wish there was a mirror here… Did you make this yourself?”

“Yup.”

“It’s beautiful. Thanks man,” I said, giving him a high five. “Since when did ol’ Griff start getting in touch with his feminine side?”

“Since I realized I should probably start giving the princess better gifts than home made chocolate pigs every year… which my mom made, by the way. I just took them from the kitchen and pretended they were from me.”

“I always thought those pigs tasted suspiciously good,” I said, giggling and shoving him in the shoulder. “What did you get Ben?”

“Oh, pigs again.”

“So the princess was deserving of a better gift, but the prince wasn’t?”

“Yeah, I guess,” he said nonchalantly, reaching a hand behind his head and running it through his hair. “Maybe I’ll think of something better for him next year. But for now, it’s pigs.”

“I see,” I said. “And why did you need to bring me all the way here to give me the necklace?”

“Oh, I dunno. Just thought the setting matched the gift.” He averted his eyes to the ocean and placed his hands on the banister next to mine. He cleared his throat. “Rose, uh. I also wanted to ask you if…if you—”

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