Many years later. a brown haired, bespectacled boy stared deeply into the eyes of that same wooden owl. Why, he wished to know, was the owl clutching a book? Owls were wise, of course, everyone knew that. But why this book, a thick volume about three inches by five. he ran his finger gently over the binding cords visible on the spine.
So intent was his concentration that he did not notice the one sneaking up on him. She was one year older, a little taller, and, though he hated to admit it, more athletic and coordinated. This time, while he thought of books and owls, she silently leaned in close around his right shoulder. Her blonde hair tried to tickle his ear, but to no avail. At last she planted a cold, moist cream soda kiss right in the middle of his cheek.
"Aah!," he jumped. "Hey..what...."
"You don't want me to kiss you. then?"
"Yes...well...of course I do! But your lips were so cold!"
"And I was trying to warm them up."
"Ok," he looked at the floor. "Just warn me first, ok? I nearly jumped out of my skin just now."
She giggled as she found her way to one of the large, overstuffed chairs that ringed the Great Hall. "So what do we do now," she asked, using a tone that at once teased and encouraged her now serious companion. Since meeting in the orchard some weeks ago, the two had become inseperable, embarking on an endless summer of exploring all kinds of things, from books and trees to owls with books, and even the raw sweetness of first love. Though he had been painfully shy, she had drawn him out, and step by step they were creating a world together, their own space apart from the world that had treated them with confusion and cruelty.
"Let's go to the library," he said at last. "I have got to find out more about this owl."
"So you like the owl, do you?," she asked, more than a little curious herself, but not quite knowing where to start.
"Well...why does he have a book? That particular book, I mean. We must find out who carved him."
She got up, linked her hands behind her back, and twirled once or twice untill she was there again leaning over his shoulder. This time her hair did tickle his ear, so he reflexively swatted it away. She dodged his hand, catching it in mid-swing. "Let's go to the library, then."