Ambrose padded across the footbridge. His bare feet slapped against the bridge’s well-worn stone walkway. If he had really wanted to, he could have walked with a little more care and refinement. But he didn’t really care about that. He wasn’t coming out here to impress anyone, hence the bare feet.
He stopped at the midpoint of the bridge and elbow-propped on the broad stone rail. He looked out into the darkened forest.
It’s all demented craziness. he thought. And I’m the demented crazy one. I don’t know why I let Anna talk me into these schemes of hers.
He reached into his bedrobe’s pocket and pulled out a small silver-painted box. He opened it.
A scarab beetle pin lay on a blue velvet cushion. The enameled carapace was an oil-slick combination of dark blue and yellow-green. Its jointed legs were silver and gold.
I’m not even sure why she wants this thing. It’s ugly.
“Oh! There you are!” Anna called out.
Ambrose startled and almost dropped the box. He turned to face her as she walked onto the bridge. “Just so you know, this is the last time I’m doing your bidding.”
She stopped in front of him. “You always say that.”
“This time I mean it.”
“Whatever.” She held out her hand.
He sighed and put the box in her hand.
Anna smiled brightly. “Thanks!” She opened the box and admired the pin. “Oh, it’s so pretty!”
“It’s a pin shaped like a bug.”
She shook her head. “You boys just don’t understand fine things.”
“It’s shaped like a bug.”
“Noooo, it’s shaped like an Egyptian scarab.”
“It’s also something I’m going to get in trouble for when it comes up missing.”
She clicked her tongue at him. “I’m not going to keep it. I just want to borrow it.”
“Yeah, you’re borrowing it. Then, you’re going to lose it and I will get blamed for its disappearance. You know, if you wanted to borrow it all that much, you could have asked my mother for her permission instead of forcing me to do all of this annoying subterfuge.”
“That’s true, but it makes it soo much more exciting this way.”
He shook his head. “If you don’t wind up imprisoned for wanton robbery by the time you’re twenty years old—”
“That will never happen and you know it.”
Ambrose frowned at her. “This is the last time I’m running shenanigans for you. I mean it.”
“Actually, you’re right. Tomorrow, my parents are going to ship me off to ‘self-improvement school’ or whatever it is they call it. ‘Finishing’ school? Whatever. I’m going to learn how to be a well-behaved and respected member of society.”
Ambrose burst out laughing, which earned him one annoyed Anna look.
“Gee, thanks for your vote of confidence.”
“No, it’s just…” He calmed down. “They are going to have their work well cut out for them. You will try to stay out of trouble, won’t you?”
“Of course!” She admired the pin one more time before handing the box to him. “Keep this safe for me. I want to wear it when they throw my ‘Welcome Home’ party.”
“I’m going to put this back where it belongs. If you want to wear it, you’ll have to ask my mother if you can.”
That earned him one more annoyed look. “Fine.”