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She laughed as she ran into the courtyard. Behind her, three boys ran, chasing her with smiles and fake chants. “Hurry up, boys!” she called mockingly. “Wouldn’t want the beastie to get you!” She laughed again. The sound carried back to the boys, light and care-free.

What beast!” called one of the boys. His brown eyes arrogantly surveyed the weed-filled cobblestones. He tossed back his golden locks. “Everyone knows that’s just a myth!”

The other two boys laughed along with him.

Leona stuck her tongue out at them, and then shrieked as they picked up mud and started to hurl it at her. Her breath came rapidly as she ducked behind a large stone wall, giggling, her hand over her mouth. Her light pink summer dress was torn and mud-splattered, her shoes abandoned somewhere along the path to the old palace.

At only eight, she was the youngest of the group. Destin was the oldest at twelve, the other two boys, Gerry and Lewis, both ten and twins. They were an unusual group; her mother was aghast at the idea that she ran around the countryside like a wild animal with the boys. Usually, around others, the boys liked to ignore her; she would whine and pout until they paid her attention. Alone, however, they were the best of friends.

Leona crouched down and peeked out behind the corner of the wall. Destin was out of breath, scanning the courtyard for her. “I saw you!” he called. “I saw you duck behind that wall Leona!”

She gasped and stuck her head out, pouting. “No fair,” she whined. Then her eyes lit up. “But you still have to catch me!”

Yelling after her, the boys began at a wild sprint to catch her. Her yellow hair billowed behind her as she ran, laughing, picking up her skirt so as not to trip.

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