Terra pulled back the curtains and grinned as morning sunlight streamed into the room. The day was bright and beautiful - the perfect start to her first summer vacation from college. As much as she enjoyed the classes that would lead her into her career as a veterinarian, balancing that with an active social life had left her in need of a break.
A groan emerged from the direction of her twin sister Ella's bed. "Too early," she muttered as she pulled the covers over her head.
Her brilliant green eyes flashing with mischief, Terra giggled and snatched the comforter away, prompting another groan. "Come on, Ella. I've been dreaming about going to the lake for weeks."
Her sister rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, then tugged on her nightgown, which had bunched up above her breasts as she slept. The twins regularly found those assets - inherited from their curvy mother - both a blessing and a curse.
Ella sighed. "I'm not really in the mood."
There was no need to ask why. The twins were rarely apart and shared an almost psychic connection. Ella had been through a rough patch in her social life of late.
Terra sat down on the corner of the bed and smoothed back a few errant strands of her sister's dark blonde hair. "You need to get out."
At the same time, one of the long vines of the philodendron hanging near Ella's bed reached out and brushed her cheek. A moment later, the end curled around Ella's wrist and tugged.
Terra broke out into a grin and entwined her fingers with her sister's. "Let's go."
Ella didn't protest this time, and stood up as the vine released her. Side-by-side, the two young women hurried across the hardwood floors, through the house and out the back door. Unconcerned that they were dressed in nothing more than clinging nightgowns and panties that left little of their charms to the imagination, they crossed the yard to the woods beyond.
Honeysuckle and pine mingled with a myriad of other pleasant scents as the twins' bare feet crunched the carpet of dried pine needles covering the trail. Shafts of light penetrated the dark green canopy, giving nourishment to colorful patches of flowers - some of which grew nowhere else.
All along the way, squirrels, rabbits, and birds abounded. Rather than fleeing from the presence of humans, the animals moved along with them. Birdsong from all quarters blended together in a perfect melody, heralding the twins' emergence into a clearing.
Quite in contrast with most people, the sight of their parents sitting nude on a small hillock of moss didn't shock or embarrass the two young women. Neither did they gawk at the sight of the woman sitting with them, though her appearance certainly invited such.
She looked no older than the twins, but the dryad with new-leaf green hair was actually their great-grandmother. Terra's earliest memories were of swimming in Xantina's crystal clear pool - often with the extended family. Family gatherings were always held in the nude, as the ultimate mother of their line found clothing to be silly and inconvenient. Since it was so common in their home life, the twins found shedding their clothes just as comfortable as the norms forced upon them in the world beyond the wood.
Daniel stood as the twins undressed and said, "Welcome home, girls. Sorry I wasn't here when you got in yesterday."
"It's okay, Dad. Mom told us you were in the middle of a committee meeting," Terra said as she hugged him. "Sorry we were too tired to wait up for you to get home."
She then turned to her great-grandmother and opened her arms for another embrace.
"I missed you, Xanterra," the dryad said as she pulled Terra close, using her real name which was only known amongst the family. "And you, Xanella," she added when Ella approached for her hug.
"Missed you too, Grandma," the twins said simultaneously - dropping the great.
Their mother Brooke said, "I got my hugs yesterday, but you can give me another if you'd like."
They did, wrapping their arms around her at the same time, and then sat down on the soft cushion of moss to join the impromptu family reunion.
It was only a half hour later when Daniel stood and held out a hand to his wife. "Unfortunately, we've both got to get to work."
"We have all summer to catch up," the dark-haired beauty said, and then kissed him.
Terra said, "We were going to get ready and go to the lake anyway, right Ella?"
Her sister's expression was dubious for a few moments, but then Xantina reached out to caress her great-granddaughter's cheek, as she had through the plant in the room earlier.
Ella's lips curled into a smile and she answered, "Yeah."
"The bad things pass and nice things come." The dryad glanced at Terra for a moment, giggled and added, "Go, but come swim with me soon."
"We will," Terra promised as the dryad gracefully backed up and vanished into the pine boughs.
The sisters continued to chat with their parents as they dressed, and on the brief walk to the house, then split off to return to their room.
"Using Grandma to coax me out of bed was cheating," Ella said as they walked down the hallway.
Terra stuck her tongue out. "It wasn't my idea. It was Grandma's - and she's right."
"I know. Still cheating, though."
"Whatever." Terra rolled her eyes, prompting them both to laugh.
"I really did need that," Ella admitted as she stepped into the room she shared with her sister. "I haven't felt this good since ... you know. I'm actually looking forward to the lake."
"Good," Terra beamed, and then plopped down on her bed to text her boyfriend. Keith replied a minute later that he would meet them. It was a pleasant surprise, as he'd developed a bad habit of taking forever to answer her lately.
Once dressed in bikinis covered by shorts and t-shirts, the sisters headed for the car. Upon walking into the front room, Terra saw her brother letting in a friend who had been a fixture at the house for almost as long as she could remember.
She waved at him. "Hey, Nate."
"Hey, Terra," he responded with a wide smile on his face.
"Are you sure?" she asked, while leaning in close to her sister.
Ella chuckled and swept past. "Give it up, Terra. You're never going to fool him."
She knew it was true, as she'd tried many times before. Somehow, Nathan had always been able to tell the sisters apart, even though almost everyone mixed them up on occasion.
"Hey, we're going to Parker's Lake. Want to come?"
Their brother Dale shrugged. "May as well. Not enough people to get a game going today."
"Sure," Nathan agreed.
"We'll be on the porch. Hurry up," Terra said as she caught up to her sister at the front door.
The twins drank in the beautiful summer morning, taking a seat side-by-side on the wooden railing around the porch. The boys took only a minute or two to grab towels before coming out, and then everyone piled into the car for the short drive to the lake.
Parker's Lake was on private land, but had been a popular swimming hole for generations. It was closer than the public beach, allowing them to drive the hybrid in electric mode all the way there and back. The sisters preferred the lake due to its natural setting and smaller crowds.
"So, when did you get contacts?" Terra asked once they were underway.
"It was a graduation present," Nathan answered.
"You don't look as nerdy without the glasses," she said while glancing at him in the rearview mirror.
"Thanks." He chuckled and rolled the window up a little before scratching at his left ear, which his wind-blown, dark hair had apparently been tickling.
"Hardly see you at the house or on campus any more," Ella said.
"You know - work and keeping up with my classes."
"As if you have any trouble with that, Brainiac," Terra scoffed.
Dale crossed his arms and snorted. "Do you want me to ride on the roof so I'm not distracting you?"
Terra and Ella laughed, but it was Nathan who received a punch in the shoulder for joining them. They continued to talk as the car made near-silent progress toward their destination - the crunching of gravel beneath the tires just as loud as the electric engine.
Upon making a turn onto a narrower, unpaved road, Terra's brow furrowed and she exclaimed, "What?"
Everyone else saw it as well. A brand new gate had been erected across the road leading to the lake. Beaten down grass and tire tracks showed where people were driving around it and ignoring the No Trespassing sign.
"Well, so much for that idea," Ella said as the car rolled to a stop several feet away from the blue metal gate.
The sound of an engine revving caused them all to look back and see Keith's coupe pulling in behind. He jumped out as soon as he stopped and walked toward them. Terra rolled her window down the rest of the way and her boyfriend leaned in.
"Well, that's some bullshit," he said. "Screw it. Let's just head over to Pride's Park and hit the beach there."
A hungry smile spread across his face and he plucked at the neckline of Terra's shirt while asking, "You wearing that new bikini?"
Terra swatted his hand away. "Yes. I want to go talk to Mr. Parker."
"Screw the old man," Keith scoffed.
"He's been letting people come out here for years. I just want to know why."
"And then go to Pride's?"
"Yes, then we'll go."
"Meet you there, then?"
.... There is more of this story ...