A/N: This chapter is adapted from something I did for my english class last semester. The assignment was to describe a specific (real) place, so just note that the chapters after this one won't be as descriptive. As of now, Im not entirely sure what a lot of the plot will be, but Im working on that. No to mention, this is a hugely chaotic time right now for me, so forgive me if this story is a slow process.

Prologue Part 1: In which Orchid Mendellsohn is introduced, eats a quesadilla, and awaits a reunion with her birth mother

The Santa Ynez mountains peek above the red-tiled rooflines of Santa Barbara, and yet they fil Orchid Mendellsohn's vision, as she looks up from her quesadilla. She swipes her hand across her mouth, and stuffs her napkins, now transparent with grease, into the paper bag. Orchid closes her eyes, and lies back in the tickling grass. She focuses on the coolness of the ground, and the warmth of the sun on her face; the strong smell of freshly mowed lawns; the loud chatter of the German students who are sunbathing on the courthouse lawn. Orchid snaps open her eyes again, lifts her head, and checks her watch: 3:50 p.m.

Orchid scrambles to her feet. Trying (in vain) to smooth out her long, black hair, she strides up the stone steps to the breezy archway in the middle of the courthouse building. She takes one more sweeping look behind her: thick-trunked palm trees—green and yellow fronds swaying, white stucco walls, and red roofs. The misty Santa Ynez stand behind it all: a dry, monumental constant in Orchid's now swirling world. Four o'clock, and Orchid would come face-to-face with a woman who gave and took with astonishing speed: life one day, and confusion and orphanhood the next. After 16 years, her mother finally had the gall to ask Orchid to meet her at four o'clock at the top of the Santa Barbara courthouse tower. Orchid hesitates inside the archway as she recalls both the oddness of finding a letter from her mother on her open window sill, and the optimistic words of the said letter.

"...I can not tell you how I've longed to see your face again...there is so much to tell you...not to mention, the view from the tower is supposed to be spectacular!"

Sharp slapping of leather soles on flagstones snaps Orchid to attention. Men and women in business suits emerge from the heavy, wooden doorway, and walk around her as they would a small column. Smoothing her hair down again, she steps through the door, and is brought into a wide, dimly lit hallway. More footsteps echo off the high ceiling, and somehow give the interior an even more hushed feel. Orchid passes a small alcove with an old-fashioned elevator, but walks past it. Instead, she wanders down the passageway that lays straight ahead of her. Golden, California sunlight slants in through the open windows, and slices through the darkness. Orchid walks slowly down the hall, glancing side to side.

Suddenly, Orchid comes to a stop. She turns, and faces a large painting. It's a chaotic scene of Spanish soldiers riding into Santa Barbara. Officers sit on rearing horses, and dark skinned figures cower below. One such figure in the lower, right corner catches Orchid's eyes, and won't let go. A native woman in a cotton skirt is clutching a child in her arms. The look painted on her face, and in her eyes, is of frightened awe, but Orchid is sure she can see a harder emotion: fierce protectiveness. She doesn't stop staring at the woman until the hourly clanging of the mission bells wake her. A glance at her wrist-watch, as she walks hurriedly back to the elevator, tells Orchid what she already knows. The time is four o'clock, and the elevator's metal grate closes behind her.