At certain times of the year, late at night, the Coaster Grove on Coney Island seems to sing softly to itself. Those who walk beneath the trees at such times feel a sense of awe, as though they walk in a holy place. The grove has stood for over a hundred years, immune to the twentieth century, wrapped in the peace of an older time, and some credit the sensation to age.
But even they do not know how deep the years are that twist around the young trees, or how far their roots extend. Like so many dreams of the new world, the dream that is the Grove began in the old, in a promise and prophecy given to a young girl as old as the Attic hills...
"Go; you'll feel better. See what a wonderful place this country is!"
The landlady's shrill voice grated on Daphne's ears. At least the woman spoke Greek. It wasn't a musical sound but it carried the accents of home, here in this new world of foreigners where Daphne was trapped by bricks and streets. And Mrs. Kontos meant well. She was kind. Kind, but she'd never heard the delicate song of a breeze dancing among spring leaves, never tasted the silence when trees hold their breath...Daphne never should have left her grove, no matter what the laurel had promised.
"You're so thin," Mrs. Kontos went on. "And pale as well. Go on, let the salt air put some flesh on you. A body'd think you was consumptive, to look at you. You couldn't go alone, it wouldn't be proper, what with you not married yet and at your age too, but the Pappadeases want to take you."
"Are there woods there?" None of the trees in this new land spoke to Daphne. She had tried to call them with her powers so many times, in the park near the tenement, on the tree-lined paths of Central Park. There was never a response, and she had almost given up hope of finding the grove the laurel had promised her. But at least the scent of green helped her stay alive amid the noise and crowds of this great city.
"Woods! What do you need with woods? There's people there, good people--well, some others as well, but Mrs. Pappadeas will watch out for you." Mrs. Kontos nodded as she looked at Daphne. "Your aunt is a decent woman, Miss, but she should have found a proper match for you before now."
Daphne said nothing. Mrs. Kontos meant well, but Daphne feared her. The tiny woman was a tireless matchmaker. Next she would again hymn the praises of the Pappadeas' eldest son, Nikkolas. He was past twenty and reckoned a good catch, with dark good looks. For weeks now Nikki had pursued her, confident that the eldest son of a prosperous family would never be refused as a match. Mrs. Kontos would be outraged if she knew how little interest Daphne had in him. But she had watch many young mortals such as Nikki fade with age, brittle as autumn leaves in as little time. Daphne shivered. Nikkolas Pappadeas was mortal, but she feared him even more than the landlady. She feared the autumn he would bring to her eternal spring.