She caught him mid-stride about halfway down the hall, and Benjamin was immediately aware that she had planned this advance very cleverly, for it allowed him nowhere but downstairs to flee. He usually wouldn't mind spending a little time with the girl, but there was something about her manner that put his defenses up this time.
"Good afternoon, Benjamin," she said innocently, sidestepping in a way that allowed her to stand between he and the attic, just in case the boy was possibly contemplating escape.
"Hello, Hanna," he replied, regarding her warily. "What is it you need?"
She shrugged. "Oh, I don't know- I heard you coming down and I thought I would just like to talk with you a little while."
Benjamin turned a bit and began walking towards the staircase. "Well I was just coming down to get something to eat-"
"That's fine, I'll just come with you."
Yes, she was certainly up to something. She only used that saccharine little voice of hers when she was after information she wanted, and he had a rather bad feeling that he knew exactly what she desired to know. What he was also aware of was the fact that he being sixteen and she being eleven really didn't even the odds at all- she had him under her thumb and she was quite aware of this.
"So," Hanna said, snaking a slender little arm through his, "how are you and Sara doing?"
Benjamin blanched slightly. "We're fine."
"Are you still dancing?"
His cheeks went from pale to pink. "Er, yes... we dance sometimes..."
There was a long pause and he glanced over at the girl: though she was looking straight ahead as they descended the stairs, her mouth was pulled into a mischievous grin. "It seems as if you care for her greatly," she said finally.
"Won't you hush?"
"Oh come now, Mama and Papa are in town and Sara's with with Edith and Alida. No-one can hear us."
"I think that terrifies me even more than the former."
"Well, you're not getting out of it this time, Benji."
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
They reached the bottom of the stairs and Hanna broke from him, turning to face him head on. Her hands were on her hips and she appeared as if she had no intention of moving. "I think you know exactly what I'm talking about, and I want a full confession."
"Just let me get my lunch Hanna, really-"
"You love her!"
Benjamin flushed magenta and frowned. "What- I- no, I most certainly do not-"
"Well, now that I know for sure, let's get down to business-"
"No- what are you even talking about? I don't-"
Hanna paid him no heed, though. "First things first, we need to fix your hair. It's so messy- there's no way Sara will fancy such untidiness-"
"What are you- stop, stop- get off!"
"Be still and stop fidgeting, you'll thank me later!" the girl snapped as she scrambled up him, throwing her arms round the back of his neck and hoisting herself up until she was in reach of his unkempt locks.
The boy stumbled with the extra weight upon his shoulders, trying to squirm away from her vice-like hold. "Hanna- Hanna- ow, Goodness, ow, stop! Damnit, Hanna- that's my rib you're standing on- augh- get off, get off, get off!"
And still Hanna ignored him, licking her palm and pressing it down upon his cowlick. "Stop being a child, Benjamin, I'm doing this for your own good! Tuck in your shirt, too and roll down your sleeves-"
"It's the middle of July! I'm not rolling down my sleeves!"
"Oh, and don't be so shy- it's endearing, but not alluring, Try to be like Clarke Gable or Valentino- mysterious, suave-"
"Okay, okay- just get off and stop drenching my hair and climbing my spine like a tree-"
The girl didn't, though- instead she lowered herself slightly, arms still round his neck and he sighed, giving into her piggyback request. She leaned her chin upon his shoulder and smiled at him.
"I'm glad you like her, Benji."
"Yes. And if you marry her, I'll be able to call you my brother."
An unexpected rush of warmth filled him and he turned to her. "Is that so?"
"Yes, just so long as I get to be the Maid of Honor and the flower girl."
Benjamin laughed. "Your wish is my command, your highness."