Dappled shadows capered in the burbling brook, and overhead, birds warbled, competing for uppermost branches and select vantage points. Teddy tossed his shoes onto the grassy bank as he waded into the chill water and submersed his arm to the elbow.
“Now, see, Georgina,” he whispered.
Georgina lay on the bank, dress hitched up around her knees, white butterflied hair bow askew as she peered into the shallows.
“You’re ever so clever, Teddy.”
“Hush, Georgie. You’ll scare ‘em away.”
The water chortled, foretelling of Teddy’s own glee as he suddenly leaped up, speckly trout in hand, and spewing water in a brilliant arc.
“Oh, he’s lovely,” admired Georgina. The trophy gleamed and gasped in its death throes, and Teddy set it in the grass to writhe and perish.
“May I try, Teddy?”
“Aw, Georgie, how can you?
But Georgina was already rolling down her stockings. Off came her ruffled pinafore and her sashed and beribboned dress. Taking a deep breath, she stepped into the brook, quickly dampening the edges of her ruffled bloomers. Teddy grinned, and he shook his head, merry lights in his brown eyes.
“See, Georgie, the water bends your arm. You have to think ahead of the light. See what the fish see. Understand?”
Georgie didn’t, but she bent her head close to Teddy’s, smelled the boy smell of him, the fresh fish scent, the water, the nearby willows, and even the milk they’d had for lunch.
“Now crook your fingers a little. See? The fish will swim into your hand, but wait. Don’t touch him yet. Too soon and he’ll swim away. Just wait. Are you listening?”
Georgina’s fingers were already getting stiff from holding her position, and she knew she’d not have the patience for wooing a fish into her tickling grasp. But she tried, until her bloomers were sodden and her shift was spattered with droplets.
“Shall we go, Teddy? The Bentons’ mare has a new foal.”
Georgina pulled on her dress haphazardly, tied the sash of the pinafore in lopsided knot, and dispensed with her stockings altogether, stuffing them into her pocket. Teddy plucked a piece of grass and whistled shrilly with it.
“Teddy, that’s delightfully rude. Teach me.”
The boy picked another length of grass and showed Georgina how to fit it between her two thumbs. She blew and managed a paler rendition of his raucous whistle.
“Not bad, little sister.” Georgina beamed at his praise, and she tried again, bursting forth with a louder squawk.
They stopped at the Bentons’ farm and admired the new foal, then cut back through the woods again. The afternoon sun was still warm, but playing hide and seek in the trees, making long shadows, then blinding them with golden light.
“You have mud on your shoes, Georgie.”
Scooping up a handful of dried leaves, Georgina scrubbed at the offending mark in vain. She shrugged.
“You have mud on your face, Teddy.” She chased him and finally threw the leaves at his back. “Race you up a tree.”
The pair climbed, Georgina with her dress tucked into her waistband, higher and higher, trying to outdo her nimble brother. His agility was proven in the descent, as poor Georgina became stuck, hampered by her apparel and lack of skill.
“I won’t always be here to rescue you, little Georgie.”
“I know.” And for a moment, her lip trembled.
* * *
Later, much, much later, Georgina awoke. She didn’t feel well. Perhaps, she’d caught a chill from standing in the brook for so long.
The door opened. “How’s my favourite sister?”
“I’m tired, Teddy. I’ve got a chill. Do be a love and fetch me another blanket.”
Georgina closed her eyes while the extra blanket was tucked in around her. Wonderful and comforting warmth enveloped her and she rested.
Georgina struggled to open her eyes again. “Teddy?”
“Where’s the fish?”
“I let him go.”
“He was too lovely to eat.” Georgina closed her eyes again. Teddy was here, and all would be well. She smelled his boy smell again, together with leather and coffee.
Sunlight dappled the coverlet, mingling shadow and radiance. Georgina’s white hair was like a halo, bright and shining. She took a deep breath. Teddy put his head next to hers on the pillow and whispered,
“Ahead of the light, little Georgie, ahead of the light.
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