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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sibling(s) (05/01/08)

TITLE: Ahead of the Light
By Ann Grover


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.

“Definitely better.”

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?”

“I’m here.”

“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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Sara Harricharan 05/08/08
Wow. This was neat! I liked little Georgie, I especially liked all the little details and descriptions of her day with Teddy and how they went together on their 'adventures' the ending was especially touching. Nicely done! ^_^
Joanne Sher 05/10/08
Oh, this is so lovely - the descriptions, the characterization, the settings - are masterful. I think this is my favorite so far.
Betty Castleberry05/11/08
Absolutely gorgeous description. This is poignant and very well written, too. Five stars from me.
Jan Ackerson 05/12/08
I'm just speechless with the beauty of this. No one can capture a tiny moment and an enormous depth of feeling like you do, and give such richeness of meaning to a phrase like "ahead of the light."
Lyn Churchyard05/12/08
Awesome! I could hear both Georgie and Teddy talking. I loved the feel of this story. Definitely top class!
Shirley McClay 05/12/08
Beautiful... absolutely beautiful. I want to read more about the children.
Debbie Wistrom05/12/08
Oh I just loved Georgie's voice.

This is so lovely. I got a warm feeling from reading it.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/12/08
You truly have a gift for description. The imagery and the characters were captivating. A favorite this week.
Dee Yoder 05/12/08
See, this is what we think of when we imagine ourselves growing older...being able to remember those fond times and having the comfort of those golden moments in our past. The relationship between the two siblings is beautiful and the subtle hints that this is not the present are perfect. Excellent writing, as usual, and very lovely and poignant to read.
Sharlyn Guthrie05/12/08
Lovely, tender, and excellent in every way! One of my favorites so far.
Joshua Janoski05/13/08
One of my favorites this week. You pack so much in your 750 words. I loved every line of this story, and I am sure that it will be placing very high this week. :)
Peter Stone05/14/08
Love the way 'ahead of the light' is weaving through the article. If I'm reading it correctly, the ending is decades later, and the sister is terminally ill, but remembers her youth with her brother as through it were yesterday.
Chely Roach05/14/08
This was delightfully gorgeous. I loved the line, "“Teddy, that’s delightfully rude. Teach me.” That completely personifies siblings. And the tenderness of the end left me in goosebumps. Lovely.
LauraLee Shaw05/14/08
This is truly masterful. I'm speechless.
Dianne Janak05/14/08
Ann, I read this one aloud, and savored the pictures you put into my head. I never had a brother, but imagine if I did I would want one like him. I too thought perhaps the ending was on her death bed, and the memory of youth was floating before her eyes... Great writing... !! Bravo!
Sheri Gordon05/15/08
Congratulations on your EC, Ann. This is so beautiful, so touching. Nice job with the topic.
Laury Hubrich 05/15/08
Congratulations, Ann! Loved this story.