Chapter 5

Yssile inched down the adjacent row, her eyes fastened on the spot where she had last seen the boy.  Jamie drew himself into as small a space as he could and held his breath as she passed nearby.  It was all he could do to keep from crying out in delicious terror so he clamped his hands to his mouth … just in case.  An eternity passed until he judged Yssile to be far enough away that he wouldn’t be noticed as he continued to squirm towards the back gate and freedom.

Sure that she had her tormentor in her sight, Yssile gathered herself and sprung.  “HAH! Got you, you little …”  Her glee vanished as she realized her prize had evaded her once again.

Jamie bolted for the gate, knocking several fruit to the ground.  Yssile spun at the noise and darted to catch him, his swift escape foiled by the strong latch.  Come on, COME ON! he pleaded, fumbling with the catch.  A hand clawed at his collar when the gate burst open, propelling him through the exit.  He staggered at the sudden release causing the grasping fist to jerk away.  With a quick look back to a stumbling Yssile, he sprinted for the unfinished springhouse – a last possible refuge before reaching the sanctuary of the forest.

Dyrsa and Urlanth had started building the round rock springhouse over a moon ago.  When finished, the flow of a nearby spring will be routed into the building and out again.  The cold waters will cool the masonry floors and walls to provide a level of refrigeration for the family’s food supplies.  Jamie and Yssile were already planning on how they might make additional use of its cool interior next summer, but for now it offered so much more to the fleeing Jamie.

He ducked and weaved through the construction site, dodging around piles of rock, tools and scaffolding, careful to always keep something between him and the irate teenager.   Yssile made a quick grab, but her hand slid from a grubby wrist.  Jamie retreated and found himself trapped.  Rock piles to the sides boxed him in and a large trough of we mortar and the springhouse itself blocked his rear.  He hesitated, surveying his surroundings.  Cornered at last, he grimaced as Yssile stepped in to cut off his only possibility of escape.

“Now what, Jamie?” she smirked “Where are you going to go now?”

Jamie sighed.  He hated losing to Yssile.  After a moment of thought, he crouched in a fighting stance learned from the adults.  He might have lost … this time … but that didn’t mean he was going to make it easy for the girl.

“Oh, so it’s going to be like that, is it?”

Confident that her size and strength would make all the difference, Yssile sauntered to within an arm’s reach of the younger boy.    She would end this small rebellion in a decisive and enjoyable fashion.  After a few heartbeats of watching Jamie sweat, she lunged.

At the last possible moment, Jamie jumped aside.

Yssile overbalanced.  She had thought that grabbing Jamie would stop her forward motion.

But she missed.

Yssile teetered on one foot, a large part of her body suspended over the mortar trough.  She struggled to regain her balance.  All it would take is one small push …

Which Jamie thoughtfully provided.

The resultant splash was everything that Jamie could have ever imagined.  Mortar flew in every direction.  Yssile furiously cleared the offending sludge from her eyes, nose and mouth.  Jamie pumped a fist in glee at the spectacle.

“Yeah! Yeah! Tha …”  He hesitated as Yssile narrowed her eyes.  He remembered too late the mistakes he had made earlier in choosing to wait and watch rather than flee.  “NO, Yssile!  STOP!” Yssile caught the boy’s wrist and with a sharp tug, pulled him to join her.  Now it was the girl’s turn to enjoy the little pest’s efforts to wipe the muck from his face.  The two sat facing one another in shocked silence.  A low chortle started from Yssile.  It was funny, after all.  Jamie responded with a giggle.

He pointed.  “You look like a ring-tailed ‘coon!”  His giggle exploded into full blown laughter.

Yssile snorted, “And you think you look any different?”  She tried to be fierce but failed, the hilarity of the situation overwhelming her.  With tears tracking clean through the mud on her face, she lost herself in laughter.

“Ooooh, my tummy hurts,” Jamie groaned.  “Stop making me laugh, Yssile!”

It was hard, but she was able to regain control.  “Alright.  I’ve stopped … now you.”

“I … I … can’t!

“Well, then … think about this:  what’s going to happen if Kaliana finds us sitting here covered in mud?”

That killed Jamie’s giggles.  He began to worry as he considered the possible repercussions.

Yssile let him suffer for a moment then stood up and stepped from the trough.  Grinning, she asked, “race you to the mill pond?”

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