lake children


It is late morning.
Under the trees, the land is cool and shadowed. Above the trees, the sky is veiled with cloud. Some sunlight finds its way through to glint off the surface of the lake. There are mountains piled against the horizon.

Two boy-like figures sit together by the water’s edge.

BILLY, twelve, fishing rod in hand, sits on a rock. The toes of his boots are inches from the lip of the lake. He whistles tunelessly as he casts his line.

Think I’ll catch meself a big ’un today.

You’re dreamin’, you are, Billy. Fish don’ bite when someone is makin’ such a ruckus as you are with that whistlin’.

Mildly peeved, Billy turns to the child beside him. His sister, ROSY, nine, hair stuffed into a cap, cheeks pink with the cool air, lies sprawled on her stomach. She looks defiantly up at him.

You know I ain’t fibbin’.

I know you is fibbin’. 
(With bravado) 
Everyone know them fish love my whistlin’.

The little girl rolls her eyes. Then she noisily tries to pull up her trousers. They are several sizes too big, as if she has borrowed them from her older brother.

’Ey, settle there, Rosy. You is frightenin’ away them fish.

You gonna get me a go this time?

You should ’ave brung another rod.

You knows I can’t. Ma would notice it missin’.

Ma don’t care.

Mebbe not for you. But for me, certainly. Ain’t ladylike.

She props herself onto her elbows, then hawks and spits. The globule is swallowed by the lake.

(voice rising, stirring her) 
But runnin’ ’round, dressin’ like a boy, is you bein’ like a lady?

Stricken, Rosy glances furtively around. She turns on her brother.

’Ey, whisper, Billy.

None can hear us ’ere, Rosy.

Easy for you to say. Ain’t your hide on the plate if one of them villagefolk hears us.

She dips a finger into the water, and makes swirling circles absentmindedly.

You know one days I’m gonna live in a castle all on me own. Like that one, up there.

She removes a wet finger to point up towards the mountains.

Like one of them princesses?

His sister huffs loudly and tugs up her trousers.

No, not like them princesses; like a proper girl. So I can fish whenevers I like and none can tell me I ain’t allowed.

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