Firna was standing ready for it in the grassy field on the other side of the stream. She snagged it out of the air, letting it slap against her arm. She squeezed more water out, and pinned the shirt to the clothesline stretched between two young trees. When she turned back, the next shirt was sailing across the stream to her. She yelped as its momentum flicked water at her.
“Mally! You got me wet,” she complained, wiping her face.
“The clothes are all wet!” said Mally. “What am I supposed to do? Besides, it’s hot out. The water feels nice.” She lifted the next piece of clothing above her head and wrung it out, so that water trickled onto her hair and down her neck. Even though the sun still had a good distance to rise, the heat was starting to be stifling.
“Yes, it’s too hot. I shouldn’t even have to be out here. I hope Tag gets in big trouble for not taking her turn.” Firna bad-temperedly caught the next piece of clothing and flung it up at the line.
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” said Mally dryly. “My mother’s already planning chores until Tenfeast. She didn’t wash the plates last night, either, Tag didn’t. She snuck out early this morning.”
“Well, it would be lovely if she learns a lesson from this. But today, I still have to hang up the clothes for her.” Firna sighed. “Chores until Tenfeast, you say? Hopefully sometime before then, she’ll have to take my turn instead.”
Tag crept out a little farther on her branch. Below her, the deer still hadn’t noticed it was being watched.
Peering down between the leaves, she could see the head and neck of the beautiful animal, as richly brown as the leaves would turn in autumn, touched with soft gray around the eyes and nose. The doe looked around, regal and alert, then stepped delicately forward to the edge of the pond. It bent its head to the still water and drank.
Tag let out her breath very, very slowly. To think that right at this very moment, she could have been washing heavy, scratchy clothes instead of clinging to a branch, watching this magnificent creature. Mally would be mad at her, for sure. Mother too. But Tag had been good for a whole month. Today, she had finally had to slip away to the forest.
A branch snapped behind her, and the deer bounded away. Tag twisted around the branch to see what had made the noise.
To be continued...