The River, Part 2 (Read The Plague Legacy: The River, Part 1)
The trail to the river cut a narrow path through an overgrown field. Halfway to his favorite fishing spot, Brian caught sight of a yellow butterfly and chased it, weaving in and out of the late summer grass. Tara smiled. This wasn’t her rooftop, but the open field and the sunshine still made her feel expansive, like she was an important part of the universe.
“Tara,” Brian stumbled out of the grass, a tear running down his freckles.
“What happened?” She laid down the poles and opened her arms. Instead of hugging her, he pointed to his knee. It was raw and red, scraped hard enough to send a drop of blood trailing down to his boot. “Oh, buddy,” Tara loosened her tee shirt out of her shorts and dabbed the hem on the blood. “That hurts, huh?”
Brian sniffed and hugged her.
Good thing you’re such a big boy.” She squeezed him and picked up the poles. “I bet those fish are scared now that they can see how tough you are.”
“Really?” Brian sniffed again and slid his fingers around hers.
“Really,” Tara held his hand until they reached the riverbank. Water rushed along the narrow bank, tearing at the grass that dared to grow close to the edge. The water’s higher than I’ve ever seen it this time of year. Tara bit her lip. That’s why Dad won’t let Brian come down here by himself. Maybe next year it will be low enough that we can swim in it instead of fish.
She knew they wouldn’t catch anything. They would be better off going down to the lake at the bottom of the valley if they actually wanted to come home with fish, but she was even more reluctant to walk back in the dark with her little brother than she was to fish on the narrow bank with the water so high.
She helped Brian settle on a log that Devon had set up for him in the spring when he decided that fishing was his favorite thing to do. The poles were rusty, and Brian’s reel didn’t move, so he just dipped the hook in the water and held it there.
Tara’s pole worked better but she sat and stared at it. The dried worm reminded her of a chicken’s leg, wrinkled and crusty, and she dangled it above the water, more interested in the sun’s reflection on the surface than what swam below.
She closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sun like she had on the rooftop, her mind wandering back through the grass to the house. Her mother’s headache simply made Tara shrug, but her father being sick enough that Devon could tell nagged at her.
Her father was never sick. Ever.
“Whoa,” Brian exhaled.
Tara gasped when she opened her eyes and saw Brian leaning over the water. Dropping her pole, she scrambled over to her brother and wrapped her arm around his waist. After she tugged him further onto the bank, she helped him pull his fish out.
“I got one!” he grinned.
“You sure did,” Tara was genuinely surprised. They were fishing in the middle of the afternoon in a swollen river with a dry worm.
The slimy thing spasmed on the end of the line, jerking the pole into her face. She steadied Brian’s hand with hers and pinned the trout to the ground as Brian worked the hook out of the its mouth.
“I got to show Dad!”
“Take off your shirt,” Tara tried not to crush the fish while she held it.
“Why?” Brian lifted an eyebrow.
Tara looked at him. “Because we didn’t bring the basket, so we’ll have to wrap the fish in your shirt to get it home.”
“Ewww,” Brian wrinkled his nose. “Why not your shirt?”
“Because I’m a girl,” Tara rolled her eyes. “Do you want to show Dad?”
Brian nodded. While he squirmed out of his shirt, Tara looked around for her pole. It was gone.
She wrapped the shirt around the trout and pressed it against Brian’s belly. “Hold it like a baby.”
He clutched at the bundle.
“Not too tight, buddy,” she loosened his arms. “More like that.”
He grinned, “I can’t wait to show Dad.”
“I know, but I better go find my pole or Dad will—” she bit her lip.
Brian nodded. He knew.
“Stay right here, okay?” she held Brian’s shoulders until he met her eyes and answered.
“Thanks, buddy,” Tara ruffled his hair.
Order The Plague Legacy: Acquisitions on ebook from Amazon, December 6, 2013. It’s gonna rock the world of young adult dystopian fiction.