It’s Week #23 for the Fiction in a Flash Challenge!
Suzanne Burke came up with another inspiring photo to get our creative juices flowing. Check out the entries, and join in here; Welcome to the World of Suzanne Burke.
Together We Stand
Emme was so tired she couldn’t take another step. She plopped on the ground and stared with bleary eyes as her companions continued down the faint trail in front of them. She should get up and follow or at least call out to let them know she was taking a break, but even that took too much energy.
Toby glanced back, then reached out to stop the leader of their motley group, Charley.
“Come on, Emme. You can’t quit now.” Toby tipped his head encouragingly. “Just a little farther.”
“You’ve been saying that for three days,” Emme muttered. Didn’t matter, she wasn’t moving. They were never going to find their way out of this… this jungle anyway. Charley said he knew where he was going, but she didn’t believe him. Not anymore.
“Go on without me,” she called, her voice little more than a harsh croak. “I’m holding you back.”
If it were up to Charley, they would have left her. He wasn’t the friendliest soul on the planet, but Toby made up for it with his happy-go-lucky attitude- even in the face of their current circumstances.
Toby frowned and said something to Charley, then trotted to her side, making a mockery out of her weariness.
“See that river?” Toby nodded down the steep hill to a silver ribbon snaking through the canyon below. Trees dressed in robes of read, yellow, and orange stood sentinel over the valley, warning trespassers- like them- away.
“What about it?” She knew she was acting childish, but it was hopeless. She’d never see her family again.
“Charley says all we have to do is find a way across and we’ll find help. He’s sure of it.” He sat beside her, then bounced up just as fast when Charley joined them. “Tell Emme what you told me. We’re almost there, right?” He practically vibrated with excitement.
Charley shot him a glare. “Quit eating the grass, it messes with your head.” He sighed and turned his back to her. “Hop on.”
Emme stared at him like he’d grown two heads. “Pardon me?” She blushed furiously. What did he take her for, a… a floozy?
He scowled at her over his shoulder. “Come on, we don’t have all day. Feel that bite in the air? Winter is coming. We need to get across the water before the storm hits, or…”
Or they would die up here. All alone.
Grumbling to cover her groans as she forced her aching feet to bear her weight, Emme rose and, lifting a haughty chin in the air, tender-footed it down the trail. “Well, let’s go then. What are you waiting for?” Ow, ow, ow. Every step was pure misery, but she refused to be a burden to her friends. If they could do it, she could, too.
Toby raced past, grinning. “We’re a great team, aren’t we, Emme?”
She couldn’t resist his enthusiasm. “The best,” she agreed.
And it was true. If not for Toby and Charley, she’d still be sitting back there waiting for a miracle that wasn’t likely to happen. By sticking together, they had a chance.
She slowed until Charley caught up. Glancing sideways under her lashes, she noticed how drawn he looked. And yet, he’d been willing to use the last of his strength to help her.
Ashamed of her catty attitude, she lifted her voice so Toby would hear, as well. “I owe you an apology. Both of you. If I hadn’t talked you guys into sneaking off that way, we wouldn’t have been left behind. It’s all my fault.”
The sitters, who cared for them while their families worked, had taken them on a field trip into the wilderness and she’d been bored but not brave enough to explore by herself.
And look where that landed them.
“Did you hear us say no?” Charley grumbled. “We’re as much in the wrong as you.”
“Yeah,” Toby said. “I’m the one that ran after that rabbit and got us lost. I’m just glad we’re together. Don’t worry, Emme, we’ll find–“
“Charley, Emme, Toby. Thank goodness, we found you.” A teen boy shouted from further down the trail.
Charley erupted into excited barks, his body quivering with excitement. He hesitated, his gaze going from Emme to Toby, then back to his family hurrying toward him.
“Go,” Emme said, her heart overflowing. “We’ll be right behind you.”
They were going home.
Together we stand, divided we fall ❤