"I hate water."

"I know."

"Bridges are okay, though. They're...sturdy."

"Yeah..." My toes skimmed the surface of the water, swinging back and forth.

"Sarah?

"Mmm?" I leaned my head against the wooden structure of the bridge. The sun fanned against my back, seeping tendrils of warmth through the starchy fabric of my dress.

"I really hate this." Her nose scrunched up, forming a 'v' of freckles.

"I know," I sighed. I grasped her hand with my own, feeling the water droplets caught on our palms merge together.

"Mom didn't mean what she said… did she?"

I stayed quiet for a moment, studying the surface of the water beneath our feet. In her agitation, Emma swung her feet back and forth, causing the ripples to grow larger, almost to the point of consuming the entire width of the pond.

"No," I replied after the pause. Would she believe it?

"Oh." Emma was quiet for a few moments after that, dipping her head forward and peering at the sunlight that reflected on the water through the curtain of her sunflower-colored hair.

A slight breeze picked up, stirring the strands so the entirety of her face was exposed. She was crying. "Emma…" She acknowledged that I had spoken with a slight nod of her head.

"I... I don't want to live somewhere else, Sarah," she choked as a tear stole down her cheek. "I don't…" She trailed off, letting her eyelids drift shut.

"Shhh…" I murmured. "It's okay, Em. Mom and Dad'll find a way. They will."

Emma studied me through red-rimmed, swollen eyes. "Okay," she whispered, smiling through her tears.

-:-

"Karen, listen-"

"No, you listen! This is-"

Emma's hand tightened over mine as the argument drifted to us from the living room window. "C'mon." I tugged at the sleeve of her dress, pulling her forward. Pushing her inside, I slammed the door behind us and scuffled noisily across the floor.

When I glanced back, her eyes were wide and darting. "What are you doing!" she hissed, inching behind me. I squeezed her shoulder, using my free hand to pull open the door to the living room.

"When did you two get home?" Dad demanded as soon as we had stepped into the room. Throwing a warning glance at Emma, I plastered a smile onto my face, already concocting an excuse.

"Just now. We had to help Miss Rachel carry the bags of food from church." With a minute roll of my shoulders, the chain of my necklace fell loose from the dress's collar, the silver cross glinting.

My father frowned, his brow furrowing. He was a large man, built like an ox, and favored grey slacks and striped shirts. Without giving him a chance to question our excuse, I dragged Emma up the stairs, shutting the door of my room firmly behind us.

"That," she breathed, "was close." She rested her back against the wall, her eyes still wide.

I laughed, feeling the tension in the air ease. "You have to admit, it was fun. If Dad had even considered that Miss Rachel was assigned to bring food last week, we'd have been done for…"

Shaking her head, Emma sunk to the wooden floor. "You and your mood swings. You can't pretend it didn't happen."

I looked away, a breathy laugh escaping me. "I don't have any idea what you're talking about."

Emma's lips curled into a sardonic smile, but didn't say anything more on the subject. "We'd best make sure that Dad doesn't find out about your… our lie." She twisted a strand of her long hair between her fingers, all the while surveying my room.

"What? It's not like I've had time to clean it lately with… with…"

"Don't be so defensive. When have you cared what I think, anyway?" My eyes flew to her face. Since when had she spoken so sharply?

"What are you talking about? I've always cared what you thought."

Emma scoffed. "Yeah, sure. Whatever you say, Sarah." She turned her back to me, busying herself with sifting through the contents of my closet.

Still mulling over what she had said, I glanced out the window. The afternoon sun winked back at me. Emma emerged from my closet, a bundle of clothes slung across her forearm. "Here," she said, thrusting a long skirt and a sweater at me. "Put these on. These stupid dresses are getting on my nerves."

I nodded, but didn't put them on. "What?" she said after a few moments of silence.

"You expect me to change while you're still here?"

Something flashed through her expression for a moment, though it was so quick that I didn't catch what it was. "Fine. I'll go to my room, then. Have fun changing," she sneered. The way she said it made my throat constrict, though I wasn't quite sure why.

The sound of a door slamming reverberated throughout the house.