Fifteen year old River walked next to her brother Caleb on the sidewalk, her bright blue earbuds a sharp contrast with her dark outfit. Her black mock turtleneck, black cargo pants, and short black boots weren’t her usual style, and the gothic colors had surprised her friends. She herself hadn’t wanted to wear such a gloomy outfit, but after forgetting to do the laundry she was stuck with it.
The only color she had was her silver necklace, with a sapphire forming a crescent moon, and a star attached to the moon by one of its five points. She’d had it ever since she was six, when her mother had gifted it to her.
As she walked along the sidewalk, daydreaming about her necklace and the girl who had first worn it, her brother, Caleb, gave her a gentle shove.
“Earth to River,” he teased, his hazelnut hair glinting honey in the sunlight.
“Huh?” River jumped, then glanced at Caleb. She pulled out her earbuds. “What?”
“I was asking if you needed help studying for the math test,” Caleb said in a long-suffering tone. “But, you clearly weren’t listening, so I’ll take that as a–”
“Yes,” River interrupted, stopping her music, putting her earbuds away, and her phone back in her pocket. “Yes, I do need help. I still can’t understand relations. The input-output just makes no sense. And don’t get me started on domain and range,” she added, groaning.
Caleb grinned. “It’s actually really easy,” he began. “All you have to do is–”
“Not right now!” River gasped. “I just had 7½ hours of school. My poor brain needs a break!”
“It’ll only take five minutes to explain,” Caleb protested.
“Five minutes too long,” River said, running a hand through her dark hair. “Mom always gives us one hour before we start our homework, so why can’t this wait until then?”
Caleb sighed. “Alright, I guess. Just promise you won’t interrupt when I’m explaining the concept?”
“Nope. You know I will interrupt, promise or no promise.” River shook her head adamantly, and her long hair flipped from side to side. She started to say something else, then drew in a sharp breath and changed it to, “Oh, look, there’s the forest!”
Across the street directly in front of them, bordering the sidewalk, a sudden wooded area rose up, the trees rustling in the wind. The forest was actually part of a large park, and the woods stretched no more than a quarter of a mile in each direction. To call the area “small” would be an understatement.
“Yeah, so?” Caleb asked, jogging to keep up with his sister as she sped toward the trees. “We pass it every day on the way home.”
“Elder, stupid,” River called over her shoulder. “I think its berries are in season.”
“The plant,” River said with an eye roll at her brother’s lack of knowledge about anything outside of sports or math. “It’ll make a great tea for mom: she’s always getting cold hands or feet.”
“Oookay,” Caleb mumbled, his voice fading as they entered the small wood. The trees whispered in the wind, and a bird twittered its high song.
“Ah! There it is.” River darted towards an old, twisted tree with red-black berries. “Have you got a Ziploc bag?” she asked her brother.
He stared at her. “No, I don’t have a bag.” He spoke slowly, as if his sister weren’t very bright.
“What about your sandwich bag?” River pressed.
“I didn’t finish my sandwich,” Caleb said. River looked at him pointedly. “What?”
“Well, finish it,” River told him.
Rolling his eyes, Caleb swung his black and red backpack around and produced a plastic Ziploc from one of the zippered pockets. A chunk of a sandwich remained, and Caleb took it out and stuffed it in his mouth. Crumbs fell to the forest floor, and he chewed loudly, just to annoy his sister.
“Ew,” was all she said, but she accepted the now-empty bag. She was filling up the bag with the berries when something else caught her eye: a low carpet of white flowers, about a hundred yards away. River stopped filling the bag and stared hard at the flowers. Being near-sighted could be so annoying sometimes.
She was jogging toward the flowers when Caleb shouted, “Hey! Where’re you going? We’ve gotta keep the sidewalk in sight.”