Lila did not want to follow her older brother into the tangled forest. She dug her heels into the fresh earth, making tracks of soil and scattering decaying leaves. Her brother’s tight grip upon her forearm urged her forward as they passed towering oaks and maples far older than they could imagine.
“Don’t be boring, Lila. We’ve done this plenty of times before. What’s different about it now?” Alastair mumbled as he wrangled his sister around the remains of an ancient tree stump.
“It’s our spot, Ali,” Lila grumbled. She gestured toward the other three children eagerly following them with her head. The dark black curls of her hair bounced and gleamed in the sun that speckled down from the forest canopy.
“Don’t be selfish,” Alastair said. He turned so that the little girl could not see his exhausted expression.
True, this spot of woodland and been his and his sister’s refuge for the past year. Ever since his parents had given him the okay to wander off into the forest behind their modest three bedroom home, this forest had been theirs. Well, anything on the cleared path was theirs. His parents had made it very clear that they were not to stray too far and to limit their expeditions to half an hour.
Alastair, at age eleven, had felt proud when his father took of his very own silver watch and let the warm device settle into his son’s hands.
“This will be your marker. Half an hour and then back home, yes?” Came the warm, soft voice that always commanded anyone’s devoted attention.
“Yes!” Alastair echoed with pride. With his father’s prized silver watch loose around his wrist, he had taken his little sister, three years his junior, out to explore.
Now, there were three other children crowed around Alastair and his silver watch, staring at him with eager, blinking eyes. He gulped, briefly letting go of Lila’s hand to scratch his neck. He never thought that they would actually come. What kids now-a-days were like him and his sister and actually enjoyed turning over rocks to inspect the fat insects underneath or climbing trees to see the roof of their very own houses? Alastair had told the twins and their brother about the waterfall fully expecting them to shrug and continue to play their video games. However, he did not foresee Gabbie to say:
“A waterfall! Oh, I would very much like to see it!”
“You, you would?” Alastair asked.
“Yes, of course! Do you think there’d be a mermaid?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Gabbie. Mermaids don’t exist,” huffed Gabbie’s twin, Ginger.
“There’s no proof that they don’t. Until you give my that, they exist.” Gabbie had turned to Alastair, her hazel eyes brimming with excitement. “Can you take us to the waterfall, Ali?”
And that was that. Alastair could never say no to Gabbie no matter how much he would like to. Now, Lila, Gabbie, Ginger, and Zane were all counting on him to guide them to the mermaid waterfall.