“Bright stars, Snowfall.”
Snowfall looked up at the sound of her little sister’s voice as she entered the den. At fifteen, Brook was all legs and arms, long black tresses and a wide smile with which she greeted Snowfall now.
“Hey! What are you doing?”
Snowfall returned the smile and greeting, and then held up the top she was stitching. “Longshanks thought chewing on my top was a good idea,” she said, showing her the rip that went along its side. “And his jaws have got a lot stronger lately than I expected.”
“Huh, he must have gotten really strong then.” Brook chuckled and folded her long legs underneath her, settling down on the sleeping furs. “Or maybe it’s because that top isn’t really new any more,” she added, giving it a critical look.
“Maybe not but it should hold up another bit.” Snowfall shrugged and resumed her work. “Or do you have something for me you’d think that would work better?” She threw her a wry look with a raised eyebrow.
“Uhm, I might have.” Brook returned her glance with wide-eyed innocence. For a while now she had decided she wanted to be a weaver like Whispersilk, too, and as a first step she was constantly volunteering her new creations for her mother and sister to wear – not for Whispersilk, though, after the middle sister had made abundantly clear that she was perfectly able to make her own clothes, thank you very much.
Snowfall smiled again and bent over her stitching. “I think I’ll keep this one,” she replied. “But show me anyway – a second outfit may come in handy.”
“Great!” Brook clapped her hands gleefully. Snowfall half expected her to jump up and rush off to get that outfit, but the youngest sister remained seated and watched her put stitch next to stitch.
At long last, she shook out the top and looked at it with some satisfaction. Though Snowfall had none of the skill Whispersilk had and Brook was starting to display, it sufficed for such simple work as mending a rip. “There,” she remarked. “Not as good as new but well enough.”
Brook gave the stitching another critical look but spared her an indulgent smile. “Good.”
Snowfall raised a delicate eyebrow at her sister. Something was off about Brook at the moment, she felt – the smile was a bit too wide, the way she held her body a bit too stiff, the look of her eyes a bit too guarded. She was nervous about something. “So … You’ve come by to critique my sewing skills, then?” she asked, prompting gently.
Brook started a bit and laughed, a bit too breathlessly. “Well, they need criticizing! What with Whispersilk and me, it’s a shame you don’t have any,” she replied.
Not fooled, Snowfall put away the bone needle and thread and folded her arms atop the fabric on her knees, looked at her inquiringly. “Is something the matter, Brook?”
Brook looked away. Looked back. Mumbled something.
“What was that?” Snowfall asked mildly. A light blush coloured her sister’s cheek, and she couldn’t help but feel intrigued. Headstrong Brook was not easy to embarrass.
“Just … wanted to talk to you about something,” Brook mumbled, slightly more audible now.
“Ah?” Again a snow-white eyebrow went up. “Well, I’m all ears.”
Brook smiled nervously but didn’t speak. Patiently Snowfall waited, studying her sister with a serious gaze but trying not to scrutinize her – she wanted to give her the time she needed.
Finally Brook sighed and raked a hand through the length of her black hair. “It’s just … I—” she started and broke off again immediately. With a deep breath, she burst out: “What do you do when you like someone?”
That took her by surprise though she didn’t show it. “Well, that depends,” Snowfall said. “Mainly on who it is – and how much you like them.”
“I don’t know …” Brook spoke hesitantly and twisted the hairs of the fur she was sitting on in her hands. “I … I think I like him. I mean, he’s really nice … and cute … and …”
Snowfall fought not to chuckle. It seemed Brook had been hit pretty hard! “Oh my, that sounds serious,” she remarked with a smile. “Would you tell me who he is?”
Brook’s blush was rather furious by now. “Uhm …” She played with the furs some more until the first hairs were coming out. “It’s … Rainpace,” she finally answered.
Well, she certainly could have picked someone worse for her first crush, Snowfall thought. Young Rainpace was a good lad – well, unless he was listening too much to Coyote. “Why do you think you like him?” she asked, a bit curious.
“Why?” Brook looked at her, confused. “Why d’you like someone? He’s really nice … So quiet and shy but,” she hesitated and then grinned, “he’s still friends with Coyote. So there’s something there. And …” She broke off and finally threw up her hands. “Oh, puckernuts, I don’t know! He’s just cute and I like him!”
That drew a short laugh from Snowfall, immediately followed by an apologetic look. “Sorry, little sister. It’s just – first love is something great, isn’t it?”
“Love?” Brook’s voice squealed and she clasped a hand on her mouth. “I mean, who’s talking of love? I just … Not talking about that!”
Snowfall quickly reached out and patted her hand. “All right, Brook, calm down. I don’t want to upset you,” she said soothingly. “So – what do you want to do now? Have you talked to him?”
Brook calmed down quickly enough though the blush definitely seemed to be there to stay. “No … yes … well, not really,” she answered, returning to twisting the fur with renewed vigour. “Just … the usual, you know? Hello, sleep well, how are you. Such things.”
“Well, it’s a start. At least you’re not getting totally tongue-tied around him.” Snowfall couldn’t say she could well imagine her little sister becoming so shy but she had seen it often enough. “What do you think he thinks of you?”
“No idea.” Brook shrugged. “I’d probably need to talk more with him to find out, don’t I?”
Snowfall nodded with a smile. “That would be good,” she replied. “Though, if you can’t do that, maybe there are other ways …”
“Well, someone else could find out,” the huntress explained. “Me or Mother, perhaps. Only if you really need it, though.”
Brook shook her head that her black tresses flew. “No, never!” she protested. “I’d die of shame! Don’t you dare say anything to him!”
Snowfall chuckled. “That doesn’t happen that easily,” she told her soothingly. “Well, if you don’t want me to find out, I don’t think there is much I can do to help you there. Really, the only thing you can do is talk to him, find out how much you like him and if he likes you.”
“Aww.” The girl pouted. “There isn’t some secret to it? Something special you can tell me?” she asked.
“Only one thing …” Snowfall took Brook’s hand and looked into her eyes seriously. “Don’t look to others in this. You know I’m always here to listen, and so is Mother. But this is something very personal, something very much your own, yours and Rainpace’s, whatever may come of it. Take your time and don’t rush it – and enjoy it. It’s something special in itself.”
Brook sighed but smiled. “Thanks, sister.” She shifted closer to her, leaning onto her shoulder and nuzzling her cheek. “And you know if you ever tell anyone about it – say, Mother or Father or Whispersilk – you’ll be very sorry,” she murmured, her dark blue eyes lighting up mischievously.
“Don’t worry,” Snowfall retorted. “My lips are sealed!”