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Take the Egg

 

It was nearly dawn, and the children were running amuck around the candlelit house with their old nursemaid, Eliza, trailing behind, huffing, puffing, and shaking her head. Meanwhile, Heath, the youngest of the three Arneshaw’s, slumbered peacefully upstairs in his crib next to his parents.

 

Anna turned a corner. Bront, trailing his sister, bumped into her. Eliza reached out and nearly caught a scrap of his collar. He dropped a shoulder, twisted, and ran after his sister, giggling, successfully alluding capture.

 

“You two will never cease and desist,” said Eliza, catching her breath.

 

The old nursemaid grabbed her dress and hiked it up over heels, pursuing her two animated wards down a long, shadowed corridor. When she reached an open area, she halted her steps and let her dress fall to her feet. Swiveling her head, she strained her ears.

To her left, a dining room. To her right, a study.

 

Giggles came from the study.

 

Eliza rolled her eyes to the ceiling, grinning. She stood tall and cracked her back, puffing her cheeks and exhaling.

“Such a dizzy age!” she exclaimed, shuffling her feet into the dining room. “I must rest my poor back.”

 

Eliza found a chair and sat with an exaggerated sigh. Not more than five seconds later, two pairs of feet shuffled on the carpet in the study. Eliza pressed her lips together, suppressing a chuckle.

 

“Those two always take the egg!” she said, shaking her eyes and head at the ceiling, swinging a closed fist into the air.

 

“Awww, Miss Lizzy,” said a sweet feminine voice from behind. “We don’t always win.”

 

Eliza feigned surprised, jumping in her chair, and turning. Anna approached first, then Bront. One stood on either side of her chair.

 

“Yeah, you almost won this time,” said Bront, pausing, crumpling his brow. “You almost caught me.”

 

The two children patted her on the back. Eliza could no longer restrain herself and squeezed both children in her arms, laughing.

 

A longcase clock announced the hour, interrupting the embrace. Bront groaned and Anna drooped her head. She kissed both of their foreheads.

 

“Come, come,” said Eliza. “We must not look so forlorn.”

 

“But I don’t want to leave,” said Bront, moaning.

 

Anna sobbed. “Me neither.”

 

Eliza glanced out the window. She had drawn the curtains back before the chase game had begun.

 

“The sun has still not spoken,” she said, winking at them.

 

She lifted Bront’s chin and then dried Anna’s tears.

 

“Come, let us sit for a spell,” she said, pulling out two chairs and patting the cushions. “We’ve time for a story.”

 

The children instantly beamed with brighter faces. They sat and gazed at Eliza, their feet floating, swinging far above the carpet. The old nursemaid cleared her throat, mulling over a tale.

At length, she sighed and began.

------

 

Nearly a year ago, on a clear summer day, two children and their nanny seized a rare opportunity of freedom. The woman discussed with the children’s parents the idea of having a picnic in the countryside. Upon securing their confidence, the nanny packed sandwiches and fruits for a picnic and departed from the house with the children, holding their hands and laughing with them.

 

Not far from the estate, within their acres of forests and creeks, there stood a bridge. Arched and beautiful, old but sturdy, it had been constructed by the children’s grandfather, an engineer, who had died years before they had been born. Their grandmother, who had been dead two years now, had bragged to her grandchildren the familial magnificence of the bridge. Of course, when she had initially shown them the overpass, they were unimpressed, having had no knowledge of such marvels of legacy, and, at the first opportunity, began running along its path, giggling.

These same grandchildren, when approaching the bridge with their nanny, once again pulled their hands free and went ahead of her. Despite being chastised, they ran upon the stone. Although the nanny warned them that the walkway was slick with dew, they skipped. And even though she squealed from the top of her lungs, the children climbed on top of the rock walls and continued to skip.

 

The nanny chased after them every instant. Her eyes wide, she reached out with her arms, missing them one final time.

The girl fell first. Her hands thrusting out in panic, they grabbed an ankle of her brother, pulling him over the edge with her. Together, the brother and sister tumbled over the side, screaming, falling over twenty feet until the shallow water below drowned their cries forever.

------

 

Eliza finished their tale and sighed.

 

His mouth agape, Bront shook his head at her.

 

“Why ever would you tell us such a depressing story, miss Lizzy,” he said. “Tell us another one. But keep it cheery.”

 

He laughed with uncertainty and then caught a glimpse of his sister’s face. Anna had paled. Her skin had become translucent.

 

The clock chimed once more.

Upstairs above them, a thud resonated. Soon it was followed by running feet.

 

Eliza glanced at a ray of light from the window and then frowned at them both. Next, she kissed Bront on the cheek. Then, she turned to Anna and paused. Though her eyes swelled with sorrow, the girl restrained her tears.

 

“I love you, Miss Lizzy,” said Anna.

 

“I know, young Anna,” said Eliza. “And I love you.”

 

Now it was the old nursemaid who began to tear up. She sniffled, leaned over, and kissed Anna on her forehead.

Above them, the same footsteps ran and reached the top of the staircase.

 

Eliza leaned back.

“Go on,” whispered Eliza, smiling as best she could, her mouth quivering. “Take your brother. I’ll see you both tomorrow morning.”

 

Anna nodded. She stood from her chair and grabbed Bront by his hand.

 

“Come on, Bront, let’s play outside.”

 

Bront turned his head from Eliza to Anna, curled his brow, and finally hopped off the chair. His sister escorted him out of the dining room. Without looking back, they ran toward the front door, holding each other’s hand, no longer giggling.

 

Meanwhile, Eliza turned after them, her eyes glistening.

The children reached the door, their forms vanishing. Their footprints, tiny and wet, had already begun to dry.

THE END