Gasping in disbelief, Emily found herself facing another girl about the same age. She was so astounded she didn’t say anything for several seconds, just stood with her hands over her mouth. Staring back at her was a girl dressed in an ankle-length blue print dress speckled with tiny rosebuds. Over it she wore a white apron with ruffles at the shoulder. Her sandy-coloured hair was in long braids.
“Yikes, you scared me.” Emily’s heart was pumping against her rib cage. “I didn’t know anyone was up here.” She lowered her hands to her chest as if to slow the pounding inside. “Who are you?”
“I’m Emma.” The girl smiled timidly at Emily.
Emily liked the lilting sound of the girl’s voice and smiled back, but wondered why she hadn’t seen anyone on top of the rock as she approached. Maybe Emma had been somewhere else among the other rocks? “I never saw you.”
“No, you were too busy climbing to notice me, lass.”
“Oh.” Emily was still unsure of how she’d missed seeing Emma earlier. And why did the girl talk so strangely with the rolling r’s? Why did she call her lass? Then suddenly remembering her manners, Emily introduced herself.
Emma reached for Emily’s hand. “How do you do?”
Emily gave Emma’s hand a limp shake in return, then drew back, wondering at the other girl’s formality. And why was her hand so rough? Emily found herself staring shyly at Emma’s odd appearance.
It wasn’t just her long dress. The girl wore high-buttoned shoes, too. She looked like one of those people who dressed up for heritage days or rodeos and exhibitions in the summer. Maybe she’s just a little weird, Emily thought. Or maybe Emma isn’t from around here.
“Do you live …?”
Emily froze, crying out in shock as she stared over Emma’s shoulder. The house and the summerfallowed field had vanished. In their place were willows and scrubby bush, thick over the open grasslands, except for the occasional stand of aspens. A creek meandered through the landscape and a huge slough lay in the distance. There were no fences. No stone piles. No elevators. Not even a gravel road–only a winding dirt trail that crawled across the plains.
“Where’s my grandmother’s house?” Emily felt a shudder of fear. She turned to look at Emma when the girl didn’t answer right away. “Where are we?” Emily gave her head a quick shake and took another frantic look.
With a puzzled expression, Emma answered, “On top of some rocks–in the middle of the prairies. And there are no houses here. Not yet anyway.”
“But my grandmother’s stone house–it was right over there a few moments ago,” Emily pointed at the empty knoll. “I just came from it.”
Emma turned to look. “There’s no house anywhere that I can see.” Doubt crossed the girl’s face. “We’re building a sod one, but we’ve only started. And it’s the other direction.” Emma motioned behind them. “Just over there on the other side of that bluff.”
Emily looked in disbelief at a ridge of trees that she’d never seen before.
“We’re camping until our new house is built,” Emma explained.
“When did …?”
“We’ve just moved to the area,” said the girl, looking warily at Emily. “Where do you come from? I thought we were the only family in this area.”
That was impossible, Emily thought. She looked wildly about her, fighting to control the panic that was making her mouth go dry. Maybe she was in the middle of a dream. Yet she could feel the wind billowing her hair, and smell the fragrance of sage and wild grass. Dreams could be vivid, but not like this.
Published by Coteau Books
The Secret of Sentinel Rock
Size: 5¼” x 7½”, 168 Pages