Emmy laid flat with her head firmly against the ground. The dirt was on her ear and cheek, but she didn’t seem to notice, or at least she didn’t care. She was fixated on a single point. Her eyes strained. She was looking for the slightest hint of green on that brown patch of earth.
It was Nathan and Emmy’s third journey that day, up the hill where they had planted the seed. Every time they went, they hoped to see a sprout or even some small disturbance in the soil as the seed struggled towards the surface. Any sign that progress had been made.
Nathan knelt beside his sister. He looked back and forth between her and the spot of earth that held her gaze. After several minutes of watching, he tapped her gently on the shoulder.
“It’s okay. We knew nothing was going to happen yet. Don’t worry about it”, he consoled her.
Slowly she lifted her head up, adjusted herself into a seated position, and dusted off her dress. “I know,” she said. “I just – I don’t like waiting. What if it’s like the other ones?”
Nathan kept his face tight and made sure to accentuate his smile. “Sis. It’s not going to be like that. This time is going to be different. You’ll see.” But the crack in his voice gave him up. The truth was that Nathan was just as nervous as his sister. Twice before they had planted a seed on this very hill, and twice before, they had been devastated by the results.
With little else to do, Nathan wrapped his arm around his sister as they began their walk down the hill, back to the cottage.
. . .
Nathan gently pushed his fingers into the dough that would be their supper. His knuckles pushed hard on it. He picked it up, made it into a ball, smacked it down on the table, and dug in again. He knew it was his sister’s favorite, and he could tell that she had been especially nervous the past few days. The fear over the future of their small seed had gotten the better of her. This was one of the few things he knew he could do for her. And if this was all he could do, he would make the best bread he knew how.
Emmy sat in her favorite corner of the small cottage. She had her sewing kit out. Her favorite dress had a tear. Luckily, she was an expert with her sewing needle. She made quick work of the small hole. She lifted it up. “Good as new”, she thought.
Nathan pulled the hot, fresh bread out of their small oven. The smell filled the small cottage. He inhaled the smell of the bread. “Dinner’s ready”, he announced.
Emmy walked gingerly over to the table, fixed her dress, and sat down to eat.
Nathan brought the cheese and the bread to the table and laid them out in the center. He brought over two plates along with silver knives and forks. He laid out the set neatly in front of his sister before placing the other set for himself.
Emmy took small bites of the bread.
“I wonder what it’ll look like?”, she asked her brother inquisitively.
“The seed? I’m not sure. The only thing I know for sure is that it’ll be beautiful.”
His sister laughed. “Well, of course, it will be. You didn’t even need to say that.”
Her mouth curved upwards in a smile as she thought of the future. But just as quickly, doubts crept into her head. The sides of her mouth once again went flat.
“Do you – do you think – if something happens – well – do you think the dove will bring another seed?”
Nathan sighed. “Stop talking like that. It’s going to work this time.” He paused.
Looking toward her and smiled. “It’s going to work this time.”
Emmy took another small bite of her bread. “It’s so good.”
. . .
The winter had come.
The two siblings had continued to make their trek up the hill every day. Some days, they had to shovel a path because the snow was so high. Emmy would do her best to remove the snow from the spot where they had planted the seed. When she was done removing the heavier chunks of snow and ice, she would begin to lightly move her shovel over the ground, pushing even the smallest flakes aside, until the plot of earth was clear. Then she would lower her head to the dirt, and watch for an imperceptible sign of life.
Each day, after clearing the snow away, Emmy would kneel down towards the seed and begin to sing.
Every morning you greet me
Small and White
Clean and bright
You look happy to meet me”
Nathan would listen contentedly to the song. It made him happy and sad at the same time. It was something he never understood.
Day in and day out, the two continued the process religiously. And day after day, their hearts weighed heavy, unsure of whether that still, small sprout had the fighting spirit to continue in its struggle to live.
As quickly as the winter had come, it was gone.
. . .
Nathan walked out of the cottage and breathed in deeply. For the first time in months, the sun shone brightly overhead. The icicles that hung from the cottage trickled down their droplets of water.
Nathan surveyed his surroundings. His eyes took in the fresh green colors of the leaves and grass that had been so absent for so long. As he slowly pivoted, he noticed something he did not expect. Far off in the distance, on the hill where the seed was planted, a figure made quick movements. He sprinted up the hill. Only moments later, he approached the strange creature. It was Emmy. As soon as the dawn broke, she had rushed up the hill to check on the seed. She was jumping up and down excitedly.
“Look!” She said, pulling on Nathan’s arm and begging him to come closer. “A sprout! It’s a sprout!”
Nathan inspected the spot where the seed lay. His sister was right. A delicate sprout shot up out of the ground. His heart soared. This was what they had wanted. This was what they had waited so desperately for.
He hugged his sister and held her tight. “We did it,” he said.
That night, they both lay in their beds, restless and giddy for the next morning. They wondered what the day would bring.
. . .
It was the middle of the night. Nathan shot out of bed to his sister’s screams. His eyes jerked themselves around the room until they found her.
She was looking out towards the hill.
“Crows! It’s crows!”, she shouted.
Before he could respond, she was already out the door.
He bolted out from his bed to catch her. Within a few strides, he had grabbed her arm.
He had to yell through clenched teeth, “Emmy! You can’t go near them. It’s too dangerous.”
Emmy’s eyes narrowed, and her face held a hard determination, yet somehow remained gentle. “Let go! I won’t let them take our seed! Not again! Not ever again!” She jostled her arm away from him and continued her frantic run up the hill.
Nathan stared up the hill at the murder of crows, circling the seed, able and ready to take what did not belong to them. There was no stopping his sister. She would defend the sprout no matter what. He had to think fast.
He ran back into the house. He grabbed a rag and a small branch next to the fireplace. Luckily there were still some small embers in the fireplace remaining from when they had gone to bed just a few hours ago. He wrapped the rag around the branch and held it next to the embers. Within seconds, it caught. He watched the flames catch and slowly crawl their way across the balled-up rag. A second later, he was running up the hill as fast as his feet would allow.
When he reached the top of the hill, he saw Emmy waving her arms and screaming violently at the birds.
“You can’t have it!” she shouted. “You’ll never have it! Get out of here, you nasty things!” The crows still circled, waiting for the opportunity to strike. The circle grew tighter around her.
Nathan charged at them and waved his fiery branch. He joined in with Emmy’s screams.
They shouted and shouted, and batted one away when it came too close. They did that for an hour. Then for two. Then for three. Locked in a battle with the crows, who would fly away with fear, then come back with a new sense of boldness.
They carried the fight on until daybreak. Once the sun peaked its way from over the trees, the crows seemed to lose the last of the courage they had. They flew away in search of easier prey.
Nathan and Emmy, exhausted from their battle, sat down.
“Thank you, brother.” She said.
“Don’t mention it,” he breathed heavily.
And they both laid down and closed their eyes, next to the seed they had defended with their lives.
. . .
It was well into the day when Nathan woke up. He was groggy and had forgotten where he was. He stared up at the sun, which was straight over his head.
He sat up slowly and turned. He saw Emmy with a smile bigger than he had ever seen. He followed her gaze and found the object of her affection.
He looked at the seed, now fully grown, and breathed heavy. Ten fingers and ten toes. Two big brown eyes. A full head of hair. He giggled and cooed gently as he watched the unfamiliar figures who were now his family. He looked at both of them with a wisdom in his eyes that seemed impossible for such a small creature.
“What should we name him?”, Nathan asked.
“Let’s name him… Jesse.” She cradled the baby in her arms. “Our little brother Jesse.” She closed her eyes, and tears of joy streamed down her face.