Katy crouched in the shadows behind a shrub next to the center fountain and waited. Stickers itched her bare legs but she didn’t scratch. She didn’t want to give herself away. The water crashed so much she couldn’t hear anything but the roar. From where she knelt, she could just see the star pattern etched in the stones under the water. It looked just like the story said. Her sister had pointed it out weeks ago, and she had to admit that for once the pipsqueak was right. It was the same one. It was a gateway. She just knew it.
Her back hurt and her legs burned. She’d fall over if she didn’t move soon, but she didn’t want to give away her position. She was ready to follow whoever it was using the gateway. The weeds in this corner were stinky. She wrinkled her nose, but it didn’t help. It made her want to sneeze.
She looked at the fountain. Six orbs surrounding the star spit water into the center. The water, joined with sunlight, created ripples in the air. She knew that whoever made the gateway was trying to hide it in this ordinary garden. But she wasn’t fooled. She was smart. The teacher said so. So smart they were letting her skip a grade next year. While the other kids would stay in third grade like babies, she’d be in fourth. She could see things they couldn’t.
She knew that the planters around the edge of the stones were really fire pots that would be lit late at night. And she knew from her book that fire mixed with the water circle was a dangerous thing. She had to catch whoever was using this place and stop them before they hurt someone. She had to, because nobody else could see it. She rubbed her thighs, trying to make them stop hurting.
She heard a crraaack! and froze. She slowly turned her head to the right, looking for the source of the sound. Around the curled leaves of the bushes she saw the empty breezeway. She turned her head slowly to the left and had to stifle a scream as her gaze connected with a pair of big blue eyes.
“Rachel,” she hissed. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to see what you were up to,” Rachel whispered, and shrugged her shoulders. “I’ve never seen you sit so still.”
“You shouldn’t be here. Go back home.” Katy pushed her sister.
“Can’t make me!” Her sister crossed her arms, a stubborn look settling in on her face.
“Go home, Rachel, this is dangerous!” Katy glanced back at the fountain. The water twinkled. She wasn’t fooled, she knew something was going on here.
“You waitin’ for something?” Rachel asked. She tilted her head to one side as she looked Rachel up and down. “You know what Mom said. It’s just a silly fairy tale.”
“It’s not. Go away. I don’t want you here.”
“You’ll be waitin’ all day.”
Katy refused to look at her sister again. She stared at the fountain, pointedly ignoring her.
“You’ll be in so much trouble.” Her sister’s sing song chant rose.
“Shhhh.” She turned to push her sister away again but her sister danced away and into the sunlight.
“Water, water, coming down. Turn this world upside down! If you take me, I won’t frown. Water save me, don’t let me drown!” She sang, and danced right into the center of the fountain. Her yellow sundress turned almost brown, and rivers of water cascaded off her hair. She lifted her face and arms to the sky and giggled.
“Rachel, stop it! Come out of there.” Katy ran after her sister, frantic to reach her. The air shimmered just as Rachel spun around. One second Rachel was there, laughing; the next, she was gone. Katy reached out a hand but found only air. Water ran down her dress and into her shoes. Her hair, immediately soaked, clung to her. She could barely keep her eyes open against the rush.
“Rachel! Rachel!” She screamed. Her heart pounded, and she gasped for air through the water pelted her face. The water roared, but Rachel didn’t answer. She spun around, looking for any sign of her sister. Water poured into her mouth as she called, and she choked on it. Sputtering, she stopped and stood still in the cascade of water. What would Mom say? She’d never believe it. She didn’t believe in fairy tales.
She had to get her sister back. But how was it done? How had Rachel managed to make the gateway work? She thought hard. Goosebumps made her skin tingle and she rubbed her arms while she thought. Rachel had sung something just before…that had to be it. She thought hard, sure she could remember the words. Then she started to spin as she sang out “Water, water, coming down. Hope I don’t drown!”
She felt ridiculous. No matter how loud she chanted the words, she remained firmly in the courtyard.
“Katy Ann! What are you doing? Get out of the water!” Her mother’s shout rang through the courtyard. She stopped spinning. She stared at her mother from the center, and her heart sank. How was she going to tell her?
“Get out of that fountain this instant, young lady. Have you lost your mind?” Her mother glared as she gestured for her to come. “Where is your sister? You were supposed to be watching her.”
Katy walked slowly out of the fountain. She’d never get through the gateway now. Rachel was gone. Her baby sister. She stared hopelessly at her mother.
She heard a giggle behind her and turned to see her sister standing in the center of the fountain.
“Rachel Marie! Both of you, you are soaking wet! What have I told you? Get inside this instant.” Her mother grabbed her by the arm and gestured for Rachel. Rachel skipped over to where they both stood.
“Mommy, it’s just water. It’ll dry.” She poked her head around her mother to wink at Rachel.