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“OW!” I wake to sharp pain in my finger and push it immediately into my mouth.

“Sorry!” Rabbit presses her little feet to my knee. “But you didn’t wake up when we tried to call you. We were scared you might freeze.”

“It’s okay.” But I feel warm. The blanket did a wonderful job. My nails are pink, I can feel my face, and my coat is dry as a bone.

“The sky is clear so we should make good time.” Rabbit looks out of the pipe as Frog refuses to leave the warmth of my coat.

Hungrier than before, I finish my leftover half of energy bar and some really salty beef jerky; the kind Auntie would never let me have. As I pack up, I run my tongue along my cheeks to enjoy the shadow taste of the dried meat. I only hope Rabbit can’t tell how much I enjoy it.

I suck on a thick hunk of sliced apricot as we walk. Cold blooded Frog stays in my pocket but Rabbit offers to spare me her weight and plods carefully beside me. With the pack on my shoulders, I don’t think an extra few ounces would have mattered much but I feel guilty about eating the beef jerky so I don’t argue with her.

Following the river is much easier without the snow whipping around but the bright sunlight reflecting off the drifts is blinding. I keep my eyes on the ground right in front of my feet, glancing up to make sure I’m on the right path before looking back down again.

“I would feel better if we knew where we were going or what to look for.” Frog grumbles from my pocket.

“I’m sure we’ll be fine. Marsalla wouldn’t steer us wrong.”

“Oh, she’s your best friend now?” I’m shocked at the jealousy in Frog’s voice.

Rabbit chitters softly, laughing. “Any human who can hear us and doesn’t eat me is a friend to me.”

I can understand that. It’s always better not to get eaten.

Several hours pass before I realize there are no more houses around us and we all start to wonder if we really are going the right way. I think Auntie must be upset by noe. I didn’t think we would be back in time for supper but Auntie must be so worried by now.

When I see a dark smear in the middle of the white in front of us, I get a little worried myself.

 

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