“Mako, it’s you! I haven’t see you in so long!” an excited voice exploded behind him as Mako made his way towards the shed. The roof was once again covered in heavy layers of snow, the wooden ceiling weighed down like a mother carrying her child in a cloth pouch tied around her body. The men had shoveled some of the snow off onto the ground the day they had buried Martha, but the continuous storms had brought it all back again.


Not recognising the voice at first – his ears had become blocked from the wining of the wind within a few moments of crossing the snowy yard – Mako turned back to see Ari’s beaming face peeping out of an old, tattered brown rug, bits of fur sown onto the fabric sticking out in random patches. Two enormous green eyes stared back at him as Mako made him way back through the yard and waited as Ari clumsily climbed over the low wooden fence and landed in a heap of crispy white snow. A few more days of storms and there would be no fence to climb over.


Still beaming, Ari stood there, huddled in the brown rug as Mako stared back, unsure of what to think of the attire.


“You should be at home, it’s cold.” He hadn’t meant for it, but the words that escaped his lips were cold, like the air. A puff of it escaped from his mouth as he spoke and he immediately tightened his lips again to keep the warmth inside. It would do no one any good if he froze out here.


“What’s gotten into you, Mako?” Ari hopped on one foot, trying to balance, the bits of fur on the rug swishing in the movement like blades of green grass in a summer’s breeze. It was a comical scene, but Mako couldn’t bring himself to laugh.


“Martha died.” Another puff of air escaped his mouth, but this time Mako ignored it. He would have to talk if he didn’t want to upset Ari. She could be such a pain sometimes, but she was a friend nonetheless.


“Martha? Oh no.” A ginger speck of frizzy hair peeped from out of the rug as Ari moved her head to the side, tilting it till her eyes were aligned vertically. Mako blinked. She was so strange sometimes. Disorienting.

“You weren’t at the funeral.” It wasn’t a criticism, just a statement, but Mako saw Ari’s eyes suddenly well with tears. He had hurt her. He hadn’t meant to. But the winter would make any man harsh, even a little one on the cusp of his thirteenth birthday. And after everything that had happened, Mako certainly felt more like a man than a boy. Without the necessity to act like a man, he would have eagerly gone back to a life of worriless obliviousness. But could he go back now?


“Gran passed away that same day. We had a little funeral on the other side of town.” Ari’s voice was barely a whisper but the tremour in it instantly broke Mako’s reverie. “We couldn’t have a proper burial though. God will be angry, mamma said. She said if we don’t bury granny on the third day God will be angry. But we had to bury her on the fourth because that is when the winds stopped for a bit.”


“I understand.” Mako touched his hand to Ari’s shoulder and the girl pressed into him for a hug, her rug coming off her head completely and the rest of her thick red hair escaping from the ragged fabric. “Us, too.”


“I’m sorry.” Ari pushed herself back a little and looked into Mako’s eyes, tears gone now as she tried to smile at him. Mako forced a little smile in return.


“It’s alright. It’s the storm.”

“Yes, the storms-” A bout of coughing suddenly struck Ari and she turned away from Mako as the fit seized her. When she could breathe properly she spoke again, but her voice was filled with a rougher texture Mako hadn’t noticed before. It worried him.


“Ari, you’re sick.”


“Mamma says my lungs rattle whenever I speak; that’s what’s making my voice raspy. She put her ear to my chest yesterday before putting me to bed and said my lungs were rattling. I wasn’t sure what she meant, but she said not to worry just yet. She did say I couldn’t go out today though, but I still went!” Ari bounced around Mako, her ginger curls jumping up and down with her as she trod a path of disjointed footsteps in the snow around Mako.


Mako shook his head and turned back to the shed. He still hadn’t gotten the meat. Eliza was probably worried for him and would come outside soon wondering what had happened to him. She shouldn’t go outside. She shouldn’t get the cough.


Coughs are dangerous, Mako reflected as he untied a piece of meat from where it hung from the wooden beams of the little shed. The hairs on his neck stood on end. It was chilly in the shed. He hoped the cows were faring alright in their stalls adjoining the shed on its outer side. They were sheltered from the wind there, but it was still cold.


Ari had been squirming around, breaking up mounds of snow, tossing the flakes around with her weather-beaten boots. As Mako pulled down another flank from the beam above him a hysterical bout of coughing resounded, echoing against the wooden walls of the shed.


Coughs get you sick. And then they kill you. Mako grimaced.


“Come on, Ari, let’s get you warmed up. I’m sure mamma has something warm cooking on the stove that could help that cough of yours.”


As Mako led the way past Ari and back to the snow-covered house he tried not to stare too long at the blueness in his friend’s lips. Had that always been there? It worried him.


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wooden ceiling weighed down like a mother carrying her child in a cloth pouch. You use imagery so well. This is just one example of many.

Couple of spelling things: sown - sewn, wining - whining

I'm so glad you have introduced Ari. You show the interaction between these two friends well and the dialogue is sparse but well used. We hear them say important things about each other and their relationship. I thought this was a great chapter as it advanced the story, helped us realise there are neighbours and other people in the village. Yet hanging over them all is the 'cough'.

Keep the chapters coming.