Chapter 11: A New Furry Pal
“We’ve reached Rabbit Hill,” Oliver said.
“Look around. There’s so much room for play,” Lizzy said.
“Can we go anywhere?” Charlie asked.
“Feel free to go and venture, but don’t go too far,” Oliver said.
“Freedom at last!” Lizzy said.
“Look Alice, bunny friends for us to meet!” Fluffy white rabbits roamed all over the hill. Anywhere they went, a bunny appeared somewhere in view. They bounced about the area, playing with each other and collecting food. Lizzy and Ellie skipped toward them.
One bunny approached Lizzy. The bunny wiggled its ears and turned to the right. She peered back to Lizzy and shook her tail and hopped off. “Ellie, follow me and this bunny,” Lizzy said. “Where to, bunny?”
The bunny jumped to the frozen pond. Bunnies took turns slipping on their scrunched up paws. Lizzy grasped Ellie’s hand and slid across the pond together. The two laughed as they flew to the snow and planted their faces in it. Rabbits surrounded them, and one white bunny-rabbit jumped on Lizzy.
“Hi little feller. I’ll call you, Coco,” Lizzy said.
On the other side, Charlie and Jeffrey tossed snowballs to-and fro. Charlie struck one toward Jeffrey, but Jeffrey ducked. Jeffrey formed a snowball and picked it up and leaned back to throw the ball up. It landed at his own feet. He frowned as Charlie chuckled at him.
“Hey! Don’t laugh at me!” Jeffrey said. He rubbed snow into a sphere and flung it. It traveled low and fast, but Charlie jumped to avoid it and fell on his back. Jeffrey laughed at him.
“That’s not funny either!” Charlie slung one at Jeffrey’s face, and another before he let Jeffrey retaliate. He crouched low and threw more at Jeffrey. Jeffrey tried to dodge, but they pummeled him. Jeffrey threw back.
“I’ll get you too!”
Away from the action, Oliver strolled the hill and whistled. He scouted locations to settle down. When he reached a cave, the last snowballs fell on the mountain.
He lifted his palms upward, but nothing landed on them. He gazed up and one more snowball fell in front of him. No more fell after. A grin glanced upon him for the storm had ended. He lifted his hat and reached his hands up, embracing the triumph of clean air and easy travels ahead.
“Look Ellie, the storm is over,” Lizzy said.
“Well, we better go back to the house. Father will return home soon,” Ellie said, standing up and walking away from Lizzy. “Alice, I can’t wait to see Father again. And we can also return to the snow castle and find your prince! Oh my, we better be off!”
“Wait, Ellie!” Lizzy said. “We can’t go without the others.”
“Why not? I don’t want to miss a second of Father.”
“Yes, but we don’t know the exact way home and the boys will get worried sick wondering where we went.”
“Well, let’s go find them.” Ellie tried getting up, but Lizzy kept her down.
“But we don’t know where they are. I know Oliver will find us, but why would we want to leave these adorable little bunnies?” Lizzy said.
“She may be right, Alice. They are so cute. Well, we can afford to leave in a little.”
For Charlie and Jeffrey, the storm still continued for all they knew. They created their own storm from throwing snowballs.
Oliver settled inside the cave. He set the backpack on one side of the indigo-black walls and plonked himself on the other. He zipped open the top pocket. He dug out Ellie’s blanket, Lizzy’s jewelry, Charlie’s book, and Jeffrey’s trains.
The cave walls carried textured chips and pieces. Parts of the floor and wall stuck out while some hollowed in. The ceiling hung low. This cave looks squished, but it can fit us all. Time to go.
Oliver strolled up the hill and headed toward Charlie and Jeffrey. Oliver paraded into their storm. “What’s the matter with you two? Don’t create another storm,” Oliver said. Charlie chucked one last snowball. The two stopped and winked at one another, then Oliver.
“Why did it stop?” Jeffrey asked.
“Because it did,” Oliver said.
“That’s no good reason,” Jeffrey said.
“Hey, wait up,” Charlie said.
“I’m getting your sisters. You two better follow because I found a cave,” Oliver said. Oliver waited for Jeffrey to catch up and plucked Jeffrey into his arms.
“Put me down! Put me down!” Jeffrey said.
“I had a hunch you would’ve tripped. In addition to that, you’re as fast as a turtle and struggle to keep up,” Oliver said.
“I don’t always trip,” Jeffrey said. Charlie giggled.
“Don’t you laugh, Charlie. You and Jeffrey always trip yourselves up and slow the rest of us down,” Oliver said. “Now Jeffrey, why don’t you like going in my arms anymore?”
“I have more fun on the ground than in your arms.”
“Are you saying I’m not fun?”
“Oh, really? How’s this?” Oliver said. Oliver swooped Jeffrey down like an airplane. He flipped Jeffrey over so he couldn’t see the ground. Oliver swung Jeffrey back and forth, and even upside down.
“Ah!” Jeffrey kicked, but with delight. Oliver ran his fingers under Jeffrey’s chin. He squirmed and laughed as Oliver tickled him.
“Hey Charlie, catch,” Oliver said.
“No! You’re going to drop me!” Jeffrey said.
Oliver hurled him to Charlie who caught Jeffrey. Charlie held him up, ready to throw him back, but Oliver had left already. “Lizzy, Ellie,” Oliver said. They met up with Oliver. Lizzy swarmed him in a hug and Ellie petted the bunnies.
“Run along to your siblings with me,” Charlie said. He dropped Jeffrey to his feet. Oliver watched the others slip and slide across the ice and chase the bunnies.
“Jeffrey, Jeffrey, you have to meet Coco. She’s our bunny now,” Ellie said.
“Ooh can I pet her?”
“Only if you’re soft.”
“You know, she reminds me of some of the fellows back at Alice’s castle,” Lizzy said.
“Yeah,” Ellie smiled, “you’re right. She’s sweet and would fit right in with the other garden animals. Boy, I miss the castle.”
“I’ll bet, but at least we have Coco to remind us of it.”
“It’s time to go,” Oliver said, approaching his siblings.
“I don’t want to go. I want to play with the bunnies,” Ellie said.
“Me too,” Jeffrey said.
“Well, if you don’t follow me now, then I’ll go without you guys,” Oliver said.
“You wouldn’t leave us alone Oliver, or would you?” Lizzy asked.
“Can we at least bring Coco?” Ellie asked.
“Yes, you may.”
“Okay, never mind. Let’s go, everyone,” Ellie said.
Lizzy followed Oliver and Charlie caught up to Ellie and strolled at her side. Jeffrey trotted behind as usual, stumbling every few steps. Oliver led them to the cave he found earlier and stopped right before the entryway. “We can enter one-by-one. Lizzy first.”
“Why Lizzy?” Charlie asked.
“Because I want you to freeze, clearly,” Oliver said.
“This looks too small,” Jeffrey said.
“Then it’s a good thing you’re not tall,” Lizzy said, patting Jeffrey on the head.
“I’ll prepare rice for dinner so long as I can go out and find wood,” Oliver said. He wrapped the backpack over his back and exited the cave.
“Dinner?” Jeffrey asked.
“You mean to say we finally get to eat?” Lizzy asked.
“Thank goodness! We haven’t had a real meal since before Ruth took charge and I’m starving,” Lizzy said.
“Yeah, you’ve starved us all day!” Jeffrey said.
“No need to point fingers. It’s not like you were cooking anything either,” Oliver said.
“Can I go with you to find wood?” Lizzy asked.
“Of course,” he said. He glanced toward his other three siblings. “Now don’t any of you step foot out of this cave. You may play with your things. We’ll return soon.”
With that, they headed off. Along the way they smiled, threw snowballs, and dove into random piles of snow.
“We have so much fun, I love it. Those goofballs are probably sitting bored out of their minds,” Lizzy said, rolling through some cushy snow.
“Oh I doubt it. You couldn’t make Charlie or Jeffrey sit still if you pinned them to a wall. And Ellie could talk to that doll of hers all day.”
“True, but they don’t know how to venture like we do.”
“No, and they never will,” Oliver said, wrapping his arm around Lizzy, “as much as I love them, they don’t understand how to enjoy the snow like us.”
“Hey, there’s the wood!”
“Quick, grab some and I’ll race you back to the cave,” Oliver said. Oliver and Lizzy sprinted and bundled as much as they could into their arms before dashing back to the cave while clinging to the logs.
“We’re back,” Lizzy said.
“Why don’t the four of you slide down that hill? I’ll make dinner and a fire,” Oliver said. Oliver pulled out a match from his backpack and sparked a fire over the wood. The orange went up and down like it could breathe in and out. New light casted over the cave as the skies outside darkened.
Oliver grabbed a pot, a spoon, and two plates from the backpack. He poured some rice into the pot and cooked.
Outside on the hills, the other four took turns sliding Charlie jogged up the hill and sent Lizzy zooming down like a rocket. She hopped up and cleared the path for Charlie.
“Ready Alice?” Ellie asked, “okay!” she sat down and wrapped her arms over her doll.
“Move it already!” Jeffrey said. He pushed Ellie down the slide and didn’t wait for her to finish before he started. He slid faster and whammed into her. Bam! Oof!
“How rude, huh Alice?” Ellie said. She stood and kicked Jeffrey before stomping off to the cave.
“Oh Jeffrey,” Lizzy lifted him and untangled him. “Patience, silly.” She carried him up the hill and set him on her lap. “Are you ready to slide with me?”
“Sure am.” He grinned.
“Down we go,” she said. Lizzy propelled off the edge. They skidded down the hill. “We’re not done yet,” Lizzy said, falling back with Jeffrey, and tickling him under his chin and on his stomach.
“Hey!” Jeffrey laughed, “stop! Stop!”
“I know you love it,” Lizzy smiled, squeezing her brother and rolling over each other sideways. They roared with laughter as snow covered them from head to toe.
“Dinner,” Oliver said. He set down the last of two plates near the entrance. Ellie and Alice sat down at a plate first.
“Race you, Jeffrey,” Lizzy said, pushing off her brother and arriving before Jeffrey. She took the second and last plate while Jeffrey scurried over, huffing and puffing.
“Hey, where’s my food?” Jeffrey put his hands on his hips and pouted at his sisters.
“Yeah, what about us, Oliver?” Charlie said.
“Well it’s time for you two to learn a manner or two. Ever heard of ladies first?” Oliver said.
Jeffrey and Charlie exchanged a look. “Nope.”
“Sounds ridiculous to me.”
“Well, don’t worry, there’s more in the pot. I brought two plates, not five.” Oliver pointed to the pot next to the fire. Jeffrey crawled over. He stuck his head forward and sniffed the rice.
“Smells good,” Jeffrey said.
“Get your head out of there before you catch on fire,” Oliver said. Oliver lugged Jeffrey to his arms.
“Why can’t I eat out of the pot?”
“Because surely you’ll burn yourself, knowing you. Besides, you have to learn good habits and eat on a plate and practice your patience.”
“And no more whining,” Oliver said, lightly spanking Jeffrey. He frowned and backed away from the group.
Ellie spooned one last bite into her mouth. Oliver grabbed the plate and ladled some rice for Jeffrey and Charlie. They dug their spoons in and shoved all the rice that fit inside their mouths. The two plopped their plates down. Oliver seized the pan and ate leftovers. Charlie, Jeffrey, Lizzy, and Ellie raced outside to play.
“Let’s hopscotch,” Lizzy said. She paved out the course of ten boxes and waved Ellie over.
“Ready, Alice? Great. Here we go.” Ellie hopped one foot, one foot, two feet, one foot, two feet, one foot, one foot, and a final two feet in the squares marked. “Perfect, once again,” Ellie high-fived her doll and took a seat to watch Lizzy, who followed without a mistake.
“Hopscotch is so easy,” Jeffrey said. He completed the first hop, but hunched over for balance. He paused before continuing the next one-footed and two-feet hops with wobbles. He proceeded on the second-to-last space, but tripped over his foot. His face slid into the last two spaces.
Lizzy and Ellie giggled. “Get up Jeffrey, it’s only hopscotch,” Ellie said.
“Yeah, isn’t it so easy, Ellie?”
“So easy,” Ellie said.
“Hey! I’m going to get you, you…you, you something bad!”
“Just try.” Ellie zoomed away from the scene. Jeffrey rose up and chased her up the hill. She slid and grabbed her doll. Jeffrey pumped his arms like a chicken. He couldn’t keep up and tired himself out.
“Wait for me,” Jeffrey said. Ellie ran back for her brother and clutched his hand.
“Let’s see what you got, Charlie. Don’t trip,” Lizzy said. She repaved the steps Jeffrey had ruined.
“Puh-lease.” Charlie hopped well through the first four spaces. He hobbled on the next step and didn’t regain his balance. His shoulder smacked the snow and he rolled off the course.
“Well, I may be younger, but still better,” Lizzy smirked.
“I’m done cleaning. It’s time for a good-old-fashioned Rubin family snow fight.”
“Same teams as usual?” Lizzy asked.
“Wouldn’t have it any other way. Jeffrey, Charlie, and Ellie, go to your side. Now, each team has time to construct a fort. I’ll announce when the battle will commence,” Oliver said. The five rushed to work on their sides. Ellie stacked the snow up while Charlie elongated the fort to block all sides. Jeffrey brought in extra snow. He huffed and puffed and heaved a load of snow to them, or as close as he could bring it.
Oliver built the wall tall and thick while Lizzy rounded the angles to protect their sides.
Nobody spoke a word throughout the building process. Siblings signaled to their teammates, but sneered to opponents.
Charlie hurried to stack the last snowball. He clapped any snow off his hands and threw a ball to the ground. Done. Oliver and Lizzy formed walls on the side to duck under during the fight. Oliver sauntered to the center and paved a line between the two sides.
The five children lined up beside their teammates. Oliver stole the center of attention. “We show up here to put up a snowball fight. Anyone who gets hit will be out and must rest on the slide. Once all the members of one team get out, the other team will become the winner. No crossing this middle line or you’ll get out. The battle starts as soon as each team gathers behind their fort. Let us go,” Oliver said.
“Come on, Oliver, let’s kick some Charlie butt!”
“I heard that.”
“Great, defend it,” Lizzy said.
“Ready?” Charlie called.
“Let the battle commence,” Oliver said.
“I’ll watch out for any strikes,” Ellie whispered to Charlie and Jeffrey.
She patrolled out of the fort and stared across. She put one hand on her hip and tapped her foot.
Lizzy packed the first snowball together. She zipped under the side barrier. Ellie stuck her head out in Lizzy’s direction. What was that? Nobody. She turned away. Lizzy smiled. Now’s my chance. She extended her arm, and lobbed the ball up. The snowball arched up, but landed on the ground in front of Ellie. Ellie switched her head to Lizzy, but Lizzy had sped back to her fort.
“Charlie! Jeffrey! Lizzy threw the first strike,” Ellie said.
“Of course,” Charlie said, “how dare she! We’ll get her back soon!”
“Did you get her?” Oliver asked
“No. It missed.”
“Come on, Lizzy. Let’s get them for good.”
Charlie marched out. Oliver stomped and frisked a snowball between his mittens. Lizzy mimicked him on the other side. Ellie and Jeffrey hopped to the fight in unison. They stared, licked their lips, and shook heads. Jeffrey leaned back and hopped, releasing the ball in front of the centerline.
“Did I hit her?” Jeffrey asked. He peered around but no one answered. Everyone laughed.
“No, silly. Your snowball barely crossed the line,” Lizzy said.
Charlie snuck his eye at Lizzy. She’s still laughing. I’ll get her while she’s distracted. He flung one at her side, but Lizzy saw it in the corner of her eye and stepped to the side.
“Darn it,” Charlie said.
“Ha,” Lizzy said, “don’t even bother Charlie.” She hurled her snowball at Jeffrey’s chest. Jeffrey ran, but crashed into Ellie. Poof! “You’re dead!” Lizzy said. She put her snowball together as fast as she could, but Ellie dragged Jeffrey behind their fort before Lizzy had a chance. “Dang.”
On the other end, Oliver chucked one at Charlie. Charlie sucked in his stomach as the snowball whizzed past, millimeters away. He struck back, but Oliver ducked. Jeffrey entered the fight at Charlie’s side and projected one at Oliver. Oliver dodged it. Charlie threw one right after, but Oliver caught it.
To get things going, Lizzy joined Oliver against her other two brothers as they flung, ducked, and jumped at throws. Oliver narrowed on the weakest, Jeffrey, and threw one high at his head. Jeffrey tried ducking, but tripped and fell flat on his face. Before he could stand, Lizzy hit him.
“Nice job, Liz.” Oliver gave her a high-five.
“I don’t want to get out.” Jeffrey crossed his arms over his chest, “it’s not fair I’m the youngest.”
“Stop playing like the youngest and get better,” Lizzy said.
“Next time don’t get hit, Jeffrey. You have to stop tripping,” Oliver said.
“I refuse!” he stomped his foot and stood in the middle of play.
“Don’t make me pause the game and come over there. I’m sure you remember the punishment for whining like that.”
Jeffrey widened his eyes and darted to the hills on the side of the game.
“What are you waiting for, chickens? Let’s play. Last one out’s rotten snowman!” Charlie said. He aimed to Lizzy. No luck. Ellie curved one to Oliver. Oliver stepped back to avoid the snowball.
Oliver paced. He blinked between Charlie and Ellie. He stepped forward, and released it. The white ball smacked right into Ellie’s chest. Ellie joined Jeffrey and played with Coco on the slide.
“Two against one. Give it up, Charlie,” Oliver said.
“Never!” Charlie slammed the snowball down at Oliver, just missing. Lizzy and Oliver retaliated, but both missed. Phew. Thank goodness they missed. I can’t afford to have Oliver beat me again. Maybe if I win he’ll finally give me some respect. They packed a chunk of white and released it before the snap of Jeffrey’s fingers. Alright, so someone caught the trick, Jeffrey can’t even snap his fingers.
Charlie folded his hair out of his eyes. He glared at Lizzy and whipped the snowball at his sister. She shuffled to the side, but the snowball curved and collided with her. Out!
Charlie and Oliver ducked behind their forts. Charlie formed snowballs out of the ground while Oliver tossed a snowball between his hands. He marched out. All the children on the hill turned to watch the action. Nothing happened. Charlie stayed hidden. Jeffrey and Ellie tried to peer in, but the wall blocked the inside. “What’s taking so long?” Jeffrey whispered.
“Come out, you coward. I know you’re afraid to lose.” Oliver said.
Charlie didn’t respond. He stepped outside, but retreated and threw one of his snowballs at the wall. He stalked to the edge of his snow barrier. He peeked around the corner. Oliver glared at Charlie. Charlie ducked back. I can’t do this. My only option is to beat him or I’ll be the loser…again. They’re all watching. I better go out and win. He exhaled and trudged out. He threw a snowball over the line. Here goes nothing.
Oliver whipped a ball at Charlie, but it arched behind his arm. Oliver tried again. Charlie casted one toward the sky, but the snowball traveled too slow to catch Oliver. Oliver lobbed one chest-high at Charlie, but he ducked down.
Oliver plucked some more snow from the ground and threw it off his back at Charlie’s feet. The ball landed about two inches to the right of his foot, but Charlie jumped in case. Charlie’s right leg went up, but the left leg staggered. His leg dragged him down and the snowball caught him anyway.
“You did it, Oliver. We won!” Lizzy said. She bounced down and embraced Oliver. “Now it’s 56-55, us! Don’t bother playing us again!” Coco circled round and round as Oliver and Lizzy celebrated.
Charlie slumped his shoulders. Jeffrey and Ellie slogged to their brother. They frowned and exchanged glances at their champion siblings.
“What do we do now?” Charlie asked.
“Snow angels!” Jeffrey said. He fell back to the snow. Lizzy and Ellie joined in with Charlie and moved their limbs as far out as they could go. The four formed snow angels in synchronized fashion. One-by-one, their movements slowed until one of them didn’t bring their arms back out. Rather, Jeffrey and Ellie curled into a ball and twinkled their eyes open and close before falling into dream world.
Charlie closed his eyes beside the youngest two. Oliver went to Lizzy and heaved her up. Jeffrey tossed and turned. Ellie lay on her side and used her hands as a pillow. Charlie bobbed his head up and down.
“Let’s put them each to sleep next to the warmth,” Oliver said. He motioned her to Jeffrey and lifted the boy over his shoulder. The two strolled to the cave. He handed Jeffrey to Lizzy. She rocked him back and forth as Oliver prepared his spot to sleep.
“Stay here. I’ll return in a minute with Ellie,” Oliver said. He scooped up his sister. He ducked inside and stationed Ellie back in Lizzy’s arms. He prepared her station across from Jeffrey.
“Now, how will Charlie get in here?” Lizzy giggled. Oliver shrugged and grinned to her. Can I lift him? Nope. I’ll roll him over.
“Lizzy can you go get a pillow and transfer it to the entrance?” Oliver asked.
“Yeah. I will ready his spot by the time you get him there.”
“Here he is,” Oliver chuckled.
“I can’t believe you rolled him all the way here,” Lizzy said.
“I don’t believe it either.” Oliver set his blonde pool of hair on the pillow. Lizzy sprawled in front of her sleeping siblings. Oliver removed Charlie’s coat, boots, and hat, and placed them beside the fire.
“Nice job,” Oliver said, hugging her side.
“Thanks. We make a good team, you and I.”
“In snow fights and beyond.”
Lizzy yawned. “Are you tired?” Oliver asked.
“I suppose,” she said.
“Well why don’t we get you near the fire? I don’t know if we have a blanket or anything…”
“Oh yes,” she interrupted. “I brought one along with my extra clothes. I’ll go get it with my purple pillow.”
“Now make yourself comfortable,” he said. He grabbed her coat and flopped them with her hat and boots. She got down on her side. “Goodnight, Lizzy,” he said, tucking her in and placing her wet clothes by the fire.
“Goodnight, Oliver. I love you,” she said. She grinned at him, but when he turned back to her, she fell asleep.
He lay back. He swished a snowball between his hands. His eyes twitched faster. He tossed it in the flames and before another blink of his eyes, the blaze had disintegrated. He closed his eyes and hit the hay.