(dedicated to the "real" David, for providing me with hours of amusement)
Eleanor huddled in the middle of the bushes. It had been a tight squeeze, getting into this hiding place. The branches tore at her clothes and hair, leaving the occasional welt as she brushed past. Her hands and knees were covered in moist earth from her crawl through the small tunnel. She sat, legs bent, arms around them, waiting. Listening.
Trees rustled in the slight breeze. Distant voices were only a murmur, unaware of her defection. Birds called and complained, but not about her. Her head snapped up as a bee droned past her hiding place. A long silence fell after her single gasp of pain. She'd hit her head on an overhanging branch.
Then, cloth fluttered and snapped as the breeze picked up. She looked through a gap in the bushes. Clouds were gathering. She couldn't remain here much longer. Rain would not deter the searchers, but she had no desire to be drenched in cold water.
And then she heard them. Their voices were not yet clear, but they were approaching. Would they find her? She sucked in a breath at one sound, the clink of metal against metal. The dogs!
She tensed, waiting to see if her precautions had worked. Would the hours she'd spent training the dogs with bits of meat and other treats pay off? Would the trail she had laid out just moments before work or would the dogs follow her scent instead? She held her breath.
Two dark shapes sped past Eleanor's hiding place and David's disgusted voice followed them.
"Damn. They're chasing bones again. I'll bet she did that. She's cheating."
Several voices argued the last statement.
"She's not cheating. You are!" It was Danny, the youngest. As dark as his father, he knew the difference between right and wrong and wasn't afraid to voice it.
"Yeah! You're supposed to be looking for her, not siccing the dogs on her." That would be Peter, ever aware of who should be doing what and how.
"You're not playing fair, David," a third voice added. Nicole's voice. As befit the eldest of the four, she sounded amused.
Eleanor bit her lip to keep from laughing out loud, imagining David's expression. His blue eyes would be cold and his chin raised defiantly, she knew. A lock of dark blonde hair would fall into his eyes and he'd sweep it away angrily. He'd throw his shoulders back and stare down his nose at whoever had the temerity to disagree with him. Eleanor mouthed the words as David spoke them aloud.
"Life ain't fair, kid. Live with it."
Nicole snorted. "Sometimes, you can be such a pain, David."
"Well, if you're so smart, you find her," David challenged.
"Did you look in Danny's old fort?" she asked sweetly, scuffing her feet in the moist earth.
Eleanor froze. Nicole knew?
David, of course, knew better. "Right. Even Danny can't fit in there any more, so what makes you think she can?"
Nicole huffed. "I don't. I just asked if you'd checked it."
David made a disgusted noise. "Let's check out the barn," he ordered. "She's not going to be outside if it starts to rain."
The sound of tramping feet faded. Eleanor heaved a sigh of relief. They'd gone.
But not all of them. Branches rustled as someone crawled down the narrow tunnel. Nicole's amused hazel eyes met Eleanor's startled brown ones.
The girl tucked an errant blonde curl behind one ear and said,"You're a little old for hide-and-seek, Mom. And you have big feet. Can you get out of here by yourself? Or are you stuck again?"