Breathless.

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Momoko stood still—tense and unmoving, watching the road ahead.

A short burst of speed—she crossed the open stretch to re-entered the soft gray shadows—another alley.

Exhaling sharply after a furtive glance behind, she began walking.

Momoko was breathing in swift little gasps by the time she reached the end of cover. The street ahead was infused with soft light, the sun still sleepy.

She started off at a run, wincing at the rat-trat-tattabi overloud—and dipped into the shade of a longish warehouse. The girl knew this road, she'd used it before—once, twice, maybe more times. She'd been lucky last time, would she get away this time too.

Her ears prickled at a sound, scratching, scuffling, pursuit! — No, just a rat in the refuse heap. She stepped back into the light.

In her ears her footfalls cut across the lazy mist around her—left then straight, another left and a right rat-trat-tat just a little farther!

She scampered into another alley. Head shooting from side to side. One hand clamped across her mouth, muffling her rasping breaths, almost.

She took the turn, trembling. And exhaled audibly.

A smile managed to creep across her face as she swept away the sweat matting her forehead.

Just ahead, beyond the low grayed fence stood Mariko's Silkhouse—softly lit, safe.

The sun bright above it, not a dreg of last night's shower left. She heard voices—now rising, slightly, above the thumping of her heart.

With her usual smile Momoko exited the alley, absently batting at her uniform skirt.

"Hey! Kitchi, Mitsuki han, hell—"Momoko's breathless greeting was cut short—a shriek—shrill and piercing, abrupt and abruptly ending.

The girl broke off giggling, trying vainly to free herself from the wiry arms twined around her. Laughter was in her ears, Momoko laughed all the louder.

"Oof! Gerroff Nana! Nana-chan leggo, now!"

Finally freed, Momoko gulped in huge mouthfuls of air, all the while working to tighten her face—to frown.

Nana stood a few paces away, grinning broadly as her hands brushed across her neatly pressed dress—dusting and straightening.

"So, Momoko-chan" she stopped, eyes full of meaning.

"What so? You nearly tore my hair off. I really ought'ta not let you have my share all the time. Any heavier and Takasugi-san will be the only one you're fit for."

"Mou!" A faint blush crept across Nana's face. "I caught you, didn't I? That makes you slow, and, and fat" she finished weakly—getting annoyed at herself. The smile all but gone.

With a light shake of her head Momoko was at Nana's side, tugging at her dress.

"Let's go! Hurry silly. You have to help today. How else am I going to get all the chores done at home?"

Nana brushed off the arm and started ahead—smiling mutely.

"Come on Momoko-chan, we mustn't be late."

"Kitch', that brat, I know he's telling on us already."

"He was laughing at us, wasn't he?"

"Naah, just you."

"Momoko!"

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Submission for the Sept/Oct Exchange.

Done on Momoko(and Nana) White Rabbit Tale's from Down the Next Road..

There was a theme to the Exchange this time, "siblings".. tell me if I've managed..

500 word drabble..

Thanks to lolo popoki and SiriusFan13 for the running commentary.