Author's Note: This was originally written for Yuletide 2009, for fat_teaspoon who wanted something written in the style of the books. It's solely on the six original books - none of the short stories or American Girl mysteries were taken into consideration. Set between Kirsten Saves the Day and Changes for Kirsten.
"Hush, Britta," Kirsten murmured softly, and pressed her younger sister close to her chest in an attempt to subdue her cries. Mama was over at Aunt Inger's helping with the laundry, and Papa had left the day before to work at a logging camp – try to earn a little money wherever he could so they could afford to move onto their own farm. She could only guess as to what her brothers were off doing, probably some grand adventure in the waning chill of a Minnesota autumn. "Let me tell you a story," she said, rocking Britta in her arms as the memories of a long summer spent aboard a tiny ship.
The rough, choppy waves crashed against the ship, as it made its way through the ocean one evening. They had left Sweden a few days before – long enough where Kirsten was beginning to ease into life on the ship. But, her heart still yearned to walk on dry land, without the fear of a sudden sea storm capsizing their ship – or of her falling overboard. Mama had stayed below deck since they boarded. Something with the sea air didn't agree with her, and she had been sick the entire voyage so far.
There were other families on the trip. It wasn't like the ship was large, so she had seen most of the other people they were traveling with once or twice, if not more often. People of every age shared the small sleeping area. Kirsten could have sworn there was at least one other girl her age on board the ship. It would be nice to have a companion for the trip, maybe even a new friend! She had Sari, her rag doll, with her, safely cocooned in her apron pocket. Maybe if she could find this other mystery girl, she would have a doll too, and then the four of them could explore the ship together!
It took her a few more days to finally see the mystery girl separated from her parents long enough where she could introduce herself. "Hello, I'm Kirsten," she said, "and this is my doll, Sari."
"I'm Marta," the other girl said with a wide smile, "and this," she continued, taking a small doll out from her own apron, "is my doll, Sanna."
Kirsten couldn't help but match Marta's smile. This was going to be so much fun!
Kirsten bit her lip as she finished telling the story of how she met Marta. Even though she had met plenty of new people since arriving in Minnesota, none of them were quite the same as Marta, her friend, buried in a country she never got to enjoy.
Although her sister's tears had subsided somewhat, she was still not fully content yet. Kirsten thought for a moment, wondering when her mother would be home. "What story could I tell you next?" she asked, not at all expecting a response. Before too long, she realized it. "There once was a girl named Singing Bird…"
When they had said goodbye the previous autumn, Singing Bird said she'd come back only if the deer came back. And, now that it was spring, as the young deer loped across the fields, it would be sooner rather than later – if Singing Bird and her tribe knew about the deer, that is – before they'd come back.
She slipped her hand into her apron pocket, feeling the duck feather, tiny clay pot, grass basket and other little presents they had exchanged. She didn't dare let her family see them. How would they understand?
One day, after the chores had been done and Kirsten was free to roam around, she spotted a familiar sun freshly drawn into the mud by the stream, along with a stark black feather. She grinned. It was Singing Bird!
The next morning, she made sure that she was up before the sun even rose, and slipped out of the house and made her way down to the stream. Before too long, she saw Singing Bird standing in the brush, looking almost the same as she had looked a few months before. "Ho," Singing Bird said, stepping out of the brush. She reached up and gently fingered Kirsten's braid.
"Hello!" Kirsten replied.
The two girls looked at each other for a brief time. "Come?" Singing Bird asked, motioning toward the other side of the stream.
Kirsten thought for a moment. If she went over with Singing Bird, then her family would surely be worried – but she had gone over once before, and no one found out. She nodded her head, her braids bobbing up and down. "Let's go."
The next few weeks were patterned like clockwork – one day they'd spend as much time together as possible, the next, Kirsten would find a present and a number of suns until their next meeting next to the stream. With Mama expecting a new child, she found that on some of the days indicated by suns, she'd have to stay back longer in order to help more. Singing Bird always seemed to understand though, standing by the stream until Kirsten finally showed up.
It was late spring by the time the suns stopped being drawn. She would draw them herself, and wait on the day she had indicated, but Singing Bird never showed. When she went looking for the tribe's old settlement one day under the pretense of searching for berries, she found nothing but packed dirt left in the wake.
Soon, in the fuss of Britta's birth and her own tenth birthday, she had pushed it to the back of her mind, but when she was alone or distracted, she would still absent-mindedly stroke her looped braids and think about the time when she was Yellow Hair, friend to Singing Bird.
She had been so engrossed in telling her story that she didn't realize that Britta had fallen asleep in her arms. She laid Britta gently back in her cradle. Something didn't look right, though. She thought about it for a moment before realizing it. "She needs a doll." She took Sari out of her apron pocket and laid her next to Britta. As Britta drifted off to sleep, her tiny fingers clutched protectively around Sari, Kirsten smiled and eased back in the chair. When she was older and could appreciate it, they would make her a Sari of her own together. Until then, this would do nicely.