“Hurry, Cathy,” Anne called over her shoulder to her sister as they ran along the road.
“I am hurrying!” Cathy yelled back, barely three steps behind her. Laughing, they turned into the parking lot of Mr. Parkins’s Plant Place. Breathing hard, they burst through the front door into the rich smell of potting soil and damp, growing things.
“Well, hello, girls.” Mr. Parkins smiled as he looked up. “Did you come to work?”
“Yes, please,” Anne said. “Today and tomorrow too, if you need us. We want to earn money to buy a present for Mum.”
In the early spring Mr. Parkins often paid the neighborhood children to help transplant seedlings. “Where is your cousin Emmy today?” he asked.
“She went to help Granny,” Cathy said.
“Well, come along.” Mr. Parkins led them into one of the long, low greenhouses. “We’re working on the petunias right now, and I need all the help I can get.”
In the greenhouse, long tables were covered with young petunia plants. Allen, Tom, and Lance were already working and laughing loudly.
Mr. Parkins stayed long enough to make sure the girls knew what to do and to check on the boys’ work. “I’m sure glad the five of you could come,” he said as he left.
The potting soil was crumbly and moist on Anne’s fingers as she carefully separated the plants. Cathy worked beside her, filling each of the small containers with soil and planting the seedlings. For a while no one said anything.
Then Lance elbowed Allen and whispered something in his ear. Allen laughed loudly, then whispered in Tom’s ear. Tom snorted. Then Lance stopped whispering and started saying nasty things out loud.
Anne’s fingers started to shake, and she felt slightly sick. “I wish Emmy was here,” she whispered to Cathy.
Cathy nodded. “So do I.” Emmy would know what to do. She was as brave as Nephi.
Just last week Anne and Emmy had been walking home from school with several other girls, when someone started singing in a really silly way. Everyone laughed and joined in. They sang the next song even sillier, singing really high and then really low. It was fun until one girl started singing “I Am a Child of God” in the same way. It hadn’t been funny to Anne anymore. It had given her the same sick feeling as the bad talk in the greenhouse was giving her now.
But Emmy had known what to do. “Hey, let’s not make fun of Church songs,” she had said quietly but in a friendly way.
The other girls had looked surprised for a moment; then one girl started singing the song the right way.
But Anne wasn’t Emmy, and she didn’t know what to do. She was afraid if she asked the boys to stop, they would just get worse. Now they were using words Anne knew were not right.
She looked over at Cathy. Cathy’s lips were pressed tightly together, and she was about to cry.
“Shall we leave?” Anne whispered.
“But I want to buy something nice for Mum,” Cathy said quietly.
“Me too,” Anne said. “Besides, Mr. Parkins said he needs all the help he can get.”
Cathy nodded and blinked as two tears slid down her cheeks. She hid her eyes so Lance, Allen, and Tom wouldn’t know she was crying.
Anne moved closer to her. She was angry now. If only Emmy was here! she thought. If only I knew what to do!
Suddenly she had an idea. Softly she started humming her favorite hymn. When Cathy heard the first few notes, she looked up at Anne in surprise. Then she smiled. By the end of the hymn, they were humming softly together.
The boys were still making ugly jokes, but Anne didn’t feel angry anymore. She and Cathy hummed “I Am a Child of God” a little louder, and by the end of that song, Lance was quieter. Anne, feeling braver, gave him a big smile as she started singing a Primary song. Cathy joined in, and their voices echoed sweetly through the greenhouse, while the boys gradually became silent.
Anne and Cathy were still singing Primary songs when Mr. Parkins poked his head in an hour later. “Sounds good, girls.” He came over to the long table. “Your work is good, too. But it’s almost dark—you’d better get home. I’m glad you’ll be coming back tomorrow—I can always use good, cheerful help.”
Rubbing the soil off their fingers, the children followed Mr. Parkins out of the greenhouse and into the early evening light. Lance, Allen, and Tom scooted past Anne and Cathy.
“Babies,” Lance hissed as he ran past. Anne just smiled at him again.
The air was cooler now, but the girls didn’t feel cold.
“I feel warm and happy,” Cathy said, looking up at the pink sky.
“Me, too,” Anne said. “Race you home!”