It was the loneliest time of Yally’s life.
She had never been apart from her sister before, not for a full day and night, ever, and she did not know how she was going to cope. It was Eshy who had started her on her sums and letters long before she went across to Jaeger’s Cross to the sessions at the county colored school, and it was Eshy who taught her where to find the best blackberries along the ditchbank, and how to make dollbabies from tree twigs and moss-hair, and combed and plaited her hair in the mornings and again before bed after Mama had long given up, for the twisting and the squealing of her tender-headed last child. It was Eshy who knew the rope-songs, and sand-games, and swamp-stories, and a thousand-thousand other such things that passed the days and evenings and nights around the Kinlaw house. It was Eshy who would nudge Yally in company, secretly pointing out some child’s rough-brushed heads and ash-streaked legs or flapping shoe-soles or holes in parts of clothes that revealed secret places to the light of day, so that Yally was left with hands clapped over her mouth, bursting with bottled-up giggles and cut-eyed by angried-up grown folks who did not know the cause of the merriment, and would have sometimes appreciated it even less if they did, since Eshy’s fingers were more often than not pointed at children of theirs, if not the grown folks themselves. And when the thunder beat fists upon the roof of their house and the lightning exploded and split trees in the blackwoods behind, it was Eshy—not Mama or Papa or Lusi or any of her brothers—to whom Yally scooted for comfort and protection. In the next minute, of course, it was also Eshy who would shriek “Ooooo!” in her little sister’s ear, or poke a cold finger in her side, sending Yally screaming back to her pallet in fear. And when the storm was spent, and the rain just a drizzly patter on the tin of the roof, it was Eshy who would rag her unmercifully for being such a scare-teeny. That was big sister Eshy. She had been Yally’s ever and always, but now she was married and gone.
From Chapter Four
"For T'ief You' Daughter"