“Christy, Christy, where are you?” my mother called, in vain. I was only about a dozen feet away from her, but as it was 12 feet straight up, the odds of her finding me were slim.
Ordinarily, I would have come running when my mom called. But this spring, the spring when I turned 10, was not ordinary. My mom, my brother, and I had moved into my grandparents’ house. It would have felt like a holiday, except for the cold knowledge that we couldn’t go home. There was nothing to go back to. The contents of my old room had been carefully packed in boxes and buried like lost treasure in the basement.
This morning, I woke before everyone, crept barefoot out Gran’s back door, darted across a warm blacktop driveway, and picked my way through prickly, dandelion-speckled grass. I made a beeline to the base of a tree that was shining with pink and white blossoms.
I had never seen a crabapple tree in bloom before. I’d visited this yard a lot, but never before in May. The tree was revealed a dryad, ancient as time, fresh as a girl, stately as a queen. My arms barely stretched around her trunk, but her limbs seemed to reach down to me. I scrambled up three, four, five branches, and found a Y-shaped saddle seat high above the ground.
From my perch, I leaned back against the trunk and closed my eyes. Bees hummed drowsily among flowers clumped thick as porridge. The air brushed my cheeks with blossom scented breath. Like Anne of Green Gables, I knew that flowers were meant to be kissed. So I opened my eyes and bent down towards pink, dewy petals. When I lifted my face, the feeling of wetness on my cheeks was familiar.
I had spent a lot of time lately fighting back tears. “Divorce,” Mom and Dad called it. Dumbest idea ever was more like it. I gripped the branches of the crabapple fiercely and shut my eyes tight. I didn’t want anyone to see me bawling. Of course, that was when my mother had appeared in the yard. Torn between shame, defiance, and sheer delight in my invisibility, I did not answer her.
I waited, silent as a leaf unfurling, until she had gone back inside. Until all I heard was a robin singing. The tree wrapped around me as if I too was a bird, hidden in my nest. Even the blue sky only broke through in patches. I laughed and cried and hugged my tree. My solid, warm, rooted tree. Then I climbed down to get supplies for my nest. With snacks and books, I wouldn’t have to touch the ground again for hours. And while I was in the house, I would leave my mother a note.