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Everything is so bright and clear. The sun continues to feed my skin as I walk among the grass. I look up and close my eyes for a fraction of a second. The sky is nothing but clear and there is only a small breath of wind that periodically kisses my face and touches my hair. There are no cars, and there are no buildings. It is only me and the trees, hardly any sound. All I had carried with me is my phone and a bag containing a water bottle and an upholstery blanket in case I decided to sit for a while.
I come out here whenever I can, it is the only place I can be to collect myself. I have gotten past the stage of asking my mother first to leave the house, now I just walk out. She is never home when I leave anyway so I don’t see the point in telling her. The need to receive natural, fresh air is mandatory in my mind. If I stayed in the house for most of my free time I would go crazy not being able to have the space to roam.
I live in a pretty populated place with golf carts and bikes constantly passing me by whenever I travel to my spot. I don’t exactly have very many friends where I live and I’m fine with that, usually, if you meet someone on the paths, it would be the only time you ever see them again. I’m not much of a people person anyhow. I can be quiet, and the reason is because I like to keep to myself and analyze everything else around me, I understand better that way.
This place that I come to is home to me. Nothing is around to disturb the peace. No other person to my knowledge even comes here, possibly because they don’t care to explore in the woods and rather go to the park just to sit on their phones taking pictures of themselves, for whatever reason. I occasionally go to the park too, I like to swing when I feel like flying. Except, it would only be on my way back home, nearly sunset while everyone slowly leaves little by little.
I approach a tree, it’s quite glorious really. Full of leaves, absent of any visible insects that might have made it their home. The branches on this tree are pretty low to the ground, so I decide to climb it. I kick off my flip-flops, put my phone in my bag, and start my way upwards. I get high enough to find a wide branch that is at a perfect angle, so I take my blanket out and spread it out to avoid any splinters. I take out my phone, only to turn it on silent. I know I probably shouldn’t do that in case my mom tries to call me, but I can’t exactly find serenity if my phone is going off.
I stretch my body along the branch, putting my feet up against the trunk of the tree. For a while, I just lay there and let my eyes follow along with the dancing leaves above me. Sometimes, I like to think back to the day I found this place. It was raining, it had been hot the previous days so the cool drops felt incredible. No one was out, not even on their golf carts. I had finished some homework and it was only a few minutes past 4 in the afternoon, I had needed to stretch my legs and just walk for a mile or so. Each time I go out, I try to go a different way every time to purposely get lost. I was about a mile and a half out when the path just suddenly stopped. I had stood there for a minute debating whether to turn around, so I started to walk back the way I had come. Not too far from the dead-end spot, my eye caught an object that stood out amongst the rain-soaked leaves. I walked towards it to try and figure out what it was. I ended up having to walk a little past the trees to get to the object, it was an origami sailboat. I picked it up and realized it hadn’t been damaged by the rain, weird. I almost turned back around but saw that there was a kind of opening further in. So I went deeper and found this place.
I carry the sailboat around with me in my bag now. A good memory to keep, I thought. I sat up to get some water and check my phone. I had been laying here for a couple hours now, nothing from my mom. I rotated so that my back was against the tree trunk now. I closed my eyes and took a breath. I hear something, something distance but getting close. My eyes flew open in surprise and almost panic, no one else had ever been here before while I was, I thought. I swung my feet around and grabbed a higher branch to pull myself to a standing position to find the source of the noise. As it got closer, it became clear it was barking.
I looked around, scanning everything my eyes could reach. The dog sounded like he was on the hunt for something specific, couldn't be me though...right? I mean, I was the only one out here, to my knowledge at least. I gathered my things and climbed down the tree, when my feet hit the ground I realized that the barking had stopped. I paused in confusion, then I froze. You know when you can feel a presence behind you without really hearing any footsteps? That is the exact feeling I am currently having. I inhaled sharply and spun around finding the cause of the barking simply sitting there staring at me. The dog was not big neither small, the breed was most likely retriever and something else I can´t determine. It felt as if we had been in this position for hours, just staring. I awkwardly looked around to see if there was an owner following behind, but I saw nothing but the trees.
After another minute, I slowly began to kneel down. The dog watched me curiously tilting his head as my knees touched the earth. I reached my hand out for a reaction to see if this dog was dangerous or not, if he was he probably would have attacked me already. To my relief, the dog started wagging his tail excitedly, inching towards me and began licking my hand. I smiled and pet him, I looked at his neck but only to find it bare. Turning my head again in every direction I could, there was still no sign of another being that this dog could have been with. I stood up, grabbed my bag and willed the dog to follow me back out of the trees.
As we got closer to the exit, I heard whistling. Not like a song, but a call. I glanced at the dog to see his ears have perked and his pace had picked up. That must be his owner, I thought to myself. When we finally made it out, there was a boy. His back was turned to us, he had his hands cupped to his face as he continued to whistle. He couldn’t be too much older than me, he was wearing jeans and a navy blue t-shirt. His hair was the colour of sand with some dark strands and was tied in a low bun. I stood there for a minute just observing him, creep. I finally found my voice and told my brain to chill out.
“Hey! Is this your dog?” I called.
He whipped around like I had frightened him and looked terribly confused as he saw me. He just sort of looked at me the way the dog looked at me earlier, curiously. I stared back at him but after a while, it just got awkward again, I raised my eyebrows in question and pointed at the dog standing beside me.
He finally broke, “Oh, yeah! It is. Sorry, he just kinda ran off.”
I nodded my head, “Yeah, I kinda figured.”
The boy clapped his hands twice and whistled to call the dog over to him, a big smiled plastered on his face after being reunited with his partner. I watched them for a second before turning back into the trees.
“Hey, wait!” He called after me.
I stopped and pivoted back in his direction.
“Where are your shoes?” He asked, I glanced down at my blue painted toes, wiggling my feet around a little, feeling the grass.
"I forgot to grab them when your dog found me.”
I don’t necessarily like wearing shoes anyway, especially sneakers. They make your feet sweat and stink.
He looked at me again in the same way and said nothing. I exhaled and turned on my heel traveling back into the green. About less than halfway to the tree, I heard footsteps hurriedly trying to catch up. I rolled my eyes and kept walking, disregarding the sound of him tripping over tree roots every now and then. Once I reached the tree, I passed my flip flops, still where I left them and immediately hoisted myself back up into the tree on the branch I was on before. A couple seconds later, the boy came stumbling, looked around like he had been following a ghost. Little did he know he was.
He spotted my shoes and searched around again before finally looking up into my tree. “How did you get up there so fast?”
I remained silent for another minute before I decided to answer. “It’s not hard, those branches are practically touching the ground.”
He squinted his eyes from the sun and nodded. Again not saying anything.
“Why did you follow me?” I said a little annoyed now.
He hesitated a little, and then just shrugged and sat on the ground. I looked at my phone for the time and stretched out on the branch again.
We didn’t speak and ignored one another’s presence for two hours. He was on his phone the majority of the time and I asked myself, does anyone just enjoy what’s surrounding them anymore? I checked my phone again and glanced down, both the dog and the boy had laid out on the grass. I think they were asleep, I took the chance. I slowly gathered my bag and climbed down as quietly as I could. Once I reached the bottom my feet softly rolled toe to heel upon the earth, I grabbed my flip flops and made myself disappear.
The next day, I decided to bring some food with me to my spot. I put together a big container of fruit salad and grabbed a bag of kale chips as well as a couple bottles of water. As I was putting it all in my bag, I paused. What if that boy is out there again? I doubt he will be, like I said before, once you see someone you never end up seeing them again. I don’t know, yesterday was just different though. I shook my head and swung my bag on my back, scooping up my phone off of the charger on my way out.
There is more wind today, but not enough to carry me away. A lot more clouds are crowding the sky, every now and then the sun would disappear for a couple seconds and come back with no lack of happiness. Some of the skinnier trees were waving hello while the older ones creaked and moaned. I approached my spot and came to halt as my eyes spotted something red. I took in a sharp breath and grabbed it. It was an origami bird! In the same spot, I had found the sailboat. I looked into the trees and made my way faster than usual. What if whoever made it is in here? I actually got excited at the thought. Once I reached my tree, I stopped. I didn’t know whether to be happy or mad at what I saw sitting at the trunk of my tree. It was the boy from yesterday. When he spotted me he stood up straightening his shirt. Today he was wearing basically the same thing but in a different colour, he had no shoes on. I looked around searching for his dog.
“Where is your dog?” I asked hesitantly.
His eyes turned left and right then back at me.
“Somewhere around here, not sure. He is a good dog, he usually keeps close enough.” He smiled a little. I could feel the questionable wrinkles engraved on my forehead. He rocked on his heels and pointed towards my hand, “I see you found the bird.”
I opened my palm and looked between the bird and him.
“You made this?” I asked in surprise.
He nodded and his smile grew wider. I dug into my bag and pulled out the sailboat as well, he nodded again.
After about a few minutes, he sat back down and gestured for me to join him. I wavered before walking over, sitting diagonally from him. I looked at him undecidedly, he just kind of sat there, intertwining his fingers with the grass.
"My name is Charlie, by the way,” he said, not looking at me.
I was staring at the side of his face, he glanced at me and laughed softly.
“That’s fine, you don’t have to tell me your name.” I looked away when he said that.
No one really cared to know my name, and I never cared to tell anyone.
I kept quiet and retrieved the water bottles out of my bag, offering one to him. He accepted it nodding his head once in a ‘thanks.’ After a while, I felt a little remorseful. Charlie is the first person that I have actually seen more than once around here and that has voluntarily tried to make somewhat of an acquaintance.
“Cadence,” I glance at him at the same time he did me, "that’s my name.”