In Ivy Tree, there was only Winter and Summer. Autumn and Spring had passed away more than four years ago.
In the days of Winter, the leftover summer bits of leaves and flowers grew cold and stiff and fell apart on the road. The sky turned from sunset orange to icy blue, and the winds went from lazy to a strong, mighty roar. The flowers that hadn't been plucked out of the ground were laid dead, drowned in the fierce snow that covered the ground with rocks. There was famine. There was pain.
It was said that Winter behaved with immaturity because it wanted something. There was a mysterious gap though because no one knew what that thing was. What on earth did Winter want? Not even the clouds knew. They suffered with us. They faded away. If they weren't gone the next day, they would vanish until Summer had taken over.
Now, Summer was a very sweet thing. She gave us rain and love, showering us with beauty. We trees have leaves that we care for like a baby, and she understood. She understood the humans too when they thrive for food, she gave. When Summer sensed pain, she soothed. She was our mother.
“Winter will not leave us alone,” the tree next to me hissed. “What will you do about it?” My eyes were wrinkled and tired; I didn’t have the energy to look up. She kept nudging me, though, with her stupid old branch, so I raised my head.
“You shut your stupid mouth right there, Savannah,” I muttered.
Savannah is the one who always started a fight. I just lowered my head, the urge in me wanting to sleep.
“Molly. Molly. Molly. Molly—”
She didn’t have the chance to finish her sentence. Winter fell from the moonlight, into the sky next to one of my best friends, Cynthia, a cloud. She looked away in fear.
Winter didn’t speak much, but he was powerful. When he was near, I felt a cold-hearted tingle stab me in the heart. He peeked right at us, and my branch felt numb. No one dared to speak directly at him. No one.
“Savannah.” Winter’s voice was low but frightening.
“Do not ever speak again.” There was a loud thump.
She was silent. As if nothing happened, Winter left, followed by another deafening roar in the distance.
Willow was a very wise tree. Often, Cynthia, Savannah, and I asked to talk to her. She always offered useful answers, which was a helpful thing in this case.
“Willow?” I asked. My roots suddenly got itchy.
Willow turned her head around. She seemed pleased to see me because her weak eyes became bright. “Hello, dear. What brings you here?”
“I have a few questions. Again.”
“Go ahead, Molly! Anything for you.”
I hesitated, my throat tightening. No one has ever let out this question, but I felt like I was the one who should.
“What does Winter want?”
Immediately, Willow’s branch became tense and hardened. Clutching her jaw, she replied, “I have a feeling I should tell you the whole story. You know, you are a brave little fella. No one has the confidence to let out something like that, especially when Winter might be watching.”
I stayed quiet, waiting for the story.
“Don’t make a peep, alright? You know I don’t like it when I’m interrupted.” She winked and cleared her throat. “Let’s see. Four and a half years ago, Winter became selfish. He became greedy. He wanted Summer all to himself and didn’t want anyone else in the way. He killed Autumn and Spring. They are long gone.
“When Winter told Summer, she was very angry. Now, you know Summer never gets angry. So Winter was terrified. He felt ashamed. He couldn’t undo what he did though, of course. Summer never spoke to him since then, and now Winter’s all cranky. Probably this is the reason why he’s acting like this.”
I let it all sink in. “This is the most stupid story I have ever heard. And I can’t believe you called Winter selfish.” I added the last part with a soft whisper.
She just chuckled. “Winter never will punish me. I’m an old tree. He’ll just let me be.”
‘And why is Savannah so quiet?” I asked her, changing the subject.
“It is likely that Winter has temporarily muted her. It is well deserved.” She grinned slyly. I thanked her and waved, as I turned around with an understanding that filled inside of me. All the pieces of the puzzle have indeed come together.
Summer never comes out when Winter is, and I think it has to do with the story Willow shared. I pleaded she would come out tonight.
I lingered for hours. A few leaves that had clung on me for years fell and rested on the subtle ground. I can’t blame them. I have been so busy with all the information inside of me that I haven’t really cared about what will happen to my leaves. I glanced at them. Their color faded which I learned that meant they were overwhelmed. I’m sorry. I just need some time. I’ll take care of you later.
Even though it was nighttime, there was a slight streak of heat that loitered for a few seconds. Is that Winter? I thought nervously, beginning to tremble. What is he doing in the late evening?
“Shh,” I heard a tender voice say. “Shh. I’m here.”
I recognized that voice.
“Shh,” she repeated. “It’s me, Summer.” I could sense her arms reaching out for me, even though she doesn’t have any. She’s just a spirit.
“S-Summer,” I croaked. “Please. I need to tell you something.”
“When will you forgive Winter?” I asked. I thought she would be furious or upset that I brought him up. I just thought that Winter needed a second chance.
“Winter?” She didn’t seem mad at all. “He was very lovely. I don’t know what changed him.”
“You,” I repeated. “You’re the one that changed him. He likes you.”
“Yes, I know, Molly.”
“Why won’t you give him another chance? If you do, he won’t be that cold anymore to us.”
“I don’t understand. Is this about me with Winter or Winter to you? I wish I can stop his harsh actions. But I have no power to do that. My only job is to protect you and the world. Winter is the same. But I shall consider your words with Winter.”
“Really?” I was astonished she would give in so quickly.
“Mhm. My pleasure.”
When I woke up, everyone else was already awake. The ground filled with white, pearly flowers and beautiful daylight that shadowed us. The clouds sang a cheery song, and Cynthia patched a huge smile on her face. Her eyes were twinkly, and so were everyone else’s. Wonder why everyone is so happy today. Is it already summer, or what?
“Hurry up!” Savannah screamed at me. “C’mon, Molly!” She kept jumping with excitement.
I guess Savannah became unmuted. But it was nice hearing her voice again.
I followed them, and there stood Winter and Summer with pride, while everyone crowded around them. Cynthia flashed a smile at me, and Summer stayed calm.
“Hello, all,” Summer said kindly. “I have called everyone for something truly special. And,” her eyes met mine. “I would like to thank Molly for it.”
I blushed. At least, I got hotter and felt warmer. Can trees blush?
“I think,” she began slowly. “We shouldn’t have to separate from each other when Winter takes over half the year, and I take care of the other half. It is too much stress to face the harsh snow for six months, and fresh flowers with the other. Don’t you think so, Winter?”
Winter didn’t say a word.
“Ah, I’m pretty sure he agrees. There will no longer be things such as seasons, for there is only one season that we rule together. None of us shall be separated, though we may have made a few wrong choices in our lives.
“Remember, there is no such thing as seasons. It is called Season, for that means Winter and I are tendering the world. There will no longer be days of ice, for it will replace it with flowers. There will no longer be days of strengthened heat, for it will be replaced by small bits of beautiful snow falling from the sky. There will no longer be days of famine, for Winter and I will spread food among everyone.”
For a very long time, everyone was silent. “And there will be no droughts, for I will put Cynthia in charge of getting the trees what they need.” I heard Cynthia squeal. I felt a trickle of rain fall from the sky. The rain was from excitement.
“Thank you, Summer,” Winter started. “I apologize for my actions. I shall never do it again.” He sighed deeply as I watched a small part of the ground turn cold, then back to normal. “Yes, we will be having one season only.”
I didn’t have this in mind, from the way beginning. From what I expected, I thought they were going to fall in love. But sometimes, things take step by step before it gets bigger. So I won’t lose hope.
“Molly. Thank you.”
I whipped around, to see Summer standing there with tears in her eyes. “You are very welcome,” I answered brightly. I felt a couple of tears for myself.
“You’re right. Everyone deserves a second chance.”
“I’m glad everyone is okay.”
She stared at me for a moment. “You,” she said. “Are the best part of nature there is. I owe you a huge thank you.”
I watched as the sun fell out of the sky, and the moon came to take its place. I watched the stars twinkle as they stare back at us with mysterious eyes. I watched the leaves turn emerald green with happiness. I watched the clouds dance in the dark blue, with Cynthia in the middle. I watched as the flowers began to blossom around the glossy, green grass.
And I watched Summer and Winter, looking the brightest they could ever be.