Dad told Rowan that moving to a new house was a chance for them to make new memories, without being surrounded by the pain of the old ones. But Rowan wanted to see Fox Bear Castle before they left. His parents needed a few hours to finish up the last of the packing and agreed he could spend them at Fox Bear Castle.
Rowan headed out to the woods that surrounded the property. He didn’t have to trek far until he reached Fox Bear Castle.
It stood several feet up in the air supported by strong trees on all sides. A set of stairs led to a spacious porch. Once inside the tree house, there was more than enough space to store their things and play. The large windows offered a view of the entire woods that surrounded it. Fox Bear Castle was the place Rowan and Pippa, his older sister, went to whenever they wanted to have fun.
Rowan remembered the summer his father and his father’s brother spent building the Fox Bear Castle for him and Pippa.
“Your Uncle Tristan and I had a tree house just like this when we were younger,” Dad told them. “It was a magical place where we spent every minute we could. During the summer, your grandmother had to drag us back inside the house.”
“It’s a magic tree house?” Rowan had asked with big, wide brown eyes.
“It is,” Dad told him. “The time that you spend inside the tree house will be endless. The memories that you create in it will last more than a lifetime.”
“Two lifetimes?” Rowan countered.
“Possibly. Maybe even more.” Dad smiled.
The honor of naming the tree house went to Rowan and Pippa. They decided to name it after their favorite animals; the fox was Pippa’s favorite and the bear was Rowan’s. They called it a castle, because to their tiny figures at the time, the tree house was as big as a castle.
Now it seemed small and dark. Rowan hadn’t been out here since the accident; it felt wrong to be here without her.
But with their impending move, Rowan knew he had to see Fox Bear Castle one last time. Who knew if he would ever be back to see it?
“I’m here!” Rowan called as he stepped into the tree house. It was dark and a bit musty. He stared at his surroundings.
Board games, puzzles, books, and various art supplies covered the inside of the tree house. Rowan saw the map Pippa had drawn the last time they were there together.
“A map to the buried treasure!” Pippa had excitedly showed him the map. They spent the entire afternoon wandering around the forest until they found the “treasure.”
“Who’s in there?” A voice called out, bringing Rowan out of his trance. He turned around and spotted a girl standing in the doorway.
No way, Rowan thought to himself. I must be dreaming.
“You’re not him are you?” The girl slowly approached him. She reached out and when her fingers touched his solid shoulder, she gasped.
“This isn’t real,” Rowan said out loud. “You're not the real Pippa.”
“I am real,” Pippa said. “You’re the one who isn’t real. But you felt real.”
“If you really are Pippa, tell me what I wished for on my birthday,” Rowan challenged.
“You mean after I told you it was bad luck to tell me?” Pippa asked. Rowan nodded. “OK. You told me you wished for a pet dinosaur because you wanted to be the coolest kid in your third grade class.”
“It is you!” Rowan threw his arms around Pippa.
“And you’re actually actually real!” Pippa returned the hug.
“But… but you died.” Rowan said the last word in a whisper. “In that car accident a few weeks ago. Mom couldn’t stop crying for days. Dad blamed himself.”
“Me dying in that car accident? That was you! We had your funeral a week ago.” Pippa released Rowan.
“We had your funeral a week ago,” Rowan insisted. “There were so many people there, Pippa! I still remember seeing you in that coffin.”
“It took forever for Mom to choose a coffin. She kept putting it off until the last minute.”
“How are you here?” Rowan asked.
“I… I don’t know,” Pippa said. “I just wanted to be at Fox Bear Castle.”
“I did too,” Rowan said. “We’re leaving after Mom and Dad finish…”
“Packing up the rest of the stuff.” Pippa finished Rowan’s sentence. “Mom told me, it would be a way to start over.”
“I told them I didn’t want to start over,” Rowan said to Pippa. “How could I?”
“I felt the same way,” Pippa agreed. “I think this move is more for them than for us.”
“I can’t leave Fox Bear Castle.” Rowan gestured to the tree house they were in. “How can I when I know I might never come back?”
“Well, however it happened, we’re back.” Pippa smiled. “What do you say to one last adventure at Fox Bear?” She had a gleam in her eyes that Rowan missed seeing.
“Yes!” Rowan eagerly nodded his head.
First, they played board games. After Pippa defeated Rowan in three rounds of checkers, they moved onto puzzles.
“Let’s do this one!” Rowan picked the custom made puzzle Dad had given them a few Christmases ago. It featured their family at the beach. It took them less than twenty minutes to complete it.
“This was always my favorite picture of us,” Pippa said, admiring their work. “We were so happy and had a lot of fun that day, didn’t we?”
“Pippa, can I ask you a question?” Rowan asked a bit shyly.
“What is it, Rowan?”
“What do you think Heaven looks like?”
“Hmm. I don’t know. In my Universe, it was you that went there, remember?”
“Oh yeah. I forgot.”
“I have an idea. Why don’t we draw what we Heaven looks like?”
“Okay.” Rowan and Pippa got out the art supplies and they both laid down on the ground of the tree house. Then they got to creating their own versions of Heaven.
“There! I’m finished!” Rowan put down the yellow marker. Just in time, too, because Mom called out for him. “Oh, no! That’s Mom!”
“I think I hear Dad calling me.” Pippa got up and looked out one of the windows. “Yep. That’s definitely him coming our way.”
“They’ll never believe us when we tell them,” Rowan said.
“That’s okay. We don’t need them to believe us. Not when we know the truth,” Pippa said.
“I want you to have this.” Rowan gave Pippa his drawing of Heaven. It showed him sitting on the clouds against a blue sky and a small yellow Tyrannosaurus Rex sitting beside him. “In case you want to know where I am and what I’m doing, I’ll be up in heaven with my pet dinosaur.”
“I see.” Pippa laughed. She handed Rowan her drawing. It showed her among the clouds with angels and a halo above her head. She smiled down on her parents and brother as they were having a beach day. “I’ll be there for you, Rowan, even if you can’t see me.”
“I’ll miss you.” Rowan gave his sister one last hug.
“I’ll miss you, too.” Pippa hugged Rowan. They held onto each other until their parents came to collect them. They went their separate ways, one final time.
As Rowan and his mother walked toward the moving van where Dad and the rest of their stuff were waiting, he couldn’t help but think that his father was right. Their tree house was a special place. The memories that he had with Pippa would last forever and ever, just like Fox Bear Castle.