Lochlyn enjoys her playtime, friends and secret place. What she doesn't know is that there are games that hold mysteries and magic from here before.
Her friends like it too because it is the best fort ever. Hide-n-seek is better than any other place, especially during the long days of summer. They get to play late into the evenings, even sometimes close to ten o’clock because it stays lighter longer.
On this mid-summer day, Lochlyn naps under the gigantic Black Walnut tree. Because it is so big and old, some of the root system is exposed underneath that makes what she had designated, as rooms. They were made from the natural and deep concave shallows into the earth all of which makes up their magical fort. The enormous branch canopy of leaves and ripening fruit holds off any rain from getting in and prying eyes. The dirt is soft and the leaves make a nice carpet all about.
The opening to the fort is a secret to all but the chosen few. For the acres of bright, neon-yellow mustard grows high and prolific surrounding the tree. Because it is so tall and thick, the lower branches brush the taller mustard greens that camouflage the entire perimeter on the outside. This in turn hides the underground home for Lochlyn and her friends from their folks. They are all happy their kids play together, so that they can have their own parties while knowing their children are safe.
The tall mustard also makes perfect hiding spots to hide-n-seek for the little kids, even playing cowboys and Indians. As well as romping, laughing and maizes for the older ones. Inside, tea parties, all types of board and card games are played. The reading of pirate stories aloud continue to make for fun adventures by all.
Lochlyn hears the kids getting closer as they are playing and running through the mustard fields. She rises to greet them. She is already over four foot but can still stand tall in some of the rooms. The kids begin to crawl in under the secret gate of branches single-file. When in, they stand and attempt to brush themselves off, but the yellow pollen never completely leaves until after they bathe and the clothes get washed. They all have snacks to share and flashlights, for darkness always comes early under their protected ceiling.
When they settle, Lochlyn announces that tonight's story is about time travel. Little Joey interrupts, "but we always travel time in our AD-benturebs."
"That's 'time travel and adventures.’” Lochlyn accentuates. "And yes you are right, we do travel in time in some of these stories." She says laughing. "But tonight is a special evening and we are going somewhere different! It’s actually a new game of sorts. Are you all interested in a new game?”
Her little audience ‘oooh’ and ‘awe’ together. So she continues. "You see, we are in a very magical place. No one knows about this place, our parents always wonder but because they can't get in they figure it's just a little spot we hide in. Can you imagine how shocked they'd be if they could see this ginormous fort?" Spreading her arms about and twirling in recognition of the wonderful gift they enjoy together. They all get up and twirl around too, giggling in delight.
"Okay now, I want you all to check this out." Lochlyn points to a long and thick crack in the tree trunk.
Joey pushes his way toward her and reaches for one of his cubbyholes near the big crack. "Dis is ware I hid my trezure!" He proudly announces.
"And this is where my treasure is.” Gordie proclaims. Being taller, he shows another niche further up the lined division.
"Oh, gosh. I didn't realize you noticed this split in our tree. Then did you know," gathering their attention again, "that these cubbies are like hand and foot holes, kinda like how rock climbers use?"
“Nooo.” They all chime in with excitement. For they know Lochlyn always tells good stories and makes up fun games, plus they like her allot.
"Well then!” She knows how to pause in her story-telling to collect their attention, and she really likes the theatrics of it. With her imagination spinning and thumps in her heart, she proclaims. "I've decided to try something new!"
"Whaa?" They exclaim is unison.
Instead of saying anything, she steps onto a small root that little Joey had just used to reach his cubby with both feet, as if on stage, she bows. The kids applaud with elation. Then, dramatically, she turns and puts her right foot into his nook. She is then able to reach the other cubby with her left hand. Lochlyn is still and positions herself against the tree, wrapping her other arm and leg around it. She loves this tree with her whole heart, so hugging it is only right.
She turns her head back to the kids to smile at them, with eyes glistening of joy, “I love and adore you all so very much!”
But what happens next, she can’t explain because...poof she is gone!
The children clap and make hooting sounds for her magic disappearing act is amazing. They are always happy when she begins her stories and makes new games for them to play.
Gordie goes to the tree first to inspect where she just was. He walks and looks all around the tree, touching different spots of it. He walks back to where she was and notices the audience is slowing down their laughter. He stands on the small root, emulating Lochlyn, to get their attention and waits. The kids stop making noise and look up at him in anticipation.
“I think she is gone. I mean, really gone.”
Little Joey begins to cry and stutters, “wha do you meat?”
Gordie steps down to hold the smaller boy, “it’s alright. We’re going to figure this out.”
Little Betty begins to cry too, which starts off the other ones. Gordie picks up Joey to stand and announce, “wait just one minute, we are brave and strong. We are smart. What would our fearless leader do? Huh?”
A small voice in the back says, “find her.”
“Yes!” Gordie calls out, “thank you Timmy.”
Joey wiggles himself down, waddles over to a larger root and climbs up to stand. He waves his hands to get their attention and shouts, “I thin we go gen her!”
Gordie walks over to him, puts his hand on his shoulder and declares, “he’s right, we need to go get her. Let’s put on our thinking caps.”
Betty scoots over to the big crack in the tree. She cups her mouth into the lowest part of it and yells, “Lochlyn, come back. COME BACK Lochlyn.”
The children all look at her, and then back at each other. They encircle Betty and start yelling, “COME BACK LOCHLYN. WE LOVE YOU. COME BACK.”
Gordie moves through the little crowd and steps up higher to the crack. The kids are silent as they watch him. He turns to them and states, “when I say three, let’s yell together. Ready? One, two, three, COME BACK LOCHLYN. WE LOVE YOU. COME BACK.”
Nothing happens. All are still. All is quiet. Then the tree begins to shake and their feet feel a rumble. Gordie gets down from his perch, motions the children to back up. They shuffle backwards, not taking their eyes off the crack in the tree.
Lochlyn is confused and holds onto her head as if a big vise is squeezing it. She sticks her head close to the crack to see the kids faces. They are blurry, but she sees them none-the-less. Then all of a sudden, she flies out of the crack and lands on her bum. Rubbing her eyes, she settles into herself.
The children surround her, laughing, touching her and chanting, “you’re back. You came back to us. We love you.”
“Oh my gosh, I love you all too. What a story I have for you! It started as a game for you, but oh my goodness. It was an adventure!”
Gordie kneels down to her and puts his hand on her shoulder, “are you alright?”
“I think so, my head hurts. At first I couldn’t see you all. Then your faces were blurry. Then I’m here, like I was kicked out of our tree and landed on my bum! Boy what a ride!”
“Can you tell us what you saw in there? You really disappeared. You were gone, poof, gone.” He explains.
“I was swooped into this beautiful land, colors were everywhere. Sparkles like confetti all around floating and flitting like fireflies. Then I kept hearing something. I didn’t know what at first. But then I started to make out my name, I think. Then I turned, I was at the crack of the tree looking out at you all. That’s all I remember and now I’m here. Wow! Are you all alright?”
They chime in, “yeah!”
Joey crawls into her lap and imparts, “we pooled on our tinking gaps and elled your name! We lub you berry mug!”
She hugs him close and looks out to all their faces in delight, “thank you all so very much. I love you all too very much! As long as we stick with each other, we have it all…we are friends and we know what love is!”