Una loved to read. Once those squiggly lines on a page finally took shape and started to mean something, she was hooked. She couldn’t be torn away from books for a moment.
Because of this, Una wasn’t very popular. All of the other girls at school thought she was too bookish and didn’t socialize enough. They thought she was snooty because she would rather read than play.
Una didn’t mind being unpopular. She found plenty of friends in the pages of her books. She adventured with pirates and fairies and cowboys. None of the girls at school could give her that, could they?
No one really understood that Una’s nose was never stuck in the air, just in the pages of a book. No one ever asked Una about herself. No one bothered to find out that she had no reason to be snooty at all. Everyone just assumed that her rich family had sent her to the school so that they wouldn’t have to be bothered with her. But, I guess that’s not entirely wrong.
See, Una’s parents had died when she was 6. She was sent to live with her aunt Polly. Polly led an extravagant life and there was no room for a child. Though Una was 10 now, her aunt still could find no way to slow down and care for her. She had been sent away only days after losing her parents, and was left to find solace in her precious books. All of the other girls assumed that Una’s nice things were gifts from her wealthy family, and they were, but only because Polly felt guilty for not spending time with her niece. Not so guilty that she did anything than send the occasional gift to ease her conscience, though.
Sometimes, though, it was all too much for Una and she needed to escape. Her favorite little hiding spot was near the creek behind the school. She would venture to her spot every day after classes, and she always brought a book to read.
This is where I met Una. She told me all about her life. Poor thing, she needs a real friend. Sure, I’m a great listener, but I can’t really offer anything to the conversation. But I love it when Una reads to me. It’s like she comes alive again when she’s in the pages of a book. She finds life in those words. Life that she is desperate to live. Love that she so desperately needs.
Life can sometimes be boring out in the middle of the woods. Oh sure, there’s always a squirrel or a deer to watch, but there’s only so much I can take. I live for the days when I see people. Especially days when I meet people like Vivian.
I’ll never forget the day that she stumbled into my world. She wasn’t dressed like people who normally found their way to me. She wore violet purple from head to toe. She wore violet lipstick and had curly brown hair that had been fixed just so. But it sure wasn’t fixed now. The violet dress was ripped at the seam. Her hair fell in pieces around her face. The lipstick was smeared and she carried one of her violet heels, obviously broken. Frankly, she was a mess.
I knew instantly that this was going to be an interesting encounter. Nothing like *this* ever happened in my woods.
She stumbled through the trees, trying to maintain balance among the rocks and sticks. She was a sight! She grumbled and fussed the whole time she was there. Something about a car breaking down and having to walk. I hoped she’d stay a little longer, I hadn’t had this much excitement in decades.
She made her way to the creek and plopped. She rinsed her feet in the water, slipped her one heel back on, and tried to stand up. I say she tried because it was at this instant she fell right into the water. I had never heard a scream quite so loud in all my years. Surely someone heard that and would come to help her. At this rate the poor thing might never make it on her own.
Enter Harrison. The local sheriff’s deputy. I’d met him a few times on hunting trips or while he was chasing a criminal through my home. Today he was coming out on business.
Vivian had collapsed into a puddle at my roots, pouting about her ruined dress, when Harrison walked up. He tried to hide it, but I noticed a smile creep around the corners of his mouth when he found her, soaking and sobbing, underneath my branches.
At the sight of help Vivian pulled herself (somewhat) together and tried not to notice how strong and handsome this fellow coming her way was.
“Hi ma’am. One of the townsfolk reported an abandoned car on the highway, and the school just up this path a bit just called about screaming in the woods. You wouldn’t have happened to see anything suspicious out this way would you?” Harrison tried to control his laughter, but it was impossible not to find a little humor in this situation.
“Well, I believe I can account for both the car and the screaming. However, I don’t find any of it even a bit funny! I should think that an officer of the law would be able to sympathize with a woman in distress. That’s just fine. I shall find my own way out of these woods. The school is just up this way, you said?” Flames rolled across Vivian’s face.
“I apologize, ma’am. But I must admit, it struck me funny when I came around the corner and saw a beautiful woman like yourself just sitting here under this tree. Then when I saw that you were all wet, I imagined that you must have fallen into the creek and, well, I just couldn’t help but find that a little funny.”
“Well! I might admit one day that it was a little humorous. But that day is not today. Please just help me get out of this place. Nature does not agree with me.”
And just like that they disappeared up the path towards Una’s school.
Una appeared not long after the unlikely duo had made their way out of sight. Oh how I wished I could tell her about Vivian falling into the creek. She would love to hear about the adventures of the afternoon.
Una settled into her nook in my roots and opened up today’s book. She had a different book almost every day, and it was hard to keep up with what she was currently reading. Una had only been reading for a few minutes when she spotted it. A shiny gold locket shimmered in the banks of the creek. She carefully picked it up and opened it to see who it might belong to. When she opened the locket, though, she found that it was empty. Una was sure to tell me that she thought this was strange because lockets like this were always filled with photos of loved ones. Sometimes even a lock of someone’s hair. But this beautiful necklace was empty. And who did it belong to?
Oh how I wished I could tell Una about Vivian and how she had only just left. I was sure it was her locket. It must have fallen off when she rolled into the creek only a little while before Una arrived. I usually liked seeing the world from my perch, but how I longed to be able to communicate at times.
Sweet little Una. She decided to leave a note for the owner. She said she would wear it for safekeeping until she found out who it belonged to.
Beautiful golden locket.
If it is yours, write back here.
Una slipped the note in between some of my lower branches and skipped up the path back to the school, hoping she might hear back soon. She came back every day to check for a response, usually leaving disappointed.
Harrison and Vivian found their way back to me one day a few weeks later. Vivian didn’t look nearly as irritated this day. Instead, she carried a picnic basket.
They settled in underneath my shade and enjoyed the beautiful weather, and each other’s company, for a while.
Again I longed for the ability to communicate. I dropped as many acorns as I could, but nothing seemed to draw any attention to sweet Una’s note.
Finally the love birds took their eyes off of one another long enough to take notice.
“Oh Harrison! Someone has found it! It looks like a child’s handwriting. What a sweet child--I suppose she could have kept it for herself, but wanted to return it! Very admirable. Do you have a pen? I must write back.”
You’ve found my locket!
I’m forever thankful.
I have searched high and low.
Would you like to meet me here to return it?
Una danced with excitement at Vivian’s reply! She couldn’t wait to leave her own note back.
I have been wearing it for safekeeping.
Hope that’s alright.
I would like to meet here and return it.
But first, how do I know it is yours?
What is inside the locket?
What a beautiful name you have!
I am glad you are wearing it--beautiful jewelry is made to be worn.
Unfortunately, the locket is empty. I never had anything all that important to put inside.
How about Friday at 5:00.
I’ll bring a picnic!
On Friday Una showed up early in her prettiest dress. She wore the locket around her neck, but with one small addition. She had placed a tiny photo of herself inside the locket. She knew she probably shouldn’t, but she could tell that this “V” person would be a friend.
Vivian and Harrison showed up at 5:00 on the dot and Una was very surprised to see such a beautiful, grown up woman come to retrieve the locket.
She had expected another young girl. And she certainly wasn’t expecting a man, too. Harrison just had to show up and see who this sweet young girl that Vivian was so excited to meet was.
“Hello! Are you Una?” Vivian asked.
“Yes.” Una was suddenly very shy.
“Hello Una. It is very nice to meet you. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that you found my locket. I would have been heartbroken if it was gone forever. It was a gift from my grandmother. My name is Vivian, and this is my friend Harrison.”
“It’s very nice to meet you both.” Una reached up and retrieved the locket. “I’m sorry. I added something inside your locket. I was so happy to hold on to it for you. I just hoped we could be friends. I know now how silly that is.”
Vivian looked inside the locket and smiled.
“It’s perfect. Una, I don’t think it’s silly at all.” Vivian smiled at Una.
I don’t know that I’ve ever had a happier day. My favorite friend Una finally had someone. Someone to love and someone to talk to. A friendship better than all of the stories that Una read.
Perhaps it was sweeter this way than if I had been able to tell Una all about what happened and how the locket came to be here. Now she had her own friend for a change. And that friend wasn’t a book or a tree but a real person. Some days, I think I must have the best view in the world. Life happens beneath my branches. Love grows around my roots. Happiness roots into hearts right beneath my leaves.