Another Abandoned Treehouse

Submitted into Contest #50 in response to: Write a story about a summer afternoon spent in a treehouse.... view prompt

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The sunlight squeezed through the cracks in the wood slat roof to combat the silence that filled our old treehouse. I couldn’t help but think how much bigger it used to seem, but then again I was much smaller the last time I visited this place. We used to come here each afternoon, you and I, venturing out of our own houses and through the woods to meet each other at this sacred place. It was close enough to run to, but far enough to be hidden from the outside world by a layer of trees. Invisible and safe, just how we liked it. But today, I walked here, head down, hand shoved in my pockets. My nerves almost led me to turn around, but I made myself push on. Now sitting here, I can’t help but be bombarded with memories I longed to forget. 

We met at the bus stop at the end of our street. The bench that sat there was chipped and broken, but in a lot of ways so were we. But from then on, we always had each other, and that was all we needed. 

I remember when we first found the treehouse. Racing through the woods, arms outstretched as we weaved through the thinly dispersed trees; we both came to a halt at the sight of it. As an adult, I now see the house for what it is: a decrepit, broken down tree fort that was crudely built and quickly abandoned. But back then, it was magnificent. A place all to ourselves where no one could hurt us. Not our peers, not our parents, and certainly not each other. From that day on, we had two rules that we lived by: we would never reveal our secret place to others, and we would always be able to find each other there if we needed to. As the weeks went by, we made the house our own. I brought my posters and an old blanket, you brought your dad’s flashlight and some paint from his garage. And throughout it all, we never broke our rules. 

We laughed and fought and cried, but no matter what we knew we could always find each other under that broken roof in the woods behind our houses. 

But you changed. As we grew up and moved on from grade school to middle school, then middle to high, your eyes got less bright and your smile less genuine. We used to tell each other everything, but suddenly you wouldn’t tell me what was wrong or where you were or how you got so many bruises on your back. I’d miss you at school, then at basketball practice, then I’d ride the bus home alone and rush through my homework in order to run to our treehouse and find you there, eyes red from crying. But you always denied you were crying. Throughout it all the one thing that gave me solace was knowing that you’d be there, in our place, waiting for me.

Until you weren’t. 

That day, I remember, felt like any other day. You’d missed another day of school and another basketball practice, but I’d grown so accustomed to taking notes for you and filling you in on our team that I didn’t think anything of it. As I rode the bus home alone, I listed in my head the homework assignments that stood between me and being able to see you, and tried to calculate how long they’d take me. 20 minutes? Maybe 25? As I stepped off the bus I gazed at our bench and my heart fluttered with excitement as I knew without a fraction of a doubt that you’d be in our treehouse, ready to deny once again that you were crying. 

I ran home, sat at my desk, buried my head in my work and once my pencil finally reached the period on my last written assignment I was already jumping out of my chair. I burst through my door as I had so many times and sprinted through the woods and up the old ladder with a smile on my face but then,

I was alone. 

I stepped down from the treehouse and looked around. I figured I must have beaten you to the house. You’d surely be there any second. I climbed back up and sat there, waiting. Hours passed and the air turned cold as I sat, eyes glued to the floor. Once it was dark and the air became too cold for me, I trudged home, angry and betrayed. 

We were always supposed to meet here. To be able to find each other here. Tears streaked my face all night until I found out the next morning:

I wasn’t the only one you abandoned. 

Sitting here without you now, on this bright, warm summer day, feels like a lie. We were supposed to always be able to find each other here, no matter what, just us and our secret place but you left me here, alone. If you had just talked to me I could’ve helped you make it to summer to see how bright and warm this world can be, I would’ve protected you from the people that hurt you, I would’ve protected you from yourself, god, why did you leave me here?! 

But that was years ago. After that day, the treehouse ceased to exist to me. I vowed never to come back but just like you taught me: promises are made to be broken. 

I’ll sit here for a while, let the sun hit my face and try to once again bury the memories of you. I’m grown now, with two kids who would’ve loved to have a place like this when they were little, but we live far away and they’re grown now too. But no matter the miles and the years I put between myself and your memory, I just couldn’t let you go. And now, looking around at the chipped white paint that serves as the only remaining relic of our time here, I know I’ll never be able to. 

July 13, 2020 18:03

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