10 comments

General

“Can you keep a secret?” The girl pressed her warm palm against the bark of my trunk. A traveling wind ruffled my branches, the clattering pine needles expressing my response.

Keep a secret? As if I couldn’t be trusted with a secret.

I looked down at the girl, her long black hair swirling in the same wind and her barefoot toes curling into the dirt above my roots.

Of course I would keep her secret.

She seemed to hear me because then she started to climb. This was not the first person to climb my branches, and certainly wouldn't be the last, but there was a spirit of gentleness about her that I had only felt once before. She softly gripped the branches, nimbly darting back and fro and progressively getting higher with each turn. Her movements were less like the clumbering humans that frequently passed on their way through the forest and more like the simple squirrels that often harboured on the same branches she was climbing.  

She paused halfway up, crouching on a large branch and leaning back against the trunk for a moment.

I creaked in the wind, hoping her hair wouldn’t get stuck in the sap. 

“My name is Brooke.”

I paused. Then stood up a little straighter, keeping what branches I could straight. What a wonderful, nature-themed name. Maybe I was starting to like this kid, not that I would ever tell anyone of course. 

She turned around to start climbing again, “And I hope you don’t mind but I’ll just call you Kevin for now.”

Well that was a big no. I creaked and groaned some more, a rippling of pine needles cascading over her head.

Brooke laughed, the sound as light and soft as a cheery songbird.

“Okay obviously not,” she pursed her lips. “How about Robert?”

Robert the pine tree. At least that was much more respectable sounding. I resumed my backbone stance and she laughed again as she kept climbing. Her laugh was cut short and with a glance around her, she let out a murmur.

“My secret is...sometimes I pretend I can fly.”

Oh? Was that all? I was a little disappointed, tons of kids had skipped past my tree pretending they were a bird or dragon or whatever else they could think of. Brooke tilted her head back, eyes closed and let out a sigh of relief. The action brought back a flash of memory, and suddenly it wasn’t Brooke sitting there but another girl. One I knew a long time ago. 

“Dad says I need to keep my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds.”

Brooke was back and the vision was gone, leaving nothing but the uncanny feeling of deja vu. What? Didn’t know trees could have deja vu? Of course we can and it’s a lot harder for us trees than you humans because we live a lot longer and many of us never leave one spot our whole lives. Talk about feeling like you’re seeing the same thing over and over again. 

Anyway, Brooke’s secret was now following another familiar pattern. Disappointing the parents. Or parent in this case. 

“But the clouds are so beautiful and wonderful, sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever come down. Don’t you agree?”

Well, I supposed I couldn’t argue with that. The clouds were often the best part of the landscape, always changing and twisting at constant speeds. I looked up at the clouds now, which were congealing more thickly than the wisps that had been flickering the lights all day. A freshness filled the air, definitely a lot of water in those clouds. Sure enough, water was wrung from the grey clouds and drops fell steadily to the ground. Far below Brooke, my roots welcomed the wet drops and I took in a long drink. At first I tried to shield Brooke from the majority of the water falling through the branches, but she was enjoying it as much as I was. My needles were already feeling brighter and Brooke turned her face upwards, sticking out her tongue to catch the rain. We both sat, contently soaked until I noticed something. Where Brooke had been gripping a branch with her feet, she was now floating just above it. A wind spurring on the storm clouds sent a chill up my trunk and my needles clattered again. Brooke looked down and gasped, she started to drop and scrambled onto the branch, holding on tight.

She shook her head and glanced over her shoulders as well as below, “There I go pretending again, Dad would be so mad.” She climbed up the last few branches and perched at the top, the rain hitting her even harder now.

Pretending? If I could have I would have uprooted right there and gone to talk to this Dad of hers. But for one thing, I can’t, and for another- I knew Brooke just needed me to listen.

“I think I remember my mother pretending to fly too. Before she died, but it was so long ago, maybe I’m not remembering correctly. She loved this forest, I thought maybe if she found peace here, I could too.”

A mother just like Brooke. My vision from earlier flashed again and I suddenly wished for arms to hug her. Of course they were related. My time perception is always a little off but they were the mirror image of each other, from physical looks to spirit and mannerisms. I didn’t recall ever seeing her mother ever fly but perhaps just never in front of me. 

Brooke was still standing in the streaming rain, looking out across the rest of the forest. Oblivious to my revelation. I wanted to scream the news, I knew her! Your mother! She was graceful and beautiful like you, and you CAN fly! I even remember her name, it was Rose! Rose! But without a mouth, nothing even close can be transmitted through all the creaks, rustling or clattering I could produce. 

The sky darkened and my pondering was cut short. The rain thickened in the air and a charge bristled against my pine needles. Brooke’s hair started to stand on end, even through the plastering water, and I knew what was happening, I had seen it a thousand times before. For once, I cursed my enormous height, Brooke wasn’t going to make it to the ground in time. 

Trees are very slow beings. We grow old slowly and we move slowly unless aided by elements or creatures. Normally in the face of disaster, there is nothing we can do. But I knew, despite the odds, that I had to try. 

With all my willpower and strength I sent a crack through the base of the branch she was standing on, completely unaware. The crack creaked and splintered with effort and I called to the swirling winds for help. Obligingly, they hammered into the unstable branch, pulling it away from me and Brooke with it. She spun out towards the ground, a scream ripping from her lips.

Fly Brooke, I thought just before the lightning shot out from the sky and slammed into me. Then all went dark.

A moment later I came to, a splintering headache wracking from the top of my trunk to the tips of my roots. Small fires danced across my branches and the bark beneath darkened from the burning. I groaned, the burn sending a painful itching through me like a thousand crawling ants. The rain was still streaming down which brought a welcome relief, but I creaked and cried all the same. Then I noticed a figure in front of me. Not on the ground by my roots, but directly in front of me. Brooke was flying, her mouth and eyes wide through the soaked hair pressed against her face. 

“I can fly,” she whispered before repeating it louder, the echo resounding across the forest. “I can fly! I can fly!”

Yes I thought with pained joy, you can fly. 

She tilted forward in the air, bringing herself closer to me. The fires were all but out now, and thin trails of smoke and burned wood drifted upward. She placed her palm flat against my trunk.

“Thank you Robert.”

No problem.

August 21, 2020 15:56

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

10 comments

Maya W.
22:50 Aug 30, 2020

Aww, this was so sweet! I loved the history of Rose and the way the tree remembers her. I also just love the idea of this story. Keep up the good work!

Reply

Taryn Holmes
23:01 Aug 30, 2020

Thank you so much! :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Saron Mengistu
05:50 Aug 27, 2020

Hello again! What a coincidence, I got this story in my critique circle as well!! And I loved it. Plot was smooth and original, and the personality of the tree was adorable. Places of this made me laugh and smile and think. I think the conclusion needs work. Like, the last sentence no problem seems a bit out of place in the context, especially when looking at the themes of nostalgia. All in all, amazing job!!

Reply

Taryn Holmes
15:37 Aug 27, 2020

Thank you so much! And yes, it's a pretty funny coincidence :). I really appreciate the critique about the ending, to be perfectly honest I was having a little trouble figuring out how to wrap up the story. Any advice on what direction I should have taken? And thank you for the compliments! Every writer wants to hear that their story was enjoyed.

Reply

Saron Mengistu
16:55 Aug 27, 2020

Hello again!! Yes, conclusions can be difficult. The trick is to focus on how you want your reader to feel at the end of the story. The most influential pieces of any story is the introduction, which is what hooks the reader, and the conclusion, which is how your reader leaves your story. Focus on the emotions your reader should feel. Happy? Nostalgic? Sad? Fuzzy inside? It's up to you. I can't advice you on the direction you should've taken because you decide that. Fortunately, you are an amazing and talented writer and person so I know you...

Reply

Taryn Holmes
17:47 Aug 27, 2020

Wow, what an interesting way to put it. But you're absolutely right, I just need to focus on my overall goal for a reaction. Thanks for putting it in a new perspective for me! Thank you again and good luck to you too :)

Reply

Saron Mengistu
17:52 Aug 27, 2020

YOU can do it, Taryn!! You go!!! You're most welcome. I look forward to to the lively tales you'll write in the future. Stay safe, darling;))

Reply

Taryn Holmes
18:18 Aug 27, 2020

Thank you so much! :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Kate Le Roux
12:00 Aug 25, 2020

Love the idea of a tree keeping a secret! The ending confused me a little but after reading a whole lot of not-great stories I really enjoyed this one. I liked the way the tree had personality.

Reply

Taryn Holmes
18:39 Aug 25, 2020

Thank you so much! To be honest, I did have a little trouble writing the ending but I suppose that's what this website is for. :) Practice makes perfect so thank you for the honest feedback.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply