Jordan peered through the knot hole at the house. It was all quiet. The sky was blue with a few white, puffy clouds floating silently above the rooftops. The sun was warm without being too hot and a soft breeze was blowing, making the leaves of the trees sway. Jordan sighed and turned away from the knot hole. Who would ever know that life would never be the same, looking at that quiet and peaceful looking house? She signed again and slumped against the rough wood wall of her treehouse. Her sanctuary. Her Mom and Dad had built it for her when she was four, with her watching from her stroller or playpen as they worked and laughed together. The memory overwhelmed her and tears welled up in her eyes. She dropped her head into her folded arms, reliving those moments and so many more spent here, up in this old maple tree. She started to cry, sobbing with grief at the loss of those moments. Her body shaking with tears, she slid sideways until she was curled up in a ball on the floor, eyes squeezed shut as she cried herself to sleep.
Her eyes opened to the early afternoon sun shining directly on them. Confused, she shook her head slightly, trying to remember why she was on the floor of the tree house. And in a rush, it all came back to her. She pushed herself up off the floor onto her knees and crawled forward to the doorway. Craning her head sideways, she looked at the house again. It was still quiet. Peaceful, even. Not a hint of the upheaval that had changed her life forever. Sitting back on her heels, she rubbed her eyes and stretched. She looked around the treehouse, noticing a small basket had been tucked into the side of the doorway. Curious, she shifted forward to grab the handle and bring it to her.
She flipped back the top of the cloth covering to look inside the basket. There was a sandwich, bottle of lemonade and a package of fruit snacks nestled inside. A folded piece of paper poked out from underneath the sandwich. With trembling hands, Jordan reached in to grab the paper. Unfolding it, she took a deep breath, and saw it was a handwritten note. The note read, “Honey, we know how hard this must be for you. Such big change is always unsettling and difficult. We are here for you. Love Mom and Dad.” Tears welled up in Jordan’s eyes again as she tore the note in half and in the half again, not stopping until the note was little shreds of paper that fell from her hands onto the floor of the treehouse. “Yeah, sure” Jordan said out loud, “here for me. They haven’t even so much as looked at me for the last three days. I might as well not even exist.” She yanked the cloth from the basket, causing the fruit snacks to go flying out onto the floor, landing on the paper scraps. Wiping her eyes and face with the cloth, she shoved the basket and scraps of paper away from her, tipping the basket over. The bottle of lemonade rolled out and into the corner.
Jordan stood up and leaned out the window of the treehouse on the side away from the house. She didn’t want to have to look at it and its deceptive calm. The calm wouldn’t last anyway. She knew that now. It was just a matter of time before it was all just chaos again. Chaos that meant she was ignored. Just another distraction to be swept aside. Looking out at the trees swaying in the wind, she felt a little calmer, a little better. The air was fresh and cool in the shade of the treehouse. She closed her eyes to feel the wind on her face, wishing to be far, far away from here. She wished life could be like a fantasy story, like the ones she loved to read. If it was, a dragon or a unicorn or a gryphon would swoop down from the sky with a dire summons only she could answer and she would be off on a grand adventure! She would save the world, be the hero, be … important. She dropped her head, tucking her chin to the her chest. But she wasn’t, not important, not the hero. Just 8-year-old Jordan alone in her treehouse, dreading going back into the house.
“Hey Jordan, you up there?” Jordan’s head came back up at the shout from the base of the treehouse. She twisted her head sideways to look and saw her best friend Pat at the bottom of the ladder, looking up at the treehouse door. “Over here, Pat. Come on up” Jordan called down. Not that she wanted company right now, but Pat had been her best friend for as long as she could remember. She might understand. Pat scrambled up the ladder and into the treehouse. She walked over to where Jordan stood and reached out to awkwardly pat Jordan on the shoulder. “You okay?” she asked quietly “I went to the front door, but your Mom was so busy, she just waved at the tree, so I figured you were here.” Jordan turned to look at her friend and smiled a little bit.
“I’m okay” she said, trying not to let her sadness show. Pat knew her better than that and said “Hug?” reaching out her arms to Jordan. Jordan knew that Pat really didn’t like to hug, so offering this was a huge gesture on her part. Jordan gratefully stepped into her friend’s hug and whispered “thank you” into her ear. Jordan felt more than saw Pat’s smile. The two girls hugged for a moment and then broke apart, both sliding down the wall to sit next to each other. Jordan felt her heart breaking into pieces and Pat understood. It helped, a little, to know she wasn’t completely alone. They sat side by side for quite some time, just simply being with each other. The ease of a long friendship made it a comfortable silence rather than awkward. Jordan felt hope for the first time in days.
“It’s not so bad, you know” Pat said “you get used to it pretty quickly.” “What!” shouted Jordan “how is that possible?” “Well, things just get so busy that it just kind of becomes normal” said Pat as she shrugged “at least, that’s how it was at my house when it happened last year.” “You … you don’t think it happened to me because it happened to your family first, do you?” asked Jordan, feeling scared and uncertain “it’s just so weird.” “I don’t know” said Pat “maybe, maybe not. Our parents have been best friends for years, so I guess it is possible.” “Well, it sucks” said Jordan “I don’t like it at all!” Pat looked at her and shrugged “It’s not like we have much choice anyway.” Pat looked out at the late afternoon sun that was starting to slant in the sideways way that told them it was getting onto to dinner time. “I have to go” said Pat “I’ll have to get ready.” “Okay” said Jordan “see you later.” Pat got up and dusted off bits of paper from the floor of the treehouse. She walked to the door and turned back and said “No matter what happens, I’ll always be your best friend.” Then she was gone and down the treehouse, running towards her house across the street.
The afternoon having passed and with Pat’s visit and kindness, Jordan was feeling less unsettled inside. Still a rolling mix of confusion, anger and fear, but she felt a little more grounded knowing that Pat was there. Pat knew and understood. It had happened to her last year and she survived. She wasn’t even invisible to her parents all the time anymore. Maybe it would be okay. Maybe Jordan would be okay too. As these thoughts passed through her head, she heard her Mom’s voice from the back door of the house, “Jordan, it’s time to come in. Everyone will be here soon and I need your help.” “Okay Mom” Jordan called back “I’ll be in in just a minute.” Jordan tidied up the treehouse, putting the uneaten sandwich and fruit snacks back into the basket. She grabbed the bottle of lemonade and cracked it open, chugging it down as she realized how thirsty she was after an afternoon of crying. She tossed the empty bottle into the basket and picked it up, heading towards the door. As she stepped onto the ladder to go down, she looked at the treehouse and realized nothing was lost. The treehouse was here to stay and would be hers to come to whenever she needed it. Even if her new baby sister did have to move into her room, even if her parents time was taken up entirely with the new baby, even if everyone coming tonight was coming to meet the baby, she would always have Pat and the treehouse. Knowing that put a spring back into her step as she jumped off the third rung to the ground and ran towards the house. Life in the house would change, but life in the treehouse would always be hers.