Over the Wall and Fifteen Feet Up

May 14, 2008
By Heather Romanowski, Clarkston, MI

The school’s high walls towered over us and the smell of pine and crushed grass lingered in the air. The walls seemed impossible to climb in the midnight dark. The moon shined pale, thinly through the branches of the heavily wooded forest. Crickets chirped and mosquitoes found our skin before long. Their bites were unusually painful and itchy. If it hadn’t been for the perplexing, ominous problem before us, of scaling the walls we would have not been killing the nasty parasites. Craning my neck from side to side I finally spotted a tree whose branches extended over the wall and hopefully into the grounds. A hushed whisper later, three dark forms moved silently through the gloom towards the tree.
I placed my feet carefully and cautiously. I began to climb the ominous dark tree. Nerves tensed and wound tight almost to the breaking point. Ears tuned for a guard dog’s bark, an alarm ringing, or the snap of hunters creeping through the night. Finally reaching the tree after a century of sneaking, my hand reached out brushed the roughened aged bark of the maple tree. Searching blindly for a knot or a foothold, my fingers brushed an unnatural indentation. Ignoring it for the moment I scaled the tree with relative ease, my fingers and feet finding the holds with the ease of long practice. Fifteen feet up the trees thick branch stretched out across the wall into the arms of an elder tree. I squirreled my way over the branch, the soft grazing of sneaker meeting bark. The rasp of clothes, brushing the roughened bark, followed my stealthy crawl-steps. My hand stretched out over open ground. My fingers brushed the thick branch. Suddenly my limb dipped down dangerously and I lost my footing, I made a leap of faith, managing to snag the shortened elder branch. Wrapping my legs around it securely, I swung my self astride it. My two friends were frozen as the branch lifted itself back up gracefully. I swore softly motioning for them to continue across with careful, slow-going strides. Watching critically for a brief second I turned scuttling to the wide trunk. I wrapped my hands around the slick bark and found yet more handholds, using them to my full advantage I shimmied down the trunk. Leaping off at the last second landing with a soft thump, I froze, listening to the night. The breeze carried the noises of crickets, light birds and a soft rasp. Which was soon identified as clothing on bark.

My two companions joined me on the grass as we observed the backyard of the famous Finishing school. At first glance all was well, second glance all was silent, and third glance all was ready to go. With a muffled whoop of joy my companions stripped to starkers and dove into the marble pool. Barely a ripple disturbed the serene surface. I took my customary position in the shadows. In the darkness of the elder tree I observed, my ears cognizant to my surroundings. I closed my eyes so I could listen better and slid into a meditative state.
“Jayden! Join us, the water’s great!” Kai called. Snapped out of my rapt state, my eyes flashed open to examine my dark eyed friend. Midnight-kissed hair hung in wet locks barely brushing his shoulders. Cerulean blue eyes caught the meager light flashing with adrenaline-driven delight. The edges of his mouth curved into a confidant smirk. He pulled himself out of the pool with nary a sound, wet plops following in his footsteps as he glided over to me. His sun bronzed skin matching that of his cousin’s Edwin’s. Kai crouched in front of me; his eyes had a determined intent gleaming in their depths.
“Jayden,” voice soft and plying “you’re always lookout, get your skinny butt in the water and enjoy yourself for once.”
“Kai, we’ve been over this. No.”
“Jayden,” Edwin’s amber eyes and chocolate hair joined our ‘conference.’ “Take a risk for once in your life.”
“I do, I’m navigator and lookout.” Kai and Edwin simultaneously sighed. For a second I thought they’d leave me alone. Of course, life never works out that way.
“You’re acting just like your dad.” Kai’s soft whisper struck a nerve. I’m not like my dad! I’m nothing like my dad! He would be a...lookout. I snapped and before I knew it I was half naked, the cool sweet water was embracing my conscious. I frolicked for a while under the water. Feeling the need for air, my head torpedoed to the surface with a great gasp escaping my lips for the honeyed taste of precious oxygen.
A quiet gasp pierced my eardrums. My head snapped around and my eyes met the unfamiliar emerald green of a stranger, a very female youth. My eyes darted around the clearing with haste, my cousin’s had disappeared. She drew my attention once more. I waited for the panic to ensue at the sight of getting caught. But I felt nothing; in fact I was so calm I swam over to her. Climbing cautiously out of the pool, I sauntered across the grass casually. My sopping wet pants clinging to my legs. She was frozen and speechless with shock; her white tank top and shorts clung to delicious curves. Amber hair shimmered in the moonlight curling around her thin shoulders and heart shaped face. A frown crossed her lips and she opened her mouth to speak but my moment of pure impulse stopped her. Shaking fingers brushed her creamy skin and lifted her lips up to mine. Her sweetness seeped into my mouth. The moment seemed to last for an eternity but ended in a second. I pulled away and jogged around the pool to my clothes. Yanking them on with shoes I climbed the tree with lightning speed and jetted off to my home.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A few hours or so later I reached my home. My home was dark. Its soft blue curtains stirred in the breeze. I leapt the fence and found the lone tree in my well-kept backyard. Coincidentally this tree grew next to my window. I climbed with the muscle memory of years to my window. My fingers grasped it, and pulled. The window refused to budge an inch. Earlier that evening it was left unlocked. I tugged again my frustration gave way to panic. That panic was punctuated by one thought. My father knew I had gone. Sighing, I climbed back down the tree. Preparing myself for the inevitable, I walked the last yards to the sliding door. The cool metal of the handle flashed neon blue as electricity flowed into my nerves, jangling them all the more. Agonizing silence followed as the soft whisk of the door sliding open. My shoes came off, next to the door, my feet welcomed the soft plush carpeting their aches a reminder of my sin. I took one step; two then a click signaled the turning on of a light. Blood rushed into my veins, legs faltered and my courage failed me. My father’s hooded eyes stared out from underneath ragged bangs. Tired eyes met mine in faint disapproval, and then flickered over my appearance. Taking in the dry shirt, wet pants, damp hair and pale skin, he shifted ever so slightly. A frown danced across his lips. Unhappiness darkened his brow, while images flooded my brain.

“What are you doing,” Fury raced through his tone. “Don’t you remember what happened last time you climbed a tree?” Agitated vibes seethed from his movements like smoke. Fingers slid through his hair pulling it back as he paced from one side of the room to the other.
“You almost broke your legs and you hurt Kai!” He sat down in the hard wooden chair his face in his hands. An exasperated sigh escapes into the air.
“You are grounded for six months. You can’t do anything with anyone, unless it is for school. After school you come straight home and stay in your room unless it’s for dinner or bathroom break.”
“That’s not fair! It was only one fall! You never let me do anything!” Screaming at him in righteous fury, I expressed my dissatisfaction the best way I knew how.
“Maybe this is for the best then.” His enigmatic reply caused bitterness to seep into my heart. Disappointment reverberated from his forlorn body as he walked across the hall.

Memories, from trickle to torrent awakened in my psyche. Arguments I didn’t want to remember.

His knowing eyes slid an accusatory glance across my guilty face. His eyes flickered to the stairs. I almost sighed in relief; I knew a dismissal when I saw one. Careful to not seem too eager, I attempted a casual walk to the staircase. Just before I left the room I saw him raise a single finger. I paused, pivoting ever so slowly to meet his sad eyes.
“We will speak tomorrow.” Then he touched my wrist so lightly I would have taken it for a feather. I left in the slow walk of those fated to be grounded for months on end. The carpet changed to polished walnut, hand barely brushing the railing more out of habit then need. To the left branch of hallways I ghosted into my immaculately kept room. I shut my door and leaned up against it, eyes closed in prayer.

I will not become my father. No matter what, I will not be afraid of living.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.


MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!