Ruth's Story This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Ruth sat on the branch of the pine tree, clinging to the rough bark with both hands. Her knees ached with the pressure her legs exerted as she held on for dear life. All around, trees squeaked and groaned in the wind, and the pine needles swung to and fro. As if mocking her predicament, they waved wildly, pointing first at her, then at the ground below. In all of her ten years, Ruth had never been so frightened. Black clouds hung curiously over the pointed tip of the tree, and Ruth kept her eyelids clamped tightly shut. Tears nevertheless squeezed out and fell lightly away on the wind.

How in the world had she ever let her brother and Mark talk her into this? At first, they had been annoyed with her. She was spoiling their big plans, the kind of plans that take a private treehouse and two fifteen-year-old cronies to hatch. Little sisters take all the fun out of such activities, and therefore must be ditched. Or so Ruth assumed her brother had reasoned. This would, of course, be his idea, to get her up in the tree and abandon her to her doom. She remembered how fast her brother and Mark had skimmed up to the treehouse, and cheeks stinging, how Mark had had to come back and help her up into the platform. They had laughed, comparing her to the slow, fat porcupines that climbed so awkwardly. How dared they, when they were so fast and squirrel like themselves?

Like squirrels they had whipped back down to the foot of the tree. Like tiny mushrooms, their faces had turned up to regard her frantic, furious face, one mocking, one sympathetic. Mark had been sorry and had promised to come back later. Well, Ruth had waited until "later" and then tried to climb down herself. How she was stuck and afraid and a storm was coming and she would never, ever speak to either of them again.

The rain began and the bark got slippery. Ruth lay flat against the branch and locked her hands and ankles around it, scratching herself all to pieces on the uncomfortably knobby bark. The wind howled and screamed through the branches, and Ruth wondered if she would die. She pictured herself lying at the foot of the tree, dead. That was spooky. Then she imagined Mark and her brother finding her there dead. She hoped her brother would be sorry for what he had done. She wondered if Mark would remember her. Maybe they would be punished, or go to jail, even. She didn't want Mark to go to jail. While she was thinking this, wonder of wonders, a hand fell hot on her shoulder. Mark. He had actually come back. But, of course, Ruth could never allow Mark to see how relieved she was to see him, so she frowned and wiggled away.

He had to yell so she could hear him. He held out his hand, asked her to come, he would help her down, he promised. Still Ruth scowled and wouldn't come, until suddenly the lightning stabbed their eyes and the thunder rolled through their bodies and both of them became very white. Panic boiled up in Ruth's throat. She wanted only to cling to the danger under her hands as the world went mad.

Mark begged her, he had to trust him. He said he would carry her. So she wound her arms around his neck and twined her legs around his waist, locking her ankles. He became smeared with blood from her numerous scratches. Ruth buried her head in the salty nape of Mark's neck. Mark climbed slowly, trusting his purchase on the wet branches, trusting his tired muscles, trusting Ruth not to strangle him should the thunder boil again. 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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