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Annie’s hands gripped the frame of the window pane. Her nose was nearly pressed against the window, breathing nearly visible. Her eyes darted in different directions, watching the sea of grass blow in different directions of the wind. She was waiting. She had been standing in the window for nearly half an hour, longed waiting for her younger brother to come home with Papa from trading crops with the neighbor. Behind Annie was Mama who was cooking breakfast. Annie could smell the bacon sizzling on the frying pan, but her appetite was acting funny today.
Her patience had run out as Annie sulked back to the bathroom. She stared into the cracked mirror and brushed her hair with a broken comb. She hummed a tune that she had adapted from Papa when she was six years old when Henry had not been born yet. Things seemed to be a little better than when Henry wasn’t around. Annie had her own bed. She got to walk with Papa down to the neighbors who were about a mile’s walk. Mama let Annie cook dinner every night. And of course, she heard nearly every adventure story that Papa had encountered. But things had seemed to change now that Henry had grown into a working boy. Words that used to fill into Annie’s ears were now filled into Henry’s, and work was always given to Henry.
His birthday was only three days ago, Annie thought as she split her hair in half. It’s not like he’s already responsible for everything you pile onto him.
However, there was one thing that Henry couldn’t have. Her books were sitting underneath her and Henry’s quilt covered bed. Annie had kept a secret between only herself that there were advanced books that were underneath the sleeping bodies of her and Henry. She was afraid that if she told her mother or father, she would be forced to have to teach Henry to read. That was the last thing she had wished to happen. That was the only thing that Henry would never be able to do better than Annie.It seemed that her family admired the boys, and Annie was the child they never meant to have.
Annie tied the second sky-blue ribbon around the left braided pigtail. She traced her fingers along her dark brown hair one final time. Then she hear the house door open. They were home.
“Papa!” Annie cried as she wrapped her arms around her father’s neck.
“‘Morning, my daughter,” Annie’s father replied exasperated. Then it seemed as if Papa immediately pushed his daughter aside. After handing Annie his coat, he turned to his wife and said, “The neighbors were not interested in the bread we had offered. They had chosen a sack of tomatoes and a box of butter in exchange for a cow and a couple of chicks.”
“But that was the only butter we had!” Mama exclaimed. “In that case, I must make some more immediately!”
“Mama, I can make some if you would like me, to,” Annie said as she hung her father’s wool coat on a sturdy bent nail hammered into the wall. “I have nothing else to do all day. It’ll save you the trouble.”
The parents exchanged questionable glances. “No thank you, sweet Anne,” Mama replied after a short moment of silence.
Disappointed in the answer, Annie walked to her room with a grim expression. For the last half hour, she read one of the books that was under her bed. As she turned the old yellow pages of Grimm’s Fairytales, she thought of what her family would be doing now she had left the room.
Mama laid three chipped ceramic plates on the table with bent silverware that had been through years of work. She slid two pieces of bacon on each plate. The father, mother and Henry sat at the table, ready to eat. Annie entered the room through the shadows, and to her astonishment, her family was sitting at the table without even a plate of bacon for her. They didn’t even want her there.
That evening, supper contained a chunky vegetable soup. Annie ate in silence as she listened to Henry’s cocky tale of himself catching a frog down by the nearby stream about a mile’s distance from their home. Papa and Mama made their usual comments, proud at their son’s discovery. And there at a shadowy part of a table in the corner of the dinning room, Annie sipped her cow milk making no comments the entire evening.
After dinner was finished, the table was cleaned and the ceramic plates and silverware were washed under cold water, the family’s only temperature for water, and Annie took a short trip to her room to grab her fairytale book. For the rest of the night, she sat on the cold solid wood floor in front of the home’s only warmth, a crackling fireplace carved into the stone wall of Annie’s house.
And before all of the dwarf’s eyes, the entire kingdom shined once again as Snow White was awakened from the handsome prince’s final kiss.
Annie stopped on one of the final sentences in a tale of Snow White from her Grimm’s Fairytales book. She turned around, listening to the sound of her family’s voice. Her mother had kissed Henry goodnight, and Papa said, “‘Nighty, Bud.” She pictured her mother’s golden hair sweeping onto the sleepy child’s face and Papa’s dark twisted beard tickling her brother. That could’ve been her in bed, but it wasn’t.
Annie waited for a few minutes until her entire family was asleep. After watching the fire burn out from hunger of new firewood to be put in, Annie grabbed her dark cloak from the hanger near the door. With the book, a small pack of matches and a rusty oil lantern in her hand, she slipped heavy-duty boots onto her small bare feet and carefully walked out of the door.
Annie’s boots pressed against the grassy earth after taking a step outside of her home. Freedom, the lonely girl thought as she pulled out a single match and lit it, lighting it inside the oil lantern. The girl walked for a while, admiring the world around her after the sun had set. She knew she was alone. She was happy. It seemed she was in her own little world. However, after about an hour of sneaking out of the house, Annie had begun to see the plains a bit scary. She waved her lantern above her head, turning a full 360 degrees to check her surroundings. Her eyes widened as she saw a single tree standing in the middle of the land to the west of her when she was facing north of her house.
Excited, Annie walked at a faster pace toward the tree. She never remembered seeing a tree near her house before. Closer and closer, the tree started to appear larger. Perhaps it was a maple tree. But Annie was for sure there were no maple trees in her area. As Annie touched the bark of the tree, she examined it as a sycamore tree after reading one of the books under her bed. This made the young girl even more enthusiastic about the discovery of the tree. She laid her items down on the grass and began to climb the tree as she had learned when Henry never existed. Where her father actually seemed to care for his daughter.
Higher and higher Annie climbed. Thinner and thinner the branches became. As Annie grabbed ahold of a thin branch, she lost her balance on her right foot, and the branch underneath fell. She was holding onto an unsupportive branch while her foot was hanging.
“I go’cha foot,” said a sudden voice. Annie flinched as she felt an unfamiliar hand supporting her right foot. She screamed, falling about five feet flat on the grass. Staring in the darkness, she could only make out a strange shape of a young boy wearing a hat she had never seen before.
Annie slipped out a scream. Grabbing her lantern and matches, she made a run back to her house. The object seemed to be running after her. She didn’t care, she was nearly home. Annie saw her house lighten up. Please don’t be angry, Annie thought as she realized her parents were awake. As the girl ran to her home breathless, she collapsed in the arms of her mother, sobbing that she would never leave the house again.
“I bet I can beat you to that flower over there,” Henry boasted the next morning after Annie came out of the house to find her brother playing with their father’s defensive bow.
“For your information, Henry,” Annie rolled her eyes, “that is a tree, not a flower. If you want to be so detailed, that is a sycamore tree.”
Annie walked away from her brother, who was muttering swears under his breath, towards the tree. Admiring the beautiful green leaves that hung from its branches, she stopped as she saw a young boy relaxing in the shade of the sycamore tree wearing a strange hat. He was about the same age as Annie, 14 years old. However, he had olive-shaped chocolate-brown eyes and freckles that covered his cheeks like the cover of a book. His hair was straight, dark brown and neatly brushed. But the boy’s looks weren’t what stopped Annie. The book he was holding was hers.
“Hey! That’s mine!” Annie screamed as she approached the boy in a rough manner.
The boy quickly stood on his feet and brushed his bottom off with grass. “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice low and mature. “You forgot this last night.” He held the Grimm’s Fairytales book out to Annie.
Annie stared at the strange boy. “H-have we met before?”
“Of course!” The boy exclaimed happily. “Last night! You ran away from me.” He chuckled quietly as if he didn’t want Annie to know that he found it amusing. “You looked like you was a mouse running away from a cat!”
Annie cringed at the boy’s misuse of grammar. She held out a hand cautiously as a greeting. “Uh, I’m Annie. I live in that house over there.” She cocked her head in the direction of her house made out of mostly stone and wood.
“Nice,” the boy nodded approvingly. “I’m Jack. I just moved here with my family a couple of days ago.” He took Annie’s hand and shook it violently.
“Annie!” called the mother of the girl.
Annie looked back at the direction of the call. “Um. That’s my mother. It ought to be time for supper soon. I uh, guess I’ll see you around.”
The boy named Jack grabbed Annie’s hand before Annie could start heading towards her house. “Hey Annie, do you, want to meet tonight? After everyone’s asleep?”
At first, Annie was alarmed at the idea of her sneaking out of the house after what had happened last night. She slipped her hand out of the boy’s and replied, “Uh, yeah. I mean, my parents barely pay attention to me, anyways.” Jack gave Annie a crooked smile, and Annie headed home after grabbing the book that Jack had kept overnight.
Nights went by, and Annie started to regularly see Jack when her family was asleep. Her days would always start with her family leaving her out. Her nights were of her and Jack exploring the land until daylight was seen.
About two years later when both teenagers reached 16 years, Annie showed up late to an eager Jack waiting by the sycamore tree. Annie had grown a beautiful face that was covered by her dark hood. She held the lit lantern up to her face, and Jack saw she was crying.
“Annie! Annie!” Jack cried as he saw his friend was covered in tears.
“I’m sorry,” Annie said as she embraced Jack in her elongated arms. “My father. He-he-” But the words were stuck in her throat. She sobbed even more as Jack hugged her.
“I know,” Jack whispered in the girl’s ear. “I’m really sorry.”
That winter, the snow piled on the barren ground, and Annie watched the entire winter as the weather changed. The large sycamore tree in near her house captured scars from the dangerous weather, but contained many memories of her past. She flashed back to the times with Jack and climbing the trees with Henry. Her brother had become a stubborn teenager and never communicated with Annie since their father’s death.
Annie looked back at the time when Jack told her he wanted to run away with her. “We could have so many adventures of our own,” she heard his voice echoing in her mind. “Just you and me.” Annie was desperate. That night, she looked at her brother for the last time and grabbed a large amount of food from her family’s cabinet shoving it all into a small sack. She looked back at the room with the fireplace. It was accumulating dust bunnies. The dinning room was quiet without her father. She turned back to the door and left her house to meet Jack at the sycamore tree. What was she going to do anyways back at home? Her family didn’t want her anyways.
The girl lit her oil lantern and sought Jack who was waiting eagerly by the Sycamore tree as planned. Then they walked off to seek a better life along the rolling hills and grassy plains together.