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Underneath the Oak Tree
I lived in a place with large fields and little houses. Aspen Oaks was where I lived, in a house built right into an oak tree. Our community is surrounded by the Omni mountains, where fall is the season to celebrate. The crisp leaves fall to the ground and the wind picks up, and homes are filled with a warm glow from the fire, and the smell of homemade pumpkin pie wafts in and out of every home on the Autnum Solstice.
My father worked in the fields, ever since he was 13, he loved working up the hay bales in the summer, raking up the leafs in the fall, and carrying large loads of wheat into storage barns for the next year or two to come.
My mother, on the other hand, was a stronger than strong woman, and worked hard around our house to keep us healthy and alive.
And then there’s me. Nation Rose Miller. I didn’t like my name. Most people call me Nat, but that isn’t many, since I don’t have many friends, and mostly keep to myself anyway. I don’t have friends at school, or at least real friends. I don’t know what having a friend feels like. Do you feel happy? Are you sad or glad? These are the things I think about on hot summer days where I lay in the sun under our tree and hope for some rain.
The trolley doesn’t pick me up from school, so I have to walk home, which isn’t too far away. I don’t mind, because I usually go to town to find a cheap snack, or a book to read at the bookstore. Today, I wanted to show the owner of the bookstore, Ms. Hunt, my new poetry book. Our local bookstore is called Words Lane, and it is one of my most favorite places in the world. The bell jingled, and a friendly voice rang out, “Good afternoon! Welcome to Words Lane!” It was Ms. Hunt, who had helped me become obsessed with poetry all those years ago. I smiled, and walked to a table by the window. I set down my bag, and I began to weave my way through the stacks of books, which barely stood without support from the book shelves. I ran my fingers along the different titles, and one caught my eye. I pulled it off the bookshelf and stared at it. The Tale of Beatrix Flatterhy by Jean Novak rested in my hands, and I turned it over.
I started walking back home, with my brand new book, and I was getting near our neighborhood of tree-houses, when I saw a group of men gathered in the street. As I grew near them, I heard yelling. I leaned into the circle of people, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around. It was my mother, and she had a worried look on her face.
“Nation, go home, you don’t need to be here.” She said, pushing me away.
“But why?” I asked. She looked at me sternly.
“I’ll tell you when I get home. Find a snack, and start on your homework, if you can. Do not leave the house.” She said. I barely nodded before I ran around the group of people, and up to our house. I opened the door, and ran upstairs. I dropped my bag on the bed, and raced to my window, which conveniently opened onto the mob in the street. I stared, as nothing happened, except for talking and small squabble. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be there. But I was about to find out soon enough.
It was 3 hours after I came home from the bookstore when I heard the door creak open. I had been working on my poetry assignments, and I was worried that mother wouldn’t come home. Father doesn’t come home until later, because he was working in the fields. I set down my book on the bed, and slowly crept downstairs. Mother was sitting at the table, staring into space.
“Mother?” I whispered. Mother looked up, and gave me a weak smile. I ran towards her, and her arms wrapped around me.
“What happened?” I asked. I seated myself at the other end of the table. Mother sighed. She looked tired.
“A small argument. Nothing to worry about.” Mother said. I wasn’t satisfied.
“What was the argument about?” I pryed. Mother stood.
“Nothing really. A few men got into some trouble when harvesting the leaves.” She began to make dinner, while I sat at the table, waiting. I didn’t know what I was exactly waiting for, but I knew it was something. Moments later, Mother brought down a bowl of rice for each of us, and a glass of milk. We ate in scilence until my father came home. My mother shooed me up to my room, I was confused and unaware, but went to bed anyway.
It was early in the morning, but I was awake with my book in our sunroom. The sunroom was the small room in the front of our house, but right below the stairs and next to the kitchen. There was a little stool there, and a bookshelf with all of my older poem books, school books, and maps. I sat on the stool, leaning against the wall, deep in my poem book. I was preparing for my new assignment, and getting my mind off of what happened last night. I sighed, as I would never get anything done, I put down my book, and left the tiny room. I slowly crept outside, and felt the new sun warm my face. Barefoot, I walked to the little river running by my house. I bent down to pluck a stone from the brook, then I skipped it against the river. I remember the day I learned how to do this, when I was younger. Father and I collected so many, so if I messed up I could keep on trying again and again. When I figured it out, Father took me to the little bakery in town, and bought me a chocolate. I was so happy.
“Nation!” I spun around. A girl was standing there.
“Jodi?” I asked. Jodi Acker lived across the street from me and went to school with me, she was fairly nice. Jodi was running toward me.
“Hello.” She said, sitting down on the dew covered grass.
“It’s wet there.” I pointed out, “And hello to you too.” I added. I knelt down next to her anyway. Jodi’s hair was pulled into a tight braid, running down her back.
“Nice morning, huh?” She smiled.
“Sure.” I replied. She laughed, although I didn’t know why.
“Why are you laughing?” I asked warily.
She laughed again. “Oh, Nation! You are funny to me. I like you.” Jodi replied. I looked at her, she seemed so at peace, not a care in the world. I guess I used to be like that too. Jodi reminded me, of me when I was younger.
“Did you, uh, hear about what happened last afternoon?” I said. Jodi nodded, and jumped to her feet.
“I did. One man was trying to steal some of the harvest for himself and his family in the western fields. Which, as you know, could cost a lot for our community. Then, one man noticed him and went for the patrol. That man is going to trial on Sunday in town. You goin’? Since your father works in the west fields?” Jodi said, rushing through the explanation.
“Um, I’m not sure.” I said. I stood up too. “I need to go back home. See you later.” I said quickly. Jodi nodded.
“See ya.” Jodi said. I raced back to my house, and noticed the light on in my Mother’s room.
“Darn.” I whispered. I slowly opened the door, and crept upstairs. Mother’s door was closed; so I carefully entered my room, and looked out onto the street from the window. I spotted Jodi running to her house, but before she entered, she turned around and waved at me. I waved back, and she went inside. Jodi was pretty nice, she always wanted to talk to me and be with me. She was my friend. It felt good to have someone to talk to.
After lunch, I made my way to the bridge inbetween the western fields and my house, and sat on the end of it, facing the fields. I opened up my book and tried to concentrate on the words, but the wind was picking up.
“Pardon me, girl.” A voice said. I jumped up, and turned around. Mr. Jean Bear stood on the bridge.
“Sorry.” I said, stepping out of the way. He went past me quickly, when the wind lifted a piece of paper out of his coat pocket. I jumped up to get it before it blew away. I unfolded the paper, and it read,
After the incident, I must say you handled it well. But, you did not finish my wishes. Please ask Mr. Jem Miller, Mr. Davy Ware, and Mr. Faroe Spinner to come to my office as soon as possible. They will have consequences for their actions.
Officer Nate Zivin
Shoving the note into my pocket, I went back to my home. When I got to my room, I settled at my desk, wondering, thinking. Was Father one of the men who was involved with the problem? Is that why he was so mad last night? I leaned my head on the desk, and slowly began to sink away into the dream world.
“No, I didn’t do it!” I wailed to my father, who was bending down on one knee, at my level. He raised his eyebrow. I couldn’t look into his eyes.
“Nation, tell me. Did you take Mother’s birthday chocolate?” He asked me again. I shook my head, no. Mother had gotten only one present for her birthday. A nice, creamy chocolate from the bakery. I could see the tiny box it came in. And I didn’t take it. Mother sat in the rocking chair by the fireplace, sewing a blanket. She was quiet.
Father shook his head. He stood up, and began to pace the room. “Nation, you can’t take things like that. It was very expensive. It cost a lot. I am very troubled and disappointed by you. This makes your Mother and I very sad. Go to your room.” He lectured. I walked up the stairs. Before I entered my room, my mother called out to me. I stopped.
“Yes?” I tearfully called.
“Come down here, dear.” She replied. I wiped my tears away, and walked back down the stairs. Mother put her work on the chair, and stood up. “I want you to know, Jem, Nation didn’t take the chocolate.” She said.
“Then who did?” Father said, frustrated. Mother looked at me.
“I did.” She said. I ran toward her, and I felt her arms around me.
“Alvilda!” He cried. “Why did you let me shout at her?”
“I… wanted to teach Nat a lesson.” She said.
“What lesson?” Questioned Father angrily.
“That even if you are blamed for something you didn’t do, you must follow through.”
I woke with a start. The dream… it was, a flashback. I remembered that day so well. Only 5 years old, and getting into trouble. Smiling, I stood, and looked out the window. I saw the west fields, workers peppered across the wheat and leaves, hard at work. My smile faded with realization.
“That even if you are blamed for something you didn’t do, you must follow through.” Father didn’t steal the harvest. He was only blamed that he did so.
I was told to sit outside to wait for Father to come home from the trial. Maybe he had won, and I could award him with a hug. I didn’t really understand how a trial worked, but I was sure Father would do a good job at whatever he needed to do to win. I saw him early on down the road. I almost had a small skip in his step, so I ran toward him. He embraced me, and handed me a note. “Give this to your Mother. I’ll catch up with you.” He said. I nodded and took the note from him.
I am here to tell you that you are dismissed from this case. I am sorry that you were blamed for your wrong doings, and I thank you for your will to participate in the case. Mr. Ware will receive consequences for his doings. I must ask for forgiveness. So I give you a new permit for your house and working wages! I am so sorry.” Mother read aloud.
“A new house permit! Can you believe it?” Father cried. I had never seen him so happy before. Father looked at me, and picked me up, swinging me around till I was dizzy. I laughed. I suddenly felt like Jodi again. Always happy, not a care in the world.