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Meeting Willow

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I stuck my hands deep inside my pockets and fished out a piece of bubble gum while eagerness drew up the corners of my mouth. Ma never liked it when I chew, so to avoid her scolding, I treated myself to it in secret. I smiled wider at the thought of her seeing: dilly-dallying my way home instead of rushing back, mud stains on my overalls, and gum-chewing. I stopped abruptly for a second. Mud stained overalls… rats! Ma wasn’t going to be happy about that one. Well, no sense worrying about it now. I shrugged my tension off. She’d just fuss over it for a bit and blame in on my ‘no good friends for corruption my behavior,’ as she put it time and time again.

No matter how I slowed my pace to lengthen the walk in Forge’s Meadow, I always reached the battered, old bridge that overhung my little creek too soon. I strolled along my parent’s property, savoring the last few seconds of my gum before spitting it out in the grass at the edge of my front yard. My house wasn’t anything special; just a plain, one-story home you’d see in any other neighborhood. It had faded light-blue paint and white shutters that didn’t close properly anymore. The front porch was elongated to the length of the entire house and it held dainty hanging pots of pansies and violets that drooped with thirst in the hot summer sun. Temptation shook me, just like every other time, to knock one of those pots down as I passed under them, but I made my way to the screen door, head held high in defiance to such longings.

That was the moment I heard the shouting. Looked like Ma and Pa were upset over something that was probably really stupid, and they were both in a rage. I really didn’t feel like listen to it today. With a sigh I walked around the corner of the house and through my backyard where there was another smaller building not a hundred yards away. This building looked much warmer if not more welcoming than my home, and I was comforted by the fact that I would be met there with actual affection.

I rapped on the tattered front door and felt footsteps pound at the foundation of the little house as someone made their way to answer. She already knew it was me, but she gave me the benefit of her surprised smile when she opened the door. Ina moment I was engulfed in a hug that encompassed my entire body, but I held tight to the plump, warm figure in return.

“My little Sam has come to see me again today?” she asked as she pulled away, her hands still on my shoulders, taking in my appearance. “Well, bless my soul, looks like you’ve been rolling with the dogs, missy! Get on in here and let’s get you cleaned up a bit and something in that stomach of yours.” She continued with a wink, pulling me in and closing the door behind me.

“I just thought I’d stop by and see if you were still breathing in all this heat,” I fanned myself, exaggerating the motion.

Her church bell laugh resonated in my ears. “Why, of course your Willow’s fine. I think this cranky old woman knows how to handle Mother Nature by now. Come on now, take those shoes off and sit yourself down.”

I kicked my ratty shoes to the corner and took a seat in one of her cushioned chairs.

Willow never doubted why I came here, but she never said a word. She kept the peace that way, and it made me feel better to knot think about what was going on just a house away. I couldn’t help but feel a bit lighter here, more free. This was my Willow and I felt safe with her here. This was my home in every sense of the word.





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