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Anna stood on the path, now overgrown with weeds. To her right stood a willow tree. It was warped with time and bent from the years of lending its branches to the fancies of children.
At eighteen years old, Anna glanced around at the place where she had played as a kid. Memories flashed back of racing with Cam or, if she couldn’t find him, playing reluctantly with the other girls. Nowadays, Cam could never be found and Anna had been left to find new friends long ago. As she waded through the wayward, knee high grass toward the tree, she wondered how this place had been forgotten or undiscovered in recent years. Looking up, Anna could still imagine the tree house in its former glory. The pair had carefully assembled fresh wood into a platform. Now it was dark and rotted. The ladder still hung precariously from a branch, though several of the rungs had long since disappeared. She circled the knurled trunk to where she remembered carving the “X”: Evidence of one of the many imaginary adventures that she and Cam had cooked up before he moved on.
The pirate ship, a park bench, was still in place a little ways away. And the cave, a bush with a small space inside, was barely recognizable in its overgrown state. As Anna leaned against the tree, she wished that Cam were there to laugh with her about their made-up adventures.
They would both be leaving soon and she wished that they were close enough to say goodbye. Anna laughed a little at the memory of their daily farewell as they both parted to their respective houses: “Until tomorrow Captain Cam, bright and early Captain Anna,” followed by the secret handshake, which included a most elaborate salute.
The sky was gray and it was chilly for August. Nevertheless, Anna crossed to the park bench to stay a while longer. She didn’t hear, or else ignored, the rustling of the grass behind her, but she looked up surprised when there was a tall, gangly boy standing a few feet from her.
“Hey Anna,” he said almost whispering.
“Cam,” she was just as quiet, taking him in. His hands were in his jeans pockets as always and he had his head tilted to the side, concern in his eyes. “What are you doing here?” she asked after a too long pause.
“I might ask you the same thing,” he smirked.
“I was here first,” she reminded him.
“Fine. I just thought I would come check out the place before I left,” he shrugged. “Though I did expect to find it in better shape.”
“Want to sit?” Anna gestured to the space next to her on the bench. Cam sat.
“Where have you been?” Anna was caught up in the fact that he was actually there.
“I’ve been around,” Cam shrugged.
“Obviously we haven’t been ‘around’ the same places… for six years.” She crossed her arms.
“Come on, An. Don’t be like that. We both found new friends.”
“First of all, you lost the right to tell me how to be when you disappeared. Second, you found new friends and ditched me, so I had to make new friends.”
“I’m sorry, okay? I was twelve and I know that isn’t an excuse, but I think it should be. Twelve year olds are weird,” he looked at her hopefully. Anna managed to keep her giggle inside of her, but she couldn’t hide the smirk that came from Cam’s signature tension-breaking humor.
“So, I hear you’re off to California,” Anna bit her lip. It was weird to talk like this with Cam, whom she hadn’t really spoken with in years.
“And you are going to New York?”
“I am. NYU,” Anna smiled.
“That’s great, Anna,” and there seemed to be peace between them.
They sat on the bench until it started to get dark, occasionally exchanging a word or two. Anna’s cell phone buzzed in her pocket; it was Remy, her best friend, calling with some sort of petty emergency. She sighed and stood up.
“I’ve got to go,” her voice was soft. Cam nodded and smiled before standing up. He pulled her into a friendly hug. Anna smiled for the old times and stepped back. She turned to walk away.
“Hey,” Cam laid his hand on her shoulder, “I’ll see you around, okay?”
“Yea, see you around,” she nodded. Cam stood still, hands in pockets, while Anna made her way across the field. She turned around to face him again, then called out: “See you tomorrow, Captain Cam,” and brought her hand to her forehead in a salute. She could see Cam chuckle before mirroring her salute and calling back, “bright and early, Captain Anna.”
When Anna turned around at the edge of the field, but Cam had already gone. She turned around and kept walking.