“So,” she begins, crossing her legs, and grabbing a pad of paper from the table beside her “Tell me about it,”
I let out a shaky breath as I try to find the words I need to say, “I was seven…”
It was early fall, the time where the leaves had just started their transition from summer green to the warm colors of the season. There was a faint warning of chill in the air, hanging like an unspoken oath. My feet pounded on the ground, crunching on fallen leaves that were caught in my path. I heard her high pitched laughter up ahead, sounding like the tinkling of fairy bells, and I could see her mess of red hair in front of me. She turned to cast her gaze at me then, her ocean eyes crashing waves into mine.
“Come on,” she squealed, grabbing my hand as she led me deeper into the forest of colors. Together we weaved our way between tree trunks so covered in moss that they themselves were almost green, heading to a destination that only she was aware of. But never did I stop to question her, or wonder where it was that we were going, for that didn’t matter. Everyday she had a new adventure for us to begin- a new place for us to explore.
Within minutes we reached a clearing, and she slowed the pace to a walk, both of our breaths coming in haggard gasps. Clumps of weeds covered most of the area, with a river on one side, and a wall of trees surrounding the rest of the perimeter. The large opening overhead showed the bright blue of the sky, with wisps of clouds curling around each other like smoke. We were only fifteen minutes away from home but to us it felt like we were on an entirely different planet.
Almost immediately we set to work building a fort, grabbing branches from the forest and propping them up against the trunk of an old oak tree. And in the end we had a lopsided creation, with very little room inside to do anything other than sit, almost on top of each other- but it was ours, and we found a great deal of happiness in knowing that. So, for hours we sat inside of it’s scratchy walls, pretending to play house, where she was the husband and I was the wife, and we loved each other more than anything else.
When darkness began to creep into the sky the threat of the cold became all the more real, the wind picking up and swirling leaves together in a dance a few feet above the ground. We cuddled close together to create warmth, since neither of us had wanted to go home yet.
We should have gone home.
Up until then the forest had been mostly silent, aside from the chirps of birds, or as it turned to night, crickets. So, when we heard the sharp snapping of twigs, we knew something was wrong. A heavy footfall was close, boots slamming into the ground as if to create an earthquake. We slid out of the fort just in time to see a figure standing on the other side of the field. A smile crossed his face, revealing rows of yellowing teeth hidden beneath a thick mustache. My eyes flashed to the rifle in his hand just before I was pushed back into the fort.
She darted across the clearing, and I could hear heavy footfalls out of view start closer to where I sat. She looked back at him, a storm arising in those ocean eyes, before running quicker towards the river.
“Stop running!” he boomed, drawing ever closer to her. I held my breath as I watched him reach towards her arm, stumbling and falling into her. She shrieked and water splashed, and I saw her head go below the water, but never come up.
I was frozen; silent sobs wracked my body as I listened as the footfalls became quieter and quieter, before becoming all together inaudible. Suddenly, everything around me felt wrong, like a cheap version of the world that I knew. The leaves have never been as vibrant as they were that day, and I’ve never seen ocean waves crashing in another pair of eyes.