My boots splash in the puddles along the sidewalk, my hands shoved deep into my pockets. The last drops of the storm cling to the leaves, many feet in the air, every so often collecting and descending into the sidewalk. The air smells sweet, as it usually does after a storm. The trees dance with the slight breeze that runs through them, cooling the air around the park. Few streetlights shine creating a soft glow in the evening light. It’s not too dark, but just dark enough you can’t see into the park across the street. On my right a huge forest of trees gives an almost spooky feel to the street. I have never been in there. It seems to spooky to even imagine wandering deep into the trees, and losing your way. This is the latest I’ve walked home. I usually stay in the library until just before sunset. Any later than that I succumb to my fears of the forest, and call my mom to pick me up. Tonight is different though. I had spent all afternoon writing my novel, “Nightmares”, and was planning to call my mother to pick me up. As I neared the exit I noticed the puddles on the street and sidewalk and decided I would walk home. The sweet smell of rain is one of my favorite things. A twig snapped shattering my thoughts. I froze staring deep into the forest towards the origin of the sound. Twig after twig cracked, obviously nearing closer. My curiosity outweighed my fear and I began walking towards the forest. I stopped short when a silhouette of a tall, muscular man appeared amidst the trees. I backed away slowly, preparing to run, when a deep voice bellowed through the trees.
“Hey don’t be scared,” he said, “I won’t hurt you.” He started towards me.
“Who are you,” I asked the voice. As he neared closer he extended his hand towards me.
“I’m Ethan,”He said as he took my hand, “And who might you be?”
“I’m Winter,” I said warily shaking his cold, damp hand. I could see his face a lot better now that he was in the glow of the streetlight. He has piercing, ice blue eyes that cut deep into my soul. His meticulously cut hair was messy and damp but didn’t appear dirty. He had a slight shadow of a beard, but otherwise his hair was well kempt. He had a strong build and seemed to be around 17 years old. He stood roughly 6 feet tall and towered over my small figure.
“Why were you in the woods?” I ask him careful not to cause trouble.
“I like it there. Can I show you something?” I barely know this guy and he’s asking me to follow him into the woods. Definitely a red flag!
“No, sorry I… have to get home,” I reply turning to leave.
“It’s nothing dangerous. I promise you’ll love it,”
“I,I guess I have a little bit of time…” What am I doing? Risking my life to follow a mysterious stranger into the woods. Yep, definitely a good idea Winter.
He grabs my hand and leads me into the depths of the forest. Wet leaves squish under my boots as we weave through trees, until we come to a clearing. A secluded pond, surrounded by trees, comes into view. A dimly lit lantern, sitting on a picnic table to the left, provides a soft glow of the area. The pond is completely still creating a sense of euphoria for its inhabitants. I am mesmerized by the atmosphere of this place. He gently pulls me towards the table and we sit down.
“This place… it’s amazing,” I say still overcome by the beauty and serenity of it.
“I knew you would like it,” How would he know? He doesn’t even know me. There’s something weird about him.
“How,” I debate asking him, “How did you find this place?”
“I live here,” He looks at the ground, “I lost my family shortly after my 18th birthday. Too old for foster care, they reclaimed the house, and left me to fend for my own. I ended up here and never left.”
A tear drips from his eye and he wipes it away quickly. My anxiety lessens and turns to sympathy.
“Well that really put a damper on the mood,” He chuckles.
“I’m really sorry,”
“Don’t be,” We sit in silence for a minute. I can sense the awkwardness. Suddenly my phone starts buzzing in my pocket. I notice the time, I’ve been here so much longer than I thought. “I have to go,” I stand from the bench, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
All day while writing I couldn’t focus. All I could think about was seeing Ethan again. Around noon I couldn’t wait any longer. I left the library and headed to the forest. When I got to the clearing I noticed Ethan sitting at the picnic table reading a book; I watched him a bit from inside the trees. He seemed to be really entranced by what he was reading.
“I can see you, you know,” He says without even looking up from his book.
Embarrassed, I emerge from my hiding spot within the trees. “I’m sorry. I just noticed you reading and I didn’t want to disturb you,”
“That’s quite alright. I’ve read it eight times already,” He laughs as he sets his book down, “I wasn’t expecting to see you so early.”
“I couldn’t focus. I need to know more about you,”
“Well take a seat,” He pats the bench next to him. I sit down, “What do you want to know?”
“Well, everything. Just tell me anything you can think of,”
“Well… I’m 18 years old. I read all the time. I love the peace and quiet, so I enjoy nature quite a bit. I’m most often alone, and I graduated high school last year. Anything else you want to know?”
I shake my head. I can tell by the sound of his voice he just wants someone to be there for him.
“Now tell me about you,” I freeze
“Oh you don’t want to know about me,” I panic.
“Yes, I do,” He sees my visible panic, “It’s ok. I won’t judge you. I promise.”
“My name is Winter. I’m 17 years old. I have a big family, and that’s really all there is to it.”
“I can tell there is something you aren’t telling me,” He puts his hand on my shoulder, “You can trust me.”
There’s that word. That word that ruined my life. Trust
The laughs distorted in my ears. They crowded around us. His laugh was the loudest. He told me I could trust him, and I trusted him with my biggest weakness. I told him about my past with my father. I showed him my writing, my escape from my past. He used it against me. Pasted all over the hallway were very personal things I’d written while hurt, and everyone was laughing at them…
“I can’t, I’m sorry,” I run towards the trees tears streaming down my face.
“Wait!” He calls after me. I don’t turn back.
The next day I am able to focus on my writing again, so I start a new story. After a full day of writing I head home. I walk the same path as the day I met Ethan hoping to run into him but wishing I didn’t want to see him. I hear leaves rustle and my head snaps towards the sound. Ethan comes strolling out of the trees.
“Come with me,” He grabs my hand and leads me to the clearing. I willingly follow him, “I’m sorry I pushed you I shouldn’t have done that.”
“It’s my fault I should have just told you. You deserve to know,” I take a deep breath, “I have had familial problems in the past. My father was abusive and I took up writing to cope with it. Writing was my escape. I never showed anyone my writing until last year. I trusted someone and he broke my trust. Since then I have never showed anyone my writing.” He looks at me sympathetically.
“I don’t want your sympathy,”
“Winter I just want you to know I would never hurt you. I’ve been watching you for quite some time now, and I know that sounds creepy, but I fell in love with you,”
“I need to learn to trust again, and maybe you can help me, but I’m just not ready yet,”
“I will wait for you until you are ready. I promise,” I nod and turn towards the trees. “Winter, wait,” I turn around and he wraps his arms around me.
“Bye Ethan,” I whisper into his shoulder.
Days pass, and each day I talk to Ethan. With every heartfelt conversation I gain more and more trust for the boy in the trees. I try not to succumb to it, but I know it’s time. I print my most recent story out, and I clutch it tightly as I make my way to the clearing. As usual Ethan is sitting on the bench, reading his book. I take a deep breath and walk towards him.
“What’s in your hand?”
“It’s something I want you to see,” I shove the paper towards him. He reads it over and over and his mouth curves into a smile. He looks up at me with his piercing blue eyes and pulls me into and embrace. The paper falls to the floor. The story titled The Boy Who Taught me to Trust.