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Tree + Love
'Rebecca! Don't bother your brother!' My mom yelled from the kitchen.
I was out in the yard with my older brother, who was repairing the barn. I have to admit; I was sort of hovering over him and crowding his space, which was making him quite frustrated. Even though he was fun to watch, I knew if I stayed much longer, I would really get in trouble, so I headed off to my tree.
This wasn't just any old tree, it was magic. It sits behind this huge stone wall that blocks off the Waldorf property. It's on the edge of a huge forest and it is hidden from everything, the best place to go when you want to be alone. Its bark is aged and gentle and the leaves are healthy and green. I love to climb its lower branches and just sit and think.
Today I trudge over to the tree and begin to climb, I'm halfway up to my spot when I see a dangling foot, I follow it up and see that it's connected to a sleeping boy about my age. Indignation rises up inside me. He stole my tree! I climb up to perch beside him and kick his foot to wake him. He jolts awake with surprise and almost falls when he sees me.
'What are you doing in my tree!?' I growl, glaring at him.
He grins back at me.
'Your tree?' He says, relaxing against the tree lazily. 'I was under the impression that it was my tree.'
'Well I've been coming here ever since I can remember and I just saw you today, so get out of that spot and go find somebody else's tree to steal.' I say, nudging at his leg.
'Well, I've been coming here a long time too and I've never seen you.' He says, not budging, his amusement plain on his face.
This only enrages me more. Still, I try a new tactic.
'Please get off my tree.' I beg, forcing fake tears to roll down my face.
He laughs out loud, and full-on smiles now.
'Hi, my name is Noah, I just moved in down the street,' he says, holding out his hand to me.
I gasp. 'Ha! So you haven't been coming here forever! You liar!' I shouted, poking an accusatory finger into his chest.
He laughs again.
'No, sorry, I was just pulling your chain. I was exploring and I came upon this wonderful tree, care to share it with me?'
I just stare at him, annoyed. Then he grins at me and I feel a foreign, unexpected flutter in my stomach. It's like nothing I've ever felt in all my 12 years, and suddenly I can't be mad at him anymore. I'm grinning too now.
'Okay,' I say, agreeably, leaning against the tree branch behind me.
Soon we both drift off to sleep in the afternoon sun.
After that we meet at the tree almost every day. Sometimes we sleep, sometimes we talk, sometimes we play games, but we always enjoy just hanging out with each other. When school starts, we start to meet after school and do our homework under the shade of our tree. My previous indignation at sharing the tree soon fades and I begin to enjoy Noah's friendship.
One day in early fall, while we're both trying to do our homework, Noah looks over at me mischievously. His gaze makes that flutter return to my stomach, that tends to happen a lot around him lately.
'What?' I say, peering at him suspiciously.
He grins and stands up, motioning for me to do the same.
'Let's have a race, to see who can get to the highest branch of the tree the fastest!' He sounds excited, but I have my doubts.
Peering up at the hulking tree, I realize just how large and tall it is, and just how afraid of heights I happen to be. But then I look back at Noah and I see anticipation and friendly reassurance in his eyes, and my fear doesn't seem to matter so much anymore.
'Okay,' I say, nodding.
We climb to the first branch and pause, then Noah counts to 3 and we start the race. I'm scrambling up the tree fast, my Nikes scraping off pieces of bark as I go. Noah is right by my side for a few minutes, but then he jets ahead and smilingly, waits for me at the highest branch.
I finally make it and collapse, panting, and hanging on for dear life.
'No fair, you cheated!' I whine, but Noah just stares at me, so I continue. 'Gee Noah, it's really high up, ahhhhh'!'
I say, losing my grip and pitching forward, right into Noah.
He grabs my arms to steady me, and when I look up to thank him, I realize that our faces are only inches apart. The words die on my lips.
For a moment we just stare at each other, then, Noah starts to move infinitesimally closer to me, until he's only a whisper away. He grins, I can't see his mouth, but I can just tell by the way his eyes crinkle up, and then he presses his lips to mine.
I gasp as he moves his lips away, but keeps his hands on my arms, seeming to sense my unsteadiness.
I just stare at him wordlessly and touch my fingers to my lips in wonder.
He smiles and turns away, 'race you to the bottom,' he shouts, and we scramble down, him beating me once again.
Throughout the rest of the school year Noah and I grow closer and closer. He starts to walk me to my classes and sit by me at lunch, sometimes he even comes over for dinner. But he never kisses me again, and I just can't figure out why. Boys are like puzzles, always missing some pieces.
The next summer before high school we become even closer, and one day as we're walking through the woods near our tree, Noah grabs my hand. I look up at him confusedly, but settle my hand in his larger, warmer hand all the same. We walk along like this in silence for a few minutes. It's kind of nice, this holding hands business.
'Becky?' Noah asks suddenly, stopping us and turning towards me.
'Yes?' I ask, turning towards him as well.
'I've been thinking.' He says, nervously rubbing his chin. Which I now notice has begun to grow a cute stubble. 'Will you be my girlfriend?' He blurts out. Stunning me into silence.
I drop his hand and plop down in the dirt. He continues to stare at me, although I notice his face has fallen a little.
'This is big'and'unexpected?' I say, struggling for words.
'Not really.' Noah says, dropping down beside me and running his hand through his thick brown hair. 'I've like you ever since we met.' He says earnestly, turning towards me.
'Really?' I say, looking up into his deep blue eyes and remembering the first day we met and the flutter in my stomach when he grinned. 'Me too!' I exclaim, realization dawning about that once mysterious flutter.
He grins again, then wraps his arm around my waist and pulls me to him, pressing his lips to mine.
For the next few years Noah and I are inseparable, we go to school during the day and hang out by our tree at night. We hang around our tree a lot in fact, we have picnics under it, play cards perched on its branches and occasionally nap against its trunk, just like when we were kids.
One night during senior year, Noah parks his truck in front of the tree. We turn on the radio to our favorite station, crank it up loud, and slow dance out by our tree in the glow from the headlights. I lean my head on Noah's shoulder and let him lead our swaying.
This is so romantic, I think, smiling as I whisper 'I love you' in Noah's ear and hear it come right back to me.
A half hour later we collapse exhaustedly against the tree trunk in a huff.
'That was fun,' I say, tiredly leaning my head on Noah's shoulder.
'Yeah.' Noah says distractedly, as he looks up at our tree. 'You know what?'
'What,' I mumble sleepily.
'We should carve our names in that knot on the tree, then, even when we leave, part of us will be here with the tree forever.' Noah says, snaking his arm around my waist and hugging me to him.
How sweet, I think, smiling sadly at the prospect of leaving our tree. Noah and I had decided together to go to a college in Florida, which meant leaving our California roots behind, literally.
'Okay, let's do it,' I say, jumping up excitedly, all signs of my previous fatigue gone.
'Cool.' Noah replies, smiling as he pulls out his Swiss Army knife and carves a large heart in the knot. 'Here,' he says, handing me his knife once he completes the heart, 'you carve my name, and I'll carve yours.'
I smile back at him and begin to carve NOAH into the wood, which is surprisingly soft under the knife. When I finish I hand it back to him and watch as he lovingly carve + BECKY into the wood. When he finishes we stand back and observe our work in the glow of his headlights.
'Looks great,' he says, kissing my forehead as we walk back to his truck and drive off.
I look back at our names in our tree and smile, now everyone will know that that is our tree. A special tree that brought a girl to her true love, I think contentedly, grabbing Noah's arm as he takes me home.