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What Comes Around
There's a tree in your backyard; in and of itself, there isn't anything odd about this. Plenty of backyards have trees, especially around here. Your town's a suburb, bordering on rural hick town, though the population's not small enough to be posted on any signs, which you figure has to be a good sign. You pointedly ignore the fact that a couple of cows creep in around the edges of the farthest neighborhoods. Suburb, dammit, that's your motto, especially since Anna moved to New York. 'Cause come on, what self-respecting New Yorker would ever talk to anyone from some rural town?
But that's beside the point, really. Because your backyard's got a tree in it, and there's just something funny about it. You've known it since you were a little kid, when you and your friends used to run and chase each other around it.
It always was the best spot for hide and seek, you do remember that. Back when Anna still lived around here, you and her and Mallory from across the street and Dan and Ethan from around the corner would always meet up in your backyard for hide and seek. 'Cause your backyard was the biggest, and had the most hiding spots, and your mom didn't mind making lemonade for a clump of sweaty, wild-eyed children.
Hiding behind a tree is pretty contrived, really, but to your seven-year-old mind it seemed the best idea you'd had since you thought of hiding Anna in your cellar so she could get adopted by your family and live with you forever. And, oddly enough, nobody could ever find you when you did. You shrugged it off as luck and your extreme hide and seek genius, but later (when you were no longer seven years old), it did seem a bit odd. Unless all your friends had been just that terrible at hide and seek, but you kind of doubt it.
It's not even a pretty tree, or anything. Not especially. It could be one of those magnolia trees that are so common around here, common enough that in late spring, when the flowers begin to fall off and the petals blow away, it can look like there's a whirlwind of nothing but pink. It should be enchanting, or something, but the petals always seem to get stuck in your hair. Honestly, it's kind of annoying.
Which you guess is a good thing about your tree, it hasn't got any petals to get stuck in your hair. Just plain green leaves, and not even a very nice shade of green. Just plain old tree green leaves. You're not sure what kind of tree it is, anyway, and you don't really care all that much to find out. A tree is a tree is a tree, right? Even if it there is something slightly strange about it.
So there’s something a little strange about that tree in your backyard, yeah. Or maybe more accurately there was, because you woke up this morning to find that the tree simply wasn’t there anymore. It took you until noon to realize that it wasn’t just the tree playing some sort of game, that it was actually gone; that was when you overheard your mom talking about how your dad had spent all morning cutting it down.
Damn good job of cutting it down, considering you couldn’t for the life of you see a stump. You kind of think that shouldn't somebody else, you know, notice that? But nobody does, and you just let it go.
The backyard, the whole house, even, never seems quite the same after that. Something in it seemed to have just washed away. Some, some novelty, some sort of shine. It's strange. It just doesn't seem like home to you anymore. You don't run around with your friends as much anymore, you're too old for that, really (though there was that one sleepover where you dragged a bunch of pillows outside at midnight and had that amazing pillow fight, but that doesn't count), and some of it's magic seems to have been lost. You walk down to the park instead, but that's not the same either.
So time passes. And it doesn’t seem to matter to anyone else that your backyard has had some odd aura change and it actually seems to be getting kind of hostile, like when you step in it you get this creepy scaredy someone-is-going-to-jump-out-and-kill-you feeling, so you just try your best to ignore it. It even works, most of the time.
You decide go to college out of state, because it's a long way to go wherever you want to go, so why not go see the world? Or something like that, anyway. You end up at NYU, same school as Anna is going to, and you meet up with her sometimes, talk with her. It's not that you're not friends anymore, it's just that you're not as close as you were when you were kids. Which is to be expected, obviously, it has been a while. It's a nice idea, to be the bestest of best friends forever, forever and ever, but who actually does that? You're not too bothered.
One day you get a call. It's Mom and Dad, Tammy, your older sister says, something's happened, and you're on the next flight home.
It's such an odd way for them to have died. There was a sinkhole underneath the backyard, and when it finally collapsed in on itself it took the house with it, and everyone who was inside it at the time. It's so strange, and you should be surprised, shouldn't you? You're not. All you think is, why the hell did they have to cut down that damn tree, because that matters, somehow.
Hell, you're probably just going crazy from trauma, anyway. Or something. You go to the funeral and you can feel the tears sliding down your cheeks, and you bury them both and you talk to your relatives and then you fly back to New York. Anna is So damn sorry, Jesus, I can't believe that happened, and you say Me either, it's all just been such a blur, even though you want to say How do you not believe it happened, I do, it did, that's kind of obvious. But sometimes it's better just to say what's easy rather than what's true. It would be a cruel thing for you to say, and pointless, so why bother? You only believe it so easily because something in you was kind of expecting it, ever since your dad cut down that stupid tree.