Leaf Alone This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

December 3, 2012
By , Portage, MI
Leaf woke at dawn. She didn’t mean to, really. It was just one of those days. She walked to the mirror hanging above her desk and studied her reflection. The dark circles under her eyes from the sleepless nights past were made more obvious by her pale skin. She looked like she did most days: sick. It made perfect sense, really. She missed her sisters so much that it hurt to leave her bed most days. They were away on a trip to the Far Lands, and Leaf had no idea how far it was. All she knew is that it was one of the longest journeys that her sisters had ever taken.

Leaf turned away from the mirror and studied the darkened cabin. The five beds, usually occupied by her sisters, were empty. They were so… forlorn. That was the word. Leaf shook her head angrily, annoyed that she couldn’t think of the word. That was how it was to be sick. She walked to Catrine’s bed and sat down. The worn blue blanked smelled musty and old. A thin layer of dust had settled over the painting of the Lower Archers by her bed. Leaf reached out and picked it up off the bedside table. In it, she could see all her sisters: Apple, Cherry, Catrine, Lizzette, and Aqua. They weren’t really her sisters, but they were all so close that they called themselves sisters. Leaf set the photo down. She had no time for reminiscing. She ran to her bed and opened her drawer. She reached down and grabbed her green tunic with the sky blue beads and her favorite pants. She groped under her bed until her hands felt the soft and supple leather of her boots. She pulled her clothes on and grabbed the bow from the wall, along with the quiver of arrows. She ran her fingers through her hair once in an attempt to comb it, then pulled the door open and let the early morning sunshine, or lack of, spill into the cabin.

Sheets of rain pelted Leaf forcefully. The gray sky seemed to be filled with anger. The driving rain made it hard to see more than five feet ahead. Leaf ran to the takeoff platform and teetered at the edge of the sheer drop. A rushing sound above her signaled the arrival of another arrival. Trian, in her Owl form, came sweeping in on her great gray wings. She alighted on a branch nearby and, in a whirlwind of feathers, transformed into her True Form.

Trian had the darkest, longest hair in Attus. It came from her mother, an Ichobian. Her light blue eyes and pale skin was that of her father, an Ice Lord. Trian was a picture of perfection in most lands, but here in Attus, the perfect ones were the people with brown hair and darker skin. Trian stood out like the first leaves of autumn amongst all of the dark-skinned brown-haired residents of Attus.

“Leaf, what are you doing out in this weather?” Trian shouted over the wind. She looked Leaf up and down. “You look awful.”

“I…” Leaf stammered, unused to so much speaking after weeks of silence in her cabin. “I… I came out to…”

Trian narrowed her blue eyes. “You should go back to your cabin, Leaf.” She said softly, yet commandingly. “It’s better for you to stay out of trouble while your sisters are away.” She gave Leaf a gentle push back toward her cabin. “Go back to sleep or something.”

Leaf tried to protest, but… Trian was right. What had she even come out here for? It had something to do with her sisters, but what? Leaf turned and walked back to her cabin. Trian closed the door behind her. The cabin became dark again.

Leaf looked around. The cabin seemed emptier than before. She set her bow and arrows down and walked to her bed. She lay down and turned her back to the empty beds. The walls of the cabin were hewn from thick pine trunks and sealed with pine sap. The silence of the cabin was deafening. It pressed against her ears and threatened to stifle her cries. Leaf rolled over and looked at the bunks again. A drop of water fell from the ceiling above onto her cheek and slid down her face like a tear.

A gentle knock at the door announced the arrival of Leaf’s adoptive mother, Mika. Mika walked into the room with a basket covered with a blanket. A rush of wind blew rain into the cabin. Mika struggled to close the door against the gale outside.

Mika walked to Leaf’s bedside with the basket. Her long brown hair was weighted down by the weight of the rain, but her hazel eyes sparkled as always. She reached out and brushed Leaf’s short brown hair out of her eyes. Leaf pulled away from Mika’s touch. She could be fine without her.

Mika set her basket down. “Leaf…” she began. “I know you miss your sisters, but you have to move on. You know that they’ll be back. Arbor said to expect them back by tomorrow.” Mika pulled the blanket off of the basket. “In the meantime, I brought you a present.”

Leaf reached into the basket and pulled out a winter tunic. Spun from the softest wool available, it was soft and warm to the touch, but durable and waterproof. Mika had dyed the soft wool a light green and sewed light pink alabaster beads in a decorative design. Leaf buried her face in the fabric and sniffed, catching the scent of Mika’s sewing room. Mika’s room smelled like herbs and smoke, a scent that reminded Leaf of happier times.

Mika kissed Leaf on the forehead and left the cabin. Leaf remained huddled in her bed for a moment, then sat up and dried her eyes. She dragged off the waterlogged tunic that she wore, and pulled on the fresh new tunic from Mika. It fit perfectly, and was warm enough to protect her from the chill in the air. Leaf reached into the basket that Mika had left on the floor and found several other tunics, obviously sewn for her sisters. There was a white one with pink beading like cherry blossoms for Cherry. Nearly everything Cherry owned had a cherry blossom tree on it. Leaf smiled as she thought of the bonsai tree they had bought her from the fair a couple of years ago. It still sat by her bedside, kept alive in Attus by the gardener, Calia. Cherry’s heavy wool blanket was woven with little pink dots, meant to be cherry blossoms.

A soft sapphire blue tunic with light blue beading caught Leaf’s eye. This one was obviously for Catrine. Catrine had blue everything. It was her favorite color and a beautiful shade to like, Leaf thought as she folded the tunic and set it on the end of Catrine’s bed. Catrine had spent many a pretty penny on some exotic sapphire stone, or the blue dye that was so hard to come by.

Apple’s dark red tunic was pulled out of the basket next. It was perfect, deep red with black beading around the hem and sleeves. Apple loved anything red, especially red flowers. Her bedspread was decorated with beautiful poppies woven from silk. Silk was the most expensive fabric, apart from velvet, and anyone who had some was considered very fortunate. Leaf placed the tunic on Apple’s bed and rubbed the costly fabric between her fingers. It was cool and slippery, and calmed her nervous thoughts.

Lizzette’s tunic was next. A soft brown, it stood out against the other, brighter, colors favored by the Tree Warriors of cabin seven. The simple, steady color reminded Leaf of Lizzette; the calmest one of the cabin of six. Lizzette was the only one who practiced meditation, and was the smartest of all six. Leaf smiled as she set the beautiful tunic on the end of Lizzette’s bed. Her bedspread showed a woven map of Attus; useful for midnight missions and sneaking out.

Aqua’s bright blue tunic was last. The aquamarine tunic was beaded with dark blue beads in a wave shape. It matched her well, Leaf thought. Aqua was the outgoing, bright one. She changed daily and impulsively. She had gone from having simple black hair to having seventeen bright blue stripes mixed in with the black. The stripes had faded, but the memories had remained. Leaf set the beautiful article of clothing on the bed and looked around. The cabin seemed less forbidding and dark now. Leaf tiptoed over to Cherry’s bed and picked up the metal watering can that sat next to her bed. She tipped it over and a slow stream of water trickled out and dampened the earth around the tiny tree.

Leaf set the can on the ground and walked back to her bed. She sat on it and gazed around the room. A singe ray of sunlight worked its way through the clouds above, and the rain began to cease. The sunlight touched the room and gave it life. Leaf smiled as the room began to glow in the morning sun. She picked her bow and quiver off the floor and walked outside. A gentle breeze blew through the trees, rustling the leaves. A shout from the Lookout Tree startled her, and she looked to the east, where the guard pointed.

A group of six owls was flying steadily toward the tree. Leaf could just make out the brightly dyed feathers of Aqua in the bright sunlight. Leaf shouted with joy and ran off the platform, transforming to Owl form in midair. She flew toward her sisters with energy she never knew she possessed. Aqua, Lizzette, Catrine, Apple, and Cherry screeched and raced toward her, colliding in midair. The sisters sank slowly to the ground, transforming into their True Forms and rejoining in a joyous huddle.

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tamarackdancer said...
Feb. 9, 2013 at 11:51 pm
Nice job, Kat. Worth the search. :)

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