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There's no such thing as cold. Not when it's summertime in Louisiana. Days are so sweltering even the air conditioners need air conditioners. Dirt brings dead grass back from the gave so it won't have to face the cruel sun alone. Oh, but those dog days of summer, I wish I could re-live. Just one day to have my skin burned and mouth parched, to be four years old again and look at everything with wonder.
Just one day to see Cayden again.
"Cayden, wait for me!!" I tumbled in the yellowed grass while calling for my friend. I couldn't move very far in a little blue tutu.
"Come on, Lexie!" Cayden bounded ahead, smiling. He was always better at running around games.
He smacked the rough bark of the blossom tree with his bare palm before scrambling up to the lowest branch. "Oh, Cayden, wait!" I gave the tree a light tap and caught my breath. My hands and nails dug into the surface of the bark but failed to pull me up. I plopped down on the grass and nursed my bleeding fingers.
"What's wrong, Lexie?" Cayden looked down at me, worried. I rubbed my wet eyes so he wouldn't think I was crying and accuse me of being a baby.
We were supposed to be playing Super-Man and Cayden was the superhero: Cayden Kryptonite, while I was Lexie Luther, the villain. It was never fair because Cayden always won!
"Cuz' the super hero always beats the bad guy" he argued. Even when I was the good guy, Cayden still beat me.
"Don't tell me" Cayden's green eyes grew wider with wonder, "That Lexie Luther doesn't know how to climb a tree''
I hadn't known it was against the law to not be able to climb a tree. When the time came I thought I'd be able to swing along the branches with the other kids. Like tree climbing came as simply as breathing.
Then Cayden shot his signature smile, dubbed by his family as 'The Bandit Smile'. He lowered himself slightly and threw his hand in my direction.
"I'll teach you''
Cayden's methods were far from mundane. For days we tried numerous amounts of things that only left the two of us covered head to toe in multi colored band aids. There were jump ropes, balloons, chairs, and trampolines. One of the most interesting methods was to tie myself to chickens and make them pull me up into the tree as they jumped. The chickens ended up clawing the both of us and my grandmother made Cayden go home.
He came back though, when the grown ups weren't looking, to give me a pink band aid, my favorite color.
Then, one after noon (after our usual juice break, I think) Cayden had an epiphany.
The day was hot and early and the grass seemed more dead than usual. Cayden coaxed me to cross the road and around to the neighbor's back yard.
"What are we doing?" I whispered behind a large, prickly bush. All that I could see was a dingy shed, saw dust, and lots of feathers: a chicken coop.
"Shh, we gotta be quiet"
And as if a bomb had exploded behind him (and only him, because I wasn't hearing any explosion), Cayden ran into the open chicken coop. All anyone could hear was the sound of fearful clucking from the chickens and some high pitched squeal that must have been Cayden's. No sooner had he gone Cayden was back with a fist full of fluffy feathers and more chicken scratches than band aids we'd stuffed in our pockets.
After digging through some pocket lint we finally gathered up enough string after tearing off the end of my tutu.
"Stick out your arms" Cayden commanded. I did as I was told lazily. It was hot. Where was the rest of my juice?
He had tied the feathers to my writs tightly. They felt so light and soft against my tan skin it made me want rub the feathers against my cheek.
"It's like Dumbo the flying Elephant," he said, "as long as you have the feathers you aren't gonna fall, Lexie"
The cherry blossom tree seemed stories taller with its shadow looming over me, like an intimidating playground bully. But a playground bully I could beat up, you can't quite do that to a tree, people would think you're odd. Swinging his legs impatiently from the lowest branch was Cayden shouting,"Hurry up!"
Easy for him to say, he was already sitting among the soft pink blossoms.
I pictured Cayden climbing the tree, where he gripped, where he stepped, and tried to imagine myself doing the same. The picture should have come easily because I liked to imagine and my Grandmother said that I have very active imagination. I couldn't climb a tree, Dumbo was and elephant and elephants don't climb trees!
Cayden was losing patience and I think I heard him roll his eyes, "Come on, Lexie! It's not that hard!"
"But I can't!" I squeaked and started jumping around in a frenzy.
Flushes of red came into his cheeks as his temper rose "Don't be a baby! I said you can climb so climb!"
Pouting, some tears or sweat must have landed on my shirt because it sure wasn't raining. Breathe deep, breathe deep. No one called me a baby! I'll show Cayden and push him out of that tree one day!
Slowly, I placed my hands on the rocky tree bark and slowly, some how, I began to climb. Closer and closer came the branches. Footings magically rose from the tree just for me. Cayden moved over best he could on the branch so we could sit side by side. We were still a little mad at each other, but that was okay. We'd have plenty of time to make up over juice and cookies.
Within its branches, the pink blossoms seemed brighter and more alive. Some form of Voodoo magic must have taken place. It must have Cayden who helped me up. Cayden with his kryptonite green eyes. Cayden Kryptonite, arch nemesis of the villain, Lexie Luther. Because what's a villain without her super hero?