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When The Squirrel Fell
Washed out pine trees of green and orange dance in the breeze, glowing in the light of the afternoon sun. Green grass, bushes, and flowers extent for miles in every direction. Beneath me lies the narrow stream; I step ankle deep and allow my bare feet to mold around each rock, embracing the bitter cold that numbs my toes. The stream’s current races North and I gaze forward, following its path and wondering how far I could make it down the stream by foot. Where would it take me?
As I admire the stream, I imagine Granny and I dancing in the rain as the leaves turned red, my height half of what it is today. As my toes freeze, I see Maeve sledding along the ice, daring me to give it a shot. Then it's spring and the lilacs bloom; I’m strumming my guitar underneath the shade of the trees, wondering what happens where the sky’s pink and blue meets the grass that is barely green. The sun shines and suddenly, I’m back where my feet are. I continue walking, letting the warm summer sunshine sink into my skin, slowing my breathing and allowing the trees to comfort me. My anxiety begins to melt. Anger pours out of my ears and mouth, leaving a bitter taste on my tongue. I’m at peace here I think aloud. Why don’t I simplify this mess and run away.
Before finding solace in the stream I was armed and dangerous, fighting ruthlessly in a battle with my family because Maeve blatantly steals my from me. My clothes from me without asking, my friends, my food, and worst of all, my sanity. She manipulates and betrays me every day, and my parents are clueless.
“Mom. Don’t you understand that she never listens to me! I don’t know how you want me to make things better!” I belted as steam raced out of my ears.
“Sweetie, I know your sister can be inconsiderate. But you have to know she is not trying to hurt you, what she's doing is harmless,” my mother replied.
“Harmless?! Hardly. You and Dad always do this- you take her side. Even Matt and Amelia do. Don’t you see what’s behind that evil smile of hers?”
“Penelope. That is simply not true! We know you’re hurt, but you need to see the bigger picture here. We all love you!”
“No you don’t”
“Honey. What is this about. Is something happening at school? I know it is hard to find people you trust-”
“You don’t get it,” I cried, tears welling in my eyes. “Granny understood me. I wish,” my voice trembled, “I wish she were here.”
Granny was my guardian angel. She recognized that I was overlooked and forgotten in my family. She understands; she was the youngest child once too. “You’re parents watch you all” she told me. “But I watch you, darling.” The stream brings me closer to her; I know she still watches me, somewhere and somehow. Sometimes I talk to the sky, wondering if she’s listening.
I stormed out of the house, my mind boiling with rage. Suddenly memories resurfaced, and I considered all the times Maeve made me do things her way. All the times Matt and Amelia blindly followed her lead. All the times they didn’t laugh at my jokes, and don’t include me in their endeavors. My parents are no better- they constantly praise Amelia for her 100% in science. They hand feed Matt’s ego- it is growing exponentially. He is not going to treat his loved ones well in life with that attitude. How could they all be so careless?
I stare blankly at the stream, recounting the argument and letting it go. Anger passes through my mind and out one ear; breathe, I tell myself. Breathe. Numbness trickles from my toes up to my ankles as I navigate my way through the maze of rocks. The sun sinks further in my skin, and I long for Granny. She would comfort me.
What would Granny say?
Suddenly, the tree above me begins to shake and rustle. The sound of crunching grows louder. I take a step back, and suddenly, a squirrel plummets to the ground, falling inches from my feet. I gasp, placing a hand over my mouth to avoid screaming. My vision becomes blurry with confusion and my heart skips a beat. The squirrel lies in the stream without movement. I attempt to focus my vision and assess her injury- but before I can do so, the squirrel hobbles away, scratched at the sides and limping.
I idle for a moment, shocked by what has happened. The water feels like molasses as I take a single step forward. My desire to continue walking vanishes, and I am stuck.
I try to regain my train of thought. To head in the direction of home feels wrong; I am not ready to leave the stream. My mind rummages through the events and emotions of the past minute, and I’m back to where I was a minute ago: What would Granny say?
Granny would tell me everything would be okay, or that I am the most special girl on earth. Maybe she’d tell me to make closer friends at school and take them home with me. My thoughts are interrupted by the turmoil of my insides; my gut twists and churns as I think back to that squirrel. It just fell. One moment she is enjoying herself amongst other squirrels in the trees, then suddenly she is plummeting through the air. My heart softens imagining how terrified and hopeless she must have felt as she fell. I see her in front of me again, frozen; that poor squirrel.
Why did she fall. I sniffle, and a teardrop trickles from my eye to my chin. Why. Why. Why. I stand still, allowing the stream to suffocate my toes. I look to my left and see my sitting rock, where I have sat blissfully playing my guitar or eating lunch with my mom. I wrestled with Matt on that rock last Tuesday- we pantsed each other, howling with laughter. A smile sneaks towards my ears, and I feel lost in my whirlwind of emotions. I sulk towards the rock, my feet tingling as I relieve myself from the cold. The grass brushes against my legs, tickling my shins.
Why did she fall? This time, I try to find an answer. The tree had been shaking, so I imagine another squirrel was involved. Maybe she had been fighting for the last nut. Or maybe, her branch was wobbly and she lost her balance.
I don’t want to fall of my branch. Maybe my family is not perfect, and sometimes they frustrate me beyond belief. But hurting this much, I imagine, occurs because I care. I care about that squirrel, I care about my grandma, and I care about my family. They are my branch.
Who would I be without them? Maeve smiles as she listen to my songs, and always shares the last piece of candy with me. Amelia helps me with my math homework, and hugs me when I’m down. Matt teaches me to be tough and makes me laugh like no other. Without them, who would I count on? I don’t want to lose my balance on a wobbly branch, nor do I want to fight over a nut that I simply do not need. My family is my foundation.
I gaze down at my feet- they are purple. I chuckle and shake my head.
I wipe the tears from my eyes, and I walk in the direction of home. Thanks Granny, I whisper, looking towards the sky. The stream bubbles and the trees sway- I know she is here.
This time, I walk next to the stream.