Chapter One: The Walking Stick
She watched her thoughts float across the water. As the current tactfully consumed each, individual letter, she slowly succumbed to the weight of her words and submerged herself into a sea of dreams…
Spanish moss drapes intimately from above, its weeping, silver leaves weave through the limbs of majestic oaks. The trees flank the natural trail to the river, an excellent backdrop for whatever adventures the girls felt like embarking on; fishing, swimming, canoeing, and my favorite, hiking.
Inhaling deeply, her blue-grey eyes roll back in her head as she kicks both feet into the air, pulling the ropes and launching her swing higher and higher. A count of three, and she lets go, screaming, until she splashes feet first into the river. Addison, Celia and Mishele cheer and score her two 7’s and an 8 out of 10 as she resurfaces, laughing and swimming towards shore. Tip-toeing up the bank, Lily bows gracefully, exclaiming, “Thank you, thank you very much!”
The air has been thick, and hotter than usual this spring, and the sun’s rays struggle to slice through the fog most mornings. Lily, short for Lilith, was born in Durham, North Carolina 15 years ago. Her mothers are both artists, and originally from up north. They are huge fans of Sarah McLachlan and met at Lilith Fair in ’99. Although Lily likes that story, she prefers to claim she earned her name because of the old Jewish folklore instead.
“Lilith was the first woman who refused to be subservient to Adam. A real independent woman like me. I don’t need a man to define me!” she’d proclaim. She loves that story. Celia and Mishele, sisters, moved into the neighborhood 3 years ago and are the youngest of 6 siblings, 2 girls and 4 boys. Well, technically Celia is the youngest, but only by 12 minutes. Mishele always throws that in Celia’s face.
They are twins, but I’ve never seen two humans more different than each other. Mishele is all the things… makes friends super easy and is wicked smart. Celia keeps to herself more, a self-proclaimed introvert who lives in her journal, but seems to be able to read other people’s minds. She is, a bit witchy… to be honest, in a really cool, calm and peaceful kind of way. I wonder if she would be able to read my mind…
Addison, the oldest of the bunch originally caught my attention. When first spotted, she was using a hand-carved walking stick to hike and felt, familiar… comfortable almost, although she was draped in a dreamy sort of sadness. She wears the most beautiful cloak of melancholy I’ve ever witnessed. I am drawn to her in a way, and each day she ventures out into my woods, to my river, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep my distance.
The sun began to set, and I knew they’d be leaving soon. That means it’s time for me to head up the river to Silvia’s Place. A couple nights ago I had something called Meatloaf and French Fries. Silvia never fails to leave me something good to eat, and she always keeps a bowl full of the most refreshing water I’ve ever tasted. She watches me from inside the restaurant and shows me her teeth, but we’ve never actually met. And that’s okay, because if it wasn’t for her, I’d probably starve out here. As I eat, I think about Addison and the girls. I wonder if they will come back tomorrow…
They never stay after dark. I don’t blame them. It gets so lonely and scary once the moon comes up, and it’s even worse when there is no moonlight. I head back to my cove, tucked away inside the bottom of an old river birch. Wide-eyed and with a full belly, on my way I notice something shiny across the river where the girls were earlier. I’ll have to check that out in the morning… a few circles around and there, perfect spot just for me. My thoughts drift as the cicadas that used to keep me up at night tranquilly sing me to sleep.
She walks alongside me and I protect her as we head towards the waterfalls. She lets me go first when the trails narrow, and I make sure the snakes and squirrels keep their distance. It finally stopped raining this morning and everyone is coming out to feel the sunshine. She is my world, and I love our adventures. She keeps a bag of snacks in her pocket and thinks I can’t smell them. I splash into the pool before hopping onto the rocks, heading towards the waterfall… Pinecone.
Pinecone?! What the hell?! I jump out of my slumber, angrily making eye contact with the damn squirrel that threw that down here. With a flick of his tail, he scurries up my tree, safely out of my reach. Jerk. He totally ruined my dream! I feel like I’ve barely slept, but the sky is light and the fog isn’t nearly as thick as it has been the past few days. Stretch…the birds chatter above me in the trees. It’s going to be a hot one today…
After handling my morning business, I head over to check out the shiny object I saw before going to bed last night. Dipping my toes into the creek, I cross over and approach what looks like a yellow bag with a shiny metal buckle on the front. Addison. I’ve smelled this smell before. Nose deep in her bag, my surroundings slowly fade away.
“Hey! Get out of there!” Addison yells. Paralyzed, I can feel my legs shaking. I slowly lift my head out of her bag and find the end of her walking stick inches from my nose. Her desolate grey eyes seem to pierce my soul. I didn’t realize how tall she was. Her eyes soften and her pupils dilate. “Where’d you come from?” she curiously asks. “You’ve got the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen…”