The Girl in the Trees

Anna walked to school ever day through the woods. The path was always the same. Aspen, oak, pine, on and on, all the way to school. The woods opened up to reveal a little brick school across a two-lane road in the middle of nowhere. Behind the school there was a multipurpose field, a playground, and more woods.

Aspen, oak, pine. Anna would stare out the classroom window and look at the tree line during this history lesson, watching the branches blow in the wind. Red and gold and green, all fluttering and swaying, dancing with one another.

“This building is a historical building, you know,” said Miss Tanner. She crouched low and made spider-fingers. “People died here while it was being built in the early 1900s. Better watch out for ghosts!”

Some of the class laughed. Anna just went back to staring out the window. It had started to sleet a little bit, slushy pellets hitting the glass with rhythmic tinks. Just as Miss Tanner was about to move into the history lesson, Anna noticed blue movement at the tree line.

Aspen, oak, pine, and a little girl.

A girl in a blue sweater.

Anna jumped up. “Miss Tanner, there’s a student outside in the rain!” she said, pointing.

Miss Tanner went to the window and looked. “I don’t see anyone, honey.”

Anna went to the window and pointed again. “Right there.”

“There’s no one out there, Anna. Maybe she went back inside.”

She was right. The girl was gone. Anna sat back down. She followed along with the history lesson for a few minutes before glancing out the window again. The girl in the blue sweater was there again, staring up at their classroom. Anna did her best to ignore the girl and concentrate on her studies.

When class ended, Anna looked out the window for the girl. The sleet had stopped, and the trees were still, but there was no girl.

Anna pulled on her yellow sweater and matching beanie. She tugged her red boots a little more snugly onto her foot and then gathered up her school bag. She wandered away from the school with the rest of the students. Some went to buses, others to parents in big SUVs or compact family vans. Anna went to the little forest path and started to walk home.

Aspen, oak, pine. Aspen, oak, pine. Aspen, oak, pine, and a little girl.

Anna froze, foot in midair. The girl in the blue sweater smiled at her from behind an aspen tree’s trunk. She waved, and Anna discovered she was waving back. The girl in the blue sweater came out from behind tree; her silver hair danced around her head, despite the fact there was no breeze.

Anna’s foot fell heavily to the ground. “Are you…are you a ghost?” She asked the girl.

The girl shook her head, smiling.

“What are you?”

The girl took a step closer, holding out her hand. She smiled more broadly, wiggling her fingers in encouragement.

Anna stared at the girl for a moment, and then seized her hand.

The world went topsy-turvy. Anna felt like she was being squeezed through a clear tube, the multi-colored trees put their roots to the sky; the ground became the studded with stars. She popped out on the other side and stumbled into a world in darkness.

There were trees here, too, but instead of decked in reds, greens and gold, they were crowned in purples, blues, and silver. The stars above twinkled and hummed. The night air was chilled. The girl in the blue sweater stood in front of Anna, but she only remained a girl for the blink of an eye. She transformed into a woman of ethereal beauty, wearing a silvery blue gown that flowed around her like water.

Fairies appeared from behind the trees. They greeted Anna and her escort with bows and curtsies. Gnomes arrived from the bottoms of hills, opening hidden doors to strew delicate wooden flowers at Anna’s feet. When she looked up, a unicorn stood before her.

“I will come back for you when you are old enough, my jewel,” the woman said, gesturing toward the unicorn. Anna wondered why the woman wouldn’t just take the unicorn with her now.

“How beautiful,” Anna murmured, entranced. She touched the unicorn’s nose—it felt like velvet—and stepped closer. The unicorn snorted happily, lowering its head so the horn touched Anna’s nose. She closed her eyes and smiled, and then the earth dropped out from under her.      She landed with a thud back in her own forest.

The twilight filtered through the red, gold and green canopy. Anna sat up, brushing dirt from her clothes. The girl in the blue sweater was nowhere to be seen. She stood, shook leaves from her jeans, and continued home, wondering all the while if what she had seen was real. Perhaps, she thought, she just imagined it, and became so distracted she bumped into a tree and fell. Perhaps it was a daydream.

But, perhaps it was real.

Anna went to school the next day as usual. She stared out the window during her history lesson, as was her custom, but there was no sign of the little girl. She did the same thing the next day, and the day after that, all through the years of her schooling. As an adult, she taught at the school where she had encountered the little girl, and walked the same path to get there. Aspen, oak, pine—all grown tall and strong, just like Anna.

When she gave the history lesson, she would glance out the window and study the tree line, trying to remember why she did it. She couldn’t remember, though, and would resume the lesson.

One day, when Anna was much older and walking the path with a cane, it started to sleet as school let out. Children rushed past her with belated cries of ‘trick-or-treat,’ grabbing candy from the bucket she held. After they had gone, she put on the yellow cap that matched her yellow sweater, and tugged her red galoshes up higher. She walked the path home tapping her cane against the roots of the trees.

Aspen, oak, pine. Aspen, oak, pine. Aspen, oak, pine, and a little girl.

Anna stopped. “Hello, dear, are you lost?”

The little girl tugged her blue sweater straight, shaking her head. She held out her hand to Anna and wiggled her fingers.

“How kind of you to walk me home, that’s very thoughtful,” Anna said, grinning. She took the little girl’s hand. The world went topsy-turvy. Anna squeezed through her own reality and into another.

The silver-topped trees bowed, and all manner of fantastic creatures appeared before her, wearing garlands of leaves and flowers. Anna gasped. A unicorn cantered up to her and tapped her on the nose with its horn. She patted its muzzle, and was amazed to see the age spots on her hand had vanished. She blinked and then examined herself all over. Her skin felt young again. She felt young again.

Anna glanced to her left, where a beautiful woman in a silvery-blue gown was smiling at her. The woman offered Anna a crown of starlight.

“Welcome home.”

Art by Alyssa R. Spencer Small Things Illustration

Art by Alyssa R. Spencer
Small Things Illustration

One thought on “The Girl in the Trees

  1. Pingback: Learning From Visual Artist Part 2: The Story | The Spidereen Frigate

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