Week 2: The Hiding Tree

Written for the second week of Advent, representing plants.

With one skinned knee and a muddy shirt, Toby ran across the park as fast as his little legs could carry him.

The voices of the bigger boys reached his ears. “Yeah, run you little coward, but we’ll catch you!”

Toby fought back tears, and tried to go faster.

The boy had never known a day without being teased, picked on, pushed around or hurt by the other kids in town. Perhaps it was because he was very small for his age. Perhaps it was because his grandmother grew strange plants in their garden, and children thought she was a witch. Most probably it was because he didn’t have a mother and a father like most children did indeed have.

He had a mother and a mother.

What’s so wrong about that? Toby thought angrily. The boys’ voices grew louder, and Toby knew he needed a way out. Or at least a hiding place. He caught sight of a large tree.

It was forked down the middle, almost all the way down into the roots, and split into two thick trunks with branches that curved up and up into the sky, underneath a canopy of thick leaves.

Toby heard footsteps behind him. He jumped up, grabbed hard, pulled himself higher.

“Hey! Where did you go?”

For some reason, Toby found a perfect foothold everywhere he put his toes, a convenient place to grab wherever he reached. It was like the tree was designed to be climbed, only nobody had ever climbed it. The bark didn’t scratch or itch, there were no ants crawling around it. And the branches seemed endless. With his light frame, Toby could go higher and higher and not be afraid of falling.

“Come out, Toby, you little creep!”

Those voices now seemed faint and far away. Toby was not completely concealed behind the leaves. He peered through and saw the boys searching the park. He sniggered. Idiots.

“He’s rabbited,” one of them said. “Come on. Let’s go.”

“Yeah, and wait for his mommies to come looking for him!” Their laughter echoed, but Toby felt very, very far from it all.

The boys left, and soon the park was empty.

Toby tilted his face upwards. Perhaps he could go higher still…

He inched his way up a long branch, like a worm, and found another fork in the branches. He straddled it, like on the back of a horse. It felt a little tight and uncomfortable. Toby shifted position—there, much better.

Legs trembling, he started to stand, pushing his little head between the leaves and breathing in their fresh scent…

The wind rushed past his face, and Toby blinked in the sunlight.

He had climbed all the way to the top of the tree, and around him the park, and the road beyond that, and the houses beyond that still, were laid out below him like on a map.

Toby leaned back on a branch, a branch that was there right where he needed it. He stood very still and watched the world continue on around him while he remained there, in branches that felt as strangely safe and familiar as either of his mothers’ own arms.

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