Science Leadership Academy Learn · Create · Lead

Strength From a Tree

Carra stood on the edge of the dog park, watching the moon shine on her favorite tree. It was large and had traces of green all around, but it had seen better days. Carra was small, blonde and had blue eyes with green streaks that reminded her of the ocean each time she looked in the mirror. It was summer and the air around her was warm, but she wore navy jeans to protect her from the attack of mosquitoes and  spiders and a dark green tank-top that matched the color of the grass under the night sky. She slowly made her way to the old tree, being careful not to disturb the chorus of the crickets hidden in the grass around her feet. When she reached this old tree she climbed into the center where the tree had split years ago and she rested there, finding comfort in the protection that the soft bark offered.
Carra often walked to this tree, maybe it was because there were no people here to disturb her, no screaming children playing on swing sets and jungle gyms, and any passerby would have to pay very close attention to the tree to see her hidden there. Maybe it was because coming here gave her an excuse to pass his house, the possibility that she might see his face… But she wouldn't let herself go down that road. She let one tear escape down her face and then she pulled herself together, closed her eyes, and let the silence engulf her. When she opened her eyes the world was brighter and so was the tree. She turned to see what had caused this lighter appearance and found that the light of the moon had been joined by the glow of a family of lightning bugs surrounding the leaves on the wilting branches.
Carra smiled in earnest at the pretty insects surrounding her place of peace and then she laughed and her laughter sprinkled across the grass and flowers of the park giving everything life. She turned towards the edge of the park and in her place stood a pale boy whose green eyes looked black and shining. Her laughter stopped as she took in his jeans and black t-shirt, his short, dark hair and his muscled arms. William walked towards her in a quick pace that made the crickets closest to the tree scatter and join their distant, singing family.
Carra stayed seated in her place, worried about leaving the comfort the tree offered her, and William climbed up and sat close to her, his position slightly higher than hers. Carra thought to herself that this could go one of two ways, either she could leave without hearing a word he said or she would stay and listen to his words that made her tremble with hurt. Maybe the tree that made her feel so safe and isolated could form a protection for her heart because she could not make herself walk away from William.
William sat and said nothing. He sat there looking down at her shadowed face, watching the soft breeze stir her hair. She turned to look away and he reached out and turned her face back to him by her chin. She shuddered, but couldn't move away from his warm hand. And he leaned in and kissed her, gently at first and then urgently as if somehow this kiss could save him. And she kissed him back, confused and hurting, but still blissfully. And then she felt as if the world disappeared from around her and she broke the kiss, feeling scared and vulnerable. She touched the bark of the tree that her back leaned against and took strength from it. She let her bangs fall in her face to create a shield to hide her face as tears crept down her cheeks and she wondered how something so wonderful could cause her so much pain. She assumed it was the same way that he was sometimes so wonderful and other times wanted nothing but to cause her pain. William went to speak, but Carra held her hand up in a way that begged him not to and he kept silent until she dropped her hand and pushed her hair out of her eyes. She breathed deeply once and then listened to him speak of his wrongs, hear him apologize in his way and then heard him accuse her of things that she knew too well she was guilty of doing.
So, she apologized as sincerely as she always did and talked to him about a friendship, maybe more. As per usual, he would hear none of it. He made his decision the first time she'd broken his heart. He would never put himself in a position to feel that pain again, he feared it more than he feared anything. And though his appearance was strong he did not have the strength to try again because his fear of being left by her far outweighed his desire to have her again. And she took one last look at the bright place of peace, drew strength and protection from the tree she loved so much and walked away with a sigh, ignoring his call to keep her with him just for tonight. And as she walked home she wondered if somehow that tree could give him the strength to overcome his fear the way it gave her the strength to overcome hers and walk away.