I’m sitting on a branch several feet above the ground, just beyond the tree line of the woods, and I can see so much from up here. I can see mine and Baz’ houses and the farms and Ebb’s cottage. Everything looks a bit different when you’re sitting in a tree.
Baz and I used to climb up here all the time when we were younger. Sometimes we would pretend we were on an adventure or we would be reading books about adventures or we would simply be talking. It was a place that we could go to get away from the rest of the world.
That’s what I’m doing up here today, getting away from everything else.
Yesterday was my birthday, and while it was a good day, it would have been better with Baz. But of course, he still isn’t talking to me. He hasn’t spoken to me in over two years. I try not to think about him though because there isn’t anything I can do about it. If he wants me to leave him alone then that’s what I’ll do. Even if not talking to him has hurt every day. Even if he is the one person I want to talk to at the end of the day. Instead of thinking about how we don’t talk anymore, I try to focus on everything around me.
From up here, I can see the farms where Baz and I grew up. I can see Baz’ backyard where we spent most of summers. There’s the hammock that we would sit in to talk when we wanted to relax (as much as we could relax in the unforgiving heat of the summer sun.) Next to the hammock is the place where we would occasionally pitch a tent and camp in the backyard. That was the closest either of us ever wanted to get to actual camping.
After dinner, we would make s’mores on the stove or in the microwave and bring them out to the tent where we had already set up our sleeping bags and pillows. We had lanterns and books and various other objects to keep us occupied inside the tent, but we would spend most of the night lying in the grass under the stars, pointing out the few constellations we could identify. We only ever spent one night in the tent at a time because it only took us a few hours to remember all of the noise you could hear coming from the highway and the bugs. We would also wake up with our arms and legs covered in bug bites. And it was too hot to sleep comfortably.
As we grew older, we pitched the tent less and less until that tradition was completely gone. We found that we could stay up just as late talking in one of our bedrooms while we looked out the window at the stars. It was more comfortable that way, and it was something we did all the time anyway since we lived on neighboring farms.
I can see the window in Baz’ room that we spent countless nights staring out of from where I sit in the branches. His curtains are drawn, so I can’t see in his room, but I still remember exactly how the inside looked the last time I was there. There were two bookshelves bursting with books, and there were stacks of books on the floor next to the shelves and on his desk and even more in his closet.
Baz loved reading, and he loved collecting books of all kind. I never could get into reading the way he did, but it was interesting to watch him read; the way his eyes flicked back and forth across the pages, the way his lips turned up when something amused him or turned down when he didn’t like the way the plot changed. The best part was when he finished a book. His eyes were wide and bright with new information, and he was different for a while after finishing a book, more alive. He would summarize the book for me, telling me about all his favorite and least favorite parts. I would listen to him rant about the themes of the books and how he thought the book could have gone. I loved that side of Baz, the side that was always so open. I miss that side of him. Now, he is completely shut off to me, and sometimes it feels like we were never really friends at all.
It's the day after Snow’s birthday, and I wish I could just walk over to his house and tell him happy birthday. But I can’t, and it’s no one’s fault but my own. I’m the one who pushed him away before Sophomore year. I’m the one who decided that not talking was a better idea than actually dealing with my feelings. I was (and still am) the only thing standing in the way of me and him being friends.
I take a sip from my iced tea as I listen to the cicadas and crickets that fill the night air with noise. These sounds are a peaceful reprieve tonight. I finally came out to my father and stepmother today. Daphne seemed to be alright with it; she wasn’t really surprised since I had never talked about girls or brought any home, but my father was a different story. He wasn’t angry exactly, but I could tell he wasn’t happy with the news. I think he was more displeased by the fact that I wouldn’t carry on the Pitch name than the fact that I like boys. He would probably rather I liked boys and girls; that way maybe I would marry a girl and produce an heir.
My father disappeared to his study after we talked and hasn’t come out since. He didn’t even come out for dinner. He’s probably trying to figure out a way to get me to marry a girl anyway. He might even be trying to arrange a marriage for me. (He has always been fond of that idea.)
I rub my eyes, trying to push all thoughts of my father and marriage out of my head. When I open them, I see a small light off in the distance. It’s coming from the woods over on the other side of the Salisbury farm. It’s probably just Snow. He always did like sitting in trees until the sun went down. That used to be something we did together. Before I went and messed everything up.
I wonder if he still carries that flashlight I gave him when we were little. When we were about 10 years old, we thought that amazing things happened in the woods late at night while we slept. So, one night, we waited up until midnight and snuck outside while everyone else was sleeping. I’m not sure what we thought we would find out there, but we were so sure there would be something.
Simon was staying over at my house that night, so I let him use one of my flashlights. It was a plain blue color, but the color was almost the same shade of blue as his eyes. We weren’t in the woods long before we both got spooked by the sounds. Looking back, it was probably only the wind shaking the branches, but to us, it sounded like someone was walking through the woods toward us. We took off running back to my house as fast as we could. We didn’t stop running until we were safely locked away in my room. It took almost an hour for us to calm down and fall asleep.
The next day, before he went home, I gave him the flashlight and told him he could keep it to use on all of his wild adventures (as long as they didn’t involve me going off into the woods with him late at night again.) I had written the letter ‘S’ on the side of it while he slept. It looked almost like blood, but it looked nice contrasted with the blue.
I doubt Snow still has it or still carries it around. Even if he does, the S has probably faded away. There is a small part of me that hopes he does still have it and that he thinks of me when he sees it. But that’s nothing more than wishful thinking. Knowing Snow, he lost it the day after I gave it to him because we never went back into the woods together that late at night ever again.
I turn my gaze from Baz’ bedroom to their back porch. It’s getting late, so it’s too dark and his house is too far away to see it very well; it’s mostly shadows. Baz and I spent many hours sitting on that porch sipping iced tea and lemonade. It was a nice way to cool down after helping out on our respective farms. Those moments were the best part of day. We didn’t talk much; we simply sat and enjoyed each other’s presence.
When it is almost too dark to see the branches below me, I climb down using the small flashlight that I brought with me to see the branches I need to step on. The flash light is a light blue color and has the letter S handwritten on it in blood red ink. I’ve had it for years; I can’t remember where I got it, but I still carry it with me when I go out in the evenings. I’ve replaced the batteries countless times and have been careful not to lose it. For some reason, I feel like losing it would be like losing a part of myself because I’ve had it for so long. I’ve never been as careful with any of my other possessions as I am with this flashlight.
When I break through the tree line, I see a light on in Ebb’s cottage and think about walking over there to see her. I don’t though, deciding that I still want to be alone.
Ebb has been living here since before I was born. She’s a couple of years younger than my mom, and my mom told her that she could move in with us after she graduated high school. She used to live in the house with us when I was little, but she has since moved into the small cottage on our property. She says she prefers it out there; it allows her to be closer to the goats that she cares for.
Penelope told me once that she thought it was weird how close my mother and Ebb are. She wanted to know how they met and became friends when they were a few years apart. She also wondered if there might have been something more between them. I tried to tell her that they were simply really good friends, but she wouldn’t take my word for it. She said that just because they aren’t in a relationship, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something emotionally between them.
She wanted me to investigate and see if I could find anything out, but I told her that was an invasion of their privacy; it wasn’t any of our business. If I had thought that there was actually something between them or that my mom would even tell me about it if there was, I would have asked. But my mom doesn’t even talk to me about my father.
He apparently left right before I was born. She won’t tell me why or where he went. She will only say that he isn’t a good person and that I shouldn’t go looking for him; it’s for my protection. Ebb has agreed with her on this point, even though she doesn’t usually like to talk poorly about other people.
Even Penny’s parents didn’t like my father. He was apparently a very unlikeable man. Penny’s mom was best friends with mine when they were in high school, but they drifted apart after they graduated. My mom moved in with my father, and Penny’s parents went away for college.
Penny’s family moved back here a couple of years ago, before we started high school and right after Baz stopped talking to me. When I went over to her house for the first time, her mother was interested in who my parents were. When she heard my father’s name, her demeanor changed. She got really still and quiet for a moment before excusing herself.
A few days later, Penny told me that her mother had acted so strangely because she has a high distaste for him. Her mom wouldn’t tell her why though. She did hear her mom refer to him as “Davy Dickhead” a few times when she was talking to her father, but that’s all that she could find out about him.
I don’t actually know much about my family except for Lucy. Her parents quit talking to her when she ran off with my father because they didn’t approve of him. And she and her brother were never very close, so I’ve never met him. My mother is the only family I have. Baz’ family was almost like a second family to me, but that’s all over now.
When I finally make it back to my house, there are lights on in most of the rooms, but I can’t find my mom anywhere. She must have stepped outside for a minute; I guess I just missed her. After a quick shower, I head to bed. I hope the rest of the summer isn’t spent like this, missing Baz and hiding from the world in a tree.