This is another guest post (I have too many talented writer friends!) by a good friend of mine. I hooked her on Inspiration Monday and we get this!
Moss, damp with rainwater, squished beneath our feet as we darted through the trees. It was at the log we halted, sitting on its soft wood. My fingernails scraped at the bark watching it crumble and stick to my fingers.
“What should we do today?”
I looked over at Maeve, her honey colored curls littered with bits of twigs and leaves. Not that she would care.
I shrugged as I bent my head over my notebook. Maeve watched interestedly as I scratched at the white paper, leaving gray lines with my pencil. The lines swirled in graceful loops as I drew her, Maeve. I traced the delicate mouth, the perfect nose, the twin, azure eyes that now watched me, filling in their long lashes. Then I drew her hair, making it fall in soft ringlets about her face. Maeve was always fun to draw.
“Corann. Corann, listen.” She wasn’t watching me anymore. Already she had moved on to another one of her wild ideas. “Let’s build a place. A place for us. It can be out of paper.” Her voice was excited, the way it always got when she was thinking of something fantastic.
I glanced up from my drawing, observing her delighted leap as she stood up.
“A paper town. You can draw it.” As usual, I waited for her to calm down so she could explain. Finally she did, but the rosy flush on her cheeks didn’t fade. She bent down and flipped my notebook to a clean page. “Draw the houses first. Towns need houses. They need to be tall, majestic, elegant. With lots of windows and carved doors.” Closing her eyes she imagined the place, then opened them to see if I was sketching everything she was describing. I was.
“And a town square. It must have a well, no a fountain. A fountain with water bubbling out of the top, cascading down the sides. The light can catch it, making the water sparkle. And there can be little coins glinting on the bottom of the fountain, under the water. Gold ones, the rich people throw in to make wishes. Oh, and the people!” She exclaimed. “There must be people. They can wear long, flowing robes of scarlet and green and indigo and yellow as bright as the sun. The women can wear silver jewelry, dangling from their wrists and ears and necks. The men can wear turbans around their heads.”
I scribbled furiously, then stopped. “Turbans?”
She cracked an eye open to look at me. “Yes, like in the East. Lots of cloth wrapped around their heads.”
I drew the turbans on the men. “What else?”
Maeve sank onto the log beside me, inspecting my picture. I had filled the page with everything she had described, the houses, the fountain with the coins, the elegant townsfolk.
“Oh, Corann, it’s perfect!” She whispered.
I smiled as she closed her eyes again. “New page.” She ordered.
“Now draw the forests around the town, the mountains, the valley it lies in. The trees are full, green and leafy. Snow lies on the mountain tops, white and shining. In the valley, a little stream bubbles down from one of the mountains. It winds its way through the valley, then disappears into the depths of another mountain. The sky is blue, cloudless, with hawks that soar on the mighty winds above.”
I drew each individual feather on the hawk’s wings, making it look as if it were flying effortlessly across the paper. A raindrop plopped onto the sheet of paper and I glanced up at the beginning downpour.
Quickly, I flipped the notebook shut and stuffed it into my backpack. Maeve didn’t move from her place on the log, letting the rain slide off her nose and splash onto her dress. She still looked completely lost in the world she had been describing. Then her eyes fluttered open. Seeing the rain she lifted her hands to the sky, smiling.
“Maeve, let’s go. We’ll get wet.” I said.
“I’m already wet, what’s the point?” She asked.
“You don’t want your school books to get soaked, do you?” I pointed out.
“Oh, of course not.” She scooped up her backpack and slipped her arms through the straps.
Heads down, we dashed through the pouring rain. When we reached the road, now a shallow, muddy river, we waved to each other, me following one fork home, she the other.
It was another few minutes of sprinting through the warm rain, splashing mud onto my sneakers before I reached home. The door slammed behind me as I kicked off my shoes, leaving them on the porch, and stepped inside. A sweet odor drifted past me, coming from the kitchen. Grandma was baking. It was baking day after all. Tonight, the three of us, Grandma, Grandpa, and me would have freshly baked pie after dinner.
I slipped out of my backpack, bringing it into the kitchen then dropped it on the floor as I sat down at the table. Grandma was there, her hands dusted with flour rolling out the top for another pie. In a pan on the wooden tabletop lay the bottom piece of the crust. Its filling was red and gooey. I dipped a finger into it and licked off the filling. Cherry.
“Have a good day, Corann?” Grandma asked. Her voice was pleasant to listen to. Soft and gentle, never rising with anger, always the same. No surprises.
“Where’s Maeve?” She continued, glancing up and noticing her absence. Maeve usually stopped by afterwards. But not today.
“She’s leaving remember? To visit her aunt and uncle and cousins. She had to pack.” I said.
“Oh yes. That’s right.” Grandma replied absently, patting the dough with her soft hands.
I stood up, grabbing my backpack strap and heaving it off the floor. “I’m going to do homework.” I said, leaving the kitchen and climbing the stairs to my room. My room, with its one window, bed covered with one of Grandma’s quilts. The desk was littered with paper. My paper, my drawings. They were pinned up anywhere they would fit. On the walls, the door, some had spread to the window, stuck there with tape.
I dropped my backpack on the bed, listing to the springs creak as I sat down. I pulled out my books, flipping through the pages until I found the homework assignment tucked in between them. Staring at it, I chewed my pencil eraser, then spread the paper out flat and hurried through the list of math problems. Then I pulled out my notebook. Opening it, I studied the picture of Maeve, then flipped to the drawings of her paper town. Our paper town, she had said. Our.
I lay back on the bed, staring at the drawings until Grandma called me down to dinner.
We sat at the table, an array of food spread before us on the checkered tablecloth. Roast beef and gravy that melted in your mouth, fluffy mashed potatoes, and buttery green beans. There was bread too. Thick, warm slices of homemade bread that were so soft and sweet when you bit into them. Grandpa said grace before we dug in, heaping our plates with the delicious food and again for seconds. Then Grandma disappeared into the kitchen for the pie. She brought the thing out, it’s crust golden and oozing cherry red juice. I ate two slices, both with a scoop of ice cream on top.
After dinner, I helped Grandma wash up, scrubbing the plates in the sink full of lukewarm water and soap bubbles. Whenever Maeve stayed for dinner, she would scoop up a handful of bubbles, spreading them onto her chin and sometimes mine. We would hobble around the kitchen then, pretending to be old men until Grandma came in with a dish towel and scrubbed our beards off.
A few days passed, the rain rolling away as the sun moved in. The mud puddles dried up, cracking as they faded from dark brown to tan.
I visited the log every day, though Maeve wasn’t there. It was a nice place to draw, just sitting there, watching the birds and things then capturing their likenesses on paper. I drew many pictures, some of the violets, their deep purple petals reaching up for the sunlight. Some of the creek that trickled nearby. I drew one of a rabbit, crouched in the grass, its tiny pink nose snuffling as it searched for food.
But the log wasn’t as cheerful without Maeve. It was a quiet, peaceful place but lacked the magic she seemed to lend it with her presence. The log was a log, not a fire-breathing dragon or a ship tossed in a tempest. It was what it truly was without her. Nothing magical.
Finally the day came when Maeve was to return. In anticipation I tapped my feet against the cold concrete of the train station, waiting to hear the wail of it’s whistle. Then there it was. It screeched and steamed into the station, a huge black metal beast. I stood, Grandpa beside me as the one passenger got off.
A little girl with honey colored curls tied back with pink ribbon that matched her pink dress. She wore spotless white stockings and shiny black shoes and carried one carpetbag, clutched tightly in her hands.
I had expected to see the girl in the blue sailor’s dress, matching hat cocked to a jaunty angle. I had expected to see the honey colored curls tangled and wild from the breeze. The socks slouched and stained with dirt, shoes muddy from splashing in puddles or dusty from racing down roads.
I had not expected to see this. This prim, polite girl in a frilly pink dress who greeted us with the faintest of smiles. Not the wide grin and tackling hug. Still this was Maeve, and I smiled.
The ride back was short, and soon we were dropping her off at her house, waving goodbye. We would see each other tomorrow, at school.
“Quite the little lady, isn’t she?” Grandpa said on the ride home. I nodded. Tomorrow though, we would splash in the creek, catching the little minnows with glittering scales. Rainbow minnows, Maeve called them. And that was all I thought about before I fell asleep that night.
After school, we went to the log. I wanted to run there, kicking up dust in the road, but Maeve insisted we walk so as not to dirty her stockings. I obliged, though this seemed like an odd request. Who cared if the stockings got dirty? Not me. But I walked to please Maeve.
Once reached the creek, I stripped off my socks and shoes, inviting Maeve to do the same, and stepped into the water. The little minnows darted around my toes and I laughed glancing up to see Maeve perched on the edge of the log, looking at the water with distaste.
“Maeve! Come in! The rainbow minnows are here. Lots of them.” I cried out exuberantly.
She shook her head, the honey colored curls bouncing. “No thank you.”
“Why not, Maeve?” I glanced at her. This was unusual. Maeve was always the one first into the water, the first to capture a minnow with her bare hands.
“Aunty says ladies don’t catch minnows.” She said. “She told me lots of things about how to be a real lady.”
I stared at her, dumbfounded. “You never cared about that before. You didn’t care about ribbons and dresses and stockings. You liked frogs and mud and minnows and rain. Dance in the rain again, Maeve.”
She shook her head. “I’ve grown up, Corann. I don’t do those things anymore.”
I stepped out of the water and sat beside her, pulling out my notebook. “What about the towns? The paper towns?” I flipped to the page that held the drawings of the place she had described so vividly before she left. “What about them?”
“The towns? Why are you so childish, Corann?” She laughed lightly.
I didn’t find it funny. I didn’t laugh. Where was Maeve? The real Maeve? The one who danced in the rain.
“I’ve grown up, Corann. When will you?”
Tears began to well up in my eyes. So that was it. She had grown up. She had outgrown everything we used to do together. She has outgrown me.
I stood abruptly. “I have to go.” Shoving my notebook into my backpack, I scooped up my shoes and socks and ran. I ran away, through the trees with tears streaming down my face. I didn’t stop. Not until I reached the bridge. Then I stopped and pulled out my notebook.
My vision was blurred by tears as I jerked the paper, tearing it out. I shredded the paper town, letting the bits drift into the river. Our town, our paper town was gone. Along with Maeve.