A tree on its own was silent, dignified. But just like people, when trees got together in large groups, silence was out of the question.
Andy picked her way through the forest, wobbling as she tried to tiptoe in her Wellies. Detritus covered the forest floor like the remains of a messy sneeze. She imagined each snapped twig bursting into flame as she leapt away from the misstep.
She paused at the lip of a small ravine. It was deeper than she was tall, though streamless and bare of rocks. Stretching her arms out like a little red scarecrow, she held her chin up in rigid pride. A little hop, toes curled, saw her into the ravine.
A cave would have been better, she thought. Caves were dark and wet, like a black mug filled with water waiting for a tea bag. Nearly as dangerous. Sticking her hand in the mug would have meant getting burned. Caves in her backyard, vast as it was, were never big enough to do more than sit in and get extraordinarily dirty.
She amused herself for a time, marching from one end of the ravine to the other. Her arm punched the air as she tried to remember how soldiers paraded.
Wind whistled through the tree branches. Offkey, like a kid with a tin ear attempting composition. Andy rubbed the tip of her pink nose. Soldiers found shelter in poor weather. She clambered up out of the ravine on the side opposite her initial entrance.
A copse of tall trees lay a few yards ahead. She gave up marching and broke into a run. Pretended urgency set fire through her veins.
When she reached the trees, she squeezed past the outermost to deposit herself near the middle. She pressed her back to the rough tree trunk, straightbacked, unslumping.
Dew and seasonal rain soaked her jeans through within seconds. Her hands, white with winter chill, patted the sodden grass. She swept away fallen leaves. Thus situated, she rested her head against her tree.
Sitting on the ground changed the world. She felt like a toddler, just beginning to walk. Bushes at eye level, the sparse wildflowers imitating sunflowers. Peeking past the tree’s guarding her position.
If she looked up, she would have seen nothing but branches meeting trunk, foliage stretching out in a natural radius. It was like staring up a very large nose. Not a sight that had been illustrated in her Jack and the Beanstalk book, but one she closely associated with giants.
Andy shivered, gritting her teeth to stop them chattering. The sun had risen, in theory. But the cloud cover was so thick that the sun might as well have ignored astrophysics and stayed its orbit for a few hours. The air hung wet and heavy, pregnant with the promise of rain.
Dad had promised they would go fishing. The weather was better at keeping promises. Soldiers knew things like that.