Chapter 14: Dancing the Day Away
One-by-one, a new color appeared. All the colors from the rainbow lined up side-by-side. Their petals danced in the wind and the leaves’ stems whooshed back and forth. Behind the flowers lay bushes and shrubs. The bushes switched between bundles of green-yellow and spring-green to the darks of turtle-green.
Ellie gaped at the wide variety of bushes and glanced up to blossoms of trees while they swiveled their leaves to create a breeze. Redwoods stood tallest and darkest in the back. Many bright and lime green bushes stole the front as oak trees sat between maple and elm tree in the middle.
Ellie changed her view to the other side. Small flowers spun around the yellow center like pinwheels. Tulips of yellow waved on the right, light pink carnations danced on the left, and peonies grappled for attention.
Each and every bloom captured Ellie’s eyes. “Aren’t they pretty, Alice? Don’t you think Mother would adore these? What if I gave one to Jeffrey—would he like them?” She stared at her doll. “No, you’re right. He would smush or forget to water them—the thought!”
Between peonies, Ellie spotted red, lavender, and white roses circling one another. She bent over to skim her finger against the fuzzy skin.
A few birds flew in and pecked each other with their beaks. A blue bird hummed to twirling leaves. “Da-dee-da-dum, da-dee-da-dum, da-da-dee-dum.” Ellie joined nature in its dance, placing her hands in a crown and spinning with all the flowers. She brushed down the zipper and let the coat unfold over her arms. She pivoted out of the position and twinkled over her toes.
She began a bourrée en couru in the open snow. “Da-do-dee-dum, do-dee-da-dum, da-dee-da-dum, da-dee-da-dum,” she sang. Soon, she da-dee-dummed into her memories.
A razor-thin woman appeared beside Ellie back at their home. Her golden hair spun into a bun as she revolved over her toes. Barefoot next to her mother, Ellie twirled on her toes in a pink tulle dress that dazzled with glitter flowers. Her hair braided into a bun.
“Pirouette and we've finished the dance,” Evelyn said. “You dance with such elegance, darling. I just began at your age,” Evelyn said.
“How old was I when I began?” Ellie asked. She spun out and faced her mother.
“Two years old. I taught you to plié and together we did a pirouette,” Evelyn said. “And soon your feet got so quick, we did tap dancing and difficult ballet moves. Why, you’ve done a marvelous job. I myself could’ve never learned as fast as you did,” Evelyn said. She laid her chin on her daughter’s shoulder. She shut her eyes and rested for a minute.
“Tell me of your days, Mother,” Ellie said.
“When I began, I sure had troubles. I always bumped into things or fell over, and I couldn’t stand on my toes for the longest time. You never had those issues, you have beautiful balance of that I can only envy. I only learned when one day my instructor told me I couldn’t leave until I could stand on my toes for ten minutes straight. I needed three tries, but I did it.”
“And what about your tap dancing? How did that begin?”
“I learned much faster when I started tapping. My feet loved to make those noises, but I never went far with it. They taught me many tricks, but never those difficult ones. One day when you’re better than me, we’ll have to get an instructor, won’t we?” Evelyn giggled. Ellie chuckled into her mother’s arms. “You know,” she said. “I tried teaching Lizzy how to dance.”
“You did? What happened?”
“We started the same way you did, but she never caught the hang of it. She couldn’t stand on her toes either, and didn’t have the patience to keep trying. She and I didn’t make it far for she has her father’s patience—none at all. Otherwise, Lizzy and I do every activity together. And…you share similar interests with your father, so we have to have dancing.”
“We definitely do. Let’s start again,” Ellie said.
“Would you like to do our routine once more?” Evelyn asked.
“Yes,” Ellie said. She started doing arabesques without her mother, but when she got to the pliés, Evelyn joined in. One moment they whirled and twirled, and the next they progressed on the tips of their toes. The routine trickled about five minutes long, and at the finish, Evelyn stepped up and presented her daughter to curtsy.
“One day we’ll show this routine to all the people in Switzerland,” Ellie said.
“Oh yes we will,” Evelyn said, hoisting Ellie into the air and beaming.
“Da-dee-da-dum, Da-dee-da-dum,” Ellie said. She flickered open her eyes to see she no longer danced in her home, but pivoted round the flowers. She straightened her leg to a stop. It was only a memory. I wish Mom were here, so that we could dance together. I can only dance with myself now.
The birds sung and Coco sniffed each flower’s sweet scent. Coco hopped through the peonies and straight into a rose’s thorn. Coco jumped back, but didn’t move any further. Ellie leapt through the flowers.
She scooped up Coco and Ellie encountered a thorn prickling the bunny. Ellie picked it out and looked it over. An itty-bitty wound remained, but nothing serious. “There there Coco, it’s alright,” Ellie said, “believe me, I know. You remind me of all the other animals I met in my backyard. Boy, I miss my backyard, but you help.”
Ellie love for animals dated back to when she was two and James towed her through the snow. From the distance they glanced at the trees, bushes, and flowers. A little animal fluttered in front the trees. Ellie leaned forward and clapped her hands at it. James caught her before she fell and he set her down on the snow. Before he could hold her hand, she’d run off to the furry creature. The fluffy animal didn’t flee, but allowed Ellie to pet him from head to tail.
“Darling, you seem to love the bunny,” James said.
“Bunny,” she said.
“Many of these creatures and other furry animals live around here. We’ll have to find more next time,” he said.
“Animals!” she said.
“You’re gentle with him. Would you like to visit again?” James asked.
“Yes Daddy, I would,” she said. “Goodbye, bunny.” She waved to the white bunny and turned to her daddy.
“Let’s go, Coco. There’s plenty more animals and flowers to see around here,” Ellie said. She zipped her coat over her dress and ran off with Coco.
They followed the zigzag pathway through the flowery rows and trees’ breeze. “Look Coco, lilies and daphne all over,” Ellie said. Coco chased Ellie as she zigzagged side-to-side through every flower and tree. “And lavender over here! I’ll grab one for Lizzy,” she said. As she zipped by, her fingertips skimmed the tip-top of each flower. When the path’s curve ended, she stopped and peered around. Coco did the same, but in the other direction.
“Coco, where did you go?” Ellie asked. She glanced about. “Did you see where she went, Alice? I hope she’s not missing.” She scrambled to the pathway and turned her head to both sides, but no bunny did she see. “Coco? Coco! Hello?” She circled around the bushes and plants, so much, that she’d lost where she was. “Come back! Come back! I love you. Don’t leave me!”
Coco heard her cries and hopped over. “Coco!” she rejoiced. Coco rubbed her head against Ellie’s boot and hopped to the other side. She peeked back at Ellie. “Where do you want to go Coco? Did you find something?” She jogged along with Coco, who led her to a new set of bushes and trees.
“My, oh my! Berries, and…and fruit! No wonder you left. You found us more food. Thank you, Coco!” Ellie said. “Lizzy! Charlie! Jeffrey! Come quick,” Ellie called.
“What?” Lizzy said.
“I came as fast as I could. What’s going on?” Lizzy asked.
“Look, Coco stumbled upon these fruit trees and bushes!” Ellie said.
There, mouths widened and eyes swirled. Berries of red, black, and blue popped up, even those that weren’t in season. Every berry glimmered and appeared at it’s brightest and ripest. There must’ve been tens of thousands of berries and they at last could eat as much as their tummies desired. Ellie dropped a raspberry into her mouth and licked her lips. “Tastes juicy and ripe,” she said.
“Let me get Oliver. I’m sure he’s hungry as well,” Lizzy said.
“He can find us for himself,” Charlie said.
Lizzy shook her head and raced off.
Jeffrey stretched his arm for the lowest apple on the tree, but his arm proved too short. “I can’t reach,” Jeffrey said. He jumped, hitting the apple. The apple jittered back and forth, but didn’t fall.
“Be gentle with the tree. You could break the tree’s branches and no more apples will grow,” Ellie said.
“But I want the apple.”
“Don’t hit the tree!”
“I will if I have to!”
“No! Stop Jeffrey.”
“Stop bossing me around, Ellie. You and that annoying doll.”
“Don’t blame my doll!”
“Don’t bug me!”
“Don’t hit the tree!”
“But I can’t reach!”
“Why don’t I grab this one and you grab things you can reach,” Ellie said.
“My, my, look at it all!” Oliver said. Oliver picked a blackberry and released it to his mouth. “Oh my, fantastic. This may be the blackberry I’ve ever ate. Thank you, Ellie, for finding this for us. I’ll never be hungry again!”
Jeffrey gnawed around the whole apple, taking tiny nibbles like a mouse would. Lizzy grabbed a few blueberries. Opposite her, Charlie shoveled them faster than a pig.
“Like your apple?” Ellie asked.
“I’m done.” Jeffrey flung the apple core to the ground. “I’m still hungry.”
“Why don’t you eat some berries? There’s so many!” Ellie said.
“I don’t like any of them.”
“You don’t like any of it?”
“I only like apples and oranges.”
“What about berries?”
“Well, Lizzy and I will change that. Lizzy.”
“He claims to not like berries. We have to change this, don’t we?”
“Certainly. Why don’t you like berries?” Lizzy asked.
“They’re not tasty.”
“Hm…well do you like piggybacks?”
“Then hop on.”
“Yay! My favorite,” he said. Jeffrey wrapped his legs around her waist and gripped her shoulders.
“Lizzy, where are you going?” Ellie said.
“Just wait, El.”
Lizzy bolted off between the trees and skipped her feet off the snow. Jeffrey’s curls bounced off his head and against the air. He beamed and laughed, but his ride skidded to a stop when Ellie approached.
“Would you like to keep going?” Lizzy asked.
“Well, I operate on berries, so if you eat one, I’ll keep going. The more you eat, the more I can go.”
“I’ll have one,” he said.
“Ellie, can we have a raspberry for my passenger?”
“Sure thing, Liz,” Ellie said. Ellie held a raspberry to Jeffrey’s mouth, but he stiffened. Ellie brought the raspberry closer, but Jeffrey wrinkled his nose and leaned back.
“Oh Jeffrey! You won’t eat one? Not for me?” Lizzy said.
“I really don’t want to!”
“After everything I’ve done for you, Jeffrey. Not even one? After all those times I helped you and stuck up for you and…”
“Fine, I’ll have it,” he said. Ellie raised up to her tippy-toes and dropped the berry in his mouth. He scrunched his eyes. “Let’s go,” Jeffrey said. She slid against the ice and snow. Lizzy looped the maze five times before her feet stuttered still.
“Why did we stop?” Jeffrey asked.
“I used up my berry energy. If you have some more, we can keep going.”
“I guess I’ll have two this time,” he said.
“I might need five just to start up again.”
“I suppose I’ll have five.”
“If you want a long ride you’ll need to eat at least ten.”
“Ellie, we’ll need two blueberries, two raspberries, three blackberries, and three strawberries.”
“On my way,” Ellie said.
“But the strawberries are the biggest ones,” Jeffrey said.
“That’s the trick,” Lizzy said, tapping his nose.
“You can bite on the strawberry, but I’ll hold the leaves so you don’t eat them,” Ellie said.
“I know that, Ellie.” he nibbled the berry, squirting juice at Lizzy and Ellie’s faces. “I like those.”
“Jeffrey! You’re getting Alice all wet!” Ellie said.
“Good. I don’t care.”
“It’s fine Ellie, so long as he’s eating the berries. Why don’t you try the blackberries?” Lizzy asked. Jeffrey plunked the blackberry square into his mouth without a yammer. He closed his eyes, cringing like he ate a lemon. “Maybe we should spare him a second one of those,” Lizzy said.
“I agree,” Ellie said.
“But I’ll eat the blackberry,” Lizzy said.
“Here, Liz. One more strawberry for you, Jeffrey,” Ellie said. He stole the berry out of her hand. Slurp! He licked his strawberry’s pink and red shades, withering the berry to three green leaves.
“I knew you’d like them,” Ellie said.
“I don’t like them.”
“Admit it, you loved those strawberries. Didn’t you?” Lizzy said.
“Maybe I liked them a little,” Jeffrey said. “All except those blackberries!”
“Hehe. Time to finish this piggyback ride,” Lizzy said. Lizzy galloped the course like a horse, battering Jeffrey up and down off her back. He fastened his hat and clamped his hands over her coat, all while giggling away.
“Okay, but hold on tight, bud.”
“Hi, Oliver, hi, Charlie.” Lizzy and Jeffrey waved. They circled the blackberry bush and stopped back at the apple tree.
“Well Jeffrey, that’ll have to do,” Lizzy said.
“I know, I know, but I promise we’ll do fun things like this again. Get off carefully now.”
“I think it’s about time we all return to our own spots. We’ll return tomorrow for breakfast,” Oliver said.
“Aren’t you coming, Jeffrey?” Lizzy asked.
“I’m going to stay with Ellie,” he said. “What shall we do now?”
“I say we climb the trees. Down the path I saw a lot of tall ones. We could climb like monkeys!” Ellie said. “Coco, let’s go.” Coco hopped to them. As soon as she arrived, Ellie took Jeffrey’s hand and guided them around.
They passed bushes of fruits and flowers and Ellie couldn’t help but stare. “Ellie, for the last time, watch out in front of us so we don’t crash into one of those plant things!” Jeffrey said.
“Plant things? How rude!” Ellie said, “I need to see every flower because we may not come back for a long time.”
“Flowers? Who cares. They’re all a bunch of leaves.”
Jeffrey put his hands over her mouth and steered her to the center of the trail. Further up the pathway, the bushes and trees cleared. A new set of trees replaced them.
Ellie stopped as they reached a tree that stuck in front of their pathway. Trees stood tall as mountains, there to intimidate tiny Ellie and Jeffrey. The tops were out of sight and unreachable. They left Ellie and Jeffrey in awe.
Birds flew between branches while owls slept through the day. There appeared to be almost every kind of animal living somewhere in the area. Animals roamed everywhere, much to the delight of Jeffrey and Ellie.
“Look at all these animals. My, I’ve never seen so many in all my life,” Ellie said.
“Do you want to come with us, Alice?” Ellie askerd. “I understand. Your dress would tear, but you can play with Coco.”
“Come on, already. She’s a doll. Are we going to climb or not?” Jeffrey asked.
“Of course, follow my lead and be careful not to fall,” she said. She stepped to the tree and grasped hold of the first branch, hoisting herself up. He flopped over the tree’s limb, stomach first. Oomph. Ellie helped stabilize him.
“You must go up carefully, Jeffrey. On the next ones, the ground won’t be so close to your feet,” Ellie said, “ready to go higher?”
“To the highest leaf on the tree!” he said, shooting his finger to the sky. He jumped to the next branch as Ellie raced beneath, settling him safely. She climbed up and hopped to the next bough and three after that. The tree branches above were thinning, so Ellie wrapped around the tree to the other side.
“I think we’re high enough.” Ellie peered down. The ground seemed forever away. “It’s time we go to the tree next to us,” she said.
“How do we do that?” he asked.
“Well first, you better turn over to this side,” she said. Jeffrey clung around the tree. Ellie helped him secure his footing. “Now, we’re going to the far end where it gets a little thin, so stay balanced. I’ll go first.” Ellie hopped up, gripping the branch. She moved across it, bringing one hand in front of the other like monkey bars. She neared the end and increased her pace. She wrapped her feet around the bark of the tree and gripped the tree. She stepped on the branch.
“Jeffrey,” she said. “Hold on tight and stay patient. Don’t go too fast or slow.”
“I’m scared. I’m going down,” he said.
“Don’t worry, Jeffrey. I’ll help you,” she said.
“Let me go down.”
“Oh Jeffrey, you always quit when it’s hard.”
“I don’t always quit.”
“Show me and go across.”
“I’ll fall though.” His eyes watered as he peered down. He hugged the tree bark and shivered.
“Don’t say that. Don’t think that way or you’ll get hurt.”
“I’ll fall anyway.”
“If you fall, I’ll go down and catch you,” she said.
“Really. Now c’mon,” she said. She released the tree bark and walked to the end of the branch. He stepped to the edge and reached his arms to the branch above. The tree shook and swayed him to the side. He caught hold of the branch below and breathed in.
He turned to Ellie. She motioned for him to stand and continue, but he stayed down. “You can do it, Jeffrey,” she said. He peeped at her and she nodded. Her concern consumed her. Her heart thumped loud enough for her to hear.
He steadied himself before taking a small hop. He peered down; the ground didn’t appear visible as he rocked over his knees. In the distance he heard Ellie’s calls, but the words didn’t sound clear. He put one hand in front of the other and continued along, advancing near Ellie.
His hands tired and couldn’t clutch the branch. Only his fingertips gripped it. Ellie grasped hold of his legs and Jeffrey moved his hands forward one more pace each and released. She clutched her little brother, setting him down in front of the tree trunk so he could cling on.
“Let’s do it again,” Jeffrey said. He swiveled around the side of the tree and leapt to the next one. This time, he eased across.
“Wait up, Jeffrey. Don’t continue without me,” Ellie said. She jumped up and snatched the branch. “Don’t go yet, Jeffrey. We’re going to go a little higher and I must explain a few things,” she said. She grabbed the branch above and they muscled their way up.
“This time, we’re going to trees across from us, not next to us. On some of these trees, we’ll have to swing. Wait and watch,” she said. She jumped to the branch in front. She launched forward, releasing and swinging down to one below. She secured her spot and waved. He sprung up to grasp the branch, flinging off to the next. He walked to Ellie with no difficulties.
“Shall we continue?”
“Yes we shall!” he said. Jeffrey shifted in front of her. “Now this time, you’ll follow me wherever I may go,” Jeffrey said. Ellie giggled. He scanned the area, planning his venture. He sprung to a thinner branch above them. “Watch closely,” Jeffrey said.
“I will,” she said. Before the last word exited her mouth, he’d left.
He waved off and laid all his limbs out to soak the air. He glanced down to a branch in front, extending his arms to catch it in a flurry of twigs. He put his fingers around it and swung to the branch below. He mustered his hands over and launched to a higher bough, looping his torso over and fluttered to the next tree limb. He monkeyed his way to the stump of the tree. “Now, follow like I did.”
“I will, Jeffrey,” she said. She jumped off and copied him to the exact measure. She moved to the middle and kicked her legs to build a swing. She released it, soaring toward the sky. She folded her palms around and launched to the branch above, securing it with her fingers. She looped her waist over.
“Hey, monkey!” Jeffrey said.
“I know, we’re practically monkeys, huh?”
“No, a real one!” he said.
“Where?” Ellie pivoted around, to see a monkey bouncing about. He whipped around a tree and banged his arms on the tree. “I can’t believe it! I never dreamed I’d see a monkey.”
“Wow,” she said. The fawn-brown monkey sat on the branch. His brown eyes scanned the trees. Catching sight of a bird gave him a toothy smile, teeth in need of a brushing.
“Let’s go get it!” Jeffrey said.
“No! We mustn’t startle it. We should get to know him first. Otherwise he may swing away,” Ellie said.
“Puh-lease. You and your silly rules,” Jeffrey said, pushing Ellie out of his way.
“Jeffrey,” Ellie said, tugging him back to her, “listen to me. I know animals better than you and I’m in charge anyway.”
“But look at him. He’s the cutest,” Ellie said.
“His hands look like mine,” Jeffrey said. “Does that mean I’m a monkey?”
“No silly. C’mon, let’s get a little closer,” she said. Ellie lifted up to the monkey’s branch. She leaned in, giving him a soft pat on the head. He grinned. “Come give the monkey a pet,” Ellie said. Jeffrey inched over, tapping the monkey on the head. Jeffrey hopped behind her.
“Don’t worry Jeffrey, he won’t hurt us,” Ellie said.
“I know,” he said. He pet the fur once more. Jeffrey cringed, but the monkey didn’t spring on him. He tapped him down the back.
“We’re going to have to get you a better name than ‘the monkey,’ aren’t we?” Ellie said. “What shall we call him?”
“I know! How ’bout Monk?” Jeffrey said.
“Monk won’t suit him. Much too simple.”
“Well then you decide if you hate all my choices.”
“No, I can’t choose. What if I make the wrong decision? He could hate me for coming up with wrong name.”
“Please, decide for me,” Ellie said, “I don’t want to choose anything.”
“EE-EE-OO-OO,” the monkey said. He smacked his palms on the tree.
“Ooh, let’s call him Bongo because he bangs the tree like he’s playing the bongos,” he said.
“Bongo…what a good name,” Ellie said. Bongo flapped to a branch below and moved to the next.
“Wait up, Bongo,” Ellie said. She swooped to the next branch, following Bongo, but Bongo was always a step ahead of them.
“We better go faster or we’re never going to catch up,” Jeffrey said.
The two continued to the next branch. When they got to Bongo, Bongo hadn’t gone to another tree. He’d advanced higher, looping up every branch to the next. Ellie and Jeffrey caught his tree. He jumped and played along the branch he occupied. Ellie sprung up, catching the branch up and heaved her waist on it. Jeffrey kicked off the bark to hoist himself up. They made it just below Bongo and Ellie turned to Jeffrey. “Don’t arrive rough. Otherwise he may escape again.” Too late. As she spoke, he bounded to a tree on the other side.
“Quick, we have to get to him,” Jeffrey said. They leapt on Bongo’s branch, but he moved again. This time though, they caught on his lead. Bongo swayed on the tree below. They followed, always one branch behind. On their way, Ellie and Jeffrey swung, flung, caught the air, and clasped hold of branches one right after the other. Bongo led them through this pattern all the way to a limb just above the ground. He settled on the snowy floor. Ellie hopped down beside him. Jeffrey caught the last branch, letting his hands slip to the ground.
“We had some trip, huh Jeffrey?” Ellie said.
“I’m exhausted,” he wailed. Ellie giggled.
Out in the distance appeared Lizzy, Alice and Coco. Jeffrey and Ellie let go of Bongo. Lizzy stepped right in front of the monkey and surveyed him up. He gazed into her amber eyes. “Well, who’s this fellow?”
“Our new monkey friend,” Jeffrey said.
“Bongo,” Ellie said.
“Hello, Bongo,” Lizzy said. She pet him on the head. Bongo leaned into her and she rubbed his fur more.
“He sure likes you,” Ellie said.
“Well, I like him more than he likes me!” Lizzy said. “You make me smile, but I must go,” Lizzy said.
“Why don’t you let him follow you?” Ellie asked.
“Are you sure?” Lizzy asked.
“Of course. I’m sure he’d love to head for a stroll and leave this forest for a while. I’ll meet with you two later,” Ellie said.
“Thank you, Ellie,” Lizzy said. “Come, Bongo.”
“Wait, Lizzy! I’ll go with,” Jeffrey said, racing after them.
“Well, Alice, it’s you, me and Coco.” Ellie sighed. “Why don’t we go for a walk?”