Chapter 7 - Berries and a Kiss!
The next day, I came home with a handful of berries to give to Drake. Home? Is that how I really see this place? I think as I walk through the door. Of course I do! It is my hill and tree after all.
But deep down, I knew that I wasn’t thinking about the tree upon the hill.
“Look what I found for you,” I sang as I walked into the bedroom. But the bed was empty. “Drake? Drake!”
“Yeah?” a voice called from outside. I went outside to find Drake kneeling in the dirt, planting some flowers along the side of the house. He looked up as I approached.
“Hey,” he smiled, patting the soil around a seed.
“You’re alright?” I asked.
“Is that a question or a statement?” he asked.
“I got you berries,” I told him, holding up a handful.
“Ohh!” he exclaimed, getting up and brushing himself off. He reached for one but I held it out of his reach.
“Go and wash your hands,” I scolded him.
“Ookay,” he pouted before trudging towards the river.
I knelt down next to the shallowest part of the river. Working the dirt out from under my nails, I scrubbed my hands in the clear water.
I glanced up and saw Fern’s reflection in the water. I heard a gasp and looked around but couldn’t see her. Then I looked closer and could make out the shape of her pressed against a nearby tree. She had used her powers to blend into the tree.
I was about to ask her what she was doing when I realised it. Then an idea struck me. I shrugged as if nothing was amiss and turned back to the river. As soon as I heard a rustle of leaves, I started whistling.
I lowered my gaze when her reflection came into view, still watching her from the corner of my eye. Just as she was about to push me into the stream, I twisted around and grabbed her wrists, pulling her in with me.
With a scream, we splashed under the water. Like rocks, we sunk to the bottom, landing with a soft thud on the sandy riverbed. With a kick, I shot for the surface with Fern in my arms. We were both gasping and spluttering for air. Being the better swimmer, I paddled us both to the bank.
I rolled onto my back and felt the sun warm my face before Fern shoved me in the shoulder. “Don’t do that!” she cried.
“What?” I asked. “You’re the one who pushed me in!”
“But I’m a tree!” she snapped. “I don’t know how to swim. And for another thing, a plant can only take so much water before it drowns!”
I realised that scared look in her eye, I felt it myself when my grandfather died. I had lashed out at everything, wondering if it was real or not. Fern had even more reason than I did to be afraid. She not only had to protect herself but also a huge, immovable oak tree. “Well,” I said, reaching into my pocket and presenting a seashell to her. “I’m sorry.”
She carefully took the shell from my outstretched palm and examined it. It wasn’t anything special, but it was covered in what I assumed to be bioluminescent algae of sorts that glowed different shades of blues and purples and greens in the fading light. I smiled at her expression, hoping that I had mended to broken bridge between us.
“Don’t do that!” she snapped again, breaking me out of my thoughts.
“What did I do this time!” I cried.
“You! This seashell! Don’t be nice when you could’ve killed me!”
“Well, maybe you shouldn’t push me into the water!” I growled. “How am I supposed to know that you’re terrified of the water and...”
I didn’t get any further because Fern pulled me closer and kissed me! It was long and deep and after I got over my shock, I felt how her lips were soft like moss. How our noses fitted perfectly, side by side.
Soon, too soon, she pulled away. “Uh...I...um...” I stammered, trying to find the words. But before I could she ran back through the trees in the direction of the meadow. Snatching up the seashell, I raced after her.
“Fern!” I called. But she didn’t answer or look back. By the time I reached the meadow, I had just enough time to see her leap at the oak tree, disappearing into the wooden trunk.
“Uh...Fern?” I asked once I reached the base of the tree. I placed a hand on the trunk. The entire tree seemed to vibrate. Suddenly, a low branch swiped at my hand. “OW!” I exclaimed, shaking my hand. I looked down to see an ugly welt on the back of my hand. It stung really badly.
I went over and sat at the top of the hill. What could I say to...what? Was she mad still? Was she sad or scared that I wouldn’t feel the same way about her? Did that kiss mean anything? Or was it just something to shut me up?
“I...Don’t be like this,” I pleaded. “I...I kinda liked it. I’ve actually been wanting to do that myself but...was worried that it would ruin what was already between us.” And it was the truth. Ever since I had woken up in ancient Greece, I had been stunned by how nice and beautiful she was. She was funny and knew everything there was to know about this place.
I heard the sound of creaking wood but just sat there, watching the sunset. Fern came over and sat down next to me. “Really?” she asked. “You mean that?”
“Really,” I confirmed. “I...really like you...a lot.”
She rested her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes, “I do too.”
And as the sun sunk behind the hills and trees, I reached out and held her hand.