Birth of The Free Bird

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“Shsh,” Thomas put his finger on his mouth, motioning Edmond to be quiet. He took his hand off of Edmond’s mouth.

Following Thomas’ warning, Edmond unconsciously raised his own hand and covered his own mouth with it. His eyes stared at Thomas quizzically. Thomas was squatting behind the bush. He kept his head low to make sure that the seeker would not be able to find him. He kept quiet for another minute, ensuring that the seeker did not come to his hiding spot. When he was assured that the seeker was not coming, he turned to face Edmond and narrowed his eyes at him.

“Did you follow us?” Asked Thomas.

Edmond nodded his head. It made Thomas glared at him. How disobedient! Thomas thought.

“You almost got me caught by Brandon!” He grumbled lowly at Edmond, speaking through his closed teeth. His eyes kept glaring at Edmond.

Edmond looked down, scared of angry Thomas. His body was shuddered again, this time it was not because he was cold but because he was so scared that he was about to burst into tears.

Thomas noticed that Edmond was going to cry any minutes. He glared at him some more, harder, irritated by Neil’s little brother who become more and more annoying. He ruined his good day playing in the forest and he would ruin it more if he cried and made a sound. Damn it! Brandon would definitely catch me! Thomas cursed mentally.

For the second time, he put his hand on Edmond’s mouth, lifting his head up so he could look Thomas in the eye. He whispered to him, “Don’t you dare crying! I will leave you in the forest so the wolves can eat you. You sulky baby!”

Edmond’s eyes widened. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up as a chill ran through his body. He was scared of the wolves. He heard multiple stories from his father and his aunt how the wolves would tear persons apart, eating them alive.

At that point, Edmond regretted that he followed the boys into the forest. He could have stayed in the market with his father at his stall and waited for his brother to come back. He would probably be able to play with the children his age in the market, instead of following his brother and his friends who were four years older than him. Big boys always made trouble. That was what his aunt said to his brother one time. Now, he had followed those troubles into the forest, threatening him to be left in the forest and eaten by the wolves. Edmond wanted to really cry and go back to the market.

Thomas retreated his hand from covering Edmond’s mouth. He believed that the little boy would not make any sound right now. By mentioning the wolves, he was sure that Edmond would obey him. He looked up to the tree on his right hand side and smirked.

Edmond followed Thomas’s gaze, up to the tree. His eyes found the two persons sitting on the branch of a Douglas-fir tree. He was surprised that they could climb the tree that high. But what surprised him more was the girl sitting next to the person the seeker had been calling for, William. He never saw the girl before. She was not present in the market and he had never met her before in the village. Edmond almost knew most of his brother’s friends. He never had a girlfriend in his circle.

The girl waved at him, snickering at him quietly. Edmond looked at her curiously. He could tell that the girl was around his age. She had long straight blonde hair. Her baby blue eyes looked back at Edmond and she flashed her white teeth as she grinned at him. Edmond’s eyes travelled to the rest of her figure, inspecting the strange girl he never knew. Unlike the boys and him, Edmond noticed that the girl did not wear shoes. He found that the palm of her feet were darkened from the mud she had been stepping onto.

Weird. He thought to himself. He looked away from the girl and his eyes went back to Thomas who was still squatting next to him and peeking his head up to watch for the seeker through the bushes. As if he sensed Edmond’s gaze on him, he turned to him and raised his right eyebrow, asking him “What?”

“Where is Neil?” Edmond whispered, making sure that his voice was as low as possible.

“Hiding.” Thomas shrugged. “I don’t know where. So don’t ask another questions.”

Edmond nodded at him, obeying his request as he was still afraid the he would really be left alone in the forest.

The girl who sat on the branch of the tree, looked down at Edmond. The boy looked sad and scared. She could hear what Thomas had said to him to scare him off. That was bad of Thomas to say that to him. She could tell that the boy was younger than the rest of the boys that played hide and seek in the forest. The boy was probably her age.

But what the girl did not understand was why the boy came there. She heard Thomas asking him if he followed them. How brave of him to come to the forest by himself from the village. Although the wolves’ part might not be true, a little boy from the village would not dare to enter the forest like he did. She praised his bravery internally.

“Who is Neil?” The girl asked William who sat beside her. The girl had not known each and every boy that came to the forest to play. She only knew Thomas, Brandon and William as those three had been seeing her for quite some time now.

“The reddish brown hair one. That’s Neil.” Answered Will. He then continued, “The boy down there, is Neil’s little brother. He’s so annoying. We told him not to come because he’s still a little boy.”

The girl frowned at Will. Who was little there? The boy might be younger than the others but he was not little. The girl thought.

“I’m little too. I’m younger than you all.” The girl remarked.

William looked at her, shaking his head in disagreement.

“He is a home boy. Never played outside like you. Plus he only wants to play stupid games.” He looked at Edmond who was now looking at the ground, looking absolutely vulnerable. He then added to the girl, “He cannot climb the tree like us. Or like you. So we were doing him a favour by asking him not to come with us. He might end up being the seeker all day without being able to find any of us, until all of us give up and come out from our hiding just so we can go home. Not to mention that Neil would be worried all the time about his little brother getting lost in the forest. How are we supposed to have fun then?”

William eyes wandered around his surrounding. He saw Brandon walking far away from where they were hiding. He thought that it was time for him, the girl and Thomas to move from their spot. Brandon was almost came to find them, partially because he heard Edmond running towards him, but it was mainly because of one of the William’s shoes that slipped off his foot when he was running. It almost led Brandon to them.

“Come on, Finch! We gotta climb down and move away from here.” He ushered the girl to move.

The girl frowned at him, still not happy with his opinion about the new boy down there. She listened to William and climbed down the tree regardless. When her bare feet touch the ground, she walked over to where Thomas and Neil’s brother were.

“What’s your name?” Finch asked Edmond in a friendly tone. The boy looked up at her, his eyes were puzzled over her friendliness.

“Edmond.” He said. His voice was lower than her, afraid that he would be scolded again by Thomas if he spoke louder.

“I’m Finch. Do you want to hide with me?”

This time, Edmond was not the only one who was surprised by the girl’s friendly remarks. Thomas and William widened their eyes, looking at the exchange between Finch and Edmond in disbelief. Finch took Edmond’s hand to her and hold it gently.

“We can’t take him, Finch!” Snarled Thomas, who became angrier with Edmond than he was before as Finch decided to take him along with them.

Finch looked at Thomas fiercely. “I can take him. You and Will can go run and hide somewhere. Edmond will come with me.”

“Wait!” Will interrupted. “Finch, you were playing with us. Not with him. You might get lost.”

“I know this forest better than you all do.” She glared at both Thomas and Will. “Who lives here? You or I?”

The two boys looked taken aback by Finch’s words. They had known Finch for three months and considered her as their friends in the forest. Even though the girl was introduced to the rest of their friends from the village, Thomas and Will were almost certain that Finch would only follow them both through out their play. Yet, the arrival of Neil’s brother erased completely their certainty.

“We don’t mean to underestimate you. But it’s better to stick together.” Thomas said, his voice turned softer towards Finch. “Come with us Finch.”

Finch, who was still holding Edmond’s hand, shook her head stubbornly.

Thomas sighed and he gave up. “Edmond can come too.”

That made Finch beamed with pleasure whereas William snorted loudly and rolled his eyes, turning around so he could start going. Edmond could finally plastered a cheerful grin on his face, letting the girl he just met to lead his way.

While the forest looked gloomy and felt cold, the sun still continued to shine brightly above the village. Nonetheless, the children continued to play hide and seek in the forest, running and exploring the forest deeper.

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