A chubby, red headed nine-year-old boy sits helplessly on the pavement, blood running form his nose, lip busted. A feisty, freckled face brunette with hazel eyes stands over him like a guardian angel, wielding a baseball bat. She looks on in the distance and watches two older boys speed away in frantic fashion on their bicycles, “crazy bitch!”, yells one of the boys as he rides away. “That’s right, ride away you jerks, next time pick on someone your own size!”, yells the gutsy girl, who must be half the size of the helpless kid on the pavement. She swings her bat in the air maniacally, with a proud grin on her face suggesting she quite enjoys situations such as this.
With the scared boys now out of eye sight, the girl turns her attention to the boy on the pavement, she stretches out a hand to him and helps him up. “You’re that new girl, right?”, the boy asks, with a twinkle in his eyes that betrays his infatuation. “Yea, the name’s Eleanor, but I prefer that you just call me Nellie”. “Ok Nellie, I’m Leonard, but I prefer that you just call me Lenny”, Nellie giggles, “Ok Lenny, nice to meet you”.
Two boys on bicycles come rushing to the scene, they quickly dismount their bikes, sending them crashing down on the pavement with reckless abandon, they seem to be only interested in Lenny at this point. One of the boys, a bushy haired blond, approaches Lenny, “Holy shit, are you ok buddy?”. A slightly annoyed Nellie interrupts, “If you really cared about your friend you wouldn’t have left him to get beaten up”. The other boy, dark hair, angrily approaches Nellie, “Listen here new kid”, he says, before he is swiftly interrupted by Lenny, “Nellie, her name’s Nellie”, “No, her name’s Eleanor,” rebuts the dark-haired boy. “You’ve been in this town for a few weeks, and you think you know it all,” he continues. As the conversation is about to take a confrontational turn, the blond boy intervenes, “So my angry friend over here, his name’s Christopher, and I’m Jeremy, and what I think Chris was trying to explain to you is that, we were being chased by those losers before we got separated, so its not like we abandoned Lenny”. “It’s just that I’ve seen you guys being constantly bullied at school, all I’m saying is that you need to stand up for yourselves more,” Nellie responds, which triggers Chris once again, who is quickly calmed down by the level headed Jeremy. “Thanks for helping Lenny,” says Jeremy. “Yea, no problem,” says Nellie, as she picks up her bike and walks away. The bruised and battered Lenny gently elbows Jeremy in the ribs and whispers something in his ears. Jeremy ponders for a few seconds, then calls out to Nellie, “Hey!”, he yells. Nellie stops without turning around, “What now?” she says to herself. “To show our gratitude for helping us out, we’d like to show you around town starting tomorrow,” says Jeremy. “We can show you all the places with the best food and candy,” Lenny chimes in. “We know all the shortcuts to everywhere in this town, some of them even the grownups don’t know about,” Jeremy continues. Nellie’s eyes sparkle as the boys have her interest now, “Are you sure Chris is ok with all of this?”, Lenny and Jeremy stare at each other, then at Chris. Chris stares back at them, the awkward silence is deafening at this point. “You guys can’t be serious?” asks a confused Chris. The boys stare him down fiercely, “Ok fine, whatever,” he says. “That didn’t sound very convincing!” yells Nellie. Jeremy gives Chris a slight elbow nudge, signaling him to do something to convince Nellie. Chris raises his left arm and points at a brown leather wristband, “I swear on my wristband Eleanor, I’ll be happy for you to join us”. “His dad gave him that wristband, he cherishes it more than anything, so you know he’s telling the truth”, says Lenny. Eleanor finally turns around, with a broad smile on her face. “Great, so we’ll pick you up tomorrow,” says Jeremy. Nellie agrees and rides away. “Who in their right minds would choose to move here?” asks Chris. “For the small-town charm buddy,” Jeremy responds. Chris stares at him in disbelief, “Yea, sure thing Jeremy.”
Nellie arrives at the town nursing home where her mom works and heads inside. She is immediately greeted by one of the residents, who stares at her with an expressionless smile on his face. Nellie is startled but is quickly calmed by her mother who appears in the nick of time to take the man to his room. She grabs her belongings and waves goodbye to the other nurses. She gently places an arm around Nellie as they head out. “I’ll never, ever admit you into a place like this mom,” says Nellie. Her mother smiles brightly and kisses her. “So how was your day baby?”
The next morning, Nellie springs out of bed with the enthusiasm one would only expect from a child on Christmas day. She rushes to the bathroom and brushes her teeth, then takes a shower that must have lasted a mere two minutes. She scurries back to her bedroom and ruffles through her closet looking for the right outfit. The commotion draws the attention of her mother, who enters the room. “Nellie, sweetheart, you going somewhere?” “Mom, I already told you on our way home yesterday!” she cries out in annoyance. “Some friends are gonna take me around the town”, “Oh right,” her mother replies, “What exactly is there to really see in this town anyway?” “You know, kid stuff, the arcade, candy shop” Nellie responds, “Oh please,” replies her mother, “Since when have you ever been interested in ‘kid stuff’, you better not be planning on getting those poor boys into any trouble”, Nellie shrugs in defiance. “I’m serious sweetie, don’t do anything stupid, stay away from the damn woods!” “Yea but why, what’s the big deal with these fricking woods everyone in this town’s so scared about?” asks Nellie. “I don’t know baby, I haven’t gotten a straight answer from the locals since I got here, just vague warnings”. Nellie sighs in disappointment, but her mood quickly changes once again as she hears the sound of several bicycle bells coming from outside. Nellie bursts out the front door and grabs her bike and joins the boys, her mom steps out behind her and exclaims, “All of you, stay away from the woods, or I’m telling your parents. Now go on and be safe, be back in time for lunch!”. “Supper!” Nellie yells back, as she rides away with the boys. “LUNCH!!!”, her mother yells back furiously.
After hours of riding, and careless frolicking, the kids linger around outside the town’s only ice cream parlor, partaking in its sugary, frozen goodness. The gluttonous Lenny gobbles down two cones simultaneously, while the others look on in amusement. “Oh, now she smiles”, says Jeremy inquisitively. “Huh?” Nellie responds. “This is the first time since we’ve been out today that you’ve looked even slightly interested in anything,” Jeremy replies. “Are we boring you Eleanor?” asks Chris. Nellie glances at his precious wristband, “Your dad gave that to you right? Is he still in the picture?”, Lenny and Jeremy stare uncomfortably at each other without saying anything. Chris, clearly affected by Nellie’s question, takes a moment to compose himself then answers. “My dad went into the woods a couple years ago and never came out”. “Jesus, I’m so sorry”, says an embarrassed Nellie. The kids continue to eat their ice cream in awkward silence. Chris, who’s mood is now completely soured, finishes up his cone and signals to everyone he’s going home, a concerned Jeremy accompanies him. Nellie grabs Jeremy’s arm and apologizes once again, but is quickly reassured that everything is fine. “I’ll see you at school tomorrow, no worries.” “Ok”, replies Nellie, who is clearly unconvinced. Jeremy turns his attention to Lenny, “You coming buddy?” “I’m not done here yet,” replies Lenny, as he orders another pair of cones. Jeremy smiles in amusement and follows behind Chris.
“You know you didn’t have to order two more cones just to have an excuse to stay back with me so I don’t feel bad about messing up everyone’s vibe,” says Nellie. “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing, I can’t help but be a nice guy I guess,” says a completely confused Lenny. “But how can everyone just accept that they can’t go into the woods? Don’t you want to see for yourselves what all the fuss is about?” inquires Nellie. “No, the thought hasn’t even crossed my mind, not even once, I’m pretty contented with being alive,” Lenny responds. Nellie grabs Lenny with both arms and stares into his eyes, “Please Lenny, come with me, just one time, do it for me”. The lovestruck Lenny stares helplessly into Nellie’s hazel eyes, he’s lost all his senses by now, and agrees to accompany her into the woods. “Ok, this Saturday, don’t tell the other guys.” An ecstatic Nellie jumps for joy and kisses Lenny on his cheek, which seems to send him in a trance.Start writing here…