by Eleanor R. Wood
1.) The tree fort your friend built, that you so longed to play in, but instead only visited once. When you realized I couldn’t climb up and play too, you never went back. I marked it for us anyway.
2.) The shallow creek, where we splashed and cooled off in summer. Your smooth feet would slip on the rocks. When you fell and cut your chin that time, I licked it better.
3.) The wide open space of the park, where you’d throw the frisbee over and over and I’d bring it back to you again and again until we both fell, laughing and panting, to the damp grass.
4.) The school gate, where I was never allowed to follow, but had only to wait, senses quivering, until the surge of exiting humans narrowed to the blessed single point of the only one who mattered to me. Your delightful ruffling of my ears… the taste of your cheek, mingled with all the scents of the day.
5.) The woods, with their squirrel trails and muddy puddles so good to drink from. You always pulled me away, but if only you’d just tried a sip, once, you’d have known the rich flavors of the forest as I did.
6.) Your bunk bed, low enough for me to leap up with a scrabble of back feet so I could snuggle up with you and rest. I don’t remember when the resting stopped being only at night, but I still loved to curl up to you even when the sun blazed bright outside and the Mother tsked at me when she came in and out with strong-smelling drinks.
7.) The house, where we were supposed to only be together, until the time you stopped being there with me and so did everyone else and it was quiet and your scent was faint and my heart thumped with loneliness.
8.) The cold corridors that smelled strongly of the stuff that only came out if I had an accident indoors, where the Mother held my lead tightly and strangers smiled or frowned at me and then suddenly you were there, in a bed I’d never seen, and I leapt up and you threw your oddly weak arms around me and my whole body wriggled with how much I’d missed you.
9.) The house, again, alone.
10.) The place where grass grows and dying flowers lie, shorn from life, against smooth stone slabs in rows and rows. You’re not here, but it smells of you, somewhere under the stone where I can’t follow. The Mother cries when we come here. I cry too, because I don’t know how to find you.
11.) The fort, the creek, the park, the gate, the woods, the bed, the house. I go to them, because they are ours. I go to them because maybe, one day, you will be there again.
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About the Author
Eleanor R. Wood’s stories have appeared in Galaxy’s Edge, Diabolical Plots, PodCastle, Nature: Futures, The Best of British Fantasy 2019, and various anthologies, among other places. She writes and eats licorice from the south coast of England, where she lives with her husband, two marvelous dogs, and enough tropical fish tanks to charge an entry fee.
She blogs at creativepanoply.wordpress.com and tweets @erwrites.