Wednesday, April 27, 2005
His tranquil afternoon was interrupted suddenly by the noise of approaching footsteps. With the suddenness of an often-practiced drill, he leapt to his feet, switching off the radio and sliding it into his back pocket which was spotted lightly by the dew of the grass. He froze then, for a moment, like a deer in the headlights, as he listened to the casual tromping. It continued to grow nearer, and so with spontaneous decisiveness, he whirled around and threw himself bodily through the still-open door of his hideaway. A thick rope hung down beside the door, and after slamming shut and barricading the only entrance and exit, he gave a mighty tug on the rope.
There was nothing for a moment, and then a swoosh and thud, before an angry voice cried out in surprise. A female voice. Jonah wrinkled his nose in distaste, looking skywards for strength before giving a mighty wrench to the door. The sound of splintering wood and the shock of pain in his arm reminded him to remove the wooden barricade before trying again.
A young girl stood there, about his age, if a little younger. Though he pegged her to be older than Claire, easily. In front of her, a green woollen blanket lay in a rumpled pile on the ground, while a thick length of tree branch with a rope secured around the middle rested atop it, ever so innocently.
“You! Tried to kill me!” the girl sputtered indignantly, hands on her hips.
“Oh relax. You’re alive, aincha?” he replied dismissively, not even looking up from the contraption. “Gonna take me all day though to fix it back up.”
Grumbling, he started towards the blanket and log, picking them up and peering way up into the tree from which they’d fallen. He was still puzzling over the quickest way to reset the trap when he realization began to sink in that she was still standing there, glaring at him.
“What?” he asked impatiently and a little bit grandly, finally lowering the load in his arms to look over at her.
She didn’t look like any girl he’d ever seen before. Her hair was stick-straight and a perfectly ordinary brown which fell just past her shoulders. The was girly enough. But there were no less than three dead leaves stuck in its tangles, and the trespasser seemed completely unconcerned about their presence. Her clothes were even weirder. A pair of boys’ shorts that were several sizes too big, belted twice over around her waist hung a good few inches below her knee, while she wore a plain white cotton shirt under a heavy woven poncho that was ripped in several places. Her feet were bare, a deep tan marred by white scratches from the conifers in the woods, no doubt.
“Aren’t you gonna apologize for trying to kill me?” she replied, sizing him up in turn, her hands still on her hips.
“No. What kinda girl are you anyway?” Losing interest even before completely finished his question, he slung the blanket over his shoulder, tucking the log up under his arm. Then grabbing hold of the lowest branches on the tree, he heaved himself up onto its limbs.
“The kind that’ll whup you but good if you don’t apologize right now.”
With an air of great disdain, he looked back down at her, before returning to the task at hand. Limb after limb, he began to climb up into the higher reaches of the tree, his progress hindered by the burden. He was only about two-thirds of the way up when a disturbance shook the tree surprised him. Even more surprising was when the girl suddenly came clambering up the other side of the tree, pushing aside one hand and stepping on the fingers of the other as she scurried her way to the top with great ease.
He was so busy staring up at her in slack jawed amazement that he forgot to continue along with what he was doing. It was only when she’d finally reached the top and looked down with an impatient, “Well, are you coming or aincha?” that he remembered and started pulling himself up again.
“But - you’re a girl,” he protested as he finally reached her, half-distracted as he worked on balancing the log on one of the higher branches, tenting the blanket over it.
“Is it that obvious?” she replied sarcastically, automatically reaching out to help him with his project.
“Don’t touch it! You’ll get your girl germs all over it.” He yanked the blanket from her grasp with too much gusto and wound up completely upsetting the whole job. Heaving a sigh, he resigned himself to starting over. “Would you beat it?”
“It’s a free country, ain’t it? Is that your cabin?” She’d stopped helping with the blanket and was now peering down between her feet at his hideout.
“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll forget you ever saw it. It’s mine and there are no girls allowed.”
“Fine. I’m not a girl then. That your cabin?”
“You can’t just not be a girl when you are one,” he found himself explaining impatiently. At least Claire and Annabelle, for all their shortcomings, recognized that they couldn’t just go about not being girls when it suited them.
“Who says? I beat you up this tree, didn’t I?”
“You cheated. And I was carrying stuff. That doesn’t prove anything.”
“Fine. I’ll race you down then!” The last bit of her challenge shouted, the girl was already shimmying her way down the trunk with alarming speed.
“No fair!” Jonah shouted after her, though he couldn’t resist the bait and began descending as quickly as he dared. But by the time he’d finally dropped to the ground, she was already at the door of his beloved hideaway.
“Get away from there! It’s private!”
“You sure’s bossy.” The girl looked back over her shoulder, giving him a bored look, before returning her attention to the cabin. Without another word, she slipped inside.
“Get out!” In a full-on fit of self-righteous rage, Jonah ran the short distance to the cabin and grabbing her by the arm, tried to bodily haul her out of it.
But the girl was not to be so easily dissuaded from her exploring. Before Jonah was even fully aware what was happening, his arm had been twisted around behind him, pinned painfully against his back, while the girl just continued looking around with her cow-like gaze.
“You give?” she asked without any real interest.
He struggled for a few moments, railing against the idea of giving in to a girl. But finally, he was forced to admit that he was stuck and his shoulder was really beginning to ache. “Yeah, I give already!”
Without a word, she released his arm and he quickly stepped away from her, rubbing at his shoulder. “You coulda broke my arm!”
“Yeah, and you coulda killed me. We’re even.” She wasn’t even looking at him as she spoke, but instead was making a circuit of his shed, picking up his various treasures and fingering each one as she examined it.
“Careful. Don’t touch that! That’s mine.” The protests rang out impotently in turn as each of his most precious belongings was subject to scrutiny.
“I’m Ceejay,” she introduced herself, not looking up, and paying no mind to his feeble comments.
“What kinda name is Ceejay for a girl?”
“Cecilia Jane,” Ceejay admitted with a sigh, dropping into a squat to look at the bag of marbles on the floor, before straightening back up to look at him again.
“So you’re Cecilia then.”
“What a stupid name.”
Her manner of completely ignoring his insults he found downright infuriating, and it was only through clenched teeth that he grudgingly replied, “Jonah.”
“Like the whale?”
She seemed contented with that answer, just nodding as she wiped off her hands on the poncho before taking up a seat on one of the two over turned boxes by the beaten up table.
“So, whatcha doin’?” she asked, picking up the unfinished hand of solitaire that was laid out and setting down a red five on a black six.
“Would you stop touching my stuff? And what do you mean, what am I doing? I’m trying to get you outta my house!”
“You live here?” She looked around the shack incredulously.
“Not all the time, but sometimes yeah.” He puffed out his chest a little, drawing himself up straighter. “I like roughing it.”
Truth was, he’d never spent a night in the cabin. He usually didn’t even stay past dark. But he wasn’t going to tell her that.
“You must, if you live here. You don’t even have a bed.”
“A real man doesn’t need a bed,” he found himself boasting without thinking. He felt stupid as soon as the words left his mouth, a feeling in no way soothed by the look she gave him before returning to the hand of cards.
“Don’t you have somewhere else to be?” he asked pointedly, after a few moments of silence.
“Oh. Well, can you leave? This is a private hideout.”
“You wanna go fishing?”
Drawing in a deep breath, he gave her a stony look. “No, I don’t wanna go fishing with a girl. I wanna be left alone.”
“You’re pretty boring.” She dropped the sentence with perfect indifference, not even looking up from the cards. This left him apoplectic with a rage that took several minutes to calm before he could offer a reply.
“I am not boring.” It was weak, he had to admit it. Especially after taking so long to come up with it. “You’re boring.” And it wasn’t getting much better.
She again refused to take the bait, instead just shrugging her shoulders in a long and drawn-out motion. “I know where we can get worms.”
“Don’t you listen? I said I didn’t wanna go fishing.”
“You said you didn’t wanna go fishing with a girl. And I told you already, I’m not a girl.”
“You are too!” His voice was growing louder as he became more infuriated with her. Regaining control, he continued in a more level tone: “Fine. What are you then?” He smiled smugly at her, certain she’d have to admit she was a girl then.
“Figment of your ‘magination. C’mon.” She got up and moved towards the door but refused to step out of the structure until he followed.
“What? How can you-? Oh, fine. Then I’m gonna wake up.” Surely, he had her there.
“Not a dream, dummy. An imaginary friend. We stick around in the day too. You comin’ or not?”
He had no idea what to say to that. He needed to get her out of his cabin, though, and it was clear she wasn’t going until he did. “Fine,” he admitted with a sigh of defeat, trudging reluctantly towards the door and putting on a full show of how much he didn’t want to be doing this.
His theatrics were wasted, however, for she showed no signs of even noticing. Instead, her face broke into a brilliant grin. When he came within reach, she slapped him suddenly, painfully on the shoulder. “You’re it!” And then without further ado, she was off like a shot, bare feet slapping over the grass before she disappeared into the foliage.
- posted by Deborah @ 5:40 AM
Copyright 2003 - debbo