C5 #5 Our Willow Tree
Anna sits underneath the willow tree with her legs crossed. She is feeling restless though she should be happy for it’s her special day.
"What a birthday..." she sighs disappointedly.
She never thought she will feel so miserable and alone on her sixteenth birthday. Earlier during the day, her Marmee tried convincing her to invite a few of her classmates. She blatantly declined. She would rather be by herself. The single good thing for her today is that Marmee Rose lets her wear her casual clothes.
She misses her best friend so much. It has only been over a year when Jo and her family went to Alaska but it feels like it's been way longer than that.
Jo talks to her every day in the internet but it's really not the same. Her best friend updates her daily and she does too. Although when their conversations finally end, she misses Jo even more. It’s a consolation that her friend is doing well there with her parents. At least one of them is happy.
It is not that she is unhappy with her parents but all her life, Jo has been there for her. Maybe Jo adjusts easier than her. She sighs deeply with that thought. She has to suck it up after all.
She starts rubbing the key dangling, with her locket on her necklace that she never takes off. The key is an additional memento given by Jo, her best friend. It came with a wooden box which she uses to keep her letters for Jo.
As for the emerald locket, she can't remember when she got the necklace but her Marmee told her that she was wearing it since she was an infant. Her Marmee said it’s her natal gift for her.
Anna recalls her tenth birthday when Jo and Anna had such a great time. It didn't matter if Jo was her only guest. That's all she needs, her best friend.
But today, it hurts so much for her to spend this day alone, under their tree, Jo's and hers...like they always say "our willow tree".
Though Jo talked to her from Alaska a few minutes ago, she still feels gloomy. The distance is really hard for her. She wishes that things are simpler like they used too. Well, growing up gets complicated year after year. Maybe that is what she needs to accept.
"Anna, it's getting late. Are you ready to go inside now? You haven't even touched your lime cake." Marmee Rose shouts when she peered from the window.
"You might get cold there!" Marmee adds to remind her.
"Just a few more minutes Marmee!" she hollers back.
"Alright, honey, your Popsie and I are just here okay?" Marmee says with a worried tone.
"My Marmee, she has always been worried about me...not having other friends, not being like the other kids..." Anna talks to herself.
Anna sometimes thinks that even before she feels in a certain way, her Marmee can sense already. All the time she is down, her Marmee knows what to say. Like right now. But somehow she gets a bit upset that she is like an open book to her Marmee Rose. It is not that she likes to hide her feelings but oftentimes, it worries her Marmee Rose a lot.
This is one of the things she usually does as if it's such an ordinary thing to do. Other kids find it weird when she talks that way. But why will she care about what they think? If only Jo is here...She senses the stress rising from her chest. She feels suffocated.
Anna resumes her sitting position. She sighs, closing her green eyes and placing both her arms on her crossed legs, palms open upward. She takes a few slow and even breaths. She repeats this breathing exercise several times to calm herself. She focuses on her breathing as well as the beating of her heart.
Deep in her inner calm, she does not notice her locket glowing underneath her shirt. She stays that way for a while.
Finally, when she feels a bit better, Anna stands up and unlocks a hidden hole with her key and retrieves the wooden box. She reaches in her jeans' pocket and takes out a folded blue paper. This is another addition to her letters for Jo.
Popsie Reed was the one who helped Jo to make a hole in the willow tree so Jo will be able to complete her birthday gift for her then.
"Popsie has always known me better. I never had to say anything," Anna blurts out with a smile. Marmee's heart is in the right place but she seems to be always worrying. Why does she feel like Marmee is afraid that something might happen to her?
Unlike her Marmee, her Popsie is the calmer one. Popsie Reed lets Anna join him on his morning jogs along the trail beyond the willow tree. She enjoys hearing the different sounds of nature.
Anna looks at the trail...
For a second, she feels like running away. She is being drawn towards the forest. Anna shakes her head as if to remove the thought. Why would she runaway? Marmee and Popsie will be sad. Maybe she is just yearning for her best friend’s company. Jo is her constant special guest, year after year, her only guest on her birthday. Nobody else matters.
Anna’s attention returns to the wooden box. She stares at the dominance of blue letters from the green ones. This reminds her how long since she got a handwritten letter from her friend. She sighs then returns the box.
Anna climbs to a thicker branch of the willow and starts to sit facing the trail. Though to her surprise, someone else was sitting on the other side of the willow tree. The mysterious intruder is busy drawing on the ground with a stick.
She holds back trying to decide what to do next. Should she just go back to the house? She gets a little curious.
From Anna's view, it is a boy, maybe the same age as hers and is wearing a weird kind of brown clothing. Her curiosity gets the best of her.
"Who are you?" Anna enquires from above where she sits. However, she decides to say it calmly so as not to startle him.
The strange boy jumps to his feet startled by Anna's voice. He looks up with a puzzled expression then asks a question instead.
"You can see me?" still in disbelief.
“There goes my subtlety.” Anna exclaims as she stares at the boy with a confused look.
"Of course I can see you. Do I look blind to you?" she adds.
Anna climbs down the tree and walks towards the boy who's still holding his strange stick, or a staff? Or is it a wand?
Anna gapes at the boy again. He is wearing a long sleeved shirt all the way to his hips with pants tucked inside his boots all in the shade of brown.
His outfit makes him look like one of the hobbits from the adventure movie Jo and Anna watched, except that he is not barefooted, and of course not as short. But he is definitely good looking. Anna smirks a little.
"I have been coming here a lot since I was young but nobody sees me ever. What are you?" the boy in brown asks suspiciously. He still has not given away anything about himself.
"What do you mean what am I? Do I look like I came from outer space or something? You're the one who looks strange!" Anna retorts, starting to get upset.
Anna starts to consider her first thought, which is to leave this strange boy alone. But her interest wins over.
“I live just across the street! There at the house with a very blue door!” she is shouting now and a little flushed already.
“Great, I just pointed to a total stranger where I live! Way to go Anna, just wait for him to strangle you in your sleep…” she babbles on.
“Oh now I even dropped my name for good measure!” Anna shakes her head ignoring the strange boy for once. She is really deciding to turn her back on him now.
Suddenly, the boy holds out his hand to Anna, "I'm sorry, I did not mean to upset you. I'm Caspian by the way."
The strange guy changes his tone, friendlier now.
Anna stares at Caspian's hand still outstretched in front of her. She is debating with herself if she will accept this boy's acquaintance.
Yes, he has a weird appearance because of what he is wearing. But weird is not something new to Anna. Also, he already knows her name and where she lives due to her outburst earlier.
So, what the heck? Anna starts to consider.
"Oh come on, I apologized already. Can we be friends now?" Caspian says with a smile. He has a cute smile too.
"Okay, your apology is accepted, only because it's my birthday today. I'm being generous. Call me Anna!” Anna explains.
“Oh yeah, I already said my name to myself a while ago…” she says in afterthought.
Caspian smiles even more. Really weird girl, but pretty, especially her eyes, he thought.
"Anna, it’s time to go inside! It's beginning to get dark." They hear from across the street.
That will be Marmee, Anna thought.
"I have to go now! It was nice meeting you, I guess. Goodbye, Caspian! See you around,"
Anna hurries to cross the street without looking back while Caspian can’t take his eyes off her. He is still wondering about their unexpected acquaintance. He waits for her to go in through that blue door.
"Happy birthday, Anna! See you again..." Caspian replies in a whisper, as he disappears behind the willow tree.
Clouds start to darken the sky and the sun has already set in the horizon. This signifies the end of another day. Nevertheless, somehow, this will be the beginning of a new friendship between Anna and the strange boy named Caspian.