We have been busy lately, and I keep forgetting that I wanted to write about things. My parents are working and spending their free time on building what would be mothers workshop and gardening areas. They rarely have time for me, but I don’t mind. I am used to being alone, wandering the woods, reading books and drawing. Writing, on the contrary, is not a thing that comes naturally to me. Sure, I tell stories to myself in my head all the time. That happens without thinking about it. But actually sitting down and taking the notebook out and writing the things I have been telling to myself in my head is work. Maybe one day I will do it more often. Maybe not. Sometimes I want to preserve my thoughts because you can not remember everything, even if you think you do. You forget things, and when time passes the things you remember are not the things that actually happened. Sometimes I reread my favourite books and find that my memories about them are all wrong. Memories are a curious things. They keep changing everytime you think of them. I think writing it down helps you with that, because writing doesn’t change.
One night when I was eating some leftovers my mother came to talk to me. She stayed at work late, as usual, so it was already dark.
“You know summer break starts soon”, she said. Of course I knew. I have been looking forward to it for weeks. We have been doing all sorts of tests and assignments. It was getting on my nerves, especially the group assignments. Nobody really wanted to have me in their group, even though I was one of the best students.
“We are going on vacation for a few days”, Mother continued. “Well, some of our friends are going and they invited us to come with them. Especially the Arringtons.”
The Arringtons are our neighbours, living just across the street. Kelsi Arrington is coming to visit now and then, mostly to talk to mother about health and gardening. And her son Oliver… well, he’s not exactly my friend. But he’s not mean to me like Saul. He is not my enemy. Sometimes I think, he would even like to talk to me, but he is afraid of the others, especially of Saul. He is not friends with Saul, but everybody is afraid of Saul and his parents or their money at least.
So, we are going to a retreat in the woods a couple of hours drive from here, and the Arringtons are gonna be there, and other friends of mother as well.
“Kelsi said you’re friends with Oliver”, mother says. I wonder how she got that notion. I don’t have friends… at least not at school. I have friends in the deep woods, but it is best not to mention them in writing. Who knows what they will think about it. “We will have a great time.”
The final weeks of school come and go, and I bite my teeth together and complete the assignments and get the best grades, because this is what I do, no matter what the others are saying. I have my books and my woods to retreat and hide in after I do the things I have to do. I am like a willow, I bend without breaking, and I can snap back to what I am. I don’t care if the others laugh at me, or hide my things, or spill ink on my clothes, or threaten me. The heroines in my favourite books feel the exact same way, and in the books, the others are mean to them because they’re secretly afraid of their power. I imagine that I have hidden powers when I walk back from school, a hidden knowledge that one day will change the world, and I immediately feel better. I embrace the names that they are calling me with. I am Forest Girl, I am Needlehair, I am all of those things and even more.
My parents work hard to earn their vacation days, and I even look forward to the trip, because my parents will have time to spend with me.
We are riding with the Arringtons in their van, and the adults are having a great time indeed, talking and laughing together. Oliver is very quiet. He is staring out of the window, watching the scenery pass us by. I have my books to read, and watch the scenery now and then too, but sometimes I look at him. He does not look back. He seems to be afraid. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the fact that he had been getting bad grades lately. Maybe there’s something wrong in his home. Maybe he’s afraid to sit next to me, because on the last day of school Saul said I was a witch.
I’m no witch, but I would like to be.