Did you ever have an image or scenario stuck in your head? I had this idea for years which eventually morphed into a totally different series/characters whom you’ll meet eventually. None of the original inspiration remained when I fished it. The other night I was having a BBQ in my mother in laws backyard and realized that I still really liked that original scenario and I could sill use it. Hmmm…
Maybe this is my answer to the ever illusive YA story I’ve been trying to write for my Dance Gurlz.
This is just a rough sketch as I tried to outline this very specific image that’s been running around in my brain. It's not true flash fiction, since it’s actually a vignette, but anyway…enjoy.
If you’re liking the Rory Gets Schooled series, I’ll write some more.
The Broken Tree
© 2008 Suzanne Lazear
The night was cool and windy, which seemed odd since Magnolia thought The Valley was hot in summer. The breeze teased her hair and whispered to her, sending odd shivers down her spine, as the crickets serenaded her along with the occasion howl of a dog.
Sitting up in the curved branch of the broken, but still growing oak tree, she curled her needs to her chest and started out at the crazy, overgrown backyard that stretched out before her. Senior year was supposed to be the highlight of thirteen years of school. Now it was going to be the worst year ever. The crappy house in the Valley was just the start.
Why did they have to get divorced? It still hurt, like being stabbed with a thousand knives. But not as much as that final pronouncement. Her mom got the house in Brentwood, the house in Big Bear. She even got the boat. The one thing she did not want was Magnolia.
That hurt. A lot.
“It will be alright Mags,” her father told her as they packed up their things. “Our life won’t be quite as comfortable,” since her mom got half of everything. She even got alimony. “But we’ll make it work.”
Her dad had recently inherited a house from his Aunt Edna – something her mom didn’t want either. Not only was it in The Valley, which was the other end of the universe for a West Side girl like her. It was in Sylmar. It might as well be on the moon.
Certainly it was too far for her to continue to go to her school, Saint Monica when school started back up in the fall. Now they were scrambling to even find a high school for her. She’d rather die than got to Sylmar High.
Actually right now she’d rather die, period.
Magnolia leaned back, placing her head on the trunk of the huge, gnarled oak tree. The canopy of leaves covered half the backyard and some of the braches nearly touched the ground, creating a weeping willow effect. The trunk of the tree was shaped like the letter J, making it easy to climb up into its thick and inviting branches. The one she was sitting on was big, strong, and smooth, the leaves shielding her from immediate view from the sliding glass doors leading into the house, but giving her a full view of the yard.
It was good for hiding…and brooding.
A crack from elsewhere in the yard drew her attention back to her surroundings. She had this eerie feeling that she wasn’t alone, but there was plenty of wildlife in the huge, overgrown backyard that had been left to the wilds for decades.
There was a little hill smack in the middle, covered over in wayward groundcover planed by someone long ago, weeds, discarded branches from the tree, and freeway daisies.
The overgrowth of groundcover had half swallowed the remains of a long-abandons swing set, slide, and jungle gym. One wall was covered by wild rose bushes and overgrowth. The wooden fence was falling down. There was also a variety of trees, a rusted tricycle, an old BBQ, an empty chicken coop and junk.
This was the backyard the world forgot.
There was also a bona fide trailer in the backyard too – an old Airstream. Her dad wanted to restore it. Fun.
She wanted to hire a bunch of people to pull everything out but the old tree, bulldoze it flat, and put in a pool.
Her dad said no. Not enough money.
That was a hard concept to understand. Never, in all her years, had she been told that. Magnolia was not spoiled, but she had lived a charmed and privilege life. A life that was over.
Even the promise of a car so she could see her friends over the summer didn’t soothe her raw and angry feelings. Certainly she couldn’t invite her friends here.
The house was worn, with peeling green paint and sagging wood. The front yard was nearly as overgrown, and there were cars in the front yard. Cars!
“It’s not much, but it’s all ours, free and clear,” her dad told her. “We’ll fix it up bit by bit.”
Not likely. As soon as she graduated she was outtie. One thing her mother could not touch was Magnolia’s college fund.
She heard the crack again and her head snapped in its direction. The sound came from the wild, overgrown hill in the center. She noticed that mushrooms seemed to grown around it. Now that’s a fairy hill if I ever saw one…
Where did that thought come from?
It was near twilight and for a moment the yard was bathed in an eerie glow. For a moment it looked like it came from the hill. She blinked and everything was normal.
She continued to hide in the tree past full dark and moonrise.
Then she heard the crack a third time.
This time she saw a movement. A crouching figure. Long, pale hair in the moon light. Blue eyes like a cat.
Her heart beat fast and her breath was short. Someone was in the backyard with her!
She opened her mouth to call out to her dad, who was just on the other side of those glass doors, watching TV, giving her some space. But nothing came out.
Those blue eyes focused on her for a moment.
All the breath went out of her body.
Magnolia blinked several times and looked again. Nothing was there.
It was not a person, just a cat. Yeah, there are feral cats living in the trailer…
But she couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. Getting down off the comfortable branch she climbed down the J shaped trunk. She carefully examined the yard, now lit only by the glow of the back porch light. Nothing.
Fraidy cat. Opening the sliding door she walked inside, then closed it, shutting out the wilds behind her.