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Beyond the Wicked Tree

On the hill outside our town, was a large tree. By no fault of its own, it had grown to look quite grotesque. For many years, generations perhaps, it had been known by the name: The Wicked Tree.

All us children were told to keep away, which, naturally, meant it always peaked our interest to adventure outside the safety of the town walls. We’d make the hike to the hill to play around the Wicked Tree’s great many twisted roots and mangled branches.

Amongst the sweet, fresh autumn air, with damp soil beneath my boots, and shimmering sunlight playing spiderweb patterns over my hazel skin, I could never understand how my parents thought the Wicked Tree as anything other than beautiful.

Ricard agreed, of course.

He was the boy who lived beyond the wall. Beyond the hill. Beyond the Wicked Tree. Somewhere at the crust of the forest I imagined. He rather struck me as a lumberjack’s son, though, he never said if he was. He always joined us to play, his face a little to rosy, his smile a little to happy. I thought he looked a lot like my Father, with his eyes hiding sadness only an old man could have, which was silly, since, Ricard was still a boy. My Father had seen war, Mother had told me, and it never went away, it had made invisible scars.

I wondered what sort of scars Ricard had that none of us could see.

I was the daughter of the town tailors. Mother and Father made all sorts of beautiful clothes. I had been born surrounded by colours and textures. My parents had many discarded clothing items they deemed unsuitable for sale, these were often boxed and given to the local priest to distribute amongst the poor. It was from these castoffs that I collected a mahogany scarf and flat cap for Ricard.

On a late autumn afternoon, when most of the leaves of the Wicked Tree had fallen, and the rich smell of smoke carried far across the meadows from the chimney stacks of the town houses Ricard and I sat upon a contorted root. We watched the other children play ball, tossing up leaves as they dodged and dived. The girls squealed in delight and clutched their skirts around their petticoats as mud splashed about.

I passed the bundled-up garments to Ricard. His slim hands accepted the brown paper bag, opening it to pull free the simple garments. He smiled, the first, genuine smile I had witnessed, as he fingered the hat and scarf, savouring their textures in his mind.

“Thank you, Lila.”

He wrapped the scarf around his neck and nestled the hat firmly on his head of curly blond hair. His glittering blue eyes warmed as he brushed his cold fingers across my hand. “I’ll see you later.”

I did not see Ricard again.

Not until I was eighteen, and the Abnormalities invaded.

A/N: I don't know if I'll continue this - I was outside today, working in the yard, and a novel sort of dropped into my head, I had to immediately stop work and rush inside to write this little piece to get something down. I might upload it as I write it - though - you'll have to forgive it's unedited sate. ^_^;

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