“C’mon! Hurry up. ” Gary coaxes me from the riverbed. “It’s gonna get dark soon.”
A reminder that perhaps this isn’t the most brilliant idea we’ve ever had. But as the fearless teens we are, we can’t go back now. Besides, I can see the trees with the mistletoe.
“I’m coming. Just wait up for me.” I say. After barely making it onto the large boulder in the middle, I turn back to where I came and can still see Jasmine and Kyle leaning up against the side of Gary’s pickup truck. I cup my hands together and yell, “Hey, you guys! Are you sure you don’t wanna help?”
Even from here, I can imagine Jasmine rolling her eyes at me. She wouldn’t want to break a manicured fingernail or something. Kyle smirks. “No, that’s all right, Wendy. You and Gary go on ahead. We’ll just hang out here and leave you two alone for awhile.” Whatever that means. I’m sure they’re already hopping into the back of Gary’s truck.
I feel the cool drops of water splashing onto my legs since I’ve rolled my jeans up to the knees in hopes of keeping my pants from getting wet. Almost nothing worse than riding home for half an hour in wet jeans that stick uncomfortably to your legs.
Daylight attempts to hide behind the mountains, but hasn’t made up its mind yet. I look for Gary and notice that he’s gone ahead and is waiting for me at the base of the tree.
I get impatient and try to jump to shore, but misjudge the distance enough that my left shoe and sock won’t be going home dry. My shoe squishes as I skip over to Gary.
“Took you long enough.” Gary sees my foot and laughs. “Awww, that sucks.”
I scowl. “Hey, why is it that the mistletoe only grows on the trees on this side of the creek?”
He shrugs. “Well, it was your idea.” He pulls a few black trash bags out of his pockets. “So, do you wanna hold the bags while I pull off the branches?”
“Hell no.” I didn’t come all this way to hold a trash bag. “I’m climbing the tree. I’m smaller and can get up there better.”
“Are you sure?” He eyes me, but knows me too well. “Be careful, hon.”
What did he just call me? I giggle. “Who climbs more trees?” I unroll my jeans to protect my legs. As if to prove my point, the knees in my jeans have already been destroyed by my previous adventures. I had attempted to fix the holes with iron-on patches cut out in the shapes of a heart and a star. Well, the star only lasted about a week, but at least the heart is still here. When your parents don’t have money to burn on clothes, you gotta learn to be resourceful.
Gary kneels down and clasps his hands together to give me a step up to the lowest branch. From there, I’m on my own, as I like it. Up here the sound of the water fades away and is replaced by the rustling of the leaves and an occasional bird. Steadying myself between the forks of two large branches, I reach the bunch of mistletoe and start snapping off sections of it. “Gary, watch out below. Here they come.” He steps back as the clumps start to plummet to the ground. Out of breath, I pause, slump down on a branch and lean against the trunk for a minute. I can hear him gathering up the loot down below. I close my eyes and wish that I could stay here forever.
“Wendy,” he says. “These bags are full. Are you coming down?”
Not if I don’t have to. “Yeah, give me a minute to rest. Why don’t you haul the bags back to the truck?”
I can hear him laugh. “Okay, cuz we wouldn’t want you to fall into the creek. Then I might have to save your butt, or have to perform mouth-to-mouth or something.” He disappears across the water, lugging the bags over his shoulders.
“You wish!” I call after him and grin. Ah, if only life could stand still for awhile. I could hide up here and escape from all the problems down there. With the water, and some berries it might not be half bad. I take a deep breath.
Then again, my foot is getting numb. And mom’s making lasagna. And I think Gary likes me. I smile and descend until my feet touch back down to earth.