By Claire Riley
By @S F Brooke
“Babe, when I was thinking about our third anniversary I was thinking something like a fancy dinner,” Darryl complained, after getting hit in the face with a branch for the third time. “Not getting kidnapped.”
His wife’s laugh made him smile and he reached up to pull the black blindfold up but his hand was gently slapped away.
“No, Darry not yet! We’re nearly there,” Eden told him, pulling his hand some more and making him duck under a low tree branch.
Darryl felt the summer sun land warmly on his face as he stood to his full height and was stopped by Eden’s hand to his chest. “Are we there now?”
“Okay…” she said, lifting the blindfold. “Ta-da!” Her hands waved with a flourish towards the nearly empty lot.
Darryl’s jaw dropped, “No way, I thought this was taken down years ago! Isn’t this private property now?” he asked, taking a step closer to the childhood treehouse.
Eden nodded, “I managed to talk to the new owners of the property and they let us check it out since my folks were the previous owners.” She patted the old trunk of the tree. “Isn’t it amazing?” Eden came forward and clasped his hand with hers.
They looked at the old two by four wood playhouse, the red-painted roof chipped, with its carved-in steps on the tree trunk. The tire swing that no longer held a tire from a nearby branch added childhood essence to the whole tree.
“Do you wanna see if we can still fit inside?” Eden asked, her grin huge and her eyes were sparkling.
“The last time we were here we were fifteen and fourteen, will it even hold us?” Darryl asked while tilting his head up to look at the still plentiful green leaves that covered the treehouse.
“Only one way to find out,” Eden grinned, already stepping on the steps of the treehouse and climbing up. Her husband was close behind her making sure she didn’t fall or slip. Opening the plastic hatch cover, the rusted latch creaked as it flipped up. She scrambled inside bonking her head against the small roof, “This is a lot smaller than I remember.” she laughed, rubbing her blonde head.
“Well it was ten years ago,” Darryl pointed out, climbing in next to her. The two of them took up almost the entire space, crouching so they didn’t hit their heads on the short roof. Glancing at the inside of the playhouse they saw the many old yellowed drawings from a childhood long since passed, the chalkboard paint that covered one side of the house still doodled in white, pink, and blue chalk. Leaves from the outside that had come inside crunched under their hands as they scooted forward to take a look.
“How did we fit three of us in here?” Eden asked almost rhetorically as she moved the leaves to see if anything was under them.
“Well, Sid was always smaller than us. She was the youngest and barely five feet at fourteen years old and still, she was the president of our little club.” Darryl pointed out, waving his hand rapidly against a spiderweb. “What did we call ourselves again?”
Eden laughed, “The Seed Club,” she started.
Darryl grinned, “That’s right, because of the apple orchard. We were The Seed Club.” He shook his head. “That was so stupid.”
Eden shook her head as well, “I know it was, blame Sid.”
They both laughed before they went back to looking for anything that might have been left behind when they were there for the last time almost ten years ago.
“Hey! Check it out!” Darryl called, picking up something from the pile of leaves in the corner. “It’s a picture.”
On the back of the picture it was written in faded pen, ‘Darry Granger – 15, Sidney Fall – 14, Eden Delaney -15 Club Seed! 2009’
Darryl flipped over the faded polaroid photo; the outdoors and the weather had clearly deteriorated the picture but it was still able to be seen. Eden came close to him, looking over his shoulder. They looked at the faded image, seeing both of their younger selves framing Sid in the middle. Her pink bandanna protecting her head and a smile on her pale cheeks.
“That was a year before she told us,” Eden said softly. “We lost her in 2014.”
Darryl swallowed thickly against the feelings that were trying to consume his mind again, the grief he felt at losing a best friend. “I know, she fought so hard.”
Eden hugged him and they both needed a moment before continuing to look at the picture. “Sid was always so full of life, even when she was going through treatments.” She touched the picture with her fingertip. “I remember getting her that bandanna since her old one was so dull looking.”
Darryl kissed his wife on the cheek. “She would’ve had a blast coming back to see this old place. We spent nearly every summer here,” he reminisced as he pointed things out to lift the sad cloud of remembrance. “Like there’s the old window where I fell out when I was seven and broke my arm! There’s the spot on the roof where Sid got hit on the head with a branch coming through, and over there is the spot where we always ate watermelon and popsicles,” he continued as he crawled over to the floorboards. “This is where you chipped your tooth when you fell and ate it on a piece of wood. That nail on the window sill is where Sid tried her lightning rod experiment and nearly electrocuted us!” His smile grew as he finally found what he was looking for and brushed a huge pile of orange and brown leaves away. “Here’s the best spot.”
Eden crawled over and gasped happily, “I’d forgotten about that!”
Inscribed into the wood floors were the three kids’ initials all inside the shape of an apple. The date they’d first met was carved on the bottom. Getting out her phone Eden took a picture and saved it as her wallpaper, also sending it to her husband.
“This is a pretty good way to celebrate our anniversary, but do you think we can still get something to eat?” Darryl asked, pocketing the picture in his jeans.
Eden laughed, “I think we can do that Darry, but can we spend just a little more time here?”
Darryl nodded, content to just remember all the years’ worth of wonderful memories the three best friends had in the old treehouse every summer from the beginning of elementary school to early adulthood. Eden had a small smile on her face and he knew that she was doing the same thing. They focused on the good memories, not the ones where Sid was too sick to climb the tree or even the gentle swing of the tire made her nauseous. Sid used to have a wild imagination and she was the ringleader for the three of them up till the day she’d passed. Eden and Darryl had never forgotten her and never would. To see her memory relived in an old treehouse became a gift they didn’t think they’d be able to have.
“I think our kids need one,” Eden sprouted out, “when we have a kid, that is.”
Darryl smiled and nodded, “With a red roof, in a big tree, and a tire swing.”
“Exactly like this one!”
“I like that plan, Eden.” Darryl complemented, catching his wife’s hand and giving it a comforting squeeze. “Ready to go now?” he asked softly, knowing how much his wife missed her best friend. The two of them had been even closer than his own friendship with Sid.
Eden gave him a sad smile, but her eyes were bright and calm. “I think I am, this place was the best treehouse ever.”
“I’ll say it was,” her husband agreed.
The two of them made their way out and down the steps of the treehouse. Hands held together, they said goodbye to the old playhouse and the memories they’d made there.
“Goodbye, Sid,” Eden whispered to the old tree, looking up into the leaves as if she could see her friend’s face. She turned with a smile and took up her husband’s hand. “What do you think of the middle name Sidney?” she asked.
Darryl laughed as an answer listening to his wife start talking about treehouses, baby names, and places that served really good pizza. He took a final look at the treehouse with the setting sun shining behind it and squeezed his wife close to his side. Their voices drifted out as they went further away from the treehouse. The memories they had made there had sowed seeds that had blossomed into a friendship that had lasted for years. Maybe the apple really doesn’t Fall far… at least not for The Seed Club.
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