The Girl Who Went Up A Mountain

For years, I’ve told my kids bedtime stories. Not ones from a book, these were created in-the-moment, often with nothing more than a single word, in this case: “stars”.

There once was a little village that lay in the heart of a small valley, next to deep blue lake. In the village were a dozen families that had lived in the valley for as long as anyone could remember. The village had all they ever needed: bakers who made bread, carpenters who made chairs and beds, weavers who made cloth and seamstresses who made clothes, and of course, the farmers who grew the food and raised the animals. 

The people were happy, though every day for them was short and busy. You see, the valley was surrounded by tall mountains that blocked the sun from shining down except for a few hours a day. The morning came late, and the evening came early. The sun shone more on the mountains than it did inside the valley. The villagers watched as the sun slowly crept down one side of the valley, shone across the floor, and then up the other side. And then they would watch as the shadow would start at the top of the mountain, down across the valley, and up the other side. The sky above stayed blue long before the sun rose and long after the sun set. 

No-one ever came to the valley, and no-one ever left. 

In this valley lived a young girl named Lumi. She had long, light brown hair, bright green eyes, and always wore a light blue dress. She loved to run, and laugh, and play with her friends. She had a rocking horse, a leather ball, a stuffed bear, and three books that she read again and again and again. Her parents were both farmers, and spent their short days out in the family’s huge field with their horses, ploughing long troughs for seeds, and harvesting all kinds of vegetables. 

One day, when she was old enough, Lumi’s father asked: “Lumi, would you like to come out and help us in the field?” 

Lumi leapt up from her book, and said: “Yes, I would, Father!” She ran out the door and stepped into the field, and stopped. 

“What’s the matter, Lumi?” asked her mother. 

Lumi was gazing way out into the vast brown plain. It seemed to go on without end. She knew there was a stone fence at the back of the farm, but she couldn’t see it. “The field…,” Lumi breathed, “it’s so big!”

“Yes, it is! We have to grow a lot of food to help the village,” explained her mother. 

“But … how do you farm something this huge?” asked Lumi. She had seen her parents working in the field many times, but hadn’t really understood how they did it. “I can’t even imagine starting!” 

“Well, you can’t plant the field all at once, silly,” said her father, tussling her hair. “You do it one part at a time. We plough the field, turning it over. Then we sow the seeds. And then every day, we water and weed until we have something to pick. When you do it in small pieces, it’s not so bad.” 

“Oh,” said Lumi, still a little confused. 

“Come, honey, we’ll show you,” said her mother, and they went off into the field. 

Lumi worked all day, helping carry water from their well, and pulling the tangly weeds. They stopped only once, for a quick sandwich when the sun was high in the sky. They worked until the last of the sun disappeared from the far mountaintop, and the valley started to get dark again. 

That night, over dinner, Lumi asked her parents: “Where does the sun set?” 

“It sets behind the mountain,” they replied. 

“What’s behind the mountain?” asked Lumi. 

“Where the sun sets,” they replied. 

“But what else is behind the mountain?” asked Lumi. 

Her parents looked at each other. They had never thought to ask the question, nor had any of their friends or neighbours. “We don’t know,” they replied. 

One day a year later, Lumi’s mother suggested that since Lumi had been so helpful in the fields, that they could take a day and have a picnic at the lake. Lumi thought this was the best idea she’d ever heard, and couldn’t wait. They packed a picnic basket, and went down to the lakeshore. 

After they’d had a wonderful lunch of apples, cheese, bread, and sausage, Lumi’s father asked: “Would you like to go for a swim in the lake?” 

“Yes!” said Lumi, and ran down to the water without another word. She ran into the water, her dress still on, until the water was up to her waist, and she stopped. Then she ran back out. 

“What’s the matter, Lumi?” asked her father. 

“The lake is so big and deep!” she said, shivering slightly. 

“Of course it is,” said her father. “What’s wrong with that?” 

“How could I ever swim in it?” she asked. Lumi knew how to swim, but the little pond on their farm was nothing like the huge lake. 

“One little bit at a time, “ smiled her father. “Why don’t you swim from here to that rock over there?” he asked, pointing to a huge boulder a little way down the shore. 

“Okay,” said Lumi slowly, and she went down to the water, got back in, and swam all the way to the boulder. She climbed up on top of it, and jumped up and down, shouting: “Look! I did it! I swam in the lake!” 

“I’ll bet you can swim all the way back, and then out to that log!” said her father, pointing out into the lake to a large log that floated near the shore. Lumi jumped back into the lake, and swam all the way without stopping once. 

One day, a year later, Lumi was helping bring in some firewood under the brightening morning sky. She looked out towards the mountain where the tip was starting to glow from the sun. 

“Mother,” she asked, “where does the sun rise?” 

“It rises from behind the mountain,” said her mother, starting the fire in the oven. 

“What’s behind the mountain?” asked Lumi. 

“Where the sun rises,” answered Lumi’s father. 

“But what else is behind the mountain?” asked Lumi. 

“We don’t know,” they replied. 

So Lumi asked her friends. None of them knew, either. None of their parents knew. The baker didn’t know, the carpenter didn’t know, nor did the weaver or the seamstress. No-one knew. 

“I want to see the sun rise,” said Lumi one day at lunch. “And I want to see it set.” 

“You watch it every day!” said her father. 

“No, I mean a real sunrise and sunset. Where the sun meets the horizon!” said Lumi. 

“But that’s the horizon,” said Lumi’s mother, pointing at the tops of the mountains all around them. 

“That’s the top of the mountain,” said Lumi. “I want to see where the sun rises and sets beyond that.” 

“Oh,” said her parents. 

After a moment, Lumi stood up. “I’m going to climb a mountain!” she declared. 

“Oh,” said her parents. 

“Well, that’s a long, hard trip,” said her father. 

“Then I’d better bring a sandwich!” said Lumi, and went into the house. 

She came out of the house a few minutes later, dressed with a sweater, long pants, her boots, and a hat. She slung her father’s sack over her shoulder, which bulged with a blanket, a full waterskin, a sandwich, and her stuffed bear. She smiled at her parents, and set off for the tallest mountain, which sat at the south end of the valley. 

By the time Lumi arrived at the tallest mountain, the sun had already set on the west side of the valley. She looked up at the mountain and saw that it was much, much bigger than she had remembered. It loomed over her. She stopped. From her home, the mountain seemed not so … “huge,” she said to herself. She stared at it for a long while, then turned, and slowly walked home. It was very dark by the time Lumi got home, and her parents were surprised to see her. 

“What happened?” asked Lumi’s mother. “Did you see the sunset?” 

“No,” said Lumi, sadly. “I can’t climb the mountain. It’s too big.” 

“Do you remember the first time you helped us in the field?” asked Lumi’s father. 

“Yes,” replied Lumi. “It was fun!” 

“But you were scared of it. You thought it was too big to farm,” said her father. 

“I remember,” nodded Lumi. 

“You’re out there every day, hoeing, watering, and harvesting. Does it seem so big now?” asked her father.

“No, it’s a lot of work, but it’s not that big,” laughed Lumi. 

“Do you remember the first time you swam in the lake?” asked Lumi’s mother. 

“Yes,” replied Lumi. “It was fun!”

“But you were scared of it. You thought the lake was too big and too deep,” said her mother. 

“I remember,” nodded Lumi.

“You swim across the lake nearly every week. Does it seem so big now?” asked her mother. 

“No, it’s a lot of work, but it’s not that big,” laughed Lumi. 

“It’s the same thing with a mountain,” said her father. “It just looks big. You just have to climb it a bit at a time.” 

Lumi nodded. “I understand. I’ll try again tomorrow.” 

The next day, shortly after the sun reached the top of the western side of the valley, Lumi left her house again, dressed in her sweater, long pants, boots, and hat. She had her father’s sack over her shoulder, which had the blanket, two full waterskins, and three sandwiches. She left her stuffed bear sitting in her bedroom window to watch.

The sun was high by the time Lumi reached the tallest mountain at the south end of the valley. She looked up again at the mountain and saw that it was still much, much bigger than she had remembered. It still loomed over her. She stopped. Then she looked down, ahead of her. She could see a kind of path that led up the side. “This,” she said confidently, “is where I’ll start.” 

She climbed the path up the side until the path stopped. She looked down. She hadn’t climbed very far. She looked up, and the mountain still seemed huge. Then she saw a set of holes that covered the side of the mountain. She put her hands and feet in them, and started climbing up. She climbed up and up and up. 

When the holes stopped, Lumi found herself on a small ledge. She sat down, pulled out her first sandwich, and ate it hungrily. She looked about and saw that she had climbed a long way up. The valley floor seemed a long way beneath her. The sun was starting to set on the western edge of the valley. She could still see the stone walls that cut up the valley into the farms, including her own. The field seemed … smaller. And beyond it, she could see the lake. The lake was smaller, too! Lumi then looked up and saw that the mountain was … a little less huge than it had been before. 

At the edge of the ledge, Lumi found a trail that wound up the side of the mountain, zigging and zagging back and forth. When the path stopped, she looked down and saw that the shadow had reached the eastern edge, and it was dark in the valley. She looked down and starting seeing the lights in the village being lit. But she could see that the sun hadn’t set outside the valley. 

The valley looked … small. She could barely see the centre of the village. She couldn’t really see her family’s farm anymore. And the lake … the lake looked no bigger than the pond back home! Everything that once seemed so huge to her now seemed so utterly … tiny

Lumi turned and looked west. She saw vast plains that seemed to run out beyond view, a patchwork of browns, greens, golds, and even a few pockets of red, blue, and purple! Silvery rivers cut through them, edged with deep fuzzy green, flowing out to a lake so huge that it didn’t seem to end. “That must be the ocean!” she exclaimed. She looked up, and saw that the mountain wasn’t so big anymore. 

Up Lumi climbed. She climbed up rocks, carefully walked around boulders, until finally, she had run out of mountain. She stood on the very top, and looked all around her. Below, the valley seemed to be a little dark egg, speckled with the tiny dim lights of the village. When she looked to the east, the skies were dark blue, the clouds a bright white. In the west, the sun had turned from the bright yellow-white Lumi had only ever known, to a deep glowing yellow that sent great long dark streaks across the plains as the sun went lower and lower in the sky. 

Slowly, the sun turned the clouds in the skies yellow. Then they slipped to a light orange that darkened with each moment before finally bursting into a bright red, like a fire dancing across the sky. All around her, the clouds lit up brightly, casting a red hue on everything. The red deepened, and then slowly began to fade as the sun dipped below the horizon, the real horizon that Lumi had always known was there, but could never see. And then, the sun was gone. The lights faded, and slowly everything else grew dark. 

Below her, in the valley, it was almost black. The lights were starting to go out as people were going to sleep. Night had already fallen at home. On the mountain, Lumi found it impossible to sleep, unable to stop watching the changing lights. She found a little nook in the rocks, curled up in her blanket, ate her second sandwich, and watched the stars come out. 

When Lumi awoke many hours later, it was still dark. She looked up and saw millions and millions and millions of stars across the velvety black of the night, sparking into shapes and swirls of light. 

And then she noticed that it was becoming harder to see the stars, like they were fading away. Lumi looked to the east, and saw that the sky was no longer black, but a dark blue. The skies slowly began to light, the clouds appearing from the inky blackness as the light caused them to bloom into fluffy whiteness. 

Then, almost imperceptibly, a thin sliver of yellow appeared. The sky around it seemed to jump with reds, oranges, and yellows. The clouds lit up like great balls of cotton candy as the sun crawled it’s way up into the morning sky. 

Lumi smiled, eating her last sandwich as the sun continued to rise. Then she folded up her blanket and tucked it onto the sack, and started her long, slow climb back down the mountain. It took all day. She wished that she had brought a fourth sandwich. She reached the very bottom by the time the sun had almost set in the valley. She looked back up at the huge mountain next to her. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s not that big,” laughed Lumi. 

Her parents were thrilled when Lumi came home. They had been very worried about her. Her mother served Lumi a huge bowl of lamb stew, Lumi’s favourite. She ate two servings while she told her parents all about her trip. The next day, she told the story to all of her friends. Then she told it to the baker, the carpenter, the weaver and the seamstress. 

Slowly but surely, almost everyone went up the mountain to see for themselves. Everyone thought the sight was beyond anything they could have dreamed. 

So, one day, everyone decided that they wanted to live on the other side of the mountain, on one of the plains, near one of the silvery rivers, and watch the sun rise and set every day. The entire village moved to a new village, and every morning the villagers would greet the sun as it rose into the sky, and bid it goodnight as it dipped from sight. 

As for Lumi, she loved the new village. She loved her new farm. She loved her new pond. She continued to climb the mountains, and she swam in the nearby river every chance she got. 

Then one day she asked her parents: “What’s at the end of the river?” 


My Life As A Cat

Another story told at bedtime, this came from my daughter who tends to act more like a cat than she does a human.

“Lannie! Time to get up!” my mother calls from the kitchen. 

I hate mornings. I just want to stay in my bed, under my comforter. I crack one eye open and look. A sliver of sunlight is peeking in through my window, creating a thin pizza slice of brightness across my room. It’s too bright, I decide, and close my eye. It’s too early. Yes, too early. 

“Come on, Lannie, it’s after nine o’clock. You can’t stay in bed all day!” my mother calls. 

Yes I can! I pull the sheets over my head and curl up in the comfy dark. I’m going to stay here all day. There’s no place I’d rather be. I don’t need my friends today, I don’t even need to watch TV. I’ll be happy just to stay here.

My mother opens my bedroom door. “Now, Lannie,” she says, as she walks over to my bed, and pulls the sheets off of me. I start shivering with the loss of all my wonderful warmth. “Nice try, you. Up and at ‘em.” 

“I don’t need to get up. It’s not a school day!” I protest. 

“That’s not the point. You’re not staying in bed all day,” my mother repeats. She throws open my curtains, and my room becomes way brighter than I can stand. 

“Moooooommmmmmmm!” I whine. 

“No ‘buts’. Move!” she orders, and scoops me out of bed. I land on all fours. She then straightens my bed, and puts the pillow back where it belongs. I hadn’t even noticed that I wasn’t sleeping with a pillow. 

“Phooey!” I say, and sit back, kneeling. “I’m not getting dressed!” 

“That’s fine! I just want you out of bed!” she smiles. “Wash your hands and come down for breakfast, please.” She walks out of my room. 

I kneel for a moment, then arch my back, and reach forward with my hands until I’m lying on the warm floor on my belly. I love a good stretch when I wake up. I roll onto my side, then over onto my back. The sun shines on my tummy, and it feels warm, almost like my comforter. I decide that staying in my room might be almost as good as staying in my bed. 

I nearly fall back to sleep lying there, until I hear the sound of cereal being poured into my bowl. I scamper to my feet and race down the hall, nearly slipping as I round the corner into the kitchen. “No milk, please!” I say, as I hop up onto my chair. 

“Are you sure?” my mom asks. 

“Yep! I like it dry!” I say, taking my spoon and getting a huge spoonful, which I then cram into my mouth. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about the way my cereal tastes without milk, and how it scrapes the roof of my mouth. I could eat this stuff all day. 

“Do you at least want orange juice?” asks my mother, standing at the fridge. 

“Moh fahfs,” I mumble, munching my cereal. My mother disappears to somewhere else I in the house. When I’m finished, I slink off my seat and sneak a cup out of the cupboard. I fill it with orange juice and drink it down quickly before my mother catches me. 

I quickly head back to my room to get my favourite book, and go into the living room to curl up in the bay window, looking out into the backyard. I tuck a large pillow behind me. The sun warms me up almost perfectly. For a few moments, I lay back dozily, not really wanting to read, and just enjoying the lazy day. 

Opening my book, I flip to the page I left off at, and continue. It’s a good book. I’ve read it four times this year, and I’ll probably read it at least another two before Christmas. It’s about a princess warrior who brings peace to her kingdom. I’m not even sure why it’s my favourite story, I prefer stories with spaceships. I think it’s the sword fighting that I like most. 

The morning passes slowly, just how I like it. My big sister isn’t around, my mother is probably downstairs, and my father is … well, somewhere. I have the house to myself. It’s quiet, and I can read in peace. I glance up from my book a few times to look about. I spend nearly half an hour watching a squirrel try to jump on the bird feeder attached to the outside of the bay window. The squirrel manages to get really close, until it notices that I’m watching it. It turns and runs away like I’m going to gobble it up. 

Before I know it, though, it’s lunchtime. 

“Mom! I’m hungry!” I call out, still in the bay window. There’s no answer. “Mom?” Still no answer. Where did she go? “Mom!” Nothing. “Mom! Mommmm! Mommmm! Mommmmm?” 

My mother finally appears from wherever she was hiding. “Good heavens, what is it, Lannie?”

“What’s for lunch?” I ask. 

“Hungry, are we?” she asks. Her hands are on her hips. That’s supposed to mean she’s unimpressed. It doesn’t help me get my lunch any faster. 

“Tunafish sandwich!” I reply quickly

“You have that every day!” she says. 

“But I like it! Tuna is yummy!” I reply. 

My mother sighs. That means she’s going to do what I asked. “Okay, honey. Can you please change into clothes before eating, though? And after lunch, I want you to go outside. I don’t want you indoors all day.” 

“Aw, but Mom, these are my favourite PJs! I’m comfy in them!” They really are my favourite pyjamas. They were a Christmas present from my Aunt Bernice. She always gets me the best things. They’re what my father calls a “dusky pink”, with outlines of cats all over them in black. I would wear them every day, if I was allowed. 

“No way, you. That’s the fifth day in a row wearing those. They need to be washed!” she declares. It’s in “that” voice, the one she uses when she is going to do something whether I like it or not. 

“Fine,” I grumble.

I finish the page of my book and slowly wander back to my room, climbing over every chair, sofa, and table in the living room along the way. I pull out four shirts before I decide on my light blue tank top with sparkles in the shape of a heart. I only have four pairs of shorts, and three of them are in the laundry, so I have to wear my purple knee-length ones. I grab my dark green hoodie as well, since I’m not as cozy in my summer clothes as I am in my PJs. 

Or in my bed. Hmph. I’m still not happy that my mother kicked me out of my own bed. 

“Lannie! Your sandwich is ready!” my mother calls out. I hear the plate clink on the table, and I’m off like a shot. The sandwich is on a dark blue plate, next to a big glass of milk. 

It feels like I haven’t eaten in forever. I wolf down the sandwich, taking long drinks of the milk. I stop only when the doorbell rings. My mother gets the door, while I peer from my chair in the kitchen.

“It’s Grandma!” she calls. I shove the last of my sandwich in my mouth, and slurp in enough milk to finish chewing. I skip in to see Grandma, still licking my lips. 

“Smells like someone had tuna for lunch!” Grandma laughs as I give her a big hug. Grandma is really good to me, so I love her a lot. My mother says Grandma spoils me, but that doesn’t bother me at all. “Have you been a good girl today?” she asks. 

Pshaw! I’m always a good girl! “Yes, Grandma!” I chirp. I can hear my mother snort. 

“Would you like a treat?” Grandma asks. 

“Ohh!” I hug her leg and wrap myself around her. “What is it? What is it?” 

“How about…” Grandma digs into her purse, and pulls her hand out, concealing whatever she’s about to give me, “some chocolate?” 

CHOCOLATE!” I screech. I love chocolate! Really, really, really, really love chocolate! 

“Here you go, sweetie,” Grandma says, handing me a bar of chocolate wrapped in gold foil with a paper sleeve. 

“Yay!” I snatch the bar from her hand, give her a quick kiss, and bound over to the bay window to eat it. 

“Ohh, someone needs her nails trimmed,” Grandma says, holding her hand, “they’re almost claws!” 

“Oh, sorry, Grams!” I say, as I stuff the chocolate in my face. 

“Okay, you, outside!” my mother demands. “And I’m cutting your nails tonight. No excuses!” 

I’m booted into the backyard. My big sister Karen is out there, sitting at the table, listening to her music. There’s a half-eaten tuna sandwich in front of her. I drop down low, hoping she can’t see me, and creep in quietly. I can barely hear her music as I’m just underneath the sandwich, which I can see through the glass tabletop. I reach up ever so slowly, and carefully reach to steal the sandwich when she reaches out and slaps my hand. 

“Mine!” she says, not even looking at me. “Shoo!” 

“Nyah nyah nyah,” I reply, sulking away. I flip onto the hammock in the corner of our yard. The sun’s still shining on it, which is a bonus. I stretch out once for good measure, then settle in for a bit of a nap. 

I’m not sure how long I sleep, if I sleep at all. A rock bounces off my forehead, snapping me completely awake. I sit upright and look around. Did something hit me? Or did I just dream it? Before I can dismiss it as just a figment of my imagination, a small pinecone bops off the back of my head. 

“Stop it, you brat!” I hiss. It’s my annoying next door neighbour, Jason. He and I are actually friends, and we play a lot together, but he has a really annoying habit of bugging me when I’m in the hammock. I think I’ve had two days this entire summer to spend in the hammock without him throwing stuff at me. At least it’s not the ice cold water he used the last time. I hid in my room for two days after that — I did not want to speak to him!

“Wanna play?” he asks through the fence. 

“I’m sleeping,” I say, lying back on the hammock. 

“I’ve got the new Dance, Monkey, Dance video game! We can play it!” Jason suggests. I have to admit, that does sound like fun. I played it at Sue’s house yesterday, and we laughed so hard it hurt. Jason’s a good dancer, too, which makes the game more fun. 

But I’m comfy again. The sun is just right, the breeze is just right, I’m not hungry or thirsty, and I’m in the perfect position in the hammock — I’m worried that if I even move my hand to scratch, I won’t feel as good. You don’t get this comfy without a lot of effort, or unless you’re really lucky. 

“Sorry, Jason, not today,” I say sleepily. 

“Jump rope?” Jason asks. 

“Nope,” I reply. 

“Ball?” Jason begs. 

I close my eyes, and I let myself drift off…

I awake a while later. The sun has moved away from the hammock, and I’ve gotten chilly. I hop off the hammock and look around. The sun has left the entire backyard, blocked by the trees in my other neighbour’s yard. Even Karen has probably gone back inside. I head back to the door, only to find it locked. 

“Hello?” I call, tapping on the door. “Hello??” I walk around to the side window and peer in. There’s no way my mother would have left me home alone. I’m only seven, for crying out loud! I scratch at the window, but there’s no answer. I hop over the fence and walk to the front door. It’s locked, too. I ring the doorbell once, twice, three times. “Hello!!” I yell. “Hi, I’m still here! Someone should let me in!” 

The front door cracks open. I race to it before it closes. Karen is on the other side. “You want in?” she asks. 

“Yeah,” I say, trying to push my way through. But Karen’s blocked the door. “C’mon, lemme in!” 

“I dunno…,” says Karen. 

“Mom!” I yell through the door. “Karen’s not letting me in! Mommmm!”

My mother says something to Karen, and she steps away from the door. I walk in, sticking my tongue out at her. I go back to my room, and hop up on my bed. I take the brush off my night table, and start brushing my hair. It’s long and brown and amazing. It also gets tangled pretty easily, so it takes a while for me to get all the knots out. But it’s relaxing — I like brushing my hair. I can do it for an hour with ease. 

Which is what I do, until I’m interrupted by my father, who yells: “Dinner!” from the kitchen. 

I sigh, have a really good stretch, and head to the dinner table. I think it’s stew. At least, it looks like stew. If stew were a brown blob with little grey bits. I love my father, but can’t cook. He says he can, but the food he puts on my plate never looks like something I could eat. I poke at it with my fork. 

“What’s the matter? Not what you had in mind for dinner?” my father asks. I look at what he’s eating. It looks like chicken fingers. 

“Can I have yours?” I ask. “I think you got mine by mistake.” 

“Nice try, Lannie. This is mine. You didn’t answer when I asked you what you wanted. It’s Leftover Night, so you get what you get,” my father says. 

“You didn’t ask me! When did you ask me? I don’t remember you asking me!” I protest, still staring at the brown blob. I hold my fork just in case the blob comes to life and I have to defend myself. 

“You were in your room. I called you three times, but you didn’t answer. So that’s what you get,” my father grins.

“Hmph,” I hmph. “No fair.” 

I’m the last to finish eating. It takes me an hour. I keep leaving the table to go to the bathroom, or get another glass of milk, or to change my shirt. Everyone else has gone off to do whatever it is that they do, leaving me to my cold lump of brown goo. Admittedly, it does taste good, I just won’t admit it to anyone. 

After dinner, I curl up on my father’s lap as he watches TV. I don’t understand what he watches. It makes him giggle, which makes me laugh. He cuddles me, and strokes my hair, which makes me feel all fuzzy inside. I would stay there all day, if my father were around. He’s only around during the day on weekends. 

Suddenly, my mother appears with a pair of nail clippers. I try to make a run for it, but my father has me by the waist. 

“Mommy said you need to have your claws trimmed, kiddo,” he says. Betrayed!

“No!” I yowl, trying to wriggle free. It’s no use, my father’s grip is too strong. I try to kick, but I’m held tight. I think about trying to scratch my way free, but I realize that I would get on a lot of trouble if I hurt anyone. I make owie noises instead, until they’re done.

When the sun’s down and the stars are out, I’m changed into clean pyjamas — my mother stole my favourite ones and put them in the laundry. My bed stares at me, begging me to climb in. For some reason, though, I don’t want to get into bed. Not yet, anyway. I feel the urge to run around the house for a while. I race down the hallway, skidding around the corner and hide under the kitchen table. My mother looks up from her spot in the living room and wonders what just happened. Then I bolt out from under the table and leap over the chair and land on the sofa next to her, scaring her half to death. I giggle, and leap off the sofa, aiming for the chair on the other side. But my foot catches on the footstool and I crash onto the floor. I burst out laughing. 

“Lannie,” my mother sighs, “go to bed…” 

I’m still giggling as I crawl into my comfy bed. I shuffle around three times to find just the right place to lie down. I carefully pull the comforter up around me, and curl up into a ball. I sigh happily, and brush the hair out of my face.

I might just do the same thing all over again tomorrow. 


The Threehouse

When my kids ask me to tell them a story, I don’t get a lot of prep time, sometimes only a few minutes. So when I start to tell a story, I don’t always have an idea of where it’s going to go, and it doesn’t always go well. Every so often, I surprise myself with a story that shouldn’t have worked at all, but did…

Luke looked out of his window. The rain hadn’t stopped in four days. He sighed. He’d read every book in the house, played every game, listened to all of his music, drew a hundred pictures. He was bored. He wanted to go outside. He wanted to run and play. He wanted to play with his friends, go exploring through the forest, ride his bike, play ball out in the field. When he looked out the window, however, all he saw was water. The front yard was a giant puddle, the backyard a lake. 

Luke sighed again. He sighed mostly to himself, and also for the benefit of his parents, in hopes they might solve his problem. They didn’t hear him. So he sighed louder. Either they didn’t hear him, or were ignoring him — he wasn’t sure which. He tried sighing louder still, but it came out as a grunt. 

“If you’re bored, buddy, I could use your help cleaning up the workshop…,” Luke’s dad suggested. 

“No thanks,” Luke replied, still staring out the window. Being bored was better than having to clean. 

“Do you want to play with your LEGOs?” Luke’s mom asked. 

“Not really,” Luke replied, still staring out the window. 

The rain kept falling. Luke watched the water pour out of the downspout into their rain barrels. The barrels were overflowing at the top, spilling down the sides like a waterfall. Rain dripped from the power line where it curved before attaching to the back of their house. The bird house looked like it had just been plucked from the bottom of a pond. The water pooled, filling with hundreds of rings where the drops of water landed. It was as wet as wet could get. 

And then Luke saw Mr. Sorenson. Luke saw Mr. Sorenson a lot, as he lived next door. Mr. Sorenson was a nice man, and Luke enjoyed talking to Mr. Sorenson whenever he could, because Mr. Sorenson never talked like any regular grown up. Mr. Sorenson also did things that Luke’s father described as “odd”, though Luke usually found them funny.

Mr. Sorenson was watering his plants. That would have seemed normal, except that it was raining. The rain could be ignored, too, if the plants were sheltered from the rain, which they weren’t. The strangest part, though, was that the plants were plastic, stuck in a box that was attached to the outside of the large treehouse in Mr. Sorenson’s backyard. Mr. Sorenson was out in the rain, watering fake plants. And to Luke, that was just weird

“Mom? Dad? I’m going outside!” Luke announced, racing over to the closet next to the back door. 

“Are you sure, honey?” asked his mom. “You didn’t like it the last time you went out!” 

Luke didn’t answer. He knew that if he said why he was going outside, his parents might stop him. He quickly put on his bright yellow rubber boots and his bright yellow raincoat with hood. He opened the door and stepped out into the rain. It was cold, like the rain always seemed to be, but with its hood up, Luke’s raincoat kept him dry. 

Luke trotted over to the short white picket fence at the edge of his yard. Mr. Sorenson stood on a short ladder, carefully pouring his plastic watering can over the equally plastic flowers. 

“Hi, Mr. Sorenson!” Luke smiled. 

Mr. Sorenson looked about, and quickly spied Luke. “Eh, Lucky!” he waved. Mr. Sorenson never got Luke’s name right. He was an older man, though not as old as Luke’s grandpa. He wore a wildly patterned red, blue, green, and yellow button-up t-shirt, a pair of long beige shorts, winter boots, and a pink toque over his scraggly white hair. He looked like he should be wearing eyeglasses, but never did. 

“What are you doing?” asked Luke. 

“What’s it look like I’m doing?” Mr. Sorenson squawked, throwing his hands at the fake plants. “I’m watering my flowers!” 

“But it’s raining!” laughed Luke. 

“So? Plants need lots of water, and this rain ain’t nearly enough!” said Mr. Sorenson. Luke looked down at the puddle he was standing in.  

“But they’re plastic flowers! They don’t grow!” Luke giggled. 

“Says you! I’ve been raising these beauties for years. They’ve never looked better,” he smiled at the slightly faded green and yellow flowers. “Why don’t you come give ‘em a sniff?” 

“Okay!” said Luke, and ran for the fence. He opened his own gate, ran around the corner, and through Mr. Sorenson’s open gate. He ran right up to the front of the treehouse.

The treehouse had always fascinated Luke. It was no mere treehouse. Luke’s friend Todd had a treehouse, which was only a small wooden box perched up in a v-shaped branch. Todd’s treehouse had a single doorway, with no door, and a hole for a window, with nothing else. It was cold when it was windy, and you couldn’t play in it when it rained. 

Mr. Sorenson’s treehouse was huge, wrapping around the massive oak tree, a full ladder’s height off the ground. The house was short, big enough for Luke, with a low-sloped roof that extended out over a deck that went all the way around the house, creating a sheltered porch. The outside of the treehouse was painted white, with a little bright red door. The windows were real, also painted red, and even had glass. The door was about Luke’s size. Around the deck was a white railing.  

The treehouse looked nicer than Mr. Sorenson’s house, a red bricked building with windows that were always closed, and curtains that were always drawn. The door needed a coat of paint. At night, the lights never seemed to be on. 

“C’mon up!” said Mr. Sorenson, climbing up the ladder, and hunching down low to walk onto the deck of the treehouse. His back pressed against the roof overtop the deck. Luke followed up, and hopped up onto the deck, too. Luke could stand on the deck without any trouble.

“See, they love the rain!” said Mr. Sorenson, looking at the plastic flowers. They were stuck in a box full of dirt. The flowers were wet. The dirt was so soaked that it almost looked like mud. 

“You’re silly!” giggled Luke. “Those can’t grow!” 

“You don’t think so, eh?” asked Mr. Sorenson. “Are you a botanist?” 

Luke kept giggling. “No!” 

“Then how do you know they’re not going to grow?” 

“Because they’re plastic! Plastic plants don’t grow. My grandparents have plastic plants that look the same every time I visit them!” laughed Luke. 

“That’s because they don’t take care of them. Every plant needs water, sun, and food!” explained Mr. Sorenson. 

Luke tried not to laugh, but he couldn’t stop. “Well, they look hungry to me.” 

“Well, I’ll just have to get some plant food, then!” said Mr. Sorenson. He turned to the door of the treehouse, opened the little red door, and walked in. After a moment, he called out: “Are you comin’?”

Luke had never been inside the treehouse before. He’d always wanted to go inside. “Coming!” he cried, and raced inside. He stopped just inside the door and stared. “This place is nicer than my house!” 

The treehouse was a single room, with a large sofa on the left, bookshelves on either side of a small fireplace along the back wall, and a table and chair on the right. Two sets of shelves sat on either side of the table, lined with all sorts of boxes and bags and jars and canisters. A large patterned oval rug in rainbow colours lay in the middle of the floor. The walls were wallpapered with a dark purple, with a deep red trim at the top and bottom. The room felt cozy and inviting. Luke wanted to grab a book, curl up on the sofa, and listen to the rain hitting the roof. 

He noticed that there were windows on all the walls, not just next to the door. He could swear that he could see a mountain out of the windows next to the fireplace, and a lake out the window over the table. He was too scared to move any closer to the windows so he could be sure. 

And then he saw it. Or rather, he didn’t. 

“Where’s the tree?” blurted Luke. From the outside, the house wrapped around the tree. Inside the house … there was no trunk in the centre of the room! Outside the house, branches came out of the roof. Inside the house, the roof was wooden beams, and no sign at all of branches. 

Then Luke saw Mr. Sorenson crouched over a shelf next to the table. Or rather, he didn’t. 

Unlike on the porch outside, Mr. Sorenson was standing straight up. Luke turned around and looked at the door. It was still Luke’s height, exactly what he’d seen before. But the rest of the room looked … bigger. He blinked and rubbed his eyes, to make sure he wasn’t seeing things.

“What kind of crazy treehouse is this?” Luke asked. 

“Threehouse,” corrected Mr. Sorenson, not looking away from the shelf. “Ah, here it is!” he exclaimed, picking up a box. 

“You mean treehouse,” said Luke, correcting Mr. Sorenson. Luke corrected Mr. Sorenson a lot, though he had given up trying to get Mr. Sorenson to say his name properly.

“No, threehouse,” repeated Mr. Sorenson. “Read my lips. ‘Three’. ‘House’. Threehouse.” 

“What’s a threehouse?” asked Luke. 

“What’s a … what’s a threehouse?!” exclaimed Mr. Sorenson. “Goodness boy, don’t they teach you anything in school?” He looked at Luke, who still looked terribly puzzled. “I guess I’ll have to show you! Come with me,” said Mr. Sorenson, and led Luke back outside. 

Climbing back out onto the porch, Mr. Sorenson first he leaned over to his flowers. “First, I need to feed my beauties.” He shook out the contents of the box onto the flowers. Small blocky bits in green, blue, and yellow fell onto the soil.

“LEGOs?!” Luke exclaimed. 

“Plant food!” said Mr. Sorenson. “How else do you think I’m supposed to feed plastic flowers?” 

“You’re weird,” said Luke. 

“You listen to your parents too much,” said Mr. Sorenson, grinning mischievously. 

“My mom told me she feeds her flowers with, um, fern and liner,” said Luke. 

Fertilizer,” corrected Mr. Sorenson. “And that only works with real plants. That does nothing for fake ones.” 

Luke scratched his head. It hurt a bit. “I’m confused.” 

“Well, yeah, you’re thinking too hard,” smiled Mr. Sorenson.

Luke nodded. That sounded like good advice. He looked back towards the closed red door. “Can we go back inside?” 

“Of course we can!” said Mr. Sorenson. He turned back to the door, and knocked with a rap-rap-raprap-rap. Then he turned the door handle and ushered Luke inside. 

The sofa was gone, and a bed lay in its place. A large comfy chair sat on the other side of the room where the table and chair had been. The bookshelves were replaced with a dresser and a small table with a wash basin on top of it. The rug was rectangular and white and very fuzzy. The walls were light blue with a white lace pattern. Out one window he saw a dozens of skyscrapers, out another window he saw a huge bridge, while out of another he saw endless farmland and a big red barn. The only thing that looked familiar was the fireplace, which sat in the same place. 

Luke looked as puzzled as he felt. “How…? What…?” 

“What? Have you never seen a bedroom before? You do have a bedroom, don’t you?” asked Mr. Sorenson. 

“Well… yes, but not in… the same room… as my, uh, living room,” said Luke, pausing only to figure out how to say what he was seeing. 

“No, no, no! This is not the same room, Lucky! This is my bedroom. The last room we were in was my living room. Honestly, can’t you tell the difference?” 

“But … we only went outside and came back in!” protested Luke. 

“No we didn’t.” 

“Yes we did! When you go into a different room, the other room is still where it was!” said Luke. 

“Yes,” agreed Mr. Sorenson. “And so is my living room.” 

“Where?” asked Luke. 

“There!” said Mr. Sorenson, pointing to the door. 

“But that goes outside!” said Luke. 

“No, it goes to my living room,” said Mr. Sorenson. “I’ll prove it to you!” 

Mr. Sorenson ushered Luke back outside again, and closed the door. Then he knocked on the door with a rapraprap-rapraprap, and flung it open. Luke walked back through the doorway.

In the centre of the room was a huge white bathtub, sitting on huge clawed feet. One end had large brass taps and a brass faucet, the other end was raised and curved, looking almost like the back of a large chair. There was a toilet over where the bed and sofa had been, a towel rack where the table and comfy chair had been. The fireplace remained again, but was alone on the wall. There was a desert sand dune through one window, a jungle through another, and igloo through a third.

“Oops!” exclaimed Mr. Sorenson. “Sorry about that. This is my bathroom.” 

“It’s a nice bathroom, Mr. Sorenson … wait, how did you get a bathtub in this room?!” blurted Luke. 

“House,” corrected Mr. Sorenson. “It’s in my threehouse.” 

“But … this is impossible!” shouted Luke. 

“Bah! That’s what grown-ups say! Nothing is impossible if you’re willing to believe that it’s possible,” said Mr. Sorenson. 

“You can’t have three rooms in the same house!” 

“Of course you can! Your house has more than three rooms, and you don’t have a problem with that!” said Mr. Sorenson.

“That’s not the same thing!” said Luke. 

“I just use my rooms better than you do,” said Mr. Sorenson. “That’s why it’s a threehouse.” He pushed Luke towards the door again. “Otherwise I’d had a really hard time living here.” 

“You live here?” asked Luke. 

“Well, of course I do! Where else do you expect me to live?” asked Mr. Sorenson. 

“What about your real house?” asked Luke, pointing in the direction of the large brick house. 

“That thing?” asked Mr. Sorenson, pointing to the house with disgust. 

“Don’t you live in that?” asked Luke. 

“Goodness, no! That’s just for guests. I hate going in there. Too many rooms to clean! I hate cleaning rooms,” said Mr. Sorenson. 

“Me, too,” added Luke. 

“Okay, now let’s see if I can get the right room this time,” said Mr. Sorenson, and balled his hand into a fist. 

“Can I try?” asked Luke. 

“Sure, why not?” said Mr. Sorenson. “I think you need to knock with a ‘tap-tap-tap’. Can you do that?” 

“Sure!” said Luke. He stood in front of the closed door, and knocked with a rap-rap-rap. Then he opened the door and they walked in together. 

The room had shelves all the way around the outside, filled with every toy Luke could have ever desired. A TV hung from the wall where the fireplace had been. A small table sat in the middle of the room, on which sat a snack of cheese, crackers, and apple juice. Luke walked over to one of the shelves, and picked up a soft stuffed rabbit. 

“Why do you have a room full of toys?” asked Luke. 

“I didn’t know I did,” muttered Mr. Sorenson, looking around. He picked up a few toys himself, put them back down, and walked to the table. He stared at the snack for a moment, then picked up and munched on a cracker. He put his hands on his hips, frowned, and said: “Well, darn!” 

“What’s the matter?” asked Luke. 

“Now I’ve got a fourhouse!” 


The Girl Who Could Fly

When she was about six or seven, all my eldest wanted to do was fly. I remember those years, the dreams I had where I flew, and the unbelievable feeling of freedom and lightness.

“No you can’t!” said Trina. She always said “no”. 

“Yes I can!” said Loretta. 

“I don’t believe it!” said Trina. 

“Me, neither!” added Carly. Carly didn’t always agree with Trina, but even this sounded a bit too fantastic. 

“I can, too!” protested Loretta. 

“Can’t!” said Trina. 

“You’re a liar!” added Carly. 

“Am not!” said Loretta, stomping the ground. 

“Are too! And we’re not playing with a liar!” sneered Trina. “Right, Carly?” 

“Yeah!” added Carly. She followed Trina as they sauntered off. 

“Pfbbbbt!” Loretta stuck her tongue out at her departing friends. “I’ll show you! I can fly!” 

And so Loretta took a step back, braced her left foot behind her, crouched down, took a deep breath, and focused on the field in front of her. Then she silently counted backwards from five, and took off in a great sprint. She ran as fast as she could, pumping her legs as hard as she could. Then she took three great big leaps, and flung herself into the air…

And landed hard on her belly, her pink t-shirt staining with grass and dirt, her face planted right into a dandelion. She could hear the squealing laughter of her two now-former friends as she picked herself up, brushed off some of the grass and dirt, and started to walk away quickly, pretending to not hear the names being yelled at her from across the field. 

Loretta threw open the door to her home, a small two-storey red brick house a block from the school field. She ran right to the stairs, raced up two steps at a time, slammed the door to her room shut, and flung herself on her bed, face down into her pillow. But there were no tears, nothing to console her. She just felt angry. 

Why hadn’t she flown? She had done it before … well, in her dreams, anyway. But it was always so easy to do — she just had to run and jump, and she could soar like a kite. She punched her pillow in frustration. She sighed deeply, which was hard to do with the pillow in her face. She rolled over onto her back and stared up at the clouds on her ceiling. 

Loretta’s mother had decorated Loretta’s room when she was five. Her floor was carpeted with a green shag that looked and felt like grass. Her walls were tall grasses, flowers, and shrubs, except the wall with her bed, where there was a pasture and a distant hill. Blades of grass had little ladybugs and ants, the flowers had bees and butterflies. Above the plants, the walls went light blue, which turned to a darker blue on the ceiling, which featured the clouds. Most of the clouds were fluffy-looking, but two looked like animals: a bunny and a cat. 

The room had always made Loretta feel comfortable and relaxed. It was her space, her private place where she could forget all the things that bothered her. First was Steven, her little brother, who was always drawing little moustaches on her ladybugs. Then there was Trina, her supposed best friend who had a knack for saying just the right thing to make Loretta feel bad. Homework! Homework always made Loretta feel bad. But then, so did dance lessons — she just couldn’t get the pirouette right, no matter how much Madame Janet tried to keep Loretta steady. Loretta loved dancing, but she always failed the tests. Tests. THE TEST! 

Loretta leapt off her bed and went to her book back, and pulled out her history textbook. The Wright Brothers. Why did history matter? Why did she have to learn about people who’d been dead a hundred years? Loretta could learn anything off the internet in a few minutes! Why spend any time memorizing things that she would never need? Loretta crawled onto her beanbag chair, and wiggled around until she was comfortable. 

She soon found herself staring at the clouds on the ceiling again, the textbook laid flat on her lap. It wasn’t that the textbook was boring, it was … well, the story was boring. It was hard to learn when there was nothing for Loretta to relate to. She closed her eyes and sighed, long and softly. She felt restful, even a bit sleepy.

Why was it so hard for Trina to believe that Loretta could fly? Had Trina never flown before? The more Loretta thought about it, the more it made sense: Trina probably hadn’t flown before. Anyone who had flown wouldn’t have objected so much. 

Loretta popped her eyes open, and looked at the clouds drift across her ceiling. The grasses on her walls swayed in the gentle breeze, and the ladybugs buzzed from grass to flower to bush, across the walls. Of course Loretta could fly. And the only way that Trina would believe that Loretta could fly was for Loretta to show Trina! 

Loretta hopped up from the beanbag chair (a difficult thing to do), putting her textbook on the floor as she got up. She went over to her window, and lifted the lower pane. She then backed up to the other side of her room, braced her left foot behind her, crouched down, took a deep breath, and focused on the open window in front of her. Then she silently counted backwards from five, and took off in a great sprint. She ran as fast as she could, pumping her legs as hard as she could. Then she took three great big leaps, and flung herself into the air…

Loretta sailed through her open window like a dart. She spread her arms, tilted herself to one side, and glided effortlessly around the huge red maple tree in her front yard. She reached out with her hand, feeling the leaves tickle her fingers as she spiralled around it, before climbing up into the air. 

She had that feeling in her chest, right under the lower edge of her ribcage, that came only when she flew. It was excitement, exhilaration, almost halfway between breaths. She felt light. She smiled uncontrollably as the wind blew her long blonde hair over her shoulders and down her back like a cape. 

With a movement that looked like a fancy dive off the high board at the swimming pool, Loretta bent in half, touching her toes, and dove towards the ground. She went faster and faster as she descended. She pulled up from her dive, and swooped under her neighbours’ huge pine trees before flying just over their rooftops, as she headed back towards the field, and the playground. 

Trina and Carly were still there, playing with each other on the jungle gym. “Hi Trina! Hi Carly!” Loretta called as she came closer. Trina looked around, but couldn’t see who had called her name. “Up here, silly!” 

Trina looked up, and saw Loretta fluttering over the playground. “How… how are you doing that?!” she yelped. 

“I told you, I can fly!” laughed Loretta. 

“I saw you… I saw you fall flat on your face! I thought you were making it up!” said Trina. 

“Yeah!” breathed Carly, not sure what else to say.

“Nope!” grinned Loretta. “Wanna see what I can do?” She didn’t wait for Trina or Carly to say anything else. With an effortless pirouette, she flew upwards into the air, so perfect that Madam Janet would weep with happiness. She then arched backwards into a perfect dive, tumbling in perfect grace until she was barely a body length above the ground. There she stopped, the palms of her hands held together. Then she giggled and cartwheeled all the way around the playground without ever touching the ground. Then she flew under the playset Trina and Carly were standing on, and floated up next to them. 

“Wow…,” breathed Carly. “That looks like so much fun!” 

“Yeah, it really is,” said Loretta. 

“Can I fly with you?” asked Carly. 

“No way, me first!” shouted Trina, pushing Carly to the side. “Take me!” 

Loretta wasn’t sure about Trina. Her meanness aside, Trina was quite a bit bigger than Carly. There was a question of if she could fly. “Um… I want to try with Carly first. She’s about my brother’s size, and I sometimes fly with him.” 

“You fly with your brother?” asked Trina. 

“Well, more like dangle him by his feet until he tells me where he’s hidden my dolls,” admitted Loretta. “Wanna fly, Carly?” 

“Y-yeah,” said Carly, slowly. She looked at Trina cautiously. Trina was pouting. 

“Give me your hand,” said Loretta. Carly reached up slowly, like reaching out to an unfamiliar dog that may or may not bite. Loretta took Carly’s hand, and gently pulled up. Carly squealed as her feet left the playset and dangled freely. Somewhere inside her, she felt light, like she was halfway between breaths. 

Loretta took Carly on a low, slow pass around the field. Carly reached down with her free hand, and brushed the top of the grass as they went by. She plucked a dandelion that had gone to fuzz. The fluffy white seeds blew off on their own as Loretta sped up, taking Carly faster, and higher. Soon they were above the treetops, whipping along the streets, diving behind houses and scaring squirrels. 

When they came back to the playground, Trina was sitting on the edge of the playset. She had been crying. She wiped her eyes and sniffed as Carly’s feet touched back to the ground. Carly’s eyes were wild, her hair messy, and she smiled so widely that her head looked almost cut in half. She let out a tremendous cheer and raced around the playset laughing. She stopped only when she saw Trina’s face.

“Trina? Are you okay?” asked Carly. 

“Nevermind!” snapped Trina.  

Carly walked over to Trina. “Don’t you want to fly? You should try, it’s a lot of—“

“Shut up!” cried Trina, tears starting to flow again. “Just … be quiet, you!” 

“That’s not nice to say, Trina. Carly’s your friend,” said Loretta. “I’m willing to take you, too.” 

“Why didn’t you take me first?!” Trina demanded. 

“Because I didn’t know that I could. But Carly wasn’t hard at all, so I think I can take you. I’ll just need to start slow to make sure.” 

Trina sniffed again and wiped her eyes. “O-okay. You’re sure?” 

“Yes,” smiled Loretta. “Give me your hand.” 

Like with Carly, Loretta carefully picked Trina up off the ground. As she’d thought, Loretta wasn’t much harder than Trina, though it was a little harder to go fast, and turning was a bit more difficult. Still, it wasn’t long before Trina was laughing, shouting for joy, begging Loretta to go faster and faster. 

They raced over their school, looking at the workers who were tarring the roof. They flew through the parking lot of the corner store, flicking the antennas on the cars, leaving them wildly wobbling back and forth. They raced down an empty street, kicking up dust and leaves and a stray plastic bag with their wind. Finally, Loretta took them up to the top of the tallest tree in the area. They floated just above the highest leaf as it twisted in the breeze, unsure if it should obey Mother Nature, or Loretta. 

“It’s so amazing up here,” said Trina. “I wish I could see this all the time. Could you teach me to fly?” 

“I don’t think I can,” said Loretta, sadly. “I’m don’t even know how I can do it. I asked my dad once how I could fly. He said it’s because I’m a birdbrain,” she laughed. 

“Your dad called you that? That’s a mean thing to say!” protested Trina. 

“Oh, my dad’s a goofball. He calls me all sorts of funny names,” giggled Loretta. “You know, you call me names, too. And they’re not all nice, either.” 

“I know,” said Trina, hanging her head. “I’m sorry. I— I just don’t know what I should say.” 

“Sometimes, say nothing. Just listen. You’d be surprised what you can learn by listening to someone.” 

Trina looked up. “That’s a good idea,” she smiled. “I’ll try to remember that.” 

“You do that,” smiled Loretta in return. 

“Loretta!” called a distant voice. 

“Uh oh, that’s my dad,” said Loretta. “It might be dinner time. I gotta go!” She flew Trina back down to the playground, then flew off, waving as she left. She raced over the tree tops, ducked behind her neighbour’s house, and aimed straight for her open window. 

Loretta sailed in through the window, tucked and rolled, and with a twist plopped right into her beanbag chair, which always made a handy and soft landing. 

“Loretta!” called her father again. 

Loretta’s eyes popped open. The clouds on her ceiling were still. The grasses and the ladybugs were frozen in place. 

“Coming!” said Loretta, and leapt up from her beanbag chair. She bolted from her room, and raced down the stairs two at a time. Her father was standing at the bottom. She collided with him and hugged him tightly. “Yeah, Dad? What is it?” 

“Your friends are at the door,” he said. 

“Oh! Thanks, Dad!” said Loretta, and went to the front door. Waiting there were Trina and Carly. Carly was smiling and waving happily. Trina looked unhappy. “Hi guys. What’s up?” 

“Oh, we thought we’d stop by and…,” Carly looked at Trina, and elbowed her in the ribs. “And…?” 

“Srmm,” Trina mumbled. 

Carly looked at Trina sternly. “Excuse me?” 

Trina wasn’t much louder. “Sorry.” 

Carly prodded Trina. “About?” 

“I’m sorry I didn’t believe you,” said Trina. “I wasn’t being nice.” 

“And I’m really sorry I called you a liar,” added Carly. “That was a dumb thing to say.”

“That’s okay,” said Loretta. “It’s a pretty weird thing, anyway. You want to come in and play?” 

“Yeah!” said Carly. Trina nodded hopefully. 

They climbed the stairs to Loretta’s room. Loretta plopped down in her bean bag chair.  

“You have the best room,” said Trina, looking at the walls and ceiling. “I wish I had a room this cool!” 

“I love it. It’s my own little world. This is where I feel my best,” said Loretta. 

“Is this where you fly?” asked Carly, looking at the clouds. 

“Yeah,” said Loretta shyly. “It’s … it’s pretty easy to that in here.” 

Trina spun in a circle and looked at everything. Then she knelt next to Loretta. “Can you show us how?”