The Skeleton Tree

For the Fault In Our Stars competition.
Rowan remembers the days spent with her old best friend, Henry, who seems to have disappeared out of her life. Wanting to get their friendship back on track, Rowan finally realises why they had drifted apart in the first place.

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I walk through the wet grass, watching random blades stick to my boots. Memories of better days flash through my eyes, as I see the woods. The woods I went on so many adventures on with him.
One particular tree catches my eyes. It is tall and spindly, like a skeleton, its arms reaching out to the other trees around it. My mind goes back to a cold, Autumn morning. The air was bitter, and the wind was strong. Rain spattered down on us, but we didn't care. We were explorers, unafraid of the rain. We had bigger things to fight off than that. We dragged up our hoods and cycled against the freezing wind. My hands were numb and raw-pink, and my legs ached, but it felt good. Something about cycling with your best friend in the rain and cold felt sort of nice.
We near the entrance to the woods, which sway and rustle, inviting us in. I see his eyes light up with excitement, as they always do when he gets a new idea.
"This is our home now, Ro." He says, pulling back the branches and going in. "Let's make it nicer." We sweep up the muddy-brown leaves on the ground, and pile up the old, stained beer bottles in a corner. Finally, we settle down on a fallen tree, and talk.
"We'll call it Avantia, okay?" He says, smiling down at his new territory, like a battle leader. I am the second in command.
"And how about over there be called Cobbleford?" I say, proudly. We like to sit there and stare at the murky water. Sometimes there are shopping trolleys to climb on, which is always fun.
We climb the slippy branches of the trees, clinging on for life. He climbs higher than me, swinging like an orangutang, laughing away. I sit comfortably, about half the way up. He doesn't know this yet, but I am petrified of heights. Cautiously, I stare up at the sky above, grey and foggy, and watch the raindrops fall down, some of them hitting my face. My eyes rest on a bit of rope, hanging down from the branches above me.
"Look, it's a hanging rope!" I shriek, pointing up at the perfectly tied loop. Trying to get a better look, he scrambles up and feels the rope in his hands.
" It's like in Pirates of the Caribbean. When Jack's gonna be hung!" He shouts, slipping his head through the rope, grinning. I frown, a feeling of dread filling me. There shouldn't be a rope here. And he should definitely not be putting his head through it.
"Be careful. Don't hang yourself." I say, the fear very clear in my voice.
"I wonder who put it here. Do you think someone's going to kill themselves?" He says, excitedly. It's the same face he pulled when that man set himself on fire in the woods near his house. He'd made us go there and see the police tape and flowers, and would not stop talking about it for days. It still haunts me now.
"Don't, please. I don't want someone to kill themselves. We should tell your mum and dad." I ask him, feeling increasingly scared.
"I will when we've investigated." He says, irritated. "This is cool." Suddenly, his foot slips, and I feel myself scream. My heart pounds heavily, as I watch him scramble for footing again. When his feet finally touch the tree again, he yanks out his head, gasping. Our eyes lock with horror.
"I nearly died! My heart stopped!" He said, staring at the treacherous rope, which swings gently in the wind.
"Let's go home." I say, and for once, he agrees.
We bike home as fast as possible, telling our amazing tale to his mum, who stares at us with the same horror I had felt. She calls his dad, who goes to the woods and chops down the rope.
The reason I remember this day so well is because it is the day I realised how I could not live without this boy. I had thought I had lost him in one of our childish games, and realised, I needed him.

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