One With The Forest

A girl lives in the woods behind my house.

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2. Weird Days

The next few days were weird. Each morning I'd wake as normal, eat, get dressed, then make my way out to the car. Each morning I looked back to the woods to try and spot the girl, but she made no appearance. I did the same when I arrived home from school; hoping to see a silhouette or a flash of blue among the branches, but still no sign of the forest girl. 

I began to wonder whether I had imagined her. Conjured her up in my mind; that would explain how she knew my name. By the fifth day - Friday - I was certain. She was nothing but a hallucination, an unintentional day dream. 

Saturday came and with the weekend off school, I had some time to myself. Walking for about half an hour I found a opening in the middle of the forest. A circle of tall, intimidating pines surrounded me; this forest seemed to be infinite, stretching out in all directions. Pools of light sprung through the leaves above and down onto the woodland floor. I made myself comfortable using leaves as cushions to rest on, slung my rucksack onto the ground  and took my book out of my coat pocket. Woodland life was so quiet and so incredibly peaceful. In the woods I lost all track of time, wrapped in my own cocoon of pine cones, the crisp air, the wet ground and the inky words on pages. 

"What book are you reading?"

Startled by the sound of this voice, I snapped my book shut and clutched it too my chest. As I looked up, I noticed that daylight had almost left my side. Left me alone with this voice. Hours must have passed without me noticing. Of course it was the girl. 

"Wind In The Willows. Do you know it?" She was stood just a few strides in front of me, wearing the same sky blue dress, skinny and pigeon toed. Just as before. 

"No. I've never read a book." She looked sad. Uncomfortable. Suddenly, I felt bad for her. Life in the forest must be difficult. She looked so hungry and beaten down. 

"Why not? I could lend you some? At home I have lots of -"

"No, I can't"

Why was she refusing my offer? Perhaps I was being too nice. "Well, you don't have to, but I mean, if you wanted to. I don't mind."

"I can't read."

Confusion spread across my face and my eyebrows furrowed. Everything went quiet. She looked down at her feet, then back at me. As our eyes locked she smiled, a shy sad smile. I had never met anyone who couldn't read, apart from little kids. Had I misjudged how old she was? She looked around the same age as me, older in fact if you scrubbed away all the dirt. 

"The other day, how did you know my name?" I asked, attempting to steer away from the subject. 

"I see you get in the car sometimes...Your mum shouts at you a lot."

I laughed a little at this "Yeah, that would make sense."

There was a long pause in the conversation and it began to get awkward. I started to collect my things, stood and brushed myself down. Then, I had an idea. 

"What If I taught you to read?"

Her face lit up before she calmly replied "I would love that."

Remembering the light of day, that it was getting late and that mum would not be happy with me, I began to rush a little more. When I turned round, the girl was still smiling. 

"Meet me here again tomorrow." 

She just nodded shyly. I began to walk away and then, just at the last moment, I called out to her, "By the way, what's your name?" 

She had already began to walk away so her reply was distant "Valentina." The word echoed across the forest, bouncing off trees and awaking creatures from their slumbers. I smiled. What a funny name. I looked up through the tree tops to the night sky where the stars had already begun to emerge. Once again, I ran home. 

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