My Friend Named Rose

A small pitter patter of rain begins. For anyone else, rain might mean dreadful times. Times filled with sorrow and pain.

Or it may mean evidence of springing hope, a rainbow on the other side, a light of green when the gloom finally leaves.

But for me,

it just means Rose.

It had been a hot day, but the grey in the sky warned of a storm.

I was kicked out of the house. Pa got home from work early, and that usually meant trouble.

As soon as I walked inside from school, my brother Tom gave me a look that immediately advised it would be better if I weren’t inside.

So I trudged out on the porch and into the woods. There wasn’t much more a kid my age could do but invest in my imagination. Tom and Reggie were so much older than me they never cared to play.

I headed farther in the woods, past our small cemetery that included a little small cross. Before Tom, Reggie, and I had been born, I had a sister who died when she was seven. Pa and Ma didn’t talk about her much.

I grabbed a branch and headed deeper into the woods, over rotten logs and rich green underbrush, trudging over muddy holes and little ditches filled with rainwater and mosquitoes.

Eventually I made it to the creek. I rested my little branch beside a rock and padded onto the soft mud, wadding in to let the refreshing water reach my waist.

When it started to get dark and got tired of swimming and making little clay cups, I got out to dry.

But then I saw her.

Bright amber eyes stared at me behind a tree, messy dark hair in a mass.

“Hello?” I asked, standing up straight to try and get a better look. The eyes stayed steady on me, not moving.

Looking back, a boy my size and age should have felt uneasy. The ghostly appearance of her yellow eyes seem to be forever burned into my memory. I didn’t know what would happen next, but I had the trusting innocence of a boy who just wanted a playmate.

“My names Red.” I said while inching closer. “What’s your name?”

The girl said nothing.

I had no idea had to coax her out. “So, do you want to play? I’ve got two branches we can play with.”

I searched for the branch I had earlier, but failed to find it. Then I looked up and realized she had come out from her hiding place and was holding the branch out to me.

She had scrawny limbs covered head to toe in patches of dirt. On her was a small white shirt that was stained with dirt. She had rolled, scruffed up jeans that seemed a size too big. She was so small, maybe a year younger than me.

I accepted my carved branch. “How did you get this?”

She said nothing.

“Do you want to play a game?” I asked finally, awaiting the answer that would make or break me.

She hesitated, then nodded.

A new excitement filled me, one that realized I might for once have a partner in my games. Someone to assist my imaginative development was a friend worth keeping.

Our friendship sparked from there. We played knights, chopping at each other with branches and racing through the woods.

I learned then that she was small but very fast. And she could climb.

She could climb nearly as well as the squirrels, thrusting her little body up with effortless movements and crawling up branches as if gravity meant nothing to

As it started to get dark, a low rumbling echoed throughout the gloomy sky.

She stopped playing and looked suddenly frightened, grabbing my hand and pulling me a direction in the woods I had never gone before.

Eventually we came to a small, rotten treehouse wrapped around a dying oak. It was missing several steps but she climbed over them as if she could do it blindfolded.

Inside the treehouse were countless trinkets. Sylverware, old toys, broken pots, pans, and random rusty pieces of metal I didn’t recognize filled the rotten space.

“Do you live here?”

She nodded.

We spent the rest of the hour in conversation. Well, I did most of the talking, but she was a great listener.

And finally I got curious enough to ask her name for the second time.

All she did then was borrow my pocket knife. Slowly she carved out four letters in the rotten wood. It was a simple word that I sounded out with ease.

“Rose.” I sounded.

She nodded.

“Like the flower?”

She nodded.

Before we could talk any more, it started to rain. Not a light trickle, but a pouring of rain that threatened to wash anyone away.

I took advantage of the weather and raced out of the treehouse, finding large puddles to splash in and flood streams to follow. I expected Rose to be beside me, but she was still curled up in the treehouse.

She was terrified of it.

So that day I introduced Rose to rain. It still leaves me clueless how one can have no fear in heights, but be terrified of rain.

And the best part of it, as I finally headed home, was that I heard Rose laughing as she splashed in her newfound love.

I sprinted home and vented to Ma about her. I told her about her climbing skills and her old fear of rain. I told her about all the new games we played.

“And what was her name?” My Ma asked, a little concerned as she chopped garlic.

“Rose.” I chimed.

Ma turned as pale as the garlic she was chopping.

Rose was my sister.

I never saw Rose or that treehouse ever again, nor do I know whether she was dead or alive.

But to this day, whenever it rains, I still hear that precious laugh.

The laugh of Rose.

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