Wow, I haven’t done a Free Write Friday in soooo long. I guess that’s to be expected since I have been in slack mode for the past few months eek! Well here I am, probably about to butcher Kellie’s prompt for the week but never-the-less I’m gonna attempt. Make sure you check out the lovely Kellie Elmore’s website. She released an amazing book of poetry this year and she’s kinda high up on my list of people I admire!
She hesitated. Unsure of what James had planned for them. They’d only been dating for a few months. She did really like him, he was pretty handsome, really sweet and seemed to adore her. Charlie took a deep breath and steadied herself against the cool bark of the tree. Still…unsuspecting people sometimes have dead bodies hiding in their basements she thought.
“James, this is a tree.” She tried to keep her tone light and as far away from sounding as if she was accusing him of losing his mind as possible. James just smiled and took hold of her hand, gently pulling her toward the opening.
“Come on Charlie, trust me, it’s not what you think it’ll be.” Charlie had heard the phrase ‘trust me’ from way too many guys in the past, she wasn’t sure now was the right time to start believing in it.
It was a pretty huge tree though, unlike any she had ever seen before. It was wide and the trunk was thick. The branches were long and held tightly to big green leaves and brilliantly bright pink petals. It was breathtaking. But they were still in the woods, alone…and he wanted her to crawl inside a hole in a tree. Charlie had to laugh to herself about the irony of her dilemma just hours earlier about what to wear on this date. She’d started off simple; skinny jeans, cute red top, black leather jacket and flats. What she wound up getting talked into by her roommate was a strapless blue and white sundress, and heels…not exactly wood attire at its best.
“What’s in there exactly?” She asked.
“A surprise. Don’t worry it’s completely safe. Look, I’ll even go in first.” James bent down and disappeared into the nook. A moment later his hand popped out of the hole, “Come on babe, I promise you’re gonna love it!”
Charlie sighed again, taking a look around as if she was going to find some stranger staring at her, witnessing the crazy she was about to commit. She grabbed onto James’ hand and let him lead her inside.
Charlie initially closed her eyes, afraid that she’d catch sight of a spider, snake or murder weapon on her way in. When she opened them she was relieved to see none of the latter. In fact, what she saw was pretty amazing. There were lanterns set up all around the inside of the tree that cast off a soft light. It was bright enough inside that she could see everything clearly, from the look of satisfaction on James’ face to the faces of every couple in the pictures on the walls. The room was huge with plenty of standing room and smelled like fresh flowers. There was a large bench in one corner with a plushy blue cushion. Behind it the wall was filled with graffiti art in bright colors that Charlie recognized as the background of every picture on the wall.
“So what do you think about this place Char?” James had stepped aside earlier to allow Charlie to take in her surroundings. Now he was beside her, wrapping his arm around her waist.
“It’s beautiful.” She exclaimed. “How did you find this place, I’ve never heard of it before!”
“It’s not a place everyone gets to know about, it’s kind of like a myth, some people have heard about it but are never able to find it so they think it doesn’t really exist. Those who have found it don’t tell others where it is to keep it special.”
“But how do YOU know about?” She asks as she slowly walks forward taking in the smiling faces in each of the photographs.
“My family owns this property, so I’ve kinda always known about it.” James takes a seat on the cushion as he watches Charlie taking it all in.
“So if you’ve always known about this place without discovering it don’t you think that kind of takes the special out of it for you?”
James thinks for a bit before answering, “I’ve always known this place was here but it wasn’t always this.” He stands and gestures for Charlie to come take a look at something with him.
“See this picture here? This is the picture that started it all.” He points to a picture unlike the others, in this picture there is just a girl. She is young, maybe 14 at the oldest and she’s holding a can of spray paint, smiling, almost laughing, at whoever is holding the camera.
“She’s pretty, do you know her?” Charlie looks up at James when he answers, “She’s my mom.”
James had only talked about his mother once, it was when they’d first started dating and were getting all the background information you give at that stage. Charlie learned that his mother was an artist, she’d given birth to two sons; one of whom Charlie greatly enjoyed making out with at this point in the relationship, and that she had died when James was just a boy. James reached out to touch the photo before he began speaking again,
“My dad took this picture of her. They grew up together. My dad’s family worked for my mom’s family, and so they stayed on the property in a guest house. They discovered this place when they were kids and kind of made it into their own secret place. No one else knew about it.”
Charlie was curious about James’ mother but she also didn’t like the way he frowned while talking about her. She attempted to turn the conversation lighter,
“Wow, so how did this become a place for couples?”
A hint of a smile tugs at his face as he replies, ” So a few years back my brother brought his girlfriend out here and told her that he loved her, took a picture and put it on the wall next to my moms.” He points to the photo of his older brother Brian and his wife Tracey.
“They left the polaroid camera out here by accident. A lot of people often camp out in the woods around here, I guess one by one couples came across this place and began taking pictures and placing them on the wall too. I came out here on my mom’s birthday one year and noticed all the pictures. So I started leaving film for the camera and more and more pictures showed up over the years. See, before my mom died, she had taken my brother and I out here and told us stories about how this was where she’d fell in love with my dad. She told us this place was special, that if we wanted the women we loved to love us back that we should bring them here, charm them with our wit that we got from her and our dashing looks which we get from our father and to take a picture and place it on the wall. She said this was her heaven and that if we came here and showed her how much we cared about the person we were with she’d know.” He smiled when he looked down at her, waiting.
It was silent for a moment as Charlie took in James’ story. When she speaks her voice is merely a breath, “You love me?”
James gently tilts her chin up to look her in the eyes, “Not at first sight,” he jokes. She gives him a dismissive eye roll and says with a smile, “You aren’t doing your mothers wit any justice.”
“No, I suppose not. But yes, I do you love you Charlie.” He leans in, kissing her gently and when he pulls away Charlie is overwhelmed by his affection. Grinning, Charlie pulls James over to the bench, picking up the camera from it’s tiny shelf on the wall.
“I think it’s time for us to take that picture.”
Sitting close together Charlie counts to three before taking the photo. When it comes out she stares at it for a long while before speaking.
“You see that right there?” She says, pointing at her face in the photo. “What?” James asks. “That look. I think that’s love.” He pulls her close and for a while they sit there together.
After a while out of the blue Charlie begins laughing, the kind of laugh that brings tears to your eyes. “What’s so funny? James inquires, laughing with her. She catches her breath, “Well, it’s kind of crazy but,it’s just that before we came inside it actually crossed my mind that you brought me all the way out here to murder me.” She starts laughing again, tears literally streaming down her face from the shear ludicrousness of her thoughts. James smirks before speaking, “What’s so crazy about that?”
Charlie’s laughter dies down…