Photo credit to AlainAudet via Pixaby
She has been coming to the woods since she was a young girl. They are much taller than she remembered both familiar and strange simultaneously and her childhood flashes in her mind. She sees a tiny girl in rubber boots, chasing dragons and fairies. Excited shouts echo across her memory until she can nearly see herself, carefree and full of adventure, curls bouncing, her open jacket trailing behind her like a cape. She smiles as she remembers suddenly the family dog, her faithful sidekick barking excitedly as a ferocious little girl aims a stick at her and shouts a spell.
Cold air stings her cheeks as she strolls through the trees. Her leather boots crunch frosty leaves under her feet in the satisfying way that only winter can provide. The echoes of her childhood still follow her, giving her walk a dreamlike quality. She smiles when she comes to a tree in the middle of the wood and sees her initials carved into its flesh. She recalls clearly the day she took up a sharp rock, holding it tight in her gloved hand and sticking her tongue out in concentration. As always, her dog stands guard beside her tiny frame.
She traces her fingers over the clumsy lines, the scars she inflicted on the tree white with age. More memories of that day rise unbidden in her mind – her parents shouting, her sister crying and the dog whimpering beside her. She silently pulls on her tiny boots and jacket, leaving the house before she even has her gloves on. The dog follows on her heels, dependable as a shadow. The cold cause her eyes to water and she wipes them away impatiently before putting on her gloves. She blinks back to the present, removing her hand from the tree slowly.
Evening falls across the woods, the blue sky making way to deep purples, oranges and reds with tinges of yellow. Evening has always been her favourite time of day. The woods feel more alive and somehow magical as darkness falls. The lengthening of the shadows makes it easier to believe in fairies and wood sprites, unicorns and dragons. The sounds of the woods wash over her, mingling with her own breathing. She has spent too much time in the city and had forgotten the peace she finds in places like this. She inhales deeply through her nose and out through her mouth.
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