The woods waited for her, everyday she passed the ancient sickly trunks, she felt the wind still with their bated breath. When Olivia had been younger, her mother had walked down past the trees with her, to where their long dirt road met the paved county one. The woods still waited, but her mother’s damp hand had led her resolutely past them and onto the school bus.
Now on her way to the high school, she walked alone and the trees stretched their shadows over her riding boots. The wind dropped and let the lingering summer sun warm the dirt. In the silence, Olivia could hear the whisper of leaf on leaf. She could picture the spongy earth and hidden black water pools that waited beyond the pale wood, though she had never heeded its murmur to see for herself. Sometimes they called, threatened with groaning branches, but mostly they stilled with a deep rooted patience.
Olivia’s hands gripped the straps of her backpack, a shield on the back of wearied soldier. The gate was distant, a smear on the horizon, and the woods waited beside the road as they always had.
She’d told one person of the strange trees and the way they waited for her. In the corner of their journalism class, Olivia had told Lane about the sallow woods and the shadow they’d cast over Olivia for as long as she could remember. Her friend listened with flat eyes through all of it, and then said she’d never heard of anything like that. The subject was dropped and Olivia felt stupid, until she walked home that afternoon and the trees shook softly, laughing with their papery dead autumn leaves.
It could have been weeks after that, or days. Olivia felt it settle over her, a life in terms of this watched dirt road, in the sky above reaching branches, in the distant rustling always just beyond her bedroom windows. She’d kept them waiting.
The next morning she left home for school, but midway down that road she let her backpack slide off her shoulders. She raised her face to the sickly trees, letting tears shake her body, she was tired, they waited, they waited for her. Her riding boots sunk into the mud and created prints others might follow. Olivia pushed herself towards the tree line gasping like a struggling swimmer towards a water’s surface.
The woods welcomed her.