Saturday, May 3, 2008

Unity Tree

This post was inspired by the Fiction Friday prompt: Write about a tree.

Pauline's hand was sweaty. It was warm, wet, sticky, and it was hard for me to keep my hand in hers. Jack's hand was fine, as you would expect his to be, but Pauline's was disgusting. I wanted to throw it down and run away, far away, but breaking our unity circle around the Tree would have been disastrous.

Five years ago, coming together hand in hand around the Tree just seemed like the right thing to do at the end of that crazy night. We had all drunk way too much and the pedestrian came out of nowhere. She made the softest little thud on the hood of our car. We didn't realize what we did until it was too late, we had already driven away. Jane was the first to speak up and say what we were all fearing. Her words sobered us instantly, "Do you guys think she's dead?" No one answered. Instead, we pulled over, next to the empty field with the tree in the middle and stumbled out of the car. I threw up over and over again but it still didn't make me wake up from the nightmare. One by one, we wandered over to the tree and stood there. It was bathed in the moonlight. It seemed like the right thing to do. Pauline was the one who started talking then and made us swear to keep this a secret. She insisted that we were all guilty, not just the driver, and that we would all go to jail. But the truth was, she didn't need to say anything. All she did was articulate what we wanted her to say.

The secret didn't get easier to bear with time. It was the fifth year in a row that we were all back at the Tree, renewing our vows. Five years of not being able to look people in the eye, jumping every time I saw a policeman. I couldn't bear it anymore. And then suddenly I realized why Pauline seemed so nervous.

It made so much sense, I wasn't even surprised when the flashing blue lights of the police cruiser lit up the white tree trunk.

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