The Treehouse That Changed It All
by Maighread Lutz
Leaves crunched and rustled as my feet carried me through the dense and familiar forest. I walked through vines that canopied from trees and tried to resist the hot tears forming in the corner of my eyes.
“Maybe coming here was a bad idea,” I whispered to myself. However, my legs kept pulling me along the tangle of trail looming in front of me, regardless of my thoughts dripping with self doubt. With the Black City practically under siege, our treehouse seemed to be the only safe haven in this tumultuous political storm. Our treehouse. I missed Rodrik more and more every day that he didn’t return. After what felt like days of walking, I finally reached the hideout I had frequented so many times before. I climbed up the rope ladder and pulled myself into the center of our magnificent refuge onto the cold, mahogany floor. I plugged in the twinkly lights that surrounded the ceiling. A few bulbs were burnt out, but it felt as though I had never been gone. I sat on the floor and breathed in the familiar smells of good memories.
I pulled out a basket from under the makeshift couch on the side of the room and began to sift through its contents. Pictures of Rodrik and I, birthday cards, pressed leaves, and notes filled the wicker basket. A small piece of paper with yellowed edges fell through my hands and to the floor. Asa, I promise I’ll be back. But for right now it’s best if I move on. See you soon. That was the note that was taped to the treehouse when Rod went to be with the Racksons. Ever since then, we haven’t been the same. We used to be inseparable, which is odd to most people because we are almost complete opposites. He grew up on a different side of Black City that I’ll never know, and I grew up in the center, with a mayor for an uncle and a prodigy of a cousin, Maurice Black. I come from privilege and power, and Rod came from struggle and calamity. However, when we were together, it felt like we could finally lose control and relax. I didn’t have to worry about upholding the perfect image of political royalty, and momentarily, Rod didn’t have to worry about providing for everyone he loved.
My thoughts of reminiscing were interrupted by a shaking of the rope ladder which subsequently made the floor tremble below my legs. My heart skipped a beat as for a moment I thought it might have been Rod, however a brazen voice interjected and demanded, “Whoever currently occupies this dwelling must evacuate immediately. I obliged by immediately crawling down the ladder and coming face to face with an android at least a foot taller than me. His metal pupils dilated and contracted as if he was scanning me.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t see the problem, I was just out for a -,” I was interrupted mid sentence and the mechanical voice spoke once more.
“Asa Black, you’re under arrest. You are out past designated curfew and are in unauthorized forest.” I stood in absolute shock.
“This can’t be serious, I am the mayor’s -,” I was interrupted once more.
“You will be restrained and imprisoned if you continue to resist.”
I was forced into a damp cell, falling face first, barely catching myself before I hit the concrete. The heavy slam of a steel door shutting followed my entrance. I looked around and saw nothing but a stainless steel basin that I presumed was to be used for more purposes than just a sink. The only other thing in the cell was a small window on the very top of the ashen, brick wall adjacent to me. As I leaned against the wall and slid down to rest, my heart sank with the rest of my body. Now my one safe place in this world of chaos was taken from me. Alone with my thoughts, I barely noticed the pebble that dropped on my head. But then it was followed by another. And another. Confused, I looked for the source of these falling rocks - not completely surprised or sad if I ended up seeing the cell starting to fall apart on top of me. However, once I looked up, I saw my saving grace. Rod was peering through the tiny window overlooking my cell with a sly smile and eyebrows arched.
With shock, I shuffled to my feet and managed to sputter incoherently, “Why are you- , how did you know- .”
He chuckled and responded with ease, “You know, with a last name like yours, very little can happen without all of Colorius finding out within the hour.” His humor comforted me and suddenly my life seemed normal again. Once again interrupting my thought, his face straightened and he said, “Okay, we’re going to get you out. Think skinny thoughts because once we melt these old bars, you’re gonna have to fit through this window.”
Puzzled, I asked, “We?”
Rod laughed again, “Well you don’t think I’d be able to do this by myself, do you?” I conceded with a shrug as three more heads peered into my cell to assess the situation. A lighter skinned boy with red hair began to delegate.
“I think I’ll be able to melt these bars because of how old and pliable they are. Once I’ve done that, Rod, you’re going to manipulate the water from that stream to fill the cell-”
I heard Rod’s voice interject angrily, “What? Are you insane, De? We can’t fill the cell, Asa will drown!”
De, I assume, sighed, “She’s going to have to swim to the top in order to reach the window, the cell’s door will keep the water in.”
A higher voice included himself in the conversation, “And what am I supposed to do?”
De patiently responded, “Help Mo pull this girl out.” I heard a scoff and feet stomping on the ground above me.
Rod leaned in again and looked concerned, “Got the plan?”
I tried to look confident, “Go it.” I saw the glow of flames above me as the metal bars containing me from freedom began to morph into silver putty. I waited patiently until I saw water begin to trickle in through the window and fill the area around me. After about thirty seconds, my waist was covered, and within minutes I was treading and my legs were growing weary. Slowly but surely, I began to reach the top of the cell and both pale and dark arms were outstretched to pull me out. Squeezing, sucking in, and thinking “skinny thoughts” the two boys managed to pull me out. I stood to my feet, shivering as I was sopping wet.
De held out his hands and flames appeared, “Here, you can warm your hands.” I smiled at his gratuity. Rod wrapped his arm around my shoulder and whisked me away, extinguishing De’s flame in the process.
“Okay, well we have to get you home,” he said, his voice dripping with a hint of jealousy.
I laughed until I realized what he said, “No! You can’t leave me again! You have to come back to the city with me.”
He sighed, “I will, just not now. We have to take down A.G. before she does more -” Rod was interrupted by a loud rushing of water, assumingly the guards had opened the door to my cell.
“We have to go! The guards will find us,” the short boy with an attitude said. Still upset with Rod, I started speed walking away from him.
“Um Asa, Black City is that way,” pointing the opposite way I was walking. I rolled my eyes and began dragging my feet that way. All the other boys walked behind us, and about two hours later we were back in the city. All of the sudden, all my anger with Rod dissipated, and I hugged with all my might. Shocked, he hugged back and whispered, “I’m coming back, don’t worry.” And at that point, we were back at my house. We split our ways and I said my goodbyes and thank you’s. As the Elementals walked away, I could hear them teasing Rod and ridiculing him for hugging me. I blushed and walked into my house, not ready to explain to my parents what had happened.