The coast is clear. I shove the closest book I’m reading down the back of my Fraggle Rock undies and heave myself up into the tree. Don’t look down, scurry around so the trunk is between me and the front door slamming open then FREEZE! while my sister looks for me, evil-eyed and discontent. She never looks up, we never see eye to eye, she sought my destruction and I hunted out wherever she wasn’t. Being eight is a tough gig.
Finally, higher than the roof of the house, suspended and hidden in the middle of the front yard, I pull out the book from my ever saggy underwear, and settle in to read. My family say I read too much, that I need to go out and get fresh air, so I’ve learnt to hide my papery friends and climb fast. The tree leaves neon yellow stains under my fingernails in the warmer months, the boisterous red autumn colours camouflage me in autumn, and I’m left bereft like a forgotten scrap of tinsel in its naked arms in winter. When I’m told to go to my happy place, for real or in my head, I’m up a tree, wrapped in leaves, licking library stamp ink and sap off my fingers before I turn a page.