The other two stories in this series are:
Three Sprites, One Silent (fantasy)
“At least we’re the same.” Earl smiled and squeezed her hand. “Even if we’ve been different most of our lives.”
“Not the same, really. We’re not kids anymore.”
“Whoa. When did they put a lake in here?” Earl stopped at the top of the hill, looking over the water.
Sarah shook her head. “Do you think it’s still here?”
“Maybe. That’s the pavilion. If they didn’t move that too, it’s probably right along the water.”
“Maybe it’s that stump down there in the water.” Sarah laughed. “Maybe if our families hadn’t moved away…”
“We couldn’t have stopped them putting a lake in here!”
“Yeah, but we might have done something else…” Sarah’s gaze went far away, looking across all that happened since they carved their initials in that tree: moving away, losing touch, marrying (other people), divorcing, finding each other on Twitter…
“You know what, Sarah? I think it is that stump. I really think it is.” The downhill slope pulled at them, but something else pulled harder, and they quickened their pace to the water’s edge.
“Will it be there, you think?” Sarah’s breath came quick, not just from the near-run.
“I don’t know. It’s cut kind of low, but how deep is the water?”
“You’re right — it really is our tree! Remember how it was hollow at the bottom?”
“Yeah. I made up a story about how some tiny aliens lived in the hollow and used it for a listening outpost.”
Sarah laughed. “I remember that! I thought it was funny, in a weird sort of way.”
“See that?” Earl pointed to the side of the stump. “That’s part of it, anyway.”
Sarah peered, leaning farther over the water than Earl thought prudent; he took her hand and braced himself. Along the jagged top edge of the stump, she thought she could make out the last part:
“Forever. Yes,” she said. She let Earl pull her upright, then hugged him there on the water’s edge.
“We can’t smooch under the tree now,” he said, “but maybe we can find another tree. One a little farther up the hill.” He patted his pocket. “I just happened to bring a knife.”