By William Kitcher

A sapling sprouted between the asphalt of the driveway and a wooden beam that was the border of a flower garden left to grow wild.

The only person who noticed it was Mia, who was four years old. Naturally, she didn’t know much about trees – not many people do – but she thought it strange that a tree would choose to grow there. She noticed it because a single leaf appeared at its top. From the shape of the leaf, Mia knew it was a maple.

The following spring, Mia looked for it to see if it had survived. A new branch had formed and, off the new branch, a second branch grew. By the end of May, it had four leaves.

Mia didn’t want to tell her parents about the tree because she thought they would rip it out, and she wanted it to live as long as other trees she’d heard about. She told her teacher about the tree, and the teacher explained that the tree would have difficulty surviving. It might have enough room underneath the flower bed to spread its roots, depending on what was underneath the bed, but it could be difficult for the tree to expand its trunk when it was squeezed by the driveway and the wooden beam.

Mia thought about that all winter and investigated again when the snow was gone. The newest branch had broken and was hanging on by the tiniest of slivers. Mia thought her dad must have accidentally broken it while shovelling snow.

She got some scotch tape and put the tree back together but a couple of months later, realized that it hadn’t worked. That branch was dead. But two new ones had sprouted, the original trunk had grown another inch, and the tree now had seven leaves. The wild grasses that had grown in the flower bed flopped over the tree, and Mia was sure to occasionally move the grass so that the leaves were exposed to the sun. She remembered what her teacher had said about photosynthesis.

Mia spent that summer holiday looking at her tree, writing stories about it and drawing pictures of it. She told her friends about her tree, but they weren’t interested, and even started to make fun of her.

She had a bad time at school that year. The other kids stayed away from her, and her new teacher thought she was strange and didn’t mind telling her.

Mia withdrew, and tried to not think about her tree. The winter was rough, there was a lot of snow, and spring arrived late. She was determined to not look at her tree.

May rolled into June and, when school was over, she couldn’t help herself.

The trunk of the tree, such as it was, had thickened and seemed determined to maintain. It was about half an inch in diameter (a new word Mia had learned), and several new branches had appeared. There were now eleven big leaves, and eight little ones. The wild grasses again fell over on top of the tree. Mia didn’t know if she should move the grass or not. She knew that, in forests, she wouldn’t be there to help any tree, so should she help now? But maybe she should help because she had the opportunity and perhaps even the obligation. Maybe it was because of what she’d done the previous year, and the year before, and maybe everything she’d ever done, that led to her tree still being alive.

Mia aced her next year of school. She learned to not care what anyone thought about her, and she made new friends, friends she kept for the rest of her life, and she made acquaintances who no longer thought her interest in trees was weird. She was no longer stuck, and she thrived.

The following July, Mia was brave enough to tell her parents about her tree. They knew about the tree already, of course, and asked her what she wanted to do. Mia said she wanted to dig it up and put it somewhere where it could really grow.

“What are you thinking, Mia?” asked her mother.

“Well, could we give it to Uncle John and plant it at his place?”

“That’s really nice of you to suggest that, honey, but it might be a little problematic. Uncle John lives in an apartment building in the city. I don’t know if his building managers would even let him plant it there. And, in the city, there’s a lot of concrete. Who knows how far the tree could even put down its roots?”

Mia thought about that. “Then how about right in the middle of our backyard?”

“Yes, I think we can do that.”

Her parents removed the wooden beam, carefully tore away at the asphalt, and dug down. They removed the tree, and re-planted it outside their dining room window where they could admire it every day.

In the following year, the tree didn’t grow as it became accustomed to its new place, but the year after that, the year Mia turned ten, the year Mia was the lead in the school play, the year Mia learned to play alto sax, the year Mia kissed her first boy, the tree shot up six inches and had too many leaves for Mia to count.

When Mia was thirteen, the family moved away but, a few years after that, they returned to the town to visit their old neighbours. On a scorching hot afternoon, they sat on the neighbours’ backyard deck, and drank lemonade in the shade of many trees.

This reminded Mia about her tree, and she climbed the fence separating the neighbours from her old house. Her tree was gone, replaced by paving stones surrounding a swimming pool no one was using.

Bill’s stories, plays, and comedy sketches have been published and/or produced in Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Czech Republic, England, Guernsey, Holland, India, Ireland, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, and the U.S. His stories have appeared in Fiery Scribe Review, The Metaworker, New Contrast, The Prague Review, Close To The Bone, Eunoia Review, Once Upon A Crocodile, Ariel Chart, Spank The Carp, Little Old Lady Comedy, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Slippage Lit, and many other journals. He has stories forthcoming in Helix Literary Magazine, Evening Street Review, Truffle, and The MacGuffin.

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