Closed A Dark Park After Dark

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“Oh, it’s a good thing I’m wearing a skirt then,” Eli said with a nervous laugh as she looked down at the ground half expecting to see a trail of ants crawling up her leg. There weren’t any, but the thought was in her head so she could swear that she could feel them scuttling around. A flash of light caught her eye and momentarily pushed away the thought of ants. Eli reached out and caught the flashlight as it was tossed her way, and perhaps the newfound fear wasn’t fully gone as she flicked the light down to confirm no ants were crawling around on her.

Eli breathed a sigh of relief as she pointed the light up until she found a branch.

“Is that a good one?” Eli asked as she reached up for the branch. She could just barely touch it with the tips of her fingers, and stretching only really got her to almost touch the top of the branch. Trees were kind of rough, weren’t they? “I can’t quite reach it… if you wouldn’t mind giving me a boost.” Eli said with a smile.
“Yep, that’s a good branch. Lower-down branches are usually thicker, cause they’re older. It’s when you get up to the thinner ones at the top that you really haveta be really careful.” Adelyn explains, picking herself up and walking over. She hasn’t taught anyone near anything before, so this is good practice. Any practice is good practice, as her poppa told her.

She bounces on her toes a few times. She’s easily able to reach the branch herself, but at Eli’s request she nods eagerly. “Ok!”

She doesn’t even take a second to think about it before she gestures Eli over closer to the trunk. Once they’re in a good spot, she bends down a little and lifts Eli up, right off the ground. Just like her poppa used to do for her, when she was just a little sprout and couldn’t reach as high. She bends her knee a little for Eli to use as a step should she need an extra second.

“Got it?” she asks, unruffled. She’s careful of her claws, even if she can’t see them right now.
“Okay, here we go.” With Adelyn’s help Eli got her fingers around the tree branch, and squeezed down tight. It was rougher than she expected it to be, was it silly that she thought that trees would be smooth? Were some trees smooth? Some certainly looked smooth from a distance but—

With a grunt Eli pulled herself like she were doing a pull-up, she slid one foot off Adelyn’s thigh and placed it on the side of the tree. Her foot shifted as she pushed, helping her pull her torso over the top of the branch. She reached up and took hold of another branch as she pulled one of her legs up and placed a foot on the first branch.

“Woah,” the branch wobbled a little with the added weight, and Eli paused a moment as she scooted her foot forward until she was more sure of her own footing. “Right, okay,” Eli breathed, before she drew herself up to a standing position.

“Oh! I made it!” She said, with a broad smile.
“Yay! You did it!” Adelyn grins broadly, clapping her hands together once Eli is up on the branch. Oh, they’re both hands again. She doesn’t remember exactly when that happened, but the sound is still the sound of human skin on animal fur so she doesn’t worry too much about it.

Luckily, she doesn’t need any help to get herself up onto an adjacent branch. She just reaches up and grabs hold, and uses her hind claws to get enough leverage on the trunk to climb up.

Crouching on a branch of her own, one hand on a higher branch for balance, Adelyn feels such a sharp swell of happiness she can’t contain a laugh of pure delight. She has a friend! A friend to climb trees with!

“How does it feel?” She has to ask, eyes bright in the flashlight’s beam. “Your first tree! So exciting! I don’t remember my first, it must’ve been when I was a little baby Aspen.”
“It feels very uhm, wibbly and wobbly? Like woah.” Eli said, reaching out with one of her hands and waving it through the air to emphasize her point. She didn’t know trees wiggled so much, they always looked so static when she watched them outside of her window. She could feel the wind rocking the tree under her heels and it was just fun to sway with. She let out a small ‘Ooh’ as Adelyn scampered up the tree after her.

Eli clambered up another branch after Adelyn, it was easier when she could easily reach the branches.

“Oh that’s really cool! You must have been climbing trees forever then!” Eli said excitedly as she swung her leg up over a branch. The tree bark felt scratchy against her thighs so she worked herself up to a crouch. “Do you have a favorite kind of tree to climb?“
Eli is a real go-getter. Adelyn beams as her friend climbs higher into the tree, keeping pace with her and keeping an eye out in case she slips. She stops on a branch for a moment, feeling the leaves at the end rustle in another cool breeze.

“Forever and ever,” she sighs in response, looking out on the forest around them. They aren’t high enough to see over the tops of the trees yet, but she can see a little bit into the trees around them.

Most of the animals must’ve gone to sleep already. What animals stay in such a human-centric area as this one, at least. The night dawdles later and later, and Adelyn can feel the peaceable calm settling over her as well.

“I like all sorts. Pines are fun if you don’t mind getting all sticky with sap. Willows are too weak to climb from the ends, but they’re nice to lay under. Oaks like this one are good and sturdy.”

She pats the trunk of the tree fondly, then re-negotiates her footing in order to grab a higher branch. Pulling herself up leaves the same path free for Eli, and Adelyn wraps one arm around the trunk as an anchor before offering her free hand to her friend. She’s braced to pull her up if she needs to, but Eli might be able to get there on her own. “This one’s a little higher, watch your step.”

“So, how was California? I’ve never been there. I was out in Oregon before I came here.” The light conversation comes a little more naturally now, and Adelyn mentally applauds herself.
“Oh! Willows! Those were always so soothing to watch sway through the window, though I never really sat underneath one for long.” Eli said, an excited spark in her voice. Was there a willow tree in this park? She could go sit under it on a sunny day couldn’t she? There was no one to stop her here, so she could just do that now. Something about that made her feel a little… awkward? Which was probably silly, but still.

With a small hup Eli pulled herself up over another branch, where she came to a stop at a slightly wobbly crouch with a hand on the trunk to keep herself steady. With some well deserved awe, she watched as Adelyn pulled herself up past a fairly large gap of branches.

“That was really cool!” Eli smiled as she reached up to take the hand that Adelyn was offering her. She squeezed the hand tight as she pressed the side of her heel against the tree’s trunk to push herself up to the next branch.

“California was nice, the weather was anyway.” There wasn’t too much strain in her voice as she took hold of the branch with her free hand. “I never really saw much of the state, it was mostly just school and, uh, stuff like that.” She said a little sheepishly as she swung a leg over the branch. To keep herself steady.

“How was Oregon?” She asked, to keep the conversation moving along.
“Oh, thank you!” Adelyn beams at the unexpected compliment. She carefully helps Eli up onto the branch with her, before her attention catches on one word in particular.

“School.” She breathes it like a foreign term, her eyes wide. She leans in close to her new friend, the brush of fur at odds with the seemingly normal hand that comes to sandwich Eli’s.

“Tell me about school,” she pleads, entirely forgetting about the question she was asked. “I never go to go, never ever. Are there really lots of teachers and lots of kids? Do they make you sit in tiny little rooms when you’re bad, and only let you outside when you’ve been good?”

Her balance doesn’t falter on the branch despite the way she leans in as though trying to read the answers right out of the other girl’s eyes. She’s never met anyone who went to school good and proper.
“School? School is like, uhm,” how did one describe school? Eli rolled her free hand while she searched for the words she wanted, her other hand currently very well smooshed in a rather puffy feeling of fur. Lots of teachers and lots of students wasn’t wrong by any means, but she didn’t know about the whole ‘being good or bad thing. Still, Adelyn I really excited to hear the answer so it was her duty to do her very best!

“Mm, well there are lots of students and teachers! The one I went to usually had like twenty-five kids in a class with a teacher. You only really had to stay over if you were in detention or something like that though.” Eli leaned back as she thought about it, though only a little. Branches felt scary to lean back while sitting on one! In AP Chemistry she always sat in the back next to the windows. Birds liked to nest in the tree outside the window. “Its not too bad really, there’s a lot of stuff for you to learn but days can feel really long when you’re at school for eight hours every day, and even longer if you have clubs and stuff.”