ABBY DISAPPEARS INTO THE FOREST
During a silence in their conversation Glenda looked at her watch and said, “Oh! We’re due at Ellen’s house for Tiny’s play date with Kayla! But before we go I want to ask a favor. Could one of you go with me to Teacher’s College tomorrow? I want to enroll in some courses and can never get up the nerve to do it.”
Phoebe was all too aware that she would have nothing to do tomorrow. The toy store was closed on Mondays. “I’ll go,” she replied.
“I wish I could join you,” Abby said, “but I’m trying to see if my new idea works out.” Phoebe wanted to ask about Abby’s idea, but didn’t dare.
“Okay, then it’s decided,” said Glenda with excitement. “Tomorrow morning first thing.”
“I’ll be here,” returned Phoebe. “Oh – and one more thing. I’m hoping all of you can come to our party this Friday night in Penny’s backyard, with dinner for everyone.”
"We’d love to,” said Glenda. She glanced nervously at Abby, and then gathered a few things for Tiny in a bag. Phoebe carried the tray of teacups and plates to the kitchen sink. A brief flash of sunlight shone brightly through one of the kitchen windows, and her glance was caught by the fascinating colors and shapes of a few giant tomatoes ripening on the windowsill. They look just like the ones on Penny’s porch, thought Phoebe.
“I’ll come too,” said Abby, so quietly that Phoebe could barely hear her amid the noise of the group preparing to depart.
Soon they were out the door. Abby was off on her bike. Glenda offered Phoebe a ride in her old blue pick-up, but Phoebe said she didn’t have far to go, and found herself walking alone down Oak Knoll Lane. A long shadow suddenly covered the land, as a dark cloud hid the sun.
When Phoebe reached her house she sat on the front steps with her chin in her hands. Her mind whirled with questions, and she realized that she knew very little about Abby’s life. Phoebe’s thoughts drifted back to high school. Abby had been perhaps the least popular girl that Phoebe knew, a shy, sad, socially awkward girl with a chip on her shoulder, too afraid to try to be pretty. Phoebe guessed that Abby could be attractive. She had a nice, intelligent face with an indefinable glow about it, something spiritual and uncanny. Her figure was slim, and both feminine and boyish at the same time. But she lacked social confidence, and appeared to dislike many of the kids in their class.
Phoebe recalled that in high school Abby seemed interested in things no one else understood or cared about. She achieved some public notoriety by creating a small heirloom apple orchard in the school courtyard for biology class their freshman year. By September of their senior year the results were quite startling. As students returned to school the trees were laden with ripening fruit.
One day after lunch a group of students started a riot by picking the apples and throwing them at each other across the courtyard. The game spread like wildfire, making a colossal mess. Out of nowhere Abby appeared, screaming at a crowd of reckless boys. There were smashed apples everywhere.
Phoebe remembered seeing Abby sobbing in a corner alone after some teachers put a stop to the incident. She had gone over to Abby and said, “The trees are still a good thing you did, even if those kids are such jerks.”
Abby had looked up with her eyes full of pain and said, “I’m so tired of being angry. I’m so tired.” It seemed to Phoebe that this kind of thing often happened to Abby. She tried hard but something always spoiled it.
Phoebe couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something special about Abby. Glenda and Tiny clearly thought so. Her mysterious qualities intrigued Phoebe, and she decided to find a way to become friends with her.
As she sat there on the steps, looking aimlessly into the distance, she noticed the thin dark form of Abby coming back up Main Street, turning her bike left on Oak Knoll Lane, and continuing on up toward Glenda’s house. But near the end of the lane, Abby rode over the field toward the forest. She looked back toward Phoebe and waved, and then disappeared among the trees.
Whoa… thought Phoebe. Where could she be going?