THE GROWN-UPS ALWAYS RUIN IT
Illustration by Carlos Uribe
Abby, Tiny, and Lucy gazed at the lovely new place they had discovered.
“Awesome job exploring, girls!” exclaimed Abby. “Look what you found!”
The space was shaped as a triangle, with the stone walls covering two sides and the long fallen tree covering the third. Abby was amazed that the gigantic old maple tree had never been removed. The result was a virtually impassable cocoon of vines, young maple trees, and thorny brambles. As the slope of the yard received less sun in the shadow of the wall, smaller plants and herbs grew, until in the corner by the door only some thin grasses covered the ground. Except for the locked door to the outside world, only the narrow path from the privet fort provided an entrance to this hidden domain. They walked along the back wall and found a pile of branches and short sections of the fallen tree. Years ago someone must have cut it off the wall. Abby rolled three circular pieces to the open space near the door to serve as seats, and then rolled a larger piece to serve as a table. They sat down to consider their stunning success.
After surveying the scene in silence, Lucy said, “We need to bring cups and cider.”
“And chocolate,” added Tiny.
“It’s a secret place, only for us,” said Lucy, looking at the others to emphasize her words.
“Can we tell Glenda?” asked Abby.
“Only Glenda,” said Lucy generously.
“I have a few friends who help me,” said Abby. “They know how to keep secrets.”
“Phoebe is one of them,” said Lucy.
“How do you know?”
“Chester said that Abby and Phoebe won the day.”
“Dawn said that Phoebe’s okay,” said Tiny.
“That’s all right then,” conceded Lucy. But she turned to Abby and laid down the law, saying, “You and your friends have to promise to not let them ruin it.”
“What do you mean? Who’s going to ruin it?”
“You know, they always ruin it. The grown-ups don’t like these places. They never let them be. You’ve got to promise!”
“Whew!” whistled Abby. “That’s a tall order. I’m supposed to be the gardener here. They’re going to want me to clean up this place.”
“See! See!” returned Lucy. “They never understand! Never! You can’t say anything to them! What good are you and your friends? I thought you were on our side.”
“Dawn says she wants you to promise," declared Tiny. "Where’s Emily going to play? That’s what Dawn wants to know. Someday Dawn’s coming to Middletown, and Emily is going to play here.”
“Oh my,” muttered Abby, “this is all more serious than I thought.” Some water in her eyes ran onto her cheeks as she shook her head. “I wonder what Reverend Tuck will think if I tell him we can’t touch this…”
“Well, maybe you can touch it,” said Lucy, willing to compromise a little. “But you can’t ruin it.”
“Okay, hopefully we can manage that. I promise to do my best. And my friends will promise too, I know they will. We already promised to protect the forest.”
“That’s what Chester said,” Lucy told them.
“But I need you girls to understand,” warned Abby, “I am not the king of the world. Sometimes I have to change my plans. Like for instance I notice a lot of poison ivy over there. Do we want children to play here and get poison ivy?”
“No!” They exclaimed.
“And what if they want a path to this door so people can walk through and see the birds? But I promise to do the very best I can to protect this place and make the world as good as I can.”
Lucy looked at Tiny, and Tiny nodded. “Okay,” said Lucy. “That’s fair.”
Deep shadows were growing around them. Mosquitoes and fireflies roamed around them. Abby jumped up and said, “What will Glenda think? It’s getting dark. She’ll have no idea where we are.”
And in almost no time they were filing out of the privet fort and walking to the cottage door.