“Aunt Jane! I hope this is okay. It’s okay, right, okay?”
Chloe shouts at me as soon as I open the car door; I’ve returned from work, and it’s almost dark out. I spot Chloe waving to me from one of the bur oaks in the side yard.
But I don’t have to, because from where I stand in the driveway, I see plenty. Two ladders lean against the trunk. On a sawhorse is a stack of boards: long ones, short ones, and some in the process of being painted lavender. Sawdust has dirtied up the snow, and frequent footsteps have turned some patches into mud. In the tree is a small platform of boards tucked into the niche where the most splendid branch, the dramatic one that extends horizontally across the lawn, joins the trunk.
From the platform, five faces peer my direction. Lark and Chloe, of course, with Lark trying to appear indifferent to my showing up. They’re accompanied by Jenna’s three sons. Theo is next to Lark; one of Lark’s elbows rests casually on Theo’s shoulder.
“We’re building our own treehouse.” Chloe’s voice contains a mix of breathless excitement and doubt. There’s a bit of defiance in there, too. “We’re going to live out here.”
In the presence of a religious man such as yourself, I won’t repeat what I muttered to myself.
Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.