Thirteen year old Emily Oskell licked the pen tip in swift, uniform sequence as her dark hair reflected the sunlight which sank over the golden field. After adjusting the math notebook in her lap, she drove the pen down onto the paper in superfluous scribbling; but the pen refused to make a mark leaving the paper inkless and torn from the vicious scratching. Sighing in frustration, Emily pushed back her coco colored, flyaway hairs and dropped the materials onto the ground. Next to her, fifteen year old Joseph motioned for silence. He did not hold himself to the same standard; however, as the soft click click of the laptop keyboard interrupted the enveloping serenity of the small acreage.
Using the broken pen as justification, Emily gave up on the tedious homework and leaned against the grandfatherly oak. She scanned the surroundings in a blasé stupor. Winding down the middle of the field, a rocky dirt road met Emily and Joseph Oskell’s rickety front porch. On each side small tufts of grass invaded the road’s border with their small, green heads spearing the dirt in triumph; pushing the barrenness back with great vigor and determination.
Past the drooping home, a crowd of trees bordered the Oskell property. Two in particular seemed to stand off from the rest. From Emily’s view, the biggest one which grew and stretched past many of the other hunched and twisted trees, allowed a cluster of brazened branches to drape protectively over the second. Beneath the wooden curtain, its counterpart peered out cautiously. Tiny, wooden limbs crept out into the unforgiving wind: swaying back and forth. It leaned against the larger with childlike gentility. Surrounding the mismatched pair, the crowd whispered and tickled their leaves together. It appeared, to Emily, they all shared a secret about mother and baby tree which clung so desperately to each other. For each had grown, in a way most uncharacteristic for trees: backwards from the two.
Suddenly a screeching, diminutive Toyota turned onto the dusty road and rolled up towards the house. Emily forgot her observations and collected her books.
“You going inside?” asked Joseph glancing up.
“Alright. I’ll come too. I’m pretty much done.”
Emily marched ahead of her brother and made a beeline for her room as soon as they entered the house. Sharon, the third and only other Oskell child, lay on the twin bed abreast from Emily’s. Her back stayed toward Emily even as she walked in and dumped the homework.
“Hey sis.” No response. “How’d it go?” Sharon stayed silent. Finally, Emily left the room and joined Joseph in the kitchen.
“She say anything?” he whispered. Emily shook her head.
Muted voices carried from the bedroom past the living room. With a sort of mutual agreement, neither said a word, each straining to catch the arguing parents’ conversation.
Protection, education, reputation among other words coasted across the itchen causing even Bob Ross, the Oskell’s family mutt to stir in his warm dog bed and whine in his sleep. With each word the voices grew louder and crosser till finally she could no longer stand it. Emily left the house slamming the door shut behind her and not stopping her forward stomp till she reached the two trees earlier noticed.
Taking refuge next to the baby tree, she felt angry hot tears spill out onto her brown cheeks. Her mind dragged her back to the first night she fell asleep to Sharon’s stifled crying. It near drove her mad: to see her sister in such a deplorable state and not know the cause.
Eventually, the truth did shake the Oskell household. One night, as the tender flames of light licked at the wood inside the fireplace, Mrs. Oskell watched her oldest stare into the fire, rubbing her feet in resigned mourning. She’s pregnant truth whispered reaching its icy hand to rip off the self-made blindfold from her vision. Taking one look at her daughter, Mrs. Oskell relented: defeated. I know she whispered back.
Not long after, the whole household knew as well, and with much discussion and tearful nights, the Oskell parents finally agreed to preserve their daughter’s future over her soul. Knowing not what they did, they took her to the hospital and rid her of the child.
Emily pondered the morality of such a thing, leaning against the bigger tree in her new found resting place. Leaning her head back, she eyed the sky through the mangled branches. As she stared up, her eyes lit upon a merging warped, wrinkled knot of wood. Pushing tirelessly against the mother tree, the baby devoted all its minute strength to growing up; and all the while the mother pushed down. Down. Down.
Suddenly, scream of horror rang out from the house and Emily galloped inside. Woman’s sobs filled the quiet kitchen. Joseph spun towards the youngest sister upon hearing her enter the house. With a ferociousness Emily had never experienced from her brother before, he pushed her back into the living room shielding her eye sight from the unthinkable which manifested itself in her very room. But not even her brother could protect her ears from her mother’s cries of, “My baby, my baby, oh god what has she done, my poor, poor baby.”
Emily let herself sink into her brother’s strong arms.
“She’s dead, Em,” his voice croaked and, to Emily’s astonishment, she realized he no longer held her, but she held him. “She ki… she killed herself, Em”
Emily squeezed her brother with quiet desperation.
“I know,” she whispered back clutching him. Her eyes alighted to the trees out her kitchen window. Once again, it looked as if the mother simply wrapped around the baby, rather than push her into the ground. Father, forgive her. For she knew not what she did Emily prayed turning her eyes to the night sky.