Tick-tick. Tick-tick. The turn signal silenced as Dad rounded the last curb. After a long car ride, Orchard Drive was finally in view. My soon-to-be new house loomed in the distance. It was a sort of gloomy gray color with a ruby-red door that stood out against the drab surroundings. I had decided to like it. After all, what choice did I have? Mom and Dad had made up their minds. Come morning, the house was ours. Besides, everything at home, at school felt so . . . disconnected. It was all flat, the same old life I’d had since age five. I might even need a change. But life wasn’t bad exactly, I reminded myself. It was fine, and safe, I knew that. Who knew what was waiting here?
Our old red Buick pulled up the unfamiliar driveway Dad unlocked the doors with a click and we climbed out. As we walked to the front door, Dad promised, “It won’t be long today, hon. I just have to make a few touch-ups on the paint job.” I nodded. The house was truly ugly on the inside, and since Mom loved to watch “Trading Spaces,” “House to Home,” and other interior decorating shows, she had taken on redecorating the house as her personal mission. Dad and I had reached the front door. He punched in a number in the lockbox the real estate company had attached to its handle.
As he turned the knob, I couldn’t resist asking, “What’s the password?”
Dad grinned, “Secret.”
It was something I’d always asked, and the answer was always the same. Now we were in the house, and I was distracted by the awful smell! I coughed. The horrid scent made the air seem thick; I could barely breathe. Probably the paint, I told myself. Every wall had been painted, courtesy of Dad, and we had hired a company to put in wood flooring. Then I remembered— they had put a protective coating on the floor. That was probably not the most pleasant fragrance, and mixed in with the paint scent, the result made you want to hold your nose! But Dad admired what he could see of the house.
“Looks nice,” he said, a bit of pride in his voice. “It’ll smell for a while, though, partly because of the paint, but mostly because of the floors. They put on a special coat of . . . “
I smiled, hoping I looked interested while being informed of something I’d just figured out for myself, but I was putting all my efforts into trying not to gag on the scent. How could I survive even fifteen minutes in here?
“Look, Dad,” I said, interrupting him. “Maybe I can go outside today I mean, it’s the warmest weather we’ve had this spring, and we’ve got that whole woods in our backyard . .. “
He hesitated, and for a moment I thought he wouldn’t let me go.
“I think—oh, go ahead. Have fun.”
* * *
I’d always loved walking in the woods, but the opportunity hardly presented itself. We lived in a city, and our backyard had been a few yards of grass, but this—this was heaven! All these trees, with no houses behind ours! I set out, but to my disappointment, the trees were purposely planted in rows. Not a woods to have adventures in, not a natural forest. These trees were planted by man. As I walked through orderly rows of maple and pine, I thought about life. Well, I thought about moving, in particular.
The same old thoughts I’d been thinking ran through my head. A change. That sounded inviting. I envisioned myself with new friends, great friends, an awesome school . . . but who was I kidding? I wasn’t the most outgoing person in the universe, and I certainly wouldn’t be surrounded by friends at the end of September. The best date I could expect friends by was December. Change, I told myself. Change is nice. But moving? Isn’t that a little extreme? Moving is much too permanent, too final. It takes away everything—specially friends. I’d still see them once in a while, but . . . There was nothing wrong with life as it was. It just needed a little spice, like a new hobby, or new friends, or both. I wondered if I could convince my parents to back out of it. The contract, Mom had told me, wasn’t signed yet, but tomorrow they had a meeting with the current owner and then the papers would be signed. The owner had let us do whatever we pleased with the house (such as paint it) for right now.
I forced myself to let my thoughts wander, and became aware that I was now walking through an assortment of different trees, not the rows I’d been walking on before. I wondered if I was still on the property Who owned the land behind this, anyway? I imagined running into an escaped convict, and from there, my thoughts ran wild. I spotted a beer bottle, and then a broken piece of pottery. Could someone really be living back here?! Frantically, I walked straight ahead, thinking maybe I’d run into a house soon, until my path was blocked by a thick row of bushes that stretched on and on. I trudged through it, only getting three scratches, but I tripped on a fallen branch and fell flat on my face. Something had cushioned my fall. I glanced down. Grass, piles of it. The lush green grass you only see on TV commercials.
I didn’t feel any pain, so I looked around. Oh, the sunlight! I hadn’t realized how dark it had been among the trees. There was that bright, lush, green grass, with a large bush here and there. Little yellow wildflowers and purple crocuses sprinkled the ground, and I spotted a lone robin making a nest inside one of the bushes. I was being silly Escaped convict? Hiding in the woods? Of course not. It was a beautiful place; nature’s meadow. You could tell it wasn’t man-made. There was something wild about the bushes, and the grass was untamed. I looked around, trying to take it all in. I walked a few paces, and then on impulse, flung myself down on the grass, letting the sun’s warmth shine on my face. I lay there, and I knew in my heart, that I could handle it. It was time. I was ready for a change.