Daisy discovers a dryad in a clump of lilac bushes in her backyard
Daisy was four when she first met the Bush Girl. She had learned that her mother was making stir-fry for dinner and had decided to run away. Daisy liked the idea of running away. It sounded like something a character in a book would do. It sounded like an adventure. Daisy never really ran away. She just ran across the yard and hid for a while, but it was still fun to pretend.
Daisy was a slightly chubby little girl with blonde hair and brown eyes. She wore a red dress and carried her limp stuffed bear, named “Bear-bear,” under one arm. Daisy walked out onto the porch and looked around. I could hide under the porch, she thought. But they would find me there. Maybe I can find somewhere else to hide. Daisy set off at a resolute trot. As she walked, she scanned the area for any likely hiding spots. Her eyes caught on a clump of lilac bushes, their purple blossoms in full bloom. The little hollow under them made a perfect hiding place for Daisy. She held onto Bear-bear more tightly and crawled into the moss- carpeted little bower.
The first thing Daisy noticed when she got in was another girl about her age. The girl had rough, brown, bark-like skin and green hair made from leaves that was held back by a headband made from the same kind of flowers that grew on the bush. Even her dress was made from plants. Daisy stared at her. “Are you a runaway orphan?” she asked hopefully. Daisy had always thought it would be fun to hide a runaway orphan in her room and sneak food to her when her parents weren’t looking.
Once, Daisy brought crackers for the Bush Girl and the Bush Girl had to explain to her that she ate only sunlight and drank only water.
“No,” said the girl.
“Then are you a fairy?” asked Daisy. She thought that, after an orphan, a fairy would be the next best thing.
“No. I’m not a fairy,” the girl replied.
Daisy felt disappointed. “If you’re not an orphan or a fairy, then what are you?” “I’m a dryad,” said the stranger, hugging her knees and staring back at Daisy. “What’s that?” Daisy inquired skeptically.
“It’s a sort of tree spirit,” answered the girl.
Daisy smiled at the other child. She wasn’t about to let on that she didn’t understand.
“Do you want to be friends?” she asked. “My name is Daisy, and I’m a human.
What’s your name?”
The dryad shyly smiled back. “You can call me the Bush Girl.”
And from that point on they were friends. Daisy would go to the Bush Girl’s bower every day and play with her. Once, Daisy brought crackers for the Bush Girl and the Bush Girl had to explain to her that she ate only sunlight and drank only water. This was a whole new concept to Daisy. Daisy asked what sunlight tasted like, but the Bush Girl couldn’t explain it.
Another time, Daisy brought her favorite stuffed animals, Daffodil the giraffe and Buttercup the deer. The two girls spent a whole lovely afternoon playing with them . . . and Daisy’s parents spent a whole not-so-lovely afternoon looking for her.
In the winter, the Bush Girl was always very sleepy, but not too sleepy to play in the snow with Daisy. In the spring they pressed flowers. In the summer they drew in the dirt and played with stuffed animals. In the fall they made soft couches and beds out of dead leaves, to furnish their bush house. The two girls grew older.
One day, in late summer, Daisy came to the bower with news. “I’ve got to go to school,” she told the Bush Girl sorrowfully.
The Bush Girl sighed. “You’ll still be able to see me on the weekends and after school,” she said, trying to reassure herself just as much as she was trying to reassure Daisy.
“Can’t you come to school?” begged Daisy. “It would be nice to have a friend.” The Bush Girl shook her head. “I couldn’t, even if I wanted to.”
“I’m scared,” Daisy confessed. “I’m really scared of school.”
The first day Daisy went to school was a lonely one for the Bush Girl. As soon as the car pulled into the driveway, Daisy hopped out and ran toward the Bush Girl’s bower. “I hate school!” she proclaimed. “School is a scary place full of strangers, and I didn’t even learn to read!”
Soon though, Daisy got used to school and made some friends, but even so, she never stopped coming to see the Bush Girl. On snow days, weekends, and holidays the two of them would play together for long undisturbed hours, and it was like old times. Daisy learned to read, and she would take her favorite books to the bush house and read with the Bush Girl.
Two years passed. The leaves on the Bush Girl’s bower grew and then fell off; the blossoms did too. One spring, Daisy came rushing to the bush house. “I’m turning eight tomorrow!” she told the Bush Girl. “I’m going to have a birthday party! Do you want to come?”
The Bush Girl looked sad. “You know I can’t leave the bush house, Daisy,” she said. “But we can celebrate your birthday right here, right now.”
Daisy’s face broke into a smile. “Yes, let’s! We can make a mud cake and put twigs in it for candles.” They did just this, but they didn’t eat the cake. Afterwards the Bush Girl gave Daisy a small package wrapped in leaves. Daisy opened it and found a small necklace with a wooden charm dangling from it. The charm was carved to show a picture of a little bush like the one under which they sat. The bush was surrounded by daisies. Daisy practically strangled the Bush Girl with a thank-you hug. Finally Daisy’s mother called her in and she had to leave.
“Goodbye,” called the Bush Girl. Daisy didn’t notice the note of deep sorrow in her voice as she said it.
The next day, after her birthday party, Daisy went to the Bush Girl’s bower. It was empty. “Bush Girl,” called Daisy. “Where are you?” Her voice seemed to have a hollow, lonely ring. Daisy became frantic. She searched the whole bush house, but the Bush Girl was nowhere to be found. All Daisy found was a short message carved onto a piece of bark. It read:
You can’t see me or hear me anymore because you are too old. I will miss you.
The Bush Girl
Daisy sat down on the mossy carpet of the bush house and cried. She cried because she was getting older and because she had just lost her best friend.