The Tree That Wasn’t

“Mom! Eemah! Where’s the tree out back?” Elijah was calling from the back door of the thin two story row house. “I wanted to show Carol.”

Mom, Lexi, called back to Elijah from her study on the second floor, “Oh, uh, we cut it down a few years back. Sorry love.”

“Why’d you go and do that? I loved that tree” Elijah took a step into the house and towards the bottom of the stairs.

Lexi exited her study and walked to the top of the stairs so she didn’t have to yell anymore, “It just needed to come down honey. You know how these things are. Now, no making a fuss. You can still show Carol the neighborhood.” Lexi looked around, “Where is she?”

“Oh, I’m just in the kitchen! Don’t mind me. Grabbing a juice from the fridge.”

“Don’t let her eat any of the hamantashen, Eemah made them earlier today.”

“They for tomorrow?”

“Yeah, guests are coming over.”

Carol walked into view, holding a half eaten triangular shaped cookie. “Hi Mrs. Breitman!” She took another bite while Lexi motioned to Elijah incredulously and Elijah shrugged.

“Well, I wish you would have told me, mom. I would have liked to have said goodbye.” Elijah looked down, turned around, and walked with his fiancée to the back door.

Elijah remembered climbing that tree almost every single day after coming home from school. He climbed that tree way more than any person should have. He remembered the way it felt in his biceps as he reached for the next branch. He loved the feeling of the burn in his legs as he kept going higher and higher. And then he was at the top, balancing himself precariously on a branch way too thin for his weight, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to climb and feel his body moving.

He missed those days of constant moving and energy and excitement. Nowadays he felt like his body was just not quite right. It was difficult for him to exercise in the ways he remembered from his childhood. But that was the price of getting older, he thought.

“Okay mom, we’re gonna go to the park.” He shouted up the stairs, maybe a little louder than he needed to.

“Which park?”

“The one with the jungle gym.”

“Is that the one by the courthouse?”

“No, it’s by the library, down the hill.”

“Take care Eli. I love you.”

“I love you too mom.” And then Elijah yelled as loud as he could, “I love you Eemah! Wherever you are!”

The door shut and Eemah, Rebecca, let out a sigh and turned away from Lexi. “When are we going to tell him.”

Lexi clasped her hands together and started to walk back towards her studio. “We aren’t.” She said with an uptick in her voice to express finality.

Rebecca did not feel like the conversation was over. “He deserves to know. I mean, can you imagine if it happened to you?”

“Well, he doesn’t need to know, alright, so why tell him?” Lexi sat back down at her desk.

Rebecca sighed and ran her hand through her short hair. “We should have told him when he woke up.”

Lexi kept staring at her computer. “You remember what the doctor said, don’t you? If we told him then, the memories might not have taken. Is the truth really worth him not being able to walk?”

“Fine, but it’s already taken now. It won’t hurt him to know any more. I have the memory playback in the basement. He doesn’t even have to enter, we can watch the summary on the tv.” Rebecca tried to talk with a soothing tone, but the edge to her annoyance was still barely audible. She walked towards Lexi and started to place her hand on Lexi’s shoulder.

Lexi spun around on her chair. “Fine, you tell him then. You can be the bad guy on this one. But are you going to tell him the rest? Are you going to show him every detail we had to change?” Lexi raised her voice and began to stand. She pointed her finger at Rebecca. “Half of his damn childhood is a lie now, and you want him to deal with that?”

And then Lexi went silent. She saw in the doorway was Elijah. “Hey, I just came back to get this.” Elijah lifted an umbrella. “The forecast said it might rain later.” Elijah stepped into the room a bit, lowering the umbrella. “What was all the yelling about. Is everything okay?”

Rebecca hugged Elijah and then pulled back, looking at him in the eye, admiring the young man she raised. “S-sorry.” She began to cry. “We just, we just had a disagreement.” Rebecca turned around to Lexi and said, “I’m going to go bed a little early today, don’t stay up too late.” Rebecca left the room, walked past Carol standing silently in the hallway, and entered her and Lexi’s bedroom.

“Is she okay? It’s not even 5 yet?” Elijah motioned behind him.

“She isn’t feeling well right now.” Lexi stood up and took Elijah’s hand in hers. “You know I love you, right honey?”

“Of course I do.” Elijah pulled her into a tight hug. “I have my whole childhood to show that.”

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