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Breathing heavily, two children disappeared into the greenery of the Pacific Northwest forest, ready for the onslaught of adventure. Removing the protective hoods of her viciously pink jacket, the little girl upturned her face to the sky, allowing the warming drops to slam into her skin. Her friend copied her, waggling a greeting at the coming rain with his tongue.
Arriving at the miniscule hut they had discovered the day before, the girl rushed to start her work organizing the place, while her companion was content with tying abandoned wooden boards into walls with roots and vines. They worked at their separate tasks for hours, until the rumbling in their stomachs distracted them enough to force them to break.
“Know what we need?” the boy asked nonchalantly, an apple readily positioned in his stubby hand.
“Hmm?” she replied, her mouth full of fruit and her chin already sticky with juice.
“We need some food out here. Like stuff that doesn’t go bad. It’d be really like our own house then.”
“Yep” (she had always been partial to monosyllabic answers.)
Their snacking finished, the two hastily returned to their jobs. She set the old bedspread on the earthen floor to be a carpet, kicking into place under the old fold-out chairs they had “borrowed” from the church in their neighborhood. She pulled out her paint set, given to her by her sister for Christmas, and showered the paper they had brought with hearts and swords and flowers. She stretched the paper out above the opening of the doorway with duct tape, a mural of innocent wonder.
“Finished!” she exclaimed jubilantly, standing back to appraise her work with pride.
“Me too. This is gonna be great!”
The friends descended the makeshift stairs (a number of nearly-rotten logs, barely light enough for an eight-year-old to lift) and hurried home, where dinner steamed and mothers called out into the quickly dissipating sunlight.
As she watched her younger brother play with Grace Kennedy in their new fortress, Hannah had to wonder when exactly it was that she had grown up. Standing from her hiding spot in the bushes near her friend Frederich, she allowed the rolled paper to drop from her lips. Ignoring the "Whatsa' matter, Hannah?" emanting from Frederich's mouth, she hurried home to dinner.