Maddy stared out the window in the sudden silence accented rather than dispelled by the chattering violins. The trees had pulled away from the car, but they still stood like a wall just beyond the edge of a wide swath of grass grown just a little shaggy, not quite in need of mowing. Then someone in the front opened a door, and even the stringy voices went quiet.
Even after spending more than enough time in the car, Maddy made no move to unfasten her seat belt. When, she wondered to herself, and why did I become scared of trees. They were fine in the parks, for shading picnics and running around. In their little squares of dirt in the sidewalk, they were nice to stand under on hot sunny days. I wonder if it is the way they outnumber the people and buildings here.
Maddy knew quite well that it was silly to be afraid of trees. The worst they could do is fall on her, and even that would take some outside factor rather than a deliberate treeish attack. It made more sense to be afraid of what might be hiding under, behind, or in the trees, but sitting there, Maddy knew that was not it. She was afraid of the trees themselves. She could feel them watching her.
Suddenly, a face and shoulders blotted out most of the view, and Maddy had to blink once or thrice before she brought her thoughts out of the shadows and back into the van, and she recognized her Mum. With the carefully judged heave it took to open the minivan’s door without having it bounce back shut, Mum released the silence to go run among the shadows, while strange bird noises and a soft, but pervasive whispering rustle investigated the inside of the van.
“Come on, sweety. Let’s go explore our new surroundings,” Mum said, smiling. When Maddy sat blinking a moment longer, Mum’s smile turned commiserating, and she unbuckled the seat belt and lifted the girl to the ground. In spite of everything else, Maddy had to smile back. She was proud of the fact that none of her friends’ mums would, or maybe even could still comfortably carry them. Mum was not particularly big, at least not compared to Maddy’s uncles or father, but she stayed active, and if need be (even if just to amuse her audience) Mum could carry Father on her back, or over her shoulder, if he did not struggle too much. She said more of it was knowing how than strength.
Maddy tucked her hand in Mum’s. Together they rounded the van, and Maddy got her first glimpse of the new house.