Into the Woods (Short Story)
These sixty-foot trees have been witness to so much history, Paige thinks as her legs easily carry her through the eight acres of land her family owned. Over to the right, past one of the shorter apple trees and over the homemade bridge, was a small clearing. That's where Paige's great great and many more greats grandfather had fought in the battle of Molund in 1889.
Walking a little further, making sure to step over the rabbit hole, she tip-toes along the edge of the pond. Looking over the shimmering waters, she thinks can imagine Martha. Martha was a cow that had escaped from the next farm over in 1929. The owner and his family panicked. Desperate, they offered a reward for anybody who found her. At the time, Paige’s grandfather, just a young man of 17, had stumbled across the cow drinking from his pond and quickly called. When the owner’s family came to pick up Martha, Paige’s grandfather got one look at the owner’s eldest daughter and they fell in love. As a sign of good faith, they got to keep Martha as a wedding gift.
Passing the pond and looking over to the left, in an alcove of trees, tucked almost from view and painted a mash of browns and greens to blend in, was a small pergola where Paige's father had proposed to her mother one bitter fall morning in 1987.
Picking blueberries off a nearby bush, Paige continued through the familiar woods until she came to her spot, a small mound at the edge of the property, shielded from eyes and ears. She sat down and let out the long, heavy sigh she had been bottling up since she received the mail that morning. Paige had been a bundle of nerves ever since, chewing her lip, anxiously tapping her foot. She just needed a moment alone. People didn't understand what Paige could be worried about, she had officially graduated high school. It was the beginning of summer. What could be wrong?
Her bare skin was exposed to the 78-degree weather. She was grateful for the coolness the night provided instead of the mugginess the midday brought. As she waited, Paige wondered how many others of her family had discovered this spot. Probably many. Paige was the pieces of her family, molded into one. She had her father’s freckles, covering her face like tiny bits of sand, long blond hair like her mother, fair milk smooth skin like her grandmother, tall lanky limbs like her grandfather. But unlike all before her, Paige had dreams. She wanted to be her own person, wanted to see something other than the trees her family had seen. There was a world out there waiting for her.
Her parents hated when she went out at night like this, the clock ticking past 8:02 when she had left the house. Most people would say it was dangerous trekking through the woods this late, with the sun starting to sink and darkness slowly starting to creep in, but Paige didn't care, she knew she wouldn't get lost, not here, not in the woods that had been in her family for generation after generation. Even if she did manage to wander somewhere new, the history would lead her back.
Besides, this was the best seat in town.
Looking up, she watches the sun begin to set. Against the dull browns and various shades of green, the sunset was almost violently vibrant. It's orange and yellows splash against the sky like a painting and it was beautiful, even after seeing it for the millionth time. The only thing ruining this moment was the air, it felt heavy felt like a gate, trapping her there. It's as if, here at the edge of the woods, acres from people, she isn't alone. As if the woods were full of the spirits of relatives before her. Paige loved their stories, but she feared them too. She fears she'll die here like her grandfather, and his grandfather, and his grandfather and soon she will become just another piece of history to the land.
With the last rays of the sun, she slowly untucks the folded letter she had hidden inside her shirt and smooths it out. There, at the top of the letter in bold blue was the college’s symbol. Her eyes scan the words again, just to make sure it was real: the University of Buffalo, the state university of New York.
There was this thrill of excitement, like electricity that ran through her body and made her fingertips numb. She could feel a smile force itself onto her face and she couldn't stop it. New York. Paige had never been to New York, heck she'd never been outside the state! According to a map she looked at this morning, New York was about 997.6 miles away from here, from the only home she knew. When she had applied, she applied on a whim, submitting her application to the furthest college possible. She hadn't told her parents, she honestly hadn't expected to get accepted. But maybe this was a sign. Maybe, maybe it was time she set out on a new path.