But Clara was young and impressionable and this time, her circle of friends included Michael Waldgeist, the new kid at school.
Michael was lithe and quick and had dark skin and dark eyes. he laughed with a quicksilver smile that reminded Clara of moonlight on the water. Every time Michael looked at her, Clara felt herself giggle. They shared a secret, she was certain. She hadn't quite figured out precisely what that secret was, but it was the way of boys to be cryptic.
And Michael looked at her a lot. From the very first day she'd seen him, hanging upside-down from the cherry tree in Clara's front-yard after school, she'd known he was something special. He didn't look upon her with pity or curiosity. He simply gazed with open admiration.
When she got to the old oak tree, Michael was already there, sitting cross-legged between the gnarled roots of the Oak, as if it were holding him in a loving embrace. He wore brown and green, as if he had always been a part of the forest. Danielle and Eric were with him--Danielle, in a yellow sun-dress and wellingtons, sitting with her arms crossed in front of her, while Eric bounding back and forth with unbridled excitement.
Eric leaped up when he saw Clara, a cheery exclamation on his lips. Danielle waved timidly. Michael simply smiled. It was more than enough.