The tree hadn’t changed since a year ago when I last came here. When I last came here I was alone and I sat underneath it and didn’t move until Ali came and found me. She was unhappy for missing some of school that day but I was grateful that she did.
There was no fruit on the tree. It seemed as though it didn’t want to produce fruit even though it was time for it to flower.
“Ari, I never got much chance to be with Ali, except for…. Well, never mind…. What was she really like?”
I felt his words like a pang in my heart. I cringed uncomfortably and touched some of the fallen leaves on the ground.
“She was going through something in the last few months. I didn’t know what. She told me a bit about it but I didn’t know how serious it was. And I’m only starting to understand her note now.” It dawned on me. The truth behind her note dawned on me.
“What was that?” Beau asked as he moved shook his brown hair out of his eyes. I suddenly wanted to scream at him and tell him to get out. I promised Ali and she promised me that we would never bring other people to this place.
“She said- Nothing is endless, I know that now- It’s a quote from a book series. I thought she meant that people get over stuff like we would all get over her death. But what she really meant was that nothing we do is endless. We always have a choice to stop. We always have a choice to start over- I just don’t understand why she didn’t try to start over.” I choked. I didn’t want to cry in front of another guy so I held back the tears for as long as I could.
I felt Beau’s arms engulf me again and as much as I wanted it to, it didn’t feel right. I felt a tear escape and trace a path down my cheek.
“Ari, she didn’t mean that. You have to read between the lines, and to read between the lines is how the detectives figure out the truth.”
I looked up into his eyes and then stared at the tree. I sank to the grassy carpet and cried.
“What the fuck did she mean then? That I could just get on with my life and forget my endless love for her? I hate her for doing this to me.” I yelled. He slunk to the ground next to me and squeezed my hand. It felt wrong again. “Please. Tell me. Maybe it will ease some of the guilt that is wedged so tightly into my heart it’s like she drove it there with a stake.”
“She meant that though her fight will be over, her pain is gone, she will always be here and she knew it. It’s like her code for saying what the note actually said and the exact opposite. I’m not going to tell you to let it go, Ari. But try to forget about it today.”
I looked at him from under my wet lashes and blinked. I knew he was right. I would always remember Ali. I would always think about her, I would always cry myself to sleep, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t go out and have fun.
“Beau…” His name sounded better when Ali said it. It had a certain ring to it and I thought that maybe she really did like him. My insides cried out for me to save them. I clenched a fist into my belly. Beau raised his eyebrows at me and I blew out a deep breath. I felt the gravity disappear beneath me and I knew that no one was there to catch me in their arms. He was leaning closer now.
I remembered all the sadness and frustrations and wanted to let it go. I wanted to let it go. I closed my eyes and leant forward too. A second before our lips touched, someone pulled away. In fact both of us pulled away. He had his eyes closed and I studied him. He seemed to be saying something under his breath only meant for him. I tuned in and tried to listen.
“You stupid, stupid idiot, I don’t love her- just because she looks like Aleira, doesn’t mean you have the right to kiss her. Maybe she has a boyfriend- you idiot she was going to kiss you too- but that was because she’s going through something bigger than you are- Hey, I cried when I heard she died too! No you didn’t, your eyes got teary- because I loved her. I loved her. No you didn’t, I did. Honestly….” He opened then closed his eyes again and I brought a hand to my eyes to stop a tear rolling. I took yet another deep breath and put an arm around him. I patted Beau’s back for a second before I put my head on his shoulder and hugged him.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Beau, I’m sorry.” I kept apologising and neither of us moved.
I heard movement in the tree and we both looked up. We watched as a pair of monarch butterflies flew up together into the bright rays of sunshine. The sun, which was poking through the many clouds, seemed to be shining only on this patch of grass that was the greenest.
Beau gave a short laugh and I was reminded how beautiful his laugh was.
“This place is beautiful, Ari! Don’t let it go. It’s like the sun is shining from heaven onto it. It’s like Ali is watching us.” He laughed again and closed his eyes to bask in the golden sunlight. I gave him one last hug before I let go of him and stood up. I wiped the left over grasses from my bum and grabbed hold of one the branches of the tree.
I hoisted myself up and climbed up, up and up. I was aware that Beau was watching me and I poked my head up through one of the holes in the tree. Looking up at the sunlight, I reached a hand up into it and closed. I reached higher and looked down to see if I could climb any higher. There was one free branch, I wouldn’t have anything to hold onto then, but I could be closer maybe to Ali. I might be able to reach her finally. I hesitantly stepped up onto the last branch and felt it creak under my weight. I heard voices from down below but I tuned out of the conversation. It didn’t occur to me that someone had found the place newly christened Ali’s Tree.
I reached up again and swore that I could feel something. I felt something get off my chest and I felt so much lighter. For the first time in a while, I laughed. As I laughed, I fell. I fell down towards the ground and though it only took a second or two for me to reach the ground, I had a vision.
“Ali!” I breathed. I felt the gravity pulling me down still but all I saw was Ali in front of me. She was wearing a white summery dress and her hair was loose and wavy. I envied it still. I knew it wasn’t real but I hoped it was so much. “Can’t you take me with you?” I begged. I didn’t let myself close my eyes in case it all disappeared.
She shook her head. I laughed for some reason.
“It’s not your time, Ariel. You can’t leave all the people you care about.”
I held myself back from yelling at her.
“What about you, Ali? You left me when I cared about you. So did mum and Beau.’
She smiled when I said his name. She smiled in a way that I knew she loved him too. But we were so young. She looked at the ground and closed her eyes. When she opened them, they were so happy. I wished I was that happy. Ali swallowed.
“What?” I asked cautiously.
“You probably don’t actually want to hear this.” She whispered. The smile never left her face.
“What?” I asked again. She looked up at me questioningly.
“I had been going out with Beau since he asked me in year 9. No one knew but Iris because she’s his sister. Beau made me feel loved. I didn’t tell you because of how you acted when you saw us together at that party. I never told you and I’m sorry. Ari, if I could go back and start over, I would have trusted you and told you everything…”
I looked down and felt really bad.
“Why are you with him now?” She asked me. She sounded scary when she was angry now. Her voice seemed to resonate off the white walls.
“Forgive me, Ali, but I had to show him your tree. He still loves you and I knew you would have shared it with him one day anyway-
“I WANTED TO BE THE ONE TO SHOW HIM OUR TREE.” She yelled at me. I gave a start and cowered to her feet. Her feet were bare and her toenails looked neat for once. I was ready to apologise. “But it’s alright.” She continued. I let out my breath and went to embrace her as I stood up but as I went to touch her skin, she flickered and I leapt back, not wanting her to disappear. She shrugged it off and circled me.
“Ali, I love you so much, I just want to be next to you again.” I mumbled. She looked at me with her evil eye.
“Was that what this was? Was this a suicidal attempt? I thought you made your own thoughts on suicide clear enough. Try it again and I will make sure you and I never meet again.”
“You can do that? Are you an angel?” I asked. She shook her head. I felt dumb and I felt myself still falling. She inhaled and looked around us.
“No, I’m a soul. But we can do things, you know. Like ghosts but not…” She smiled ruthlessly, “…vengeful…”
I smiled with her and bit my lip.
“I don’t want you to go.” I said. I reached out for her again but then I saw the better of it. She smiled at me.
“You’re lucky Ashton was there to catch you. Beau was too stunned to do anything- probably caught up in memories… Like you. You always seem to be caught up in memories nowadays. I see you when I’m sifting through my own. It’s time to wake up now, Ari.”
“You mean this was all a dream?” I asked, suddenly doubtful. She looked around and slowly, silently nodded her head. I gave her a small smile and a sad wave. She returned them both and came closer to me.
“Let go Ari. Have fun. I’ll always be watching you…. But try to live your life. Twinnie….” She looked really sad and I went to close my eyes but before I did, she was in front of me, so close I could almost touch her and I felt her breath on my head. I didn’t care anymore.
I put my arms around her and soon enough, I seemed to actually be hugging her real form. I could actually touch her. She hugged me back and tears dripped down my cheeks. I heard voices in the background like static. Ali didn’t let go and neither did I.
But then she put a hand to my forehead. I felt a buzzing hotness inside of me and then I suddenly closed my eyes…
Ali’s touch disappeared.