"You have to choose,” my sister says. “You can stay here with me, or you can go into the woods where there is an entrance to a magical world.”
“The woods,” I say right away, enchanted with the idea. The excitement swells inside me as I imagine what a magical world would be like. “Yeah. The woods,” I repeat.
“There’s a catch,” she says in a conspiratorial whisper, pushing back her long blonde hair. “You would never be able to come back home. You’d have to stay there. Forever.”
“Okay,” I say. “I want to go to the magical world.” It’s suddenly so close now, I can almost taste it, this magical place.
Her smile suddenly fades into silence, a cloud moving across the sun. My sister, the Pied Piper.
“What?” she hisses, her eyes snapping.
“I don’t want to play this anymore,” I tell her.
“Too late,” she says, shaking her head. “I can’t believe you said that. I can’t believe you want to go. What’s wrong with you.”
The way she asks it, it’s not a question.
“No,” I panic. “No, I don’t want to go now.”
“I already heard you say it. You said you want to go and never, ever come back,” she says with disgust. “I can’t believe you would do that to mom.”
The look of disdain on her face scares me. I have made a terrible mistake, and the creeping shame starts spreading.
“No, wait,” I plead. “I don’t want to go, I want to stay here.”
“I don’t believe you. You’re lying. You really do want to leave. I’m going to have to tell mom that you want to go. I have to tell her,” she shakes her head in disbelief. “I really have no choice.”
The guilt is too much. What had I been thinking? The tears start, and I am stammering with regret.
“Oh stop it,” she says with a sneer, grabbing my arm and pinching. “I was only kidding. Be quiet or everyone will hear you.”
I sniff, rubbing my arm. She stands up and laughs as she goes downstairs. Maybe I am getting a second chance.
In the living room after dinner she takes me aside by the stone fireplace.
“I had to tell mom,” she says quietly. “You know I had to. She is really hurt. You can tell by the way she’s not talking about it.”
I look across the room at our mom who is reading a paperback book. She won’t even look at me.
“See how she isn’t speaking to you? That’s because she’s so hurt. She said she’s going to act like she doesn’t know you want to leave us. That’s how upset she is.”
I look at the fireplace to show her I’m not listening.
She grabs my hair hard and pulls hard before letting go. “You’re really selfish, trying to hurt her like that.”
I jerk away from her and look her in the eyes.
“You’ve always been such a selfish little girl,” she says in a low voice before she goes into the kitchen.
I wake up in the dark. I sit up and look around. The light from the moon is shining through the window. Pine tree shadows spread across the floor. I need to see the sky, the moon, the pines. I’m up and getting dressed in the night, lacing up my tennis shoes carefully and walking to the door. Click-thunk and it’s unlocked. Slowly I open it, controlling the creak of the hinges. The night mountain air is sharp with the tang of pine needles and stars. I go down the front steps of the cabin and turn toward the trees on the side of the driveway.
Above the treetops the moon is large and white, throwing silver on the passing clouds. There’s a flicker of light just in the trees, and the sound of bells. The lights flash again, pink then blue then gold. Laughter, faint music, and sparks like fireflies pull me across the dark and into the dim grove. The moonlight makes a path, and the lights are dancing with me until I get to a stone wall and stop. The trees holds their breath.
In the wall is a worn wooden door carved with wildflowers and vines. Silver glows from the crack underneath. There is the sound of bells ringing gently and the smell of freedom and starlight. I look behind me, but it’s too dark to see the cabin anymore. The moon has drifted behind the trees. Turning back, I take a deep breath, put my hand on the door and push.
When she was 11, Erin Parker won her first creative writing contest and has been writing ever since. Erin was a short story finalist in the 2012 Naked Girls Reading Literary Honors contest. Her work has been published in Red Fez, Uno Kudo Ripped, Uno Kudo Naked, and will be included in a forthcoming Superhero anthology from Timid Pirate Publishing.