Once upon a time, under an oak tree in one of the largest backyards in the neighbourhood, three girls, Veronica Bradbury, Zoe Carter and Ellie Rose stood staring up at an abandoned treehouse. The treehouse looked older than they remembered, with the pinewood they had used for the floors and the walls now brown and slightly covered in moss. Only two of the four windows still had the blinds they had made and the ladder leading to the entrance now missing several of its steps. The three of them had sworn that they would never go back in there, yet, here they were just two years later; Zoe and Ellie wondering what was so important that Veronica had to meet them here and nowhere else. “Someone’s going in there,” Veronica stated, breaking the impatient silence between the three girls.
“How can you be sure?” Zoe asked
“I’ve seen candlelight in there. Two nights in a row.” Veronica looked apologetic enough about telling the girls this fact that Zoe and Ellie were convinced that this wasn’t a trick.
“Do you think they know?” Ellie asked softly.
“I’m not sure,” Veronica replied, shaking her head. “But they’ll find out soon enough.”
The girls had decided to build the treehouse during the summer school holidays two years ago when they became tired of having the same old sleepovers over and over again. With the help of Veronica’s father, they had managed to gather up enough left-over wood from his shed to start planning their dream treehouse. The ladder was the first part they built together, followed by the floor and the walls and, finally, after a week of helping Veronica’s father where they could, they were able to add four sheets of tin to complete the roof. The day they finished the treehouse was one of the proudest moments of their lives and they set about decorating it accordingly. They used some rolled up vinyl to create the blinds and built three beds out of some old pallets. A makeshift table created from two old crates and a square piece of chipboard sat in the centre of the treehouse, allowing the girls to eat their dinner and play board games comfortably. The girls agreed that they were happy sleeping on a camping mattress each and that they would bring their own sleeping bags up with them. For light, the girls used some lanterns and their own torches. They were extremely proud of their accomplishments and, after all the hard work they had put into making it theirs, they would have been very saddened to know that they would only ever spend two nights sleeping in their treehouse.
The first night in the treehouse was extremely enjoyable. Having played cards and telling stories until late, Veronica’s mother had to come out to remind the girls that it was well past their bedtimes. They each lay down in their beds, enjoying the sounds that you only hear when sleeping outside. It wasn’t until they woke up that they realised something wasn’t quite right. Ellie woke up first and found that she was eager to eat some breakfast, so she gently tried to wake up the other two girls. After a few moments of stirring, all three of them were sitting on the edges of their beds stretching. Not having had the most comfortable nights of sleep, it took the girls a little while to acknowledge that they each thought they all looked slightly different. “Your face, Ellie… You look… older,” Veronica said with a slight chuckle.
“I was thinking the same thing about you,” Ellie responded while throwing a pillow that narrowly missed Veronica’s head.
“No, I’m serious,” Veronica responded. “Zoe, what do you…” Veronica and Ellie stared at Zoe. Without a doubt, Zoe looked significantly older than when she had gone to sleep.
“What’s going on?” asked Zoe in a panic. “Why do you both suddenly look like you’ve grown up overnight?”
“What? How much older do we look?” Veronica asked Zoe.
Zoe squinted her eyes. “I don’t know. Maybe one year older, maybe more. It’s hard to tell.”
Zoe took her asthma puffer out of her backpack and used it just in time.
My name is Gregg Savage and, every night when the house is quiet, I write and publish a free children’s story at dailytales.com.au for you to share and enjoy.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.