Recess started. Breanna walked to the shade of her tree and sat down.
“It is my tree,” she thought. “No one else comes here.”
She opened her backpack and pulled out her book. Mrs. Finley had given it to her as a going away present, and she had let a few of her friends sign the book before she left. She stared at their signatures until her eyes started to blur, then she punched herself in the leg and blinked until her vision cleared. She let the book fall open and began to scan the lines like a rock skipping over a pond. When she came to the end of a paragraph she imagined the rock skipping one final time before sinking down into the murky depths where weeds clutched at her ankles. Then she picked up another pebble, safe on the shore, and tossed it across the next paragraph. Breanna became so lost in this fantasy that she forgot to pay attention to the words her stones were skipping across. She became so lost in it that she barely noticed the droplets falling onto the page. She became so lost in it that she did not even hear the group of girls approaching until they were standing all around her.
“Breanna, right?” a voice said.
Breanna jolted and slammed her book shut.
“Yeah, why?” she asked, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. The girl who had addressed her knelt beside her.
“Are you okay?” she asked. Breanna felt a pit open up inside her, and the pit was black and empty save for the strands of memory waving in the darkness, the strands of memory that clutched at her ankles as she tried to free herself. She felt the pit open inside of her, and a sob rose to her lips like final breath of a drowning child.
“What’s wrong?” the girl asked, putting a hand on her shoulder. The sob escaped, and Breanna began to cry. The other girls knelt down too and reached out to her with cautious hands.
“Hey,” the girl said. “It’s alright. It’s alright. Everything’s gonna be okay.” She sat down next to her and draped her arm over Breanna’s shoulders like a warm towel, and Breanna cried and cried until she felt the memories release her, and she bobbed to the surface and could fill her lungs again.
“I just…” she said. “I miss my friends.”
And she cried again, but she wasn’t alone this time, and instead of weeds or memories there were hands. But they were kind hands, and they did not clutch or drag or suck her down. The memories waved in the depths and reached for her, but the hands anchored her in that moment by the tree, and the pit in her stomach was filled.