by Rebecca Field
From the oak tree at the top of the hill I can see all the way down our street. I can even see into some of the windows. I see people moving about behind their net curtains, going about their lives; hanging out the washing, sweeping the pavement, beating their rugs. Window cleaners, postmen, delivery boys. I know all their routines. The fish man comes on Fridays and parks his van near my spot. I can smell the fish from where I sit.
Nobody knows I come here — it’s my secret hideout. People walk right underneath and don’t see me, hidden in the leafy canopy. Often they stop for a cigarette, or to catch their breath after the climb. I sit in silence above like a statue carved in wood, not daring to breathe. People never think to look up, but their dogs do sometimes, after they have cocked their legs against my tree. I meet their eyes and hold their stares; somehow they seem to know not to give me away.
In summer I can spend all day up here. I bring books, comics, apples; whatever I can fit in my pockets on the way out. I like listening to the way the wind moves through the leaves. It makes me feel calm, like the tree is protecting me from the world outside. I’m in a bubble and nobody can get to me. Mum thinks I’m playing with the other kids. She says boys shouldn’t be inside all day and that I need fresh air. She doesn’t want me under her feet, she says.
I keep an eye out for her though, and when I see her come out of our house in her apron, scanning the faces of the other boys with their footballs and bicycles, I know it must be dinner time. That’s my cue to jump down and go home. I like the way she always seems surprised that I knew to come at just that moment. “You’re like a homing pigeon,” she says, smiling.
Just lately, I’ve seen Dad from my tree too. Sometimes he stops his car near the top of the hill on his way back from work and goes into Gregory Smith’s house. Then he comes out a bit later on and drives down the hill to ours. I jump in for a lift if I can get down in time. “Where did you spring from?” he says.
“Nowhere,” I always say.
It’s nice of him to help Mrs Smith with her decorating. Her husband got killed in an accident at work last year. Dad said not to mention it to Mum or she might ask him to do our decorating too and he has enough to do. He must think I’m stupid, he never has any paint on his hands. I think maybe he uses their house as his place to escape, his secret hideout, just like mine.
Rebecca Field lives in Derbyshire and juggles trying to find time to write with caring for two young children and working in healthcare. She has been published at Literally Stories, Spelk, 101 Words and Flash Fiction Magazine. She blogs occasionally at rebeccafieldwriting.wordpress.com.