“Hey Cat?” Tony turned his blue eyes to the sky, leaning his head back, blonde hair shuffling and falling over his ear and cheekbone. They were sitting on the picnic table in his backyard; an after school ritual. Cat was perched on the table top with her legs crossed. Tony sat on the bench, reclined with his back against the top of the table, his legs stretched out in front of him. Over the years, that table had served as many a different setting in their games as they grew. When they were eight, it was often a pirate ship, or a space ship, a car, a covered wagon. Last year for awhile it had been their stage during their lip-synced air guitar performances as a rock and roll band. They’d gotten in trouble for playing the radio too loud and so… the band had to quit, man. This year they’d both turned thirteen, and so far, the table had only been used as a table. The tree it sat under, of course, was a different story.
“Hey what?” Cat was quiet these days, her dark eyes often glinting in a way that Tony didn’t recognize. When she’d first moved into the house next door, she officially became the only girl on the block. The very first day she was there, she’d caught him lurking in the lilac bushes that separated their front yards. He’d been spying as she helped carry boxes and bags into the house. Truthfully, he’d been staring because he couldn’t believe how much she could carry considering how skinny she was. He’d been lost enough in his thoughts about the subject he hadn’t even registered that she’d seen him and made a turn in his direction. He’d almost jumped out of his skin when he realized that suddenly, she was standing right in front of him, holding a box of clay. She’d dropped the box and put her hands on her hips. Then, seeing the look on his face, she laughed, reached through bushes, tapped his shoulder and exclaimed, “You’re it!”. That game of tag had lasted six years so far.
“I haven’t seen Dane for a couple weeks. Where is he?” Tony liked Cat’s older brother; he was mysterious. Dane had always seemed like he was only half present in everything, like part of him was wandering somewhere else.
“He’s in Great Falls with Dad.” Cat tossed her head back and jumped up, latching on to a bottom branch of the tree with both hands. In two fluid motions, she hauled her body up and curved it around the branch, coming to a rest in a sitting position on the skinny limb.
“Monkey.” Tony said as he raised his body from the table and hefted himself up the trunk. “I have to get on a bigger branch. That one’s gonna break if I sit on it.” Cat began to climb to the top of the tree, living up to her name. She was a fast climber, fearless in that tree, always moving like if she fell, she’d land on her feet for sure. Tony had gotten less adept at climbing. By the time he reached their spot at the top of the tree, she’d been gazing at the sunset for four minutes.
“Old guy,” Cat said with a smirk. He smiled and looked at her, as he’d done hundreds of times since they’d been friends. Her long black hair always floated around her face as if there was a breeze even if there wasn’t. Tonight, though, as the sun cast brazen colors into their tree top vantage before fading into a starlit evening, Cat seemed to be shadowed. Tony quietly sat beside her, wondering what the secret could be.