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Papa Tree

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"Nancy, over here!"

I hear a girl shouting. I look down and there is Sarah, the girl from Boston three years ago. I still remember the first day when she found me here, behind the castle, she was so homesick that she wept for a couple of hours under my cover. Since then, she often comes to me alone after dinner.

Today, I cannot see her face, but her curvy brown hair, for she leans her face against me. She takes a deep breath as if she is inhaling my fragrance. Or she is merely catching her breath? She then caresses me lovingly with her small hands, like how she always does when she needs comfort.

I look up and a girl about the same age runs towards me. She must be Nancy. I haven't seen her before, but I do remember some other girls mentioning her name. This girl has short blonde hair and I can clearly see her hazel eyes even from afar. The sweet smile on her face must have brightened up many people's day. For sure she has brightened mine. How can anyone not melt by her smile? She is so carefree and full of spirits.

"So what is it that you are going to tell me, Sarah?" This Nancy girl smiles to Sarah. She put her hands on her hips and pants heavily. But her smile never leaves her face.

"Oh Nancy. I cannot believe it happened. I cannot believe it! I am such a lucky girl." Sarah finally let go of me and grabs her friend's hands. She leads her closer to me and sit down by the big root of mine which is half exposed above the ground.

Sarah finally lifts her face up, probably looking at the leaves dancing in the light breeze. Her gaze is so dreamy that I am sure Nancy can tell that her thoughts are actually miles away from here.

"What is it? Tell me, Sarah! I have never seen you being so excited.". Nancy is definitely getting impatient. She let go of Sarah's hands and gently shakes her knees instead.

"Mrs. Cunningham just told me that I will be the Head Girl next year! Can you believe it Nancy? Me? Sarah the mousy girl? I can't wait to tell my mom. She will be so shocked. Haha, who wouldn't be? Even I was shocked when Mrs. Cunningham called me to her office this morning. I have never achieved this kind of honor, Nancy. I am always the one who needs protection and pampering in the family. My mom is so worried about me. You know, being too dependent and babyish? That's why she sent me miles away from home, giving me no choice but to be independent. I am so lucky. Just so lucky to have you be my best friend. You taught me how to conquer my shyness. You taught me...."

I turn my attention to Nancy. She hasn't say a word since Sarah broke the news. Where is her smile? She looks as if she is mollified by the news.

I look at Sarah again.  Her smile just grows wider and wider, she speaks faster and faster. I doubt if she notices the silence around her. She is already thinking about next year, when she puts on that white blazer, sitting at the head table next to the Head Mother.

I am very happy for her. In the last three years, I suppose I am the only one who she had confided her fear and loneliness to. The time she spent with me has always been emotional. Having witness her growing from a timid girl into a young and caring lady, I am so proud of her.

Sadly, I can tell that Nancy doesn't really share the joy here. Though her smile returns, it is no longer the bright smile she had before. I have to give her credits that she manages her composure well. Her eyes still focus on Sarah, but her hands now clasp together. I guess I am the only one who sees her pain deep inside her eyes. She is really trying hard to not let her tears surface from behind the eyeballs.

I have a feeling that Nancy will be my next regular visitor from now on. These girls always come to me, or I wouldn't be called the Papa Tree.

Sure enough, I see Nancy a few more times by herself afterwards. She usually comes by before breakfast, when everyone else is still in slumber land. She doesn't come by very often, but she is no longer a stranger to me.

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