Tom climbed the unstable, rotting wooden rungs of the ladder to a place he hadn’t been in years. The treehouse had been a silent childhood haven from screaming parents. Four splintering walls and a floor of questionable durability were preferable to broken glass. Partially melted crayons littered the small table and the floor. Action figures, impossibly contorted, lined the little shelf.
He assisted his girlfriend Maureen into the simple arboreal abode. “Welcome to my first house,” he chuckled.
Maureen couldn’t help but smile as she gazed upon the fragments of his childhood.
“I wasn’t planning on coming up here,” Tom said, “otherwise I would’ve cleaned up a bit.” He lifted an old woolen blanket off the floor and shook it, watching dust particles spiral through patches of sunlight as Mo sneezed.
“Charming,” she giggled. “Tommy, this is so cute!”
“You like it?” He smiled and laid the blanket out on the ground, then helped Mo sit. She noted how swiftly his hands moved, how soft they were, how they engulfed hers. He sat with her, took her dainty hand in his magnum one, and mindlessly kissed her fingers.
“I love it!” She laid across his lap and watched the dying sunlight meander through cracks in the wood. “We should come up here more often…. Have a little picnic, wouldn’t that be nice?” Mo smiled up at him, and he kissed her hand once more before letting go and playing with her hair.
“I don’t know, this place isn’t exactly filled with happy memories.” Seeing her crestfallen face, he quickly added, “I suppose we can make some…. Mo, do you ever think about the future?” He stared off into space but maintained even strokes of her hair.
“Just the future? I try not to…. Our future, though, all the time. It’s a problem,” she giggled.
Tom cocked his head like a confused puppy. “Why is it a problem? I love you. I do my best for you. I’d do anything for you.” She sat up and shushed him, to calm his anxiety.
“Baby, baby, I know,” she held his face and kissed him softly, “You take care of me. There is no problem. I was just trying to be silly.”
“Well, now, what if there is a problem? Babes, I’ve always known I’m not enough for you, I could never be enough for you. You know how my dad was, I don’t… I never learned how to… how to be a good boyf–” Mo cut him off right there. She knew his father maintained a long-term affair with a much younger woman under the guise of being relocated for work.
“Tommy, you are more than I could ever dream of, and you are the best boyfriend I could ask for. You’re better than him. But we don’t know what the future holds…. There’s no guarantee we’ll always be together, especially if… if I take on an internship in Chicago….” She looked in his eyes, which transformed from unfocused to dark.
“What internship? No, you can’t. I don’t want to lose you, Maureen.” Hearing him use her full name gave her shivers. He said it in a detached voice, only vaguely recalling the way her Tommy spoke, with none of the charisma. Then he held her face and swiftly encircled her neck with his monstrous hands to pull her close for unwanted rough kisses.
“Yes I can, Tommy! Stop– ow! Stop, let’s talk!” She started choking, and her eyes were impossibly wide.
“No! I will not lose you!” He tightened his grip and squeezed her neck, harder and harder until– “Don’t you want to be together forever?” A blank stare and a whisper. “Mo?”
Silence. The one solace the treehouse always offered.
Lizzie Groth is a first year creative writing major at Bowling Green State University pursuing a self-created minor in contemporary fiction.