In the Forest

You button up your jacket and silently curse the jerk who decided zippers aren’t cultured enough. The wind shifts between violent gusts and a gentle breeze. Almost no one plays outside today. The overcast skies and bare trees seem foreboding. The warmth of the school halls and brightness from artificial lighting seem much more inviting.

That’s why you’re out here, because they’re inside. You deemed the pool too crowded and the dorms too wild. On the average dreary Saturday, half the boys receive warnings while a couple dozen are punished, not that it really matters. As long as their parents send in enough money, the troublemakers stay.

You pick up a rock from the path. You toss it up and catch it a few times. Then, you hurl the rock into the woods. It soars until it makes a resounding thunk against a limb. A bird flies away chirping out a warning, so you cringe. “Sorry,” you say under your breath. Of course, the bird doesn’t hear it, but it makes you feel a little better.

The wind gusts again and you shiver, though it’s not as bad as last time. You should’ve brought your hat, but you were in a rush to get out here. No one strolls through the woods despite the nice scenery and rock path. You shrug at people’s indifference towards plain beauty, trees on a frigid winter day.

You cross your arms until the wind dies down. In this moment, you hear nothing. No fellow classmates chattering about whatnot, no teachers lecturing about the lessons, and no Cerise annoying you for fun.

Then, the silence ends with a faint, feminine whimper. You strain your ears to find the source. Who’d be out here anyway? You follow the sound off the path and to a small grove of pines. Looking around, you don’t see anyone, just the green needles, grey sky, and brown ground covered in leaves. You step on a twig, and the whimpering stops.

“Hello?” you ask. “Is everything alright? Are you hurt?”

No one responds. Was the sound only the wind? It couldn’t be. Someone was crying.

You walk around the clearing and check behind the trees. Peering behind a large pine tree, you see flowing red hair. You gulp and kneel in front of the girl. Though her hair obscures her face, you still see a scowl and tears falling to the ground.

“Cerise?” You ask, afraid of what may come next from your tormentor.
She doesn’t bother looking up. “Get lost.”