The topic for day five changed the direction of the initial story dramatically. The moment Alisa told me her choice of topic was Pohutukawa trees, just to get a bit of ‘Lil ole NZ‘ into my challenge, she had no idea how scene-setting it would be. To be fair, she had no idea what I was going to do anyway, other than write about Pohutukawa trees. But that’s okay, they are my favourite kind of tree too.
(If you are joining our tale today, welcome! Feel free to start the journey here.)
The Pohutukawa trees. J R Manawa.
Sophia woke in the dark. Her husband was still asleep in the bed beside her, a dead weight, like life had forgotten him. Sometimes Sophia would turn over in the night and curl into the curve of her husband’s side, reaching out one arm to rest it on his chest for a few moments. At first she had done it to check he was still breathing, but years later she was still doing it, purely out of habit. She heard women complaining how much their partners snored in the night, but Eric’s lips never moved. His sleeping habits seemed almost inhuman, even if they were endearing.
She pressed her lips softly to the hollow beneath his ear and felt the pulse of his neck against her own skin. She stayed there for a moment, amused and knowing that she would not have gotten away with it if he were awake. His neck had always been his weak spot.
Letting out a small sigh, Sophia turned over, sat up, and stepped out of bed. A clock was not a necessary object for Sophia, her body knew the time.
She pulled on a coat and left her husband to sleep with the shadows of the impending dawn beginning to dance across the ceiling.
From the bedroom next door, Sophia collected her daughter, scooping her up in her arms and throwing a blanket around her.
“Come my love,” she whispered, taking her by the hand.
Her daughter slept as deep as her husband, and never said much in the morning when she first awoke, so it was in silence that they made their way bare foot across the dew soaked grass of their back lawn till they came to the pohutukawa trees.
The trees were monsters of nature, defying the laws of science with their heavy, timeless bodies clinging to the cliff tops, and their gnarly branches clawing toward the sea, the sun, and the sky, bursting in blossoms of fiery red at their final tips. Sophia’s husband had chosen their home in New Zealand for the seclusion of the property and the safety it granted their little family. But Sophia, she had chosen it for the trees.
Her daughter roused from her sleep walk, and looked up at her mother in surprise as the ocean came into view far below them.
Sophia never let her daughter near the cliff edge, she had planted a little dogwood tree in the lawn, a good way from the pohutukawa trees and the cliff edge, and even at ten restless years of age, the daughter still obeyed the mother and never went further down the yard than the dogwood tree.
They passed the dogwood, and she held her daughter’s hand tight as they came into the shadow of the pohutukawa trees.
Night paled into the cold grey of dawn as Sophia settled into her favourite spot with her daughter beside her. Here they were embraced by the thick roots of the biggest and oldest pohutukawa, and with the blanket wrapped snugly around them they prepared to watch the sunrise.
“Today my love, today is the day that you come to life,” Sophia said with a smile, wrapping her arms around her daughter as the sun burst over the horizon.