Tree By Leaf

Free Tree By Leaf by Cynthia Voigt

Book: Tree By Leaf by Cynthia Voigt Read Free Book Online
Authors: Cynthia Voigt
like the minister’s description of damned souls, souls damned to hell, and crying out. She was there under an icy rain, where a doomed silence wrapped voices around, silence like a bandage that courage bound around an incurable wound. She was there, where a black horse lay fallen in mud that streaked his face like tears, his mouth frothing blood, and a man had to put the gun to the horse’s head, and shoot Bucephalus even though Father would have been happier to put the gun to his own head, and his hand shook as he pulled the exploding trigger. The black wave held her, then passed on.
    “The design is mine; the embellishments are yours. I do not make wars; men do.”
    “I’m sorry,” Clothilde said. She sat down again, even though she hadn’t been told to. She kept her eyes closed, for fear of what she might see if she opened them. All she wanted now was to be left alone. “I’m sorry. Really. Really, sorry.”
    The Voice knew sorrow too, and when it next spoke it sounded like a foghorn, warning through the shrouded night to ships that it could not see and that could not see it, warning of the deadly rocks waiting invisible under the dark water. “What would you have?” the Voice asked.
    Clothilde, eyes squeezed shut and covered by her hands, shook her head. If her mind had given way—poor Jeb Twohey, his mind caught in that black wave that wouldn’t ever let go of him. Oh, she could understand what had happened to Jeb Twohey.
    The Voice asked, “What would you mend?”
    “The man in the boathouse.” Clothilde mumbled the words into her own hands, not wanting to answer the question, answering with the first thing that came into her mind, not knowing until she answered how that was the first thing. Even if she’d taken her hands away from her face she couldn’t have opened her eyes. “I’d make him better.”
    The Voice didn’t know who she meant.
    “Benjamin Speer,” Clothilde named him, and the Voice recognized the name.
    “Yes,” the Voice agreed.
    “And Nate shouldn’t go on that cruise, he shouldn’t, I wouldn’t let him,” Clothilde said, the words rushing out now, “and Lou—” But if she thought about Lou, it was just selfishness to say that she’d let Lou stay and work for them. What Lou really needed, to make her life better, was to be kept safe from her father. “Mr. Small shouldn’t be able to hurt her.”
    “Yes,” the Voice agreed. “Yes.”
    Clothilde thought, in the darkness of her hands over her closed eyes. She didn’t want to be greedy and she didn’t want to be silly. She wanted to ask if she couldn’t be prettier than Polly Dethier, and strong enough to fight off the boys’ teasing at school. She didn’t let herself ask for that. What if, like a fairy tale, she only had three wishes? She would have already used them up. “And my peninsula, Speer Point,” she added hastily. “Speer Point is
mine
.”
    “No,” the Voice said. Then it was gone.
    Clothilde had opened her mouth to argue, to ask why not. She took her hands away from her eyes and looked around. The air filled with noises, and she knew she was alone again. She heard the waves, as thetide rose and a breeze rose, she heard gulls, birds in the woods behind her, and the buzzing of insects.
    The craziness had passed, like a fit of laughter or tears. She was almost sorry, then. She was almost glad. She was entirely confused, except for the solid rock underneath her. She turned around, putting her hand down on the sharp rock, looking all around her.
    It was more than any eye could take in all at once. The pines growing straight up, each one pointing into the sky. The trees, thick trunks spreading out strong branches, each green leaf held firm as it sprang out toward the sun, each, every, leaf entirely itself. Blind with seeing, Clothilde looked back to the water, where waves moved and the great tides swung underneath. Her hand spread out on the rock, and she looked at it, seeing its bones with the muscles

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