Grandfather and I got to a sunlit clearing on the edge of the wood, yet kept us surrounded by trees, unable to hear the cars rushing by. Instead we heard birds chirping, the lakes tide rolling onto the shore, not to mention, the flowers that were already in bloom made it seem like we weren't in a small town, but deep in the heart of the woods.
I also took pleasure at the gift he had given me. A watch. Granted, that's all it was, but it meant a lot.
I laid on my stomach, playing with a caterpillar, as Grandfather stretched out next to me, chewing on his toothpick. For the few minutes we walked and took a break here, he told me about all my family members I never knew about; aunts, uncles, cousins. I had to wonder what they were like, but he got to telling me that. With all the stories he told me and how I was a baby, the only thought racing through my mind after hearing about me as a baby was, why did my mom leave? She sounded like she adored me when I was little. Did I do something wrong? Did she get sick of me?
He was also telling me this story that I simply couldn't believe. An immortal drink?
"But Grandpa, there's no such thing."
He chuckled, tapping my nose. "You don't believe in living forever?". His voice wasn't one I was used to; warm and comforting.
"Grandpa, water that can make you immortal?"
"Of course! That very spring lies somewhere deep in this wood. You're Grandmother Winifred told her son of the water. And he told his children the story, and they told their children. And so on and so on. The story says Winifred discovers the spring after she ran away from home." Really? She ran away from home? I wonder what that would be like.
"She must have been brave to do that."
"Yes, but rather silly, too. She found the water, along with another family who drank the enchanted liquid, and would never die, a family of a man, woman, and two sons. Winifred talked of them being kind yet tortured. They hadn't meant to drink the water, but things happen for a reason."
"Why didn't she drink?"
"She came to the conclusion that there was more to life than staying in one place. If she stayed 17, neither of us would be here."
"Have you found the spring? Or anyone in our family?"
"Strangely enough, no one has yet to find the spring. But it is just a story of course", he said, smirking at me. Now I had to feel ridiculous. I hate when adults make kids feel that way.
"It's a good story though."
"That's the beauty of it! Just because it's a story, doesn't mean you can't believe in it. That's why we tell them, to bring joy and hope."
"Joy and hope? I don't get a lot of that", I confessed, putting the caterpillar down, watching it crawl away.
"One day, my darling you will. You're full of love, I can see. You just need some in return, Penelope", he said.
I felt like crying. But I was annoyed at the same time. "I hate my name, Grandpa. That's why I picked a nickname for myself."
"Why, Penelope Dee Simmons. That's a beautiful name."
"Alright then, what do you want to be called?"
"Pond. I chose it because one of my favorite memories were when I was little. I used to swim all the time. And also because of my eye color." My eyes were a rare dark blue. I loved them.
"That's a fine name, my dear", he said. I felt like crying again. Were these compliments? I liked them even more.
After we walked about the wood some more, he took me home. He didn't say a word, but kissed me on my forehead and left in his car. It took me a minute to realize what he had done. Immediately, I quickly ran to my room, shut the door, crawled into bed, pulled the covers over me, and cried.
That was the first and last time I ever saw him.
2 years went by. Even though I'm only 14, I feel mature for my age. Maybe it's because I've dealt with things that no kid my age should have to deal with.
Yet I couldn't stop remembering the story Grandpa Nelson told me. I figured if my Grandmother was brave enough to run away from home, I was bold enough to sneak out of the house and walk around my wood whenever I wanted.
Not just for the sake of doing something the least bit reckless, or maybe finding the spring, but it gave me something to believe in.
Of course, if I did happen to find the spring, I wouldn't drink from it. My dad says I'm a waste of space as it is.
This was also the day and place, June 1st 2016, Treegap, New Hampshire, that I met the person who would change my life, and would help me more than I ever thought possible.
His name is Jesse Tuck.