My name startles me out of concentration. The baby summer squash plant I was urging out of the soil explodes under my hands. The spring sun is multiplied tenfold under the greenhouse’s glass and sweat burns my eyes. As part of the nature facet of Elemental power, my connection with plants guarantees a plentiful summer garden as long as the plants don’t explode. Like this one. I toss the it’s shriveled root ball into the compost bin.
“Oh, sorry,” Tess says, brushing leaves off the worktable next to me and hopping up to sit. “I didn’t mean to ruin it.”
“It’s okay,” I smile over at her, “there only a hundred others.” Her booted feet swing above the ground and her hair escapes from the messy knot she’s tied it in. Tiny dark curls wisp at the back of her neck, and I want to tuck them back where they belong.
I wipe my forehead with my sleeve, wondering if I smell as dirty as I feel. She smells like rain and woods, which is like a mixture of the two of us. She’s the most talented Tempest this world has seen and she can mix a storm out of nothing. Impressive is an understatement.
“Can you take a break? I wanna show you something.” She tugs at the tie in her hair and lets it fall down around her shoulders before tying it back into it’s intended disarray. The dewy smell of rain washes over me, and I know it’s not coincidence that the clouds start to crowd in.
“Sure.” I wipe my hands on my jeans. “What is it?”
“A tree. You’ll need your ATV.” She’s left hers parked in the path to the woods. It starts with a growl and she buzzes off into the woods. I follow her, ears full of engine and the sound of plants growing around me. They glow green in my vision, little wellsprings of life. I can stretch them stronger or break them faster than anybody else can blink. Just like she could unleash rain with a snap of her fingers, I could wrap holding vines around her ATV in seconds to beat her in this race we’re not having.
She doesn’t cut her engine until we’re deep in the woods beyond the Elemental estate’s property line, and even then she walks farther in to the woods.
“Why were you out here so far?”
She trails her hands though the brush, keeping them from smacking me as she walks through.
“I was messing with a front that was traveling north and I got distracted. I was so lost for about an hour until I found the path again. But most of the time I spent staring at this.” She throws her arms wide, and I stop dead in my tracks.
Biggest tree I’ve even seen in my life. Gorgeous.
And dying. My hands run over rough bark, pieces wide enough that my fingers fit in the canyons of the surface of the gargantuan trunk. The energy in it is dim, barely enough to register as a glow in my senses.
“I was calling her Glory.” She looks up into the sparsely leafed, dark branches.
“Tess. You named the tree?” The girl’s gonna kill me someday. Smelling like rain and naming trees too beautiful for words.
“She deserves a name. Can you save her?”
“She—It’s rotting from the inside out. It happens. I don’t know if I can do anything.” But God I want to try.
She sighs. “I figured, but I wanted you to see her.”
“Thanks,” I step toward her, her blue eyes heavy on mine in a way that makes me want to brush her bangs out of the way. “Tess, I—”
Loud rustling cuts through my words and she turns from me as the bracken spits out a petite figure.
“Ever!” Tess bounds to her, arms enveloping the dark haired pixie girl in a hug. “You got my text.”
“Yeah, of course.” She says. She looks like a perfect storm, from dark hair to big grey eyes to black leather jacket to Tess’ hand twined with hers. She’s a Zephyr, and she makes the wind that pushes Tess’ weather around. She pushes everything. Tess pecks a kiss onto her cheek and she blushes like a young rose. “I want to see the Queen of trees.”
“Cam doesn’t think he can save her,” Tess tells her. I can’t do a lot of things. I can’t pull Tess’ hand away from the perfect storm, or tuck her hair back into place, and know what it feels like to plant my lips on her cheek, but maybe…
“Maybe I can.”
I press my palms to that bark and pour everything I have into the Queen of Trees.
For more great art by Jen Hickman, please visit her website (http://umicorms.com/). Illustration © Copyright, Jen Hickman 2012. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Stay tuned for extra content this week from Julie. Return next Monday for Anne’s answer to this prompt.