‘The Willow Tree by Willow Fields’, by LA Weatherly

Today we have a guest post from our ‘author in residence’, LA Weatherly…

Sixteen-year-old Willow is one of the main protagonists in Angel, which propels her into an extraordinary adventure where she learns the truth about herself. This is a paper that she wrote for her English class, just a few days before it all started.

The Willow Tree by Willow Fields

It’s probably a bad thing to be this honest, but it’s exactly 11.27 pm right now, which means that this paper is due in about ten hours. And, yes, I’ve only just started writing it. I know you said for us to really consider our subject carefully and all that, and I have, I just didn’t start writing about it before now. But you can still consider things carefully, without spending a lot of time writing and re-writing them. I know that’s true, because I’ve been considering the things that I’m going to tell you about for years now.

First of all, you have to understand that my mom isn’t really normal. I mean, she’s not like other people’s moms. She doesn’t go to work, or ask me how my day was, or ground me if I do something I shouldn’t. Mostly, she just sits in her chair. That’s practically all that she’s done for years now. The clinical name for it is catatonic schizophrenia. But actually, I think it’s just that she prefers her dream world to the real one. Her dream world is full of rainbows and pretty things. I think I’d probably prefer it too, if I had a choice. So I don’t blame her or anything, for not being there for me…but I do miss her a lot.

Because she wasn’t always like this. When I was little, she was there, at least some of the time. But then as I got older, she started to slip away more and more, until she was hardly there at all. There was one day, though, when I was seven years old, that was just amazing. I still remember everything about it. It was the summer holidays, and when I woke up the house felt lighter than usual. I mean, lighter in mood. When I went into the kitchen, I saw why. Mom was cooking breakfast, singing to herself. When I came in, she turned around and looked at me, and said good morning. And she smiled at me.

That probably sounds like nothing. I bet millions of mothers do that every day, and nobody even notices. Probably millions of kids would even feel irritated by it, or embarrassed for some reason – because their mother was singing, maybe, or because she wasn’t cooking what they wanted. But to me, it was like … MAGIC! My mother was actually there for a change. She was actually seeing me, Willow, instead of the rainbows in her mind that she usually sat and stared at. I almost had to pinch myself. It seemed too good to be true.

And yet it went on like that for hours. After breakfast, I remember that we went for a walk through the park. I practically clung to her side, holding onto her hand and feeling like I was flying with happiness. Under the happiness was a sort of apprehension – a feeling like, this can’t last! Any second, I was worried that the magic would fade and Mom would go away from me again. But she didn’t. She was still there, smiling at me and saying things like, “Look at that puppy, Willow, isn’t he cute?” And then even the puppy looked magical, because Mom had actually noticed it, and thought that I might like seeing it, too.

Finally we came to a tree beside a pond – a tree that had long, feathery leaves trailing into the water. Mom stood staring at it for a long time, with a dreamy look on her face, so that I started to feel scared. Was she slipping away from me again? “Mom,” I said, tugging at her skirt. “Mom.” And then, she sort of shook herself and smiled at me again. “A willow tree,” she said. “Did you know that you were named for that sort of tree, Willow?”

I shook my head, not really caring – just so relieved that she had come back again. And she laughed, and took a camera out of her handbag. “Go and have a look,” she said, giving me a gentle nudge. “They’re beautiful trees – just like you’re my beautiful girl.”

She practically never said things like that. By the time I was seven, she hardly ever even noticed I was around. I can’t even begin to tell you how it made me feel, to hear those words. I ran over to the tree and I stroked my hands through its leaves, and they felt so soft against my fingers. I peered up through its long branches as they framed my face, smiling and smiling like I’d never be able to stop.

Snap! Mom took my photo. “Perfect!” she said. And when I came running back to her, she smoothed my hair with her hand and said, “Someday, sweetie, I’ll tell you the story of the willow tree, and why you’re named after it.” Other kids probably would have jumped up and down and said, “Tell me now, tell me now!” But I was just so thrilled that she was actually talking to me, noticing me, that it felt like it would be bad luck to push for anything more. So we just held hands, and walked slowly home again.

I still have that photo now. I look so happy in it. Happier than I’d been in a long time…or than I would be for a long time to come. Because later that afternoon, Mom went back into her dream world, and she never really came out of it again, after that. I still don’t know what she was going to tell me about the willow tree. I guess I never will, now. But maybe it’s enough to just have the photo, and to know that for that one perfect, amazing morning, Mom was there for me like other mothers. She actually smiled at me, really saw me, and called me her beautiful girl. She’s not in the photo, but she is in a way, because it was the two of us together, linked by the willow tree. My namesake.

So that’s the story of the willow tree. The tree that is me… and that is somehow my mother, too.

[Teacher’s note at bottom: Willow, this is lovely work. I’d really like to see more of this sort of thing from you. See what you can do when you apply yourself?]

[Note in Willow’s best friend, Nina’s, handwriting: HA, Willow, see? YOU TOO can be a brain!]

[Note in Willow’s handwriting. Yeah right, me and Beth Hartley! Very funny. Not.]

Thanks, Lee! If you’ve not yet read Angel, surely you want to know more now??! We’re part of an Angel blog tour, that continues tomorrow at Daisy Chain Book Reviews, so be sure to check that out. And then, buy the book!!!!