Chapter 10: Tree-Climbing
Edie giggled. "You're not afraid they'll try to steal you away from me?"
"My dear, it could not be done. There is nothing that would tempt me to leave you." Leila kissed her.
"You are too good to be true," said Edie with a sigh.
Leila pinched her arm. Edie jumped and let out a small, undignified shriek. Leila was grinning wickedly. "Didn't that feel real to you?"
"I think I'm the one who's supposed to pinch you," said Edie, grinning back and making her words true as she said them. Leila shrieked, just like Edie had, but more loudly.
Then she jumped up. "Try to catch me!" Jumping deftly over a piece of fallen concrete, she ran a few feet into the woods, glancing behind her shoulder.
Edie scrambled to her feet. She was neither as graceful nor as quick as Leila, but she ran after her anyway. To her surprise, Leila went up a tree instead of running further. Luckily, it was a tree with low enough branches that Edie could climb as well. That didn't make it easy, though. "Not fair," she panted as she pulled herself higher. "Your arms and legs are longer than mine!"
"Oh, all right," came Leila's voice from above. She reached down and half-pulled Edie up until they were both sitting on the same branch.
Looking down made Edie feel dizzy, though they were probably no more than fifteen feet from the ground, so she looked at Leila instead. "Are you sure this is safe?"
"Of course it is. I've been climbing this tree since before you were born."
Edie raised her eyebrows. "You're not that old. And if you've been a student for that long, I'll have to reevaluate my impression of your intelligence." That hadn't been what Edie was worried about, anyway--they were a little farther into the woods than she was comfortable with. But she didn't need to share that with Leila. Besides, they were together, and it was daytime, so they were probably safe.
Leila laughed. "Okay, maybe not since before you were born... I don't think I was climbing trees at the age of three. And probably not this specific tree. But I grew up here."
"Really?" Edie put one hand on the tree trunk. That made her feel a little more secure. "Are your parents professors?"
Leila shook her head. "They just happen to live here."
"Oh, that's convenient. Do you live with them still?"
"No, I couldn't stand that! I live in Hickory. Which didn't even exist when I was coming here to play as a kid." Leila's mouth drooped a little. "It seems like they've chopped down half the forest since then."
"There is no way that is possible," Edie said.
"No, of course not. But they did chop down one of my favorite trees. Now I have to pick a new one." Leila leaned closer to Edie, smiling again. "This one has become a pretty good contender."
"Yes, it seems to be supporting us pretty well."
"That's not what I meant and you know it." Leila kissed Edie gently. "Though I think we should find a taller one," she added, looking around. "This one is nice, but I don't think we should climb any higher in it."
Edie stared at her in disbelief. "Why on earth would you want to go higher?"
"To look around, of course!" Leila gestured with her arm, encompassing the campus that they could just see and all the forest that surrounded them. "From here, all we can see is the ground and the middles of other trees. If we can find a tall enough tree, we can see above the others, and probably see to the buildings as well."
"Do you think there's anything interesting to see? It's just trees on three sides."
"I'm sure there is. Come on." Leila pushed herself off the branch, dropping down to the one below it, then climbed the rest of the way down the tree. Edie followed at a more sedate pace, making sure she could see the branch she was on and had a good grip with her hands before letting her legs go anywhere. As a result, by the time she reached the ground, crunching a few leaves and twigs under her feet, Leila was gone.
"Leila?" she called, looking around, feeling panic beginning to creep up on her. "Where are you?"
"Over here," came the reply.
Edie took an uncertain step in the direction she thought Leila's voice had come from. In all these trees she couldn't even be sure of her directional hearing, and she didn't know how close they were to the border between the college's land and the faeries' land. "Leila?"
"Come on!" called Leila. Edie took that to mean she was going in the right direction. She took another few steps, looking around. After a little while she heard Leila laughing. "Look up, dear."