Author’s note: This was my first scene until the third draft when I cut for the sake of a lower word count. Still, I like it too much just to let it linger in my drafts folder so I’ll post it here. Let me know what you think of it below.
“Gordon! Where are you? I need you in the kitchen!”
Gem jolted and he nearly dropped his phone. When he’d steadied himself on the branch, he found that he had pressed a number of keys on the screen by accident and a stream of unintelligible letters marred his text.
Carefully pushing aside a clump of leaves showed Gem the sight of Swander wandering out of the back door and calling his real name. Swander was the nanny who had been called in for his baby sister’s benefit and nothing more. Gem was fourteen and no fourteen year old who wanted to keep his friends would ever have a nanny.
Swander looked his way and he ducked back into hiding. He tried to go back to texting but Swander’s calling kept poking holes in his concentration. He deleted the text and checked his inbox in the vain hope that his immersion in writing had prevented him from hearing an alert. There was nothing. The reception had vanished again. He stuffed his phone into the pocket of his jeans and pulled himself up to a higher branch. The leaves covered the trunk and branches like a veil. The only way Swander would spot him would be if she stood at the base of the trunk and looked straight up. Another glance showed him that she was nowhere near his tree.
“Gordon? Gordon! Come on, stop messing around. I know you’re not in the house!”
Gem sniggered from behind his head. Watching Swander become stressed out was enormously satisfying. Not only did her brown eyes widen to comical proportions but it was the only time she let her guard down and showed her teeth. Gem had only noticed that one of her front teeth was missing three days ago. When he had asked her about it, she had told him to mind his own business. In Gem’s mind, that meant that there was an interesting story behind it. Perhaps, something involving loan sharks with creative ways of reclaiming payment.
As she began to search around the trees, Gem had a brilliant idea. A branch above his head stretched over the wall of the garden. He could crawl across it and, if it wasn’t too much of a drop to the pavement, he would be able to leave Rosewood without Miss Swander ever knowing. He would be able to walk up to the top of the sloping Knight Street where the reception was better and receive any incoming texts or calls with ease.
Gripping the trunk with both hands, he stood up. He gripped an upper branch with both hands and hauled himself up. That sent a few leaves quivering. Miss Swander’s voice was getting closer. He’d have to reach the overhanging branch quickly before she noticed the movement. He stepped onto a branch he hadn’t yet tried. It didn’t give way under his right foot but, when he added the left foot, it snapped off completely.
A cry of alarm escaped him and he threw up his arms. He managed to catch hold of a branch beneath him and his fall instantly halted. Gem hung there, trying to catch his breath and piece together what had just happened.
“Gordon!” It really had been too much to hope that Swander had not heard him. She was standing at the base of the tree, one hand on her hip, one raised to her mouth and glaring up at him, “What in God’s name do you think you’re doing?”
“Just…hanging around.” The joke had been too obvious not to make but Swander wasn’t softened.
“Do you think this is funny? You could have broken your neck!”
“Yeah, but it didn’t so what’s your problem?” Gem looked away from her and focused on edging towards the trunk. His shoulders felt like they might split any second,
“My problem is that I warned you about tree climbing just last week. You never listen to a word I say!”
“That’s because you’re not my nanny.” Gem snapped back. His legs had found a branch and he gave it a push with both legs before lowering himself onto it.
“That’s no reason not to take good advice! Climbing anything is very dangerous. You could be crippled for life if you’re not killed! Just imagine never being able to play football with your friends ever again because you fell out of a tree!”
“I’ve been up trees loads of times and I’ve never fallen! No one tells me off for it except you.”
“Then, we’ll see what your mother has to say about it. Come on!”
“You’re not my nanny!” Gem sat back against the trunk on his secure branch and took out his phone.
“Gordon, I am going to count to three and, if you haven’t come down, I’m going to fetch your mother!”
Gem started a new game of chess. He picked out the pawn furthest to the right and moved it two squares forward,
The black side moved their knight over the pawns,
“Where is he?”
Gem almost dropped his phone again. He pulled aside a clump of leaves and his blood ran cold at the sight of his mother limping out of the back door and making a beeline for his tree. He stuffed his phone back into his jeans and he scrambled down, reaching the trunk just a second before his mother did. Miss Swander wasted no time in telling her exactly what had just happened. Gem tried only once to make himself look better in the tale but he was quelled instantly by his mother’s freezing eyes.
“…and he would have broken every bone in his body.”
Gem’s mother turned her eyes on him again, flicking up and down his body, “He looks fine to me. He had the brains to stop himself falling. I don’t see your problem.”
“But, Mrs Morris, I’ve already told him not to! I’ve told him tree climbing is very dangerous – ”
Her words were cut off by Gem’s mother striking her cane into the ground, “It would be for you. Not for him.” She turned her gaze on Gem and all hope that he was off the hook vanished, “The question is why you didn’t come when you were called. Miss Swander must have called your name ten times. You ignored her. I wasted five minutes waiting for you. You’re lucky you fell when you did. I might have dragged you out of the tree myself.”
Gem would have pointed out that her bad leg prevented her from doing any sort of climbing if he had been talking to anyone but his mother. Instead, he blurted out, “I had my headphones in so I didn’t hear her.”
“Where are these headphones?”
“Uh, I think I dropped – ”
“Alright. I’ve heard enough. I don’t want to hear any excuses. Especially if they’re as weak as that. Think these sort of things through next time.” The faint sound of wailing came from within and Mrs Morris rounded on Miss Swander, “What are you still loitering here for? Emma needs you!”
Miss Swander dithered, looking for a second like she wanted to argue her point further, but was sent skittering back to the house by Mrs Morris’ glare. Gem was left alone in the garden with his already-annoyed mother.
This is not going to end well.