"Mommy, Mommy. Come quick!" Greg burst through the front door open to let in a spring breeze. "You have to help Wyatt. He's stuck in a tree."
Ally and her mother ran to Greg's side. He was smaller than most of the five-year-olds in the neighbourhood, and often slower to understand things. "Where is Wyatt's mommy?"
"I knocked and knocked and knocked but she didn't answer." Greg threw himself into his mother's arms and wailed.
"She's having a nap with Mr. Miller." Ally stepped into her sneakers and laced them up. "I'll get Wyatt."
"Be careful, Ally."
She raced over to the park. She could hear Mommy and Greg behind her. It was reassuring to have an adult as backup but she would be fine. Ally had been climbing these trees for as long as she could remember.
Not Wyatt, though. He wasn't much bigger than Greg. The two little pipsqueaks went everywhere together, looking out for each other. Last week, Wyatt the accident-prone little monkey had fallen off the merry-go-round and hurt his arm.
"Up here, Ally." The very scared voice of her brother's best friend drifted down from the top of the highest pine tree in the park.
"Don't worry, I'm coming to get you." Ally scrambled up the tree bark then boosted herself to the lowest branch. How had Wyatt managed to get off the ground with a splint on one arm. She climbed the tree, hand over hand, foot over foot, branch to branch and asked herself that question over and over again.
"Hurry, Ally." His voice was quieter than before, almost as if he was scared speaking would make the branches move.
"Can you move at all, Wyatt?" She climbed quickly, closer and closer.
"Noooo." His voice trailed off. "I think the branch is gonna break."
"No, it's not, Wyatt." Ally could see his skinny white legs wrapped around the branch above her. "This tree is tough. Strong. Just like you."
"No, I heard it creeeaak," he whispered.
"Look at the cloud, Wyatt." Ally slowed to follow her own advice. "Are they moving?"
"Nooo," his voice wavered. Poor kid was going to start crying any minute now and then how would she get him down?
"That's good. It means no wind. Definitely not hurricane weather. Right?"
"I wouldn't climb trees in a hurricane."
"That's a smart boy." Ally pulled herself up level with Wyatt. The hand on his good arm clung to a tiny sprig on the tree trunk above his head. "Shimmy back towards the trunk."
His tiny bum wiggled until his back hit the tree. "Good man, Wyatt. Now slowly stand up."
"I can't Ally. I'll fall."
"Don't look down." As soon as she said it, he did. His lip quivered.
"Don't cry, Wyatt. Look at me." She stepped around him and out onto the branch. With one hand holding the branch above her, she held her other hand out to Wyatt.
"Take my hand, buddy." He shook his head. "Let go of the tiny branch." He shook his head again and his eyes filled with tears.
"Okay." She squatted down in front of him. "Slowly lift your leg up and stretch it out in front of you. I'll show you."
Ally dropped down so her butt landed on the tree branch then dangled her legs over the side. She scooted back a bit, further out onto the narrower part of the branch. Wyatt's eyes were huge and his lip trembled.
She slowly lifted one leg up and stretched it out on the branch. Then lifted the other. "C'mon. You do it."
Wyatt nodded then followed Ally's example. It took twenty times longer for him to do it than for her but all that mattered was his back against the tree and his legs in front of him. "Do your legs tingle a little bit?"
He nodded. Ally bent forward and rubbed some life back into his legs. "That happens to me sometimes when I sit too long."
She reached up and grabbed a higher branch then pulled herself up. "You can do it, Wyatt. Use that hand to pull yourself up."
He shook his head.
"Don't be scared. I'm right here. I can help you." She grabbed his elbow above the splint and held on. Not too tight, she didn't want to hurt him, but enough to steady him as he pulled himself up. He clung to the tiny branch and did just that.
"Good job, Wyatt. Ready to climb down?"
"How? I'm scared. What if I fall?"
"You won't fall. I'm right here with you. Do you want to go first or do you want to follow me?" Ally reached around him so that he was pinned between her and the trunk. "How about we do it together. You put your feet where mine are."
It took a long time to reach the ground that way but they made it. There was a crowd waiting for them when their feet touched dirt. All the kids cheered. Greg ran over and congratulated his friend on the adventure.
Ally's mom gave her a big hug. "That was a brave thing to do."
She hugged her mom back. "I don't know how he got up that high only using one hand to climb."
"Not well." Her mom laughed. "It took three hands to climb down."
She turned and swept the two boys into the hug. "What a good job you all did. I'm so proud of all of you."
Greg wriggled free. "Can we go play on the swings now? I want to swing as high as Wyatt in the tree."
The two boys ran off, neither scarred by the climbing mishap. "Boys!" Ally rolled her eyes and her mom laughed again.
"Girls will give you just as many sleepless nights, young lady."
Ally laughed, ran and tumbled forward into a carwheel. "Ta-da!"
"Ta-da, indeed." But her mother smiled and sat on the bench to watch all of them play with their friends. Wyatt's mom never did join them.