The tree tapped a twig gently against the windowpane, no louder than the rain splatting against the glass, but Donovan heard and jumped from his bed. He threw open the window and stuck out his head, breathing in the damp, foresty scents that breezed through the magical property his father had brought him to.
“Hi Edward!” The boy greeted the oldest tree in the glen. The tree had told Donovan his name on moving day, when his gnarled bark had split into a horizontal line, and a rough opening for a mouth had formed. Edward’s voice had rumbled into the wind that whooshed through Donovan’s hair.
“Hello, child. Welcome…” he had said. And Donovan had loved him right away. Every day since he’d spent playing with Edward, clambering over his roots, which rose and fell like bobbing waves in a circle around his trunk. Donovan loved to leap over them or walk along their length like a balance beam, his arms stretched out to his sides.
“I love you, Edward,” Donovan would whisper, and Edward would rustle his leaves, and his rich old voice would boom, “I love you too, Donovan Child.”
Edward wasn’t the only magical tree that surrounded Donovan’s new home, which wasn’t new at all. It was a rambling two-story cabin – aged but not weary and built from branches donated by Edward and his family.
“Sometimes our branches get old. They block the light, and they need to go,” Edward explained to Donovan. And then those branches would fall, sending birds and squirrels scattering and chittering and complaining. The caretakers of Edward’s glen would use those special branches and only those, and thus it went on for generation after generation. And that was how the cabin grew.
“The secret must be kept,” Donovan’s father explained to him, just as his father had when he was Donovan’s age, and his father’s father had before him. In his hand, Donovan’s father held three seeds. Acorns, from Edward Tree.
“These are special seeds, Donovan. And you must never take them outside the boundary. Do you understand?” Donovan nodded. Then his father drew Donavan towards Edward’s massive trunk, almost as wide as the hood of the family Ford. He pulled a knife from his back pocket and flipped it open. Donovan cried out to stop him, but he’d already sliced a cut through Edward’s bark as long as Donovan’s hand.
“Sorry, Edward,” Donovan’s father murmured, and Edward rumbled his forgiveness. He understood. This was how knowledge was passed. And after all, it was just a tiny cut, and Edward was a very strong tree.
“Look.” Donovan peered at Edward’s bark, and as he watched, a drop of sap oozed from the cut. It reminded him of a tear drop, except it was the color of the molasses his mother used to make his favorite cookies.
His father swept the sap from the cut in a gesture not unlike the one he used to wipe tears from Donovan’s cheek. He deposited the sap on Donovan’s bottom lip, and he tasted it with his tongue.
It didn’t taste like molasses at all. It was sweet, but bitter too. It tasted the way the glen smelled. It tasted like the sound of Edward’s voice – ancient and profound.
Hello, Donovan. Edward spoke, but this time no mouth was formed, and Donovan heard nothing with his ears. Donovan looked up at his father in surprise, and his father nodded. He smiled and ruffled Donovan’s hair.
Hello Edward! I hear you in my mind now, Donovan replied. And ever since that day, Donovan understood a great many things he hadn’t understood before, like what it means when trees drop their leaves and birds flock south.
And now in the darkness he leaned out of his window and gave Edward a pat. Goodnight Edward, he said with his thoughts.
I have something to show you, Donovan Child, Edward responded, and Donovan climbed out his window and onto one of Edward’s branches. He scurried along, and at Edward’s urging – shhhhhh, shhhhhh, shhhhhh – he moved as quietly as he could while raindrops pattered in Edward’s leaves.
He climbed high in Edward’s canopy, higher than the top of the house’s chimney, but he wasn’t afraid. Edward would keep him safe and dry too – not a drop of rain had reached him. He held very still and listened to the soft groans of the forest, the sounds of wooden arms rubbing against one another.
Somewhere, a dove cooed.
Edward was quiet.
Then he heard something else.
Tick – tick – tick!
Eager, Donovan looked towards the sound. It came from a dove’s nest, well hidden in the crook of two branches. He crept towards it. There were two eggs, he saw, pure white and no bigger than the first knuckle of his finger.
A jagged line appeared in one trembling egg, and a tiny beak poked out.