Follow through the trees

Liesel skipped through the back garden towards the playhouse that Tevas had built for them.  Frieda was already there.  They were going to have lunch together there.  It was nice to have space of their own, particularly since they had three brothers.

Konrad wasn’t so bad.  He was old enough that he didn’t have any interest in pestering them.  The most he would do was come and get them for meals or check in on them.  Markus was also older than them.  He tended to be more interested in not having them bother him – as if they would!  That left Johannes.

He was younger than them.  Sometimes, he was busy doing his own thing.  Other times, though, he wanted to see what they were doing.  He very much wanted to see what their playhouse was like.  However, Tevas had said it was theirs and he could only go in if they invited him.  They never did.  They did girl things there, after all.  He was a boy, so he had no business there.

Liesel didn’t feel bad about excluding him from the playhouse.  After all, they didn’t keep him out of their room.  In fact, they often invited him to play with them in there.  There was nothing wrong with having one space that was just for them.  Was there?

As Liesel reached the playhouse, she rapped on the door and then peered inside.  “Hey,” she said, grinning at Frieda.  “are you ready for our tea party?”

Frieda nodded.  “It’s not really a tea party, is it,” she said, frowning.  “I mean, we don’t have tea.  We have lemonade instead.”

“It doesn’t matter if we actually drink tea,” Liesel said, shaking her head.  She sat down at the little table in the middle of the playhouse.  After a moment, Frieda joined her.  While Liesel poured their lemonade, Frieda set out their sandwiches, fruit and vegetables.

While they ate, they discussed their plans for the afternoon.  Sometimes, they would make up plays or put on performances for Opa and their brothers after dinner.  Other times, they went on adventures in the garden.  It was a large enough garden that they could spend a couple hours exploring.

They were just finishing when they heard a sound outside of the playhouse.  For a moment, they just frowned at each other.  It was a scrambling sound that seemed to come from the roof.  Shrugging, they headed outside to looked.

“It’s a squirrel,” Liesel said, grinning.  She pointed as the squirrel jumped from the roof to one of the nearby trees. They watched as it scrambled from one tree to the next.

Then, Frieda sprinted into the playhouse.  When she came out, she had their backpacks, a compass and a pair of binoculars.  “Let’s see where it goes,” she said, her eyes bright with excitement.

Nodding, Liesel took her own backpack and shut up the playhouse.  Then, they headed through the trees after the squirrel.  It took them a few moments to find the squirrel again.  However, when they did, it was still scampering through the trees.

“It’s heading towards the east,” Frieda said, her voice soft.  By noting which way they were going, it would easy to find their way back to the playhouse once again.

They followed it for some time as it traveled along tree branches.  Then, they broke out into a clearing and the squirrel was scampering across the grass.  The girls paused as it clambered up the railing of a porch.  At the top of the railing, there was a bowl of nuts.

“Someone left out treats for the squirrel,” Liesel said, lifting the binoculars to her eyes.  She watched as the squirrel stuffed its face with nuts.  Giggling, she handed them to Frieda, so she could see as well.  “He’s filling his face with them,” she said.

Frieda hummed and then gasped.  Lowering the binoculars, she said, “He’s coming back!  Look!”

As she’d said, the squirrel was on his way back towards them.  They crouched low as it ran towards them, so that they didn’t startle it.  It leapt up into a tree.  Then, it was running back the way they’d come, over the tree branches.

They followed it back through the trees until they reached the playhouse once again.  Once there, it scrambled down to the ground of the maple tree that shaded their playhouse.  While they watched in amusement, it proceeded to bury the nuts all around the base of the tree.  Then, it clambered up to the roof of the playhouse once again.

As it scampered away, Frieda looked at Liesel.  “I think we can guess where it’s headed,” she said.  When Liesel nodded, she giggled. Then, she turned as they heard someone calling their names.  They ducked into the playhouse to leave their things and collect their lunch dishes.  Then, they ran back towards the house.

Opa smiled as they ran up to him.  “What were you girls up to out there?” he asked, as he held the door for Frieda.

Liesel smiled brightly at him, as she followed her sister inside.  “There’s a squirrel in the maple tree over our playhouse,” she said.  “We heard him run across the roof and we followed him to the garden fence.”

“Your neighbor feeds them,” Frieda said, as she placed the dishes in the sink.  “He filled his face with nuts and then buried them all under the maple tree.”

“Well,” Opa said, smiling.  “Maybe we’ll have some peanut plants before too long.”  He chuckled softly and then added, “I’m going into town to get some groceries.  Did you want to stay here with Konrad or did you want to come with me?”

“Are we going to the Cookie Jar?” Liesel asked, her eyes bright.  Miss Hannah would often let them try one of her new cookies, when they went into her shop with Opa.

Chuckling again, Opa nodded.  “I do believe that I may have an order to pick up for the party on Saturday night,” he said.  “There might be some extra cookies in the order for you kids to enjoy.”

“We’ll go with you,” Frieda said, grinning.  “We can help you carry the grocery bags.”  As she followed Opa towards the front door, she asked, “Is Hansel coming too?”

“Yes, he is,” Opa said.  As they stepped out onto the front porch, he glanced over at Konrad.  “I’m leaving you here with Markus.”

“Yes, sir,” Konrad said, his voice soft.  He smiled at Liesel and Frieda.  “Be good helpers, right?”

“Right,” Johannes chirped as he hopped to his feet and joined them on the steps.  Then, Opa helped them all into his car and they headed into town.

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