One foot, after the other. One branch, then to another. “Is it really safe to be this high in a tree?”
Zoe had promised to follow Evan wherever he went, but with her presence there would always be concern for Evan’s safety.
“Yeah, of course. I mean, I climb up here all the time. It’s only, like-”
“Don’t tell me. If you tell me, I’ll freak out.”
They sat on separate branches, Zoe hugging the tree as tight as she could and stoically pretending she wasn’t terrified of looking down, and Evan staring straight down, looking as though he was ready to jump. Zoe put a steadying hand on his arm. He wasn’t the safest person she knew.
He gasped as he did so, and Zoe tilted her head up, feeling the entire sun shine on her face. Her town, her whole world... It was like every emotion that could be felt was stirring within her, and she suddenly felt almost... nostalgic, but for the future. She understood why Evan loved it up there. Connor would love it up there. Zoe could see them now, Evan telling Connor which branch to climb, and making fun of how she was grasping the tree. Your big sister’s a tree hugger. She could hear Connor laughing now.
Zoe smirked, and tried to release the tree bit by bit, slowly coming to sit like Evan. He smirked at her. “Be careful.”
“You be careful. I’m not the one literally hang- fuck!”
They both swore as the branch cracked under Zoe, Evan pitching forward and holding out his hand. “Shit, shit, shit. Oh, Zoe, no, calm down.”
The girl started whimpering and scrambling to get up, swinging her feet to try and land somewhere. She was gonna kick his ass after he saved her life. “Evan. Ev, Evan, no-”
“Zoe, calm down, you’re gonna-”
The branch cracked once more, and Zoe squeaked, shutting her eyes as tight as she possibly could. This couldn’t be happening, he said it wouldn’t happen, he promised-
She suddenly felt the branch give way. And then she was on the ground, unable to breath, scrambling around for something, tugging at her chest, feeling something. Something fuzzy, something on her arm. Oh, no, it was just bending in three places instead of just her elbow. She still couldn’t breathe, and she couldn’t sit up, and she fell, she fell, and… Zoe saw him.
He was coming to get her. He came to get her. She started sobbing.
“Zoe, oh, my God. I’m so sorry, Zoe, I’m so sorry. Get up, or, no! Stay down. Or, sit up. Can you sit up? Can I help you up? Your arm… We’re going to the hospital. Or should I call an ambulance? No, I’ll drive you.”
Zoe wrapped an arm around Evan, hugging him tightly and hiding her face in his chest, wiping her snot on his shirt. She felt him scoop an arm under her legs and pick her up, carefully watching her arm. It just kind of fell to her side (decidedly more terrifying than seeing it broken on the ground). She only let go of Evan when he set her in the passenger seat of her car, hiding her face in her non-broken arm and letting him drive her to his mother’s hospital.
An hour later, and her parents were rushing in, a concerned Connor in her father’s arm. He immediately ditched Larry as soon as he could and ran towards Zoe, taking her face in his hands. Her head throbbed, and she squeezed Evan’s hand, tears forming in her eyes.
“Did you get hurt?” Connor asked, wiping his own eyes. Zoe nodded, shielding her arm from Connor. “Oh, no. Zoe, why?”
“I fell. It’s okay, though.”
Connor attempted to climb onto her lap, and everyone tried to stop him, but he was stubborn, and Zoe was lacking the strength of one of her arms. The hassle ended with him perched in her lap with his head resting on her shoulder, crying into her neck. And that’s where he stayed for almost the whole hospital visit, with the exception of the x-ray and when she got her cast on.
Evan just kept apologizing, shaking his head and crying almost as much as Connor. Up until Zoe kissed his cheek and told him to shut up.
“I don’t need any more apologies. My arm will heal in eight weeks, and we’ll go… well, not tree climbing, but… something. We’ll do something to celebrate me getting this thing off. A picnic, maybe.”
Evan nodded, apologizing one last time and watching as her baby blue cast was wrapped once more.
“Love you, dork,” she murmured, swallowing the ibuprofen the nurse had handed to her.
Evan fidgeted, playing with Zoe’s fingers. “I love you, too. And I’m-”
She hit the back of his head.
“Ow. I was going to say that I’m gonna plan a bomb-ass picnic.”
Zoe apologized, then, giggling and slowly getting up from her chair. Evan shook his head, a smile playing on his lips. She ran a hand through his slightly sweaty, somewhat frizzy hair, and he did the same, pulling out a leaf and inspecting it, his best friend momentarily forgotten as he pointed out a pattern in the leaf. Zoe rolled her eyes.
“Come along, Tree Boy.”