“Race ya to the top!” I yell, reaching for the first branch. I pull myself up, my long limbs swing and pull my way to the top. I laugh as I climb because I know I will win, I always do. I go as far as I dare, the branches have thinned out so I can see the sun going to sleep behind the hills.

“I win!” looking down I can see Mikey and Riki puffing, too afraid to come further.

“You cheated!” Riki says

“No I didn’t, you’re just slow.”

“Well you’re just a stupid girl!”

“I’m not stupid.”

“Well you’re a girl and girls have smaller brains than boys, so you must be stupid.”

“You can’t even read, so shut up.” I can see my stepbrother sitting in his spot quietly, unwilling to join in on either side. Trying to ease the tension Mikey makes his way down

“Come on guys, lets go play hide and seek or something,” But I can’t until I put Riki in his place.

“Would a stupid girl do this?” I start to climb.

“Stevie! Don’t!” Mikey’s scared now and so am I but I climb anyway. The branches bend easily with every movement some of them snap as I pull myself up.

“Ha! You couldn’t do this.”

“Yes I could.” Riki begins the climb slowly, cautiously and stops. Laughter erupts from my lips triumphantly as the branch I am holding onto snaps and I fall. I catch myself halfway down the tree. Screaming in pain, there’s a stick poking out of my leg. I frantically climb the rest of the way down afraid of each branch I use to get there. At the bottom Dad is waiting for me.

“What are you lot up to?”

“I fell Dad.” He looks at the twig lodged in my shin, places his fingers around the end, he pulls it out.

“Dad! That hurt, look it’s bleeding now.”

“Go get a plaster, you’ll be right.” Dad heads toward the shed and I start to cry, he comes back over and gives me a hug. His bear-like embrace soothes me.

“Still sore?” he asks.

I nod.

Petting me on the head he stomps on my other foot.

“Bet ya foot hurts more than your leg now.” I can’t help but laugh.