Sheri was amazed at the height of the Douglas fir trees. She and her sisters liked to play under their canopy weather permitting. Down below their sheltering limbs ancient giants lay on their sides. Ferns and moss grew on the decaying bark. Sheri had found many living treasures beneath the thick carpet. Pulling the latest out of her pocket, a fire bellied newt, its clammy skin rough and cool in the palm of her hand. Maybe she should name him? She put him back in her coat pocket for safe keeping thinking of name for her new friend.
“Sheri Lynn! Where are you?”
Oh no! The babysitter had found her hiding place. Oh well, she was hungry anyway. “Sheri waved her arms shouting, “I’m over here by the big log, Debbie.”
Debbie climbed over the log, dark braids touching the hands on her hips. “You need to stay closer to the house. If you hadn’t yelled we would never have found you!”
“We? Who’s with you? Is it Mel?” Her best friend loved playing in the woods. She liked how her friend called it ‘God’s garden’ when they played.
“Well, who else would tromp through the woods with you? She even brought you an early birthday present.”
“Really, where is she?”
“Right here!” Mel peeked around a lichen-encrusted tree. “Betcha didn’t hear me. I have moccasins on today.” Producing a package wrapped in ferns and flowers, she climbed over the log handing it to Sheri like a royal offering. “My lady, your birthday gift,” she curtsied.
Sheri giggled, no wonder she was her best friend. Sheri accepted with bow, followed by peels of laughter falling on the soft moss carpet of the forest floor. Sheri sat up- delicately unwrapping the ferns, placing the flowers in her hair. She squealed out loud with delight– “A purple critter keeper!” Sheri produced the newt from her pocket.
“Oh a new friend let me hold him.” Mel showed Sheri how to open the top of the cage placing the creature gently in the bottom. Sheri grabbed some moss to keep the newt moist just like the log had.
Debbie gently locked the lid with a Click! Sheri hugged it. “This is the best gift ever, Mel. Thank you!”
“We shouldn’t keep him too long, I’m sure Mr. Lolly has a family.”
“Aw, I wanted to keep him.” Sheri bit at her lip.
“You know the rules, we leave, and the animals stay in the garden.”
“Why do you have to spoil my fun? I have other pets at home you know.”
“Mr. Lolly is from The Garden!”
“You caught a frog in your garden last week. I’ve seen you feed it with my own two eyes!”
“Yes, but not from THIS garden.”
Mel always had the same rule. ‘Never take an animal from ‘the Garden.’ Sheri couldn’t for the life of her figure out why it was so important to Melanie.
Deb rolled her eyes. “Well, you two have fun out here” She produced two sack lunches. The girls thanked her and she left to go care for Sheri’s younger siblings.
Sheri sat munching on potato chips, wondering at the reasons behind the ‘rules.’
After lunch they played ‘Faerie’ flittering about the ferns pretending to take flight. Sheri didn’t want to leave but didn’t want Deb to come looking for them either.
“Time to go home.” Mel nodded. Sheri hoped that Mel would forget the newt. As soon as they reached the ‘Garden’s’ edge Mel stopped suddenly as if a line had been drawn that she dare not cross. “Sheri, it’s time.”
“Time for what?” Sheri said wide-eyed.
“Release Mr. Lolly!” Mel stomped her foot.
“Please let me keep him.”
“No can do! There’s more newts your own backyard.” Mel readjusted her overall strap, waiting patiently.
Sheri opened the cage deliberately, resigned to sending Mr. Lolly back home. “Can’t we change the rule just this one time?”
“Only Adam and Eve were forced to leave the Garden of Eden. The animals all stayed behind silly. The Bible never said that the animals left. After all it was God’s Garden and they were His creatures.”
Sheri understood Mel’s imaginings. She bent letting the newt go. Sheri knew her magical garden held adventures and faerie folk hiding beneath each fern and huckleberry bush. After Mel left she would return alone to this beautiful place. She smiled as the sun peaked through the trees as she left the garden behind stepping into the light.