Don’t sit under those trees, or you’ll stain your dress.

Katie squeezes my hand. You alright?” she asks. “You seem miles away. ”

The others have already flopped onto the lawn, happy as seals basking in the midday sun. A jumble of soft limbs, sandwich wrappers and scrunched-up revision notes.

I hesitate before joining the edge of their circle, unable to get Mum’s voice out of my head. Even though her warning no longer makes sense. I’m seventeen and I haven’t worn a dress for years. Not since her funeral, I guess.

Tim’s here too. Lying on his back, he rolls over to face me. “Imagine. This used to be all fields. ”

“I know….I came here all the time as a kid. ” Mum was a history teacher, but that’s a detail I leave out.

Tim reaches out to stroke a gnarl of tree root and his T-Shirt rides up, revealing a glimpse of nut-brown abs. “I love these old London Plane trees, don’t you?”

I shrug, deciding it’s best not to mention the pollen.

He takes my arm, pulling me down until we’re lying side by side on the grass. “Look up”.

Silence covers us like shade. Sky, so wide and blue it burns my eyes, shines beyond the canopy of tree.

When I sit up, I can feel him gently brushing the spores off my back,  Mum’s voice still there, but softer now. A breath of wind moving through the leaves.

This piece is short-listed in the Urban Tree Writing Festival 2021 and published in the anthology Canopy.

Image: “Lincoln’s Inn Fields” by Can Pac Swire is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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