I have never had a ton of friends. Okay, to be honest I have never had a friend, at least not in the sleepover, nail-painting kind of way. And that was fine, it wasn’t ideal, but no one understood me, or liked the same things I did. I grew up with acquaintances, a group of girls with whom I ate lunch with and would do school projects with. I never saw one girl by herself just to hang. Being by myself wasn’t lonely, it was normal, it was fine. Instead of going to the mall, I biked to the park just a block from my house. The forest continues a ways past the trail where very few people ever go, but if they did, eventually they would come to my tree. It stood between two evergreens which hid the upper part of the tree from view with their green spikes. There was a perfect branch to sit on hidden from the world. It was simple there. It was quiet. It was mine. One day I climbed up and saw a boy. I recognized Ben from my class. He sat there frozen in thought, he didn’t hear me approach next to him until I was there. We both just sat there, thinking. It became normal for me to see Ben there and sometimes we’d talk, but other times we just appreciated that the other was there. It was the first time I realized how lonely I really was. It was nice to have finally found someone to talk to, someone similar to me, and not to be concerned about anyone, because no one was coming. It was our spot to go if a test didn’t go right or someone ‘slipped’ and spilled milk on us. In our world we weren’t outsiders anymore. I saw him that Friday at the tree, he was tired and I was mad. We talked until I had to leave for dinner. It wasn’t until Monday that I heard the news, whispers of it in the halls; “He’s gone, they don’t know where. Ben just disappeared” “I heard he was doing something shady, like selling drugs at school or something” “Maybe Ben was kidnapped” There were all sorts of theories. The whispers were everywhere. After school I biked down to the park and walked to our tree. I don’t really know why, out of habit? Did I hope he would be there waiting for me or that I would find some clue as to where he was? Maybe I just wanted to go to my favorite place to think. The leaves had just begun to turn, brilliant shades of warm reds and oranges, the forest was from a postcard. Some leaves crunched under the tires of my bike as I walked it into the woods. I climbed for a bit before I noticed-the smell, it reeked worse than my brother’s favorite onion and garlic pizza. I looked up to grab the branch above and there he was. The shock caused me to fall off the tree.