The Maze is our place for hiding. Me and Lily and Henry. It’s also a place for running, long runs in long grass, heart loud in your ears, of drums and hunts long ago. And a place for camping, if we could. It was a place for exploring, a few years ago, but there’s nothing left to explore, anymore. It’s a place for tree-climbing and bloody knees. But mostly it’s a place for hiding. Me and Henry and Lily. Lily with her pretty face and strong legs and her laugh. Henry with his head on straight and rabbit traps and dreams of a hammock, high, high up in a tree. This is our place for hiding, a place that’s just ours.
Now, family reunions, they aren’t any good. All that comes of them are fake smiles and lost cats. And secret places that aren’t so secret anymore. See, that’s what we told my dad. We told him and told him and told him, but he just wouldn’t listen. And so we went, we went to the red mailbox with fifteen kids at our backs. Bobby with the red hair and dancing eyes who the grown-ups love. Bobby who kills ants and crabs. Bobby who laughs. Never stops his cruel laugh. And Alice, who used to be nice, last year or was it the year before? Grumpy Alice who won’t come out because of migraines. Alice who glares. Charlotte. Charlotte who taunts my brother until he can’t stop the tears. I don’t know them at all. And I don’t care to.
We lead them in, these kids, these strangers. And it feels wrong. Like we’re giving them something they don’t deserve. But they don’t care. They don’t even notice. They just throw away our gift, like the cut down tree that was in the tree-house that isn’t a tree-house anymore. Not without the big tree, or the gap that they boarded up.
They don’t see the Maze. Not the real one. They don’t see the way the sun touches the leaves, or how the old, weary birch stretches its arm across the path, flowering with fungi. They don’t see the spot we once wanted to set up a tent. Or the delicate stream that we cross over where Henry almost caught a fish. They just see their dirty clothes, pricked with sticks and twigs, and complain that their feet hurt. Their feet! 3 more minutes, we say, 3 more minutes, because we don’t want to see our Maze like this. They don’t mind. They’re happy, in fact. Happy! I shouldn’t have been surprised. No respect. No respect at all. An artist is someone who can see the beauty in everything, Grandpa says. They’re no artists.
I shut myself in my room and sit on my bed and cry. I can’t stop, I just can’t stop. I hide there, alone, because the Maze is for artists. And the artists have left, left with their canvas only half done. I can’t hide in the Maze. Not now. Not today.
Lula O’Donnell, Age 12, Grade 7, Hunter College High School, Silver Key