Set about 5 years into Doomsday.
Sweetbriar had been at school for less than a month when she first snuck out.
It wasn’t that she wasn’t having fun — she was having a blast, and even the boys in her class were all right (especially Austin, who was going to be a Samurai, kind of like Grandpa Leo). It wasn’t even that she didn’t like the school, or her dorm, or her classes. She liked to call her bunk her ship, and her ship was the most lovely piece of furniture she’d ever seen outside of the Tree.
The thing was — and it really was the only thing — she had grown up in the Forest, a woods so big she had, as a kid, thought it had no end. And now she was living in Cloverleaf, a city so small that the entire thing was surrounded by walls, living in a house with thirty other students, and enclosed the entire time by stone and brick.
Slipping out was easy; the walls around Doomsday were barely walls at all. She waited until Miss Ascha was distracted by something Austin was doing – Miss Ascha was often distracted by Austin; it was like he was made to be distracting – and strolled away casually. She didn’t break into a run until she was on the other side of the classroom buildings.
There was a park not that far away. It wasn’t anything on the Forest, of course, but it had trees, trees big enough to climb up into, being enough to get lost in.
Sweetbriar climbed up into the biggest one. She relished every foot of the challenging climb; the tree had no branches low to the ground, and its trunk was too wide to wrap her arms or legs around. She’d climbed harder, though. And when she got up high enough, onto a long, almost-level branch big enough to sit on, it was worth the effort. She could barely see the ground, and, more importantly, she couldn’t see the walls at all. For the first time since she’d come to Cloverleaf, Sweetbriar felt right.
Grandma Cya found her a while later, long enough that Sweetbriar was starting to get restless. “It’s time to go home now,” she said – Grandma Principal Cya Doomsday, and that was definitely her Principal Doomsday voice. “Next time, ask a teacher to bring you.”
“Does that mean I’m not in trouble?” Getting down was a lot easier than getting up had been.
Her grandmother smirked at her. “Of course it doesn’t. It means I’m telling you how to not get in trouble next time. And that, believe me, is something you’re going to need.”
Sweetbriar flexed her fingers, feeling the scrapes and the happy muscle aches. Being in trouble — that was a lot like home, too. “Yes, Principal Grandma.” It might be useful to know how to get into trouble, too.
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