The Majikoa Woods

Today is the day. Me and my twin sister's twelfth birthday, the birthday we have been looking forward to since we were six. It is a day of adventure, too. August 31, 2021—the day Marisol and I get to go into the Majikoa Woods. I have heard the legend a thousand times. Every time I visit my grandparents' house, or one of my mom's friends comes over, someone tells me and Marisol the story of the Wishing Tree, found in the Majikoa Woods. It is said to be just half a mile north from my house. Mom has never let us go into the woods because she doesn't believe in the Tree. She says she doesn't want us to be disappointed when we don't find it. But we kept asking and asking to go. When we were eight, she gave in and told us she would let us go when we turned twelve. She has always hoped and hoped we would grow out of believing in the Tree, but we never have. We are determined. The Wishing Tree grants one wish to anyone who comes. Marisol and I have had the same wish in mind for ages—I want Dad to come back. He left for Afghanistan seven years ago to fight. I can still feel the warm bear hug he gave me at the airport, trying to silence his tears. I can still see his green and brown camo uniform moving through the gate room. Marisol and I have never told Mom our wish—we have always told her we wanted to wish for money or new makeup. We didn't want to make her sad by telling her what we wanted most was Dad. She can't stand seeing us missing him and being upset. When I woke up today, just a few minutes ago, I jumped out of bed and tumbled onto my sister's, Marisol's, bed. I landed on her arm, so she groaned and pushed me away. She massaged her arm and quickly realized what day it was. A humongous, excited smile spread across her face. Now we are running down the stairs towards the kitchen. Mom hands us plates of pancakes and a platter of bacon. Marisol and I wolf down our meal, excited for the day to come. We don't want presents for our birthday. We don't even want a party. All we want is for Dad to come home. After breakfast, Marisol and I slide into jeans and T-shirts. We tie hoodies around our waists in case we get cold, and we put on our timberland boots. It is not long before Mom woefully says goodbye and we walk out the door. It is quite warm outside. There is a breeze that blows my hair around. I take a hairband from my wrist and tie my hair into a low ponytail. Marisol and I face the woods, giddy and excited. “Let's go, Lucille!” exclaims Marisol. I nod. We sprint to the tree line and then start walking north, careful not to trip on any logs or rocks. The view from the inside of the woods is amazing. The trees are everywhere, overlapping each other, which makes the woods more like a forest. The sunlight becomes tinted green when it passes through the trees' canopies, illuminating everything with a soft, chartreuse glow. Dragonflies and bees zoom through the bushes and trees, trying to avoid the slow, fluttering butterflies. According to the legend, the Wishing Tree is taller and thicker than the other trees, adorned with pastel pink flowers. When you make a wish, you're supposed to place your hand on the trunk and tell the tree your wish. Pretty simple. After about twenty minutes of walking, I spot a thick tree trunk in the distance. “Over there!” I yell, pointing. “Look!” We jog to the trunk and look up at the branches. I cannot explain just how much excitement I feel when I see the trademark pastel pink flowers that bloom on every inch of every branch. We found the Wishing Tree. It really does exist. Marisol outstretches her hand to touch the tree. I stay silent, watching her. She closes her eyes and says, “I wish for Dad to be home.” I swear I see the tree sparkle a little. Marisol removes her hand and motions for me to make my wish. I then place my hand on the trunk and close my eyes, just as Marisol did. The bark is rough and scratchy, like any other tree in the woods. This is the moment I've always been waiting for. “I wish for Dad to be home,” I say. I remove my hand and smile. Marisol and I bow to the tree, just as the legend instructed us to do. We begin our journey back to the house, following the same route we took to get to the tree. I only had one wish, and I used it for the biggest desire of my life. Now all I can do is wait. When Marisol and I reach our house's yard, we see a taxi pulling out of our driveway. They probably went to the wrong house. I turn the doorknob and I am surprised to see my mom hugging someone in an army uniform. Dad. Marisol and I run up to him, our eyes flooded with tears. He encases us in one of his signature bear hugs. I breathe in his warm scent: apples and cinnamon, with a hint of pine. It is a familiar scent, one that`` I smell when I bundle myself in his old, fleece blanket at night. Love and happiness course through me, overpowering everything else. My dad is home. My family is whole again. Wishes do come true.

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Aspiring author

Dubai, United Arab Emirates