It’s strange how every year, without fail, the leaves on the trees change. They start out all the same, all green, but then one by one they turn the colors of autumn. It was just the same this year, the year two kinds of autumn were born: the autumn the world brings to pass every year, and Autumn Free.
* * *
Autumn’s blue eyes opened, and she peeled her forehead off the window. Her red hair was tangled and sticking to her face, and she had a print on her forehead from the window. She glanced at the clock, which was glaring at her in angry red numbers that said it was seven in the morning.
The sun was just peeking over the tops of the oak trees, painting the sky a vibrant shade of pink. The leaves on the trees, already orange, turned blood red in the sunrise.
Autumn slid off the window seat, smiling and yawning at the same time. This was a special sunrise. It was the sunrise of Autumn’s sixteenth birthday.
Just as Autumn was wondering if she was the only one awake, the door flew open, and her older brother burst into the room, singing and dancing as he came, “Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Autumn! Happy birthday to you!” He pinned Autumn to the wall and began tickling her.
Gideon was an interesting brother, he was really cool and all the girls liked him, and his ability to make people laugh was endless.
Autumn was gasping for breath and laughing, trying to throw Gideon, who was two years older and much, much bigger, off of her.
Gideon finally stopped and let Autumn get her breath back.
“So, how’s the birthday girl?” he asked, rumpling her already messy scarlet hair.
“I’m great, how’s the un-birthday boy?”
“I’m great too.” Gideon flopped down on the floor and sighed. He looked nothing like Autumn, with his green eyes, brown hair (it was extremely talented hair tht was able to stick up in the back in the mornings, no matter how short Gideon cut it.) and straight, Roman nose.
“You’d better get dressed, little missy. You don’t want Luke and Blossom showing up with you still in your pajamas.”
Luke and Blossom Pinomaki were Autumn’s two best friends. They were a year apart, but they looked enough alike to be twins. Both had blonde hair, the same profile, and the same round, intelligent eyes, even though Luke’s were brown and Blossom’s were green.
“Luke and Blossom are coming over?” Autumn asked, happily tossing shirts into her brother’s lap, from where he would absent-mindedly pick them up and toss them on top of Autumn’s drum set.
“Mhmm. Apparently Luke tried to make you a birthday cake yesterday… What is this?”
“Oh poor Mrs. Pinomaki, I hope she made Luke clean up after himself, and I hope he didn’t make anything explode like last time, and that, dear Gideon, would be a leg-warmer.”
“Oh. I was thinking you had tried to sew a puppet or something…” He stuck his arm through the leg-warmer and folded the ends around his fingers, making something similar to a sock puppet. He began speaking in a high, falsetto voice. “Hi! My name’s leggy! I live in Autumn’s closet, which she really needs to clean, and-“
Laughing, Autumn chased Gideon from the room with a t-shirt, and just before she slammed the door in his face, the leg-warmer/puppet, still on his hand,
said “Bye bye!”
Laughing to herself about her bizarre brother, Autumn got dressed. Having red hair really limited her choice of clothing color. She couldn’t wear red or orange, because it looked so dreadful with her hair, and pink was even worse, but blue looked nice.
Autumn made her way downstairs, just in time to see Luke and Blossom coming up her front steps. She flung open the door and was promptly confronted with another loud chorus of happy birthday, as well as hugging and more hair-rumpling.
Autumn expected Luke and Blossom to come inside, but instead they pulled her outside. “We have somewhere we want to take you.” Blossom explained, smiling in her shy way.
Autumn consented to having her hands duct taped behind her back and a blindfold being put over her eyes, and finally a pillowcase over her head. Luke then picked her up around the waist, and threw her in the back seat of Luke’s old Junker.
They drove for maybe ten minutes, and the road got bumpier and bumpier. Autumn had an idea where they were, since the only place this close with this bumpy or a road was the forest park. She knew the forest quite well, after having been living here for almost her entire life, but she didn’t have a good enough sense of direction to know where they were.
A little while later, after much gear-shifting and jolting, the car rolled to a stop. The back door opened, and Luke pulled Autumn out of the car, and Blossom pulled off the pillowcase and the blindfold while Luke cut the duct tape off.
The place was beautiful. Autumn had been right to guess that they were in the forest. There were oak trees and pine trees all around, and leaves covered the ground, which dipped down to a gargling river. Morning light filtered through the leaves, a bright golden color, and spread out across the grass was a picnic blanket, with breakfast food covering it. Right in the center was a big cake, with “Autumn Sky Free” written in yellow, in Blossoms beautiful handwriting. All around the edges there were yellow and pink roses, real ones, devoid of thorns, bent together in a weaving sort of pattern.
Autumn laughed with delight “Did you make this?”
Luke smiled, brushing a strand of blonde hair from his face. “I helped with the frosting, but Blossom did the baking.”
“Luke put the roses on.” Blossom said smiling.
“It’s beautiful.” Autumn hugged both of her friends, feeling more appreciated than she could ever remember feeling.
* * *
“It is incredible how many odd looks one gets when one goes through a store, dripping wet, with pink and yellow roses in ones hair.”
“They’re all just jealous.” Autumn said, handing a couple shirts to Luke, who, like her and Blossom, was soaked from the river, and who had all the roses from Autumn’s birthday cake in his hair.
“Oh I’m sure they are. Didn’t you see that guy with all the tattoos and the earring? He glared at me like ‘How dare you look cooler than me?’”
Blossom’s laugh rang out from inside the dressing room “You should go to D.C. like that, Luke.”
“Oh I plan to.”
Autumn smiled. Right at that exact second, her life seemed to be perfect. She thought ‘I hope it stays like this forever.’
Little did she know that this would be the last day of happiness that she would know for a very long time.
It’s Autumn’s Sixteenth birthday, and she and her friends have the best day ever. Autumn marvels at how wonderful her life is. Little does she know that she is heading straight into a time where there will be almost no happiness.