A day before Bonnie left our worn-out town in the suburbs of Massachusetts, she came by my house and knocked on my screen door one last time. I almost didn’t answer. I remembered when she told me that she was leaving, last week, as we were wading in the stream behind her house. Bonnie said that her mother wanted her to finish high school at a more advanced school, and that she had no say in the matter. She was to leave, and that was that. It was a week before senior year began, and the August air was already beginning to nip at my uncovered limbs in my classic white t-shirt and khaki shorts. The seasons changing made me even more nervous about her departure, school growing closer with every temperature decrease. I had one week to figure out what I would do without her in school; what I would do without her in general. I told her it was bullshit that she had to leave.
“My sweet Huck” she said jokingly, she knew I hated it when she called me “sweet” or “honey,” “If I could, I would take you with me. Stuff your scrawny body in my trunk, but I don’t think you would survive the drive all the way to California. I've hardly been able to fit my books in my trunk as it is, and my mother wouldn’t be too pleased if my delinquent best friend joined me on my travels.” She mimicked her mother's condescending voice when she called me delinquent. Her mother didn’t like me very much, and I her.
The rest of that day was a sort of melancholic blur. I went home before sunset for the first time that summer and haven't spoken to Bonnie since. I knew it wasn’t her fault that she was going, but I couldn’t help picturing her life without me in it. A new school. A new good school. Bonnie was a great writer, and reader, and I knew she had an affluent future ahead of her, but still, I envied her for leaving. She would become a bestselling author, live in a grand townhouse in some Jungle cabana living the life destined for her. She always talked about wanting to live alone in some wilderness paradise. But I would be here, in the dilapidated town that I couldn’t imagine leaving. So, when she knocked on my door that day, the last day, I almost didn’t answer. But I did. She had a way of sucking me into her presence, whether she knew it or not.
I swung the door open, the hinges screeching as it flew, and there Bonnie stood, in her usual attire. Bonnie is what I would call a creative. A free spirit even. She wore a long flowing white dress with dark blue florals, dirt crusted high-top sneakers, a backpack slung over one shoulder, and her dirty-blonde hair pulled back into a messy ponytail with strands of hair framing her face in a sort of unplanned perfection. Her heart- shaped sunglasses, which usually covered her deep brown eyes from the powerful summer sun, hung on the collar of her dress; another sign of the seasons changing.
“Hi!” she said, as if nothing had happened at all the last time we spoke.
“Hi,” I replied, hands fidgeting with the loop on my much too long jean shorts, looking down.
“Look, today is my last day here and I want to spend it with you, like we usually do. I have one more adventure for us to go on together. And you can’t say no, I won't allow it. And if you do say no, you'll be wracked with guilt for the rest of your life about how you, Huck Williams, didn’t give me, Bonnie Green, one last chance to be your best friend. You don’t want that, do you?” She said, smirking with that last remark.
Bonnie looked at me with her classic, “I know you're going to do what I say” look. Her expressionistic eyes were paired with a grin, flashing her slightly crooked teeth. I knew that look well. I almost always did what she asked me to do, because usually it was fun. I couldn’t say no, not to her.
“Well-,” I began to say, before she cut me off.
“And I’m sorry I'm leaving. And how I told you. But let's make today about our time together, not about when we are apart. I have something really special planned.”
“I haven't even said yes yet.”
“You know you want to. Come on, put on your shoes, grab the clover log, and tie those laces tight, it’s a hard hike.”
She turned and began walking off my porch, down the dirt road and towards the woods. Bonnie was so sure I would follow her that she didn’t look back at me once. Without second thought I ran to put on my shoes, tying them tightly just as she recommended. I made sure to grab the clover log on the way out, stuffing it into my navy backpack, and letting the screen door slam behind me.
The clover log was something Bonnie and I created last summer. It was an old, tattered journal bound with genuine leather. We had picked it up at the local goodwill, the score of the summer. I've always had an obsession with collections, but never really had the funds to fuel any of great amount. Here and there I would spend my lawn- mowing money on some buttons down at the general store, but I had only massed a menial sum of four; not much of a collection. I gave one of the four to Bonnie. It was a large button with a white daisy spread around its circular shape with the words “free spirit” stretched under in black type. I thought of her when I saw it; like I said, she was a free spirit. Bonnie hasn’t taken it off her backpack since I gave it to her for her birthday last year. I still remember her brilliant grin when I revealed it to her. I gave up on my button collection quickly, but always loved the look of the daisy button on her bag.
However, one collection I've been able to make fruitful, unlike my sad button collection, is my four-leaf clover collection, and with the help of Bonnie, the clover log was almost full. The yellow- stained pages were stuffed with clovers; their stems often butting out the sides of the book. It was our summer project, and one of our favorite pastimes. I could search the fields for hours, but Bonnie often didn’t have the same amount of patience. She would mostly lie in the grass, soaking in the sun, immersed in whatever second-hand book she had picked up that week. She often let little spiders crawl on her, or snails make trials on her arms, nature was always a welcome thing to her. Though, when she did help me look for the clovers, she always managed to find the best ones. It was as if she was a calling to nature. Bonnie always said the earth speaks to all of us, and I always thought she spoke to the earth.
When I caught up to Bonnie, she was already crossing the stream, tip- toeing across the log we had placed over it last summer. At first, that log was our bridge to the unknown, the woods uncharted or explored. Now, it was the bridge to our home. We began exploring these woods two summers ago on a hot day in June. Since then, we have been going every day of every summer. There wasn’t an inch of this wood that we didn’t scour, at least that’s what I thought.
“Come on slowpoke!” shouted Bonnie from across the creek.
“I am coming! Hold on!”
And so we went. Through the brush and tall grass, swatting mosquitoes and ticks off our legs as we ran. We traveled in our usual way, running at a light jog down the paths we had created throughout the years. She took so many turns that I lost track of where we were, which was unusual for me. I always thought I had a good inner compass. After about an hour of running I yelled at her to stop.
“Come on, you're tired already Hucky! This is amateur level woods exploration. I had more hope in you.” she said with a smirk. I hated it when she called me Hucky.
She walked back to where I was standing with hands on my knees, panting as I tried to catch my breath. With a little slap on the back Bonnie said, “I’m only kidding. We are almost there anyways. Let's take a break, slowpoke.” I hoped that she couldn’t see the relief on my face.
Bonnie sat cross-legged on the ground, happily dirtying her dress as I took a seat on a tree stump conveniently in the area. She slung her backpack off her shoulder and into her lap, unzipping it to reveal two shiny red apples. A classic Bonnie snack. She tossed one over to me, and I immediately sunk my teeth into the fresh flesh. She did the same and juice dripped down her hand, cleaning a streak of dirt from it. We didn’t mind being dirty. Bonnie always said she felt closest to nature when she was dirtiest. Though, every night before she went home to her mother, she washed up behind my house with me. We called it the human power wash, but it was really just my large green hose which coiled like a snake on the side of the house.
“Mm. They are pretty good today.” I said, biting into my apple.
“Two perfect red apples for a perfect day. It's gotta mean something! Today is the day, the best day we will ever have. I know it. These apples know it. The woods know it!” she shouted.
I loved when she began to speak like she was a priest. She held her sermon in the woods, calling out to the world. I always joked that she could pray mother nature as her God and start up her own church. She told me that it would just be a cult. She always had a way to outsmart me. But I didn’t mind much.
“Can you tell me where we are going at least?” I asked.
“Of course not, that would ruin the whole surprise of it all! You’ll see before long. Hurry up and finish that apple.” she said, chucking her apple core into the woods. “The deer will love that” She remarked as the core went soaring into the deep brush of the woods.
After I finished my apple and tossed it into the woods, we continued on our journey. We came to a hill that I'd never seen before. It was steep, and I considered if we would even be able to scale it. I looked over to Bonnie for reassurance and saw her reach for something in her backpack again. She pulled out a long rope which seemed to have large knots tied in it every foot.
“I've come prepared.” She said with the look she always makes when she’s right about something.
“And how is that supposed to work?” I said unenthusiastically.
And just when I said that, she picked up a large rock, and began knotting it to the end of the rope.
“What are you even doing-”
“Shush Huck, the mastermind is at work.”
She looped the rope around it tight, and with one great swing of her arm, threw it up over the hill. Then, she pulled hard on the rope; It didn’t budge. She looked at me with a gleaming smile.
“See, I told you. I'm prepared.”
“You expect that to hold?”
“Yup. And ladies first, so up I go. Try not to get to lonely down here without me,” she said with a wink.
I was nervous. She began to climb the mountain of hill, dirt and rocks dislodging beneath her feet as she went. Her hands held onto the rope at all times as her feet did most of the work pushing her up. It took her five minutes to scale the whole hill, and when she got to the top, she disappeared, just as the rock had.
“Are you okay!” I called; my voice echoed around the trees.
“Bonnie, I'm being serious. This isn't funny.”
The woods were silent besides the sound of the trees rustling in the wind. And then, CLICK! I looked up to the hill and saw a small camera facing down towards me.
“Not funny!” I Shouted up.
“You should have seen your face Huck. You really must love me! You looked Terrified! One day, when I really die, I’ll have to come back to haunt you when you find out. Jeez your face will be funny.” She laughed.
I couldn’t even see her, and her voice was faint. I knew she was probably in tears with laughter right now, and I couldn’t help smiling myself, whether the joke was funny, or I was relieved to know she was okay. Sometimes her jokes were questionable. Ensuing terror on unsuspecting innocence was a fun game for her, and I was her main target. I should have known it was joke when she didn’t answer, but I couldn’t help being scared.
“Okay! Now it's your turn.” she called.
I can't say the climb was easy, though she made it seem like it was. Halfway up the hill I made the mistake of looking down. The fall seemed a lot worse from halfway up the mountain.
“Come on slowpoke,” Bonnie yelled down at me.
When I finally pulled myself up over the cliff edge, Bonnie was already sitting on the ground, cross legged against a large oak tree. Her dress was tattered and her hair classically disheveled. I looked down at my own clothes: my shorts had acquired three new holes, my knees two scrapes, and my white shirt was now closer to a tan- brown. I looked up from my bloodied knees to Bonnie. She smiled up at me. I’d never been up here before. That was rare in these woods.
Without a word, Bonnie hopped up from her spot by the tree and spun around, facing away from me, and started to run. We were in a vast meadow decorated with white flowers and tall grasses. The sun was high in the sky, beating down on my back. I was quite tired, but Bonnie seemed to have all the energy in the world.
“Come on! Let’s make the climb worth it!” she shouted over her shoulder.
“It better be!” I called back, already on the run behind her, stomach cramping from all the climbing.
We ran until we came to a clearing. There sat a pond, crawling with cattails and bullfrogs. Spouting water into the pond was a magnificent and rushing waterfall. I’d never seen something so surreal in these woods.
“This has to be your best find, Bonnie.” I said in awe.
“You’ve only seen the beginning Huck. Just the beginning.”
She turned and skipped towards the water. The ground was wet beneath my feet, and the mud began to swell over the souls of my shoes. Both our feet made squelching noises as we walked, nearing the pond and closing in on the waterfall. Bonnie walked nimbly on the shore, tip-toeing around the circumference of the pond, and I followed suit. When she neared the waterfall she stopped and faced me, her back towards the rushing water. And with a large smile and the bow of her head, she stepped backwards into the waterfall, disappearing behind the curtain of water. This was the second time she had vanished on me today, and I was no longer interested in games.
“Not funny. Where the hell did you go?” I called
“Come on! Follow me, I promise it's worth it.”
A held my breath and walked in, ducking under the waterfall. Water soaked my clothes, causing my shirt stuck to my body, outlining my skinny figure. Great, I thought. When I made it through the waterfall, I opened my eyes and was instantly amazed. Here in this dimly lit cave was a patch of clovers, lining the entire floor. I looked down instinctively and saw a four-leaf clover. As I bent down to grab it, I noticed another, and another, and another. The whole patch of clovers seemed to have the lucky fourth petal. I looked up at Bonnie in awe, and there she stood with the proudest smile on her face, her whole body was soaked as well. Neither of us seemed to care.
“How- how is this even possible?” I exclaimed.
“Don't ask me! Ask the world! I just happened to find this place last week and I knew then, that this place, this hidden cave of luck, was put here for you and me. I just know it. I mean look at all these clovers! They are all four leafed Huck! We could fill hundreds of clover logs in one day with all of these! Nature has a way of knowing what a person needs, Huck. And you needed this place. When I'm gone, you'll come here to find me. I'll be here, not physically here, but I'll be here. No matter how far I am, what school I'm at, you can always find me in this place Huck. This is our cave, forever and always.”
She always went on tangents like this, about how nature is divine and so on, but this one felt different. I wish I had known then what I know now. The rest of that day was outstanding, filled with the wonder of youth and the blooming of adolescence. That was the last afternoon I was young, and it was Bonnies last afternoon ever.
Before we left the cave to return home, she handed me a letter. It was light and sealed with a waxy red stamp, as if the contents of the letter were best kept secret.
“Very formal” I joked.
“Yeah.” She said looking down. Suddenly, I felt the mood shift. The air in the cave was suddenly thick. I wanted to get out.
“Read it after I leave, Tomorrow. Okay?” she asked me with a slight quiver in her voice.
“Yeah, of course. Let’s go before it gets dark, we still have that mountain to get down, and this time I'm going first!”
I ran out, and she followed behind me. We raced all the way home, running through the woods as the sun set over the horizon. When we got back to my patio, we washed off with my hose like usual. Then we said our goodbyes.
“I'll visit, we will go back to that cave when I come back.” she said earnestly, looking me right in the eye.
“Yeah, totally.” I said nonchalantly. Her eye contact was making me nervous. “Look, I have to go, I'm sure my mom wants me in for dinner. But I’ll make sure to see you tomorrow morning before you go, okay?” I said looking down at my shoes.
“okay.” she said, turning away.
As she walked away, I looked up from the ground. She turned one last time, gave me a slight smile, and turned again, now running towards her house. And with that last smile, a wave of sadness rushed over me. What was I going to do without her? I knew it wasn’t her fault she was going, it was her mom’s, and in this moment, I had never hated her mother more. In that moment I knew I loved Bonnie, but I was stuck. Instead of chasing after her, telling her how I felt, I let her go. I watched her run away and disappear into the setting summer dusk.
I never did see her that next morning. I never saw her again. Bonnie died that night. I woke up early that morning, expecting to give her one last goodbye, and to confess my love. My idea was to give her the clover log, which was now stuffed full of lucky clovers from the cave, as a good luck memento for her time at her new school. And probably to beg her to stay, though I new that would be fruitless. However, when I woke up, I knew something was off. The town was awake, and the air felt jittery. Its hard for me to recall that morning now; it all fades together after all these years.
I remember some things though. I walked over to Bonnie's house. The door was open, and unusual accordance. Knocked on the door on the slightly ajar door. There was no answer, so I tried again, and again, and finally I just decided to go in. I walked right into the living room; her mother was on the coach talking with an officer. I knew that something was wrong. I remember her mother's shrill voice as she screamed at me to leave her sight immediately. I remember asking the officer what had happened, and his answer: there had been an accident.
They never did find Bonnies' body, but all the clues where there to know she was gone, really gone. For starters, she took nothing with her. All her most prized possessions were intact in her room: her trusted backpack with the shiny daisy pin, her extensive book collection, and her finest floral dresses. All that was left of Bonnie was a note written in the dust on her window: I have gone to be one with nature. The officers and her mother didn’t know what that meant, but I did. I knew her passing had been no accident. She had always wanted to be one with nature. She was so incredibly sensitive to the world and admired the toughness of plants; their willingness to grow upright in the hardest of conditions. She wanted to be like them.
I often think back to our last day together, I wish I knew then, what I know now. How could I have missed the signs? The signs that she was leaving for good, not to some stupid school. I remember opening that letter, the one with the waxy red stamp. It was weeks after she left. I couldn’t get myself to do much of anything those first couple of days. Wracked with guilt and confusion, I nimbly tore open the envelope, and revealed a beautifully handwritten note written a piece of small stationery which had the word “Bonnie” printed at the top. In her scratchy handwriting I read:
The first thing I want to say to you is I am so sorry. I know you must be confused; I am too. The truth is I couldn’t leave this town, these woods, my home. Not the way my mother wanted me to. She had big dreams for me, you know? Too big. I could never live up to them, no matter how hard I tried. She had given up on me becoming her golden star, her perfect little girl. I lied to you earlier; my mom wasn’t sending me to boarding school. She was sending me to a program for teens without a way in life. She's so done with me, you know, that she would rather never see me again. People don’t go home after those programs. I am not willing to become one of those people. The truth is I want to be with what I have a calling for, the world and such. My world is here. In these woods, with these trees and clovers. She already signed a contract, it's all in ink. Legally, I'm theirs now, until I turn 18 next summer. And then what? I am nobody's but mine and I will not have my life dictated. I'm not going. I've known for a long time that I wanted my life to end in my own perfect way: in the woods, in our woods. I never planned to do it so early, but I see no other option. I'm not ready to run away, and I'm not going to the program. So, the road ends, and I am at peace with that. But I'm sorry. I can't imagine how you will be feeling reading this or what your life is like now. You were the only reason I ever questioned my decision, but in the end the calling of the woods was too strong, and the “real” world was too deafening. But remember, you can always find me in that cave, I'll be in the clovers and the daisies. I'll see you again one day, when you are ready to become one with the world too.
With love, Your best friend,
That was the last I heard from Bonnie. It's been three years now since that summer. I still see her every day, in every tree, flower, and blade of grass. To me, she is the rustling in the wind, the sound of birds singing, and the cry of the rain. I see her in all that is good. I still think of ways I could have stopped her, but over time I realized she had made her mind up long before I could have helped her. She wasn’t sad to leave, instead relieved by the end of her own maze of life. I often look at our clover log, its flowers now yellow and crusted, barley clinging to life. I don’t mind their old look; it shows the time that has passed. I haven't explored much since Bonnie's death, but I often think back to our long days spent in the woods. Those memories are also faded and chipped, but I think that is okay. Time has passed, and I am healing. Every time I go outside into the world, I feel Bonnie Green with me, just as she wanted.
Fiona Ricciardi is an eighteen- year- old senior at the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City. After graduation in June, she is attending Reed College in Portland Oregon. Fiona has a love for nature and the world, which is often reflected in her work. In her free time, she enjoys running, drawing, journaling, and camping.
"20090506 Four Leaf Clovers 003" by cygnus921 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.