After having spent the best part of an hour playing with his younger cousins Colin had had enough. He was ten now and felt that he shouldn’t have to babysit his cousins who were just six and eight years old. He felt much more grown up than them and wanted to get away a bit, so he simply wandered off a little way away from them, then a little bit more, until he was at the bottom of his Auntie Janet’s large garden. He could still hear Thomas and Lucinda playing with their toys, making up stories about each of the Action Men and Barbies as if they were real. At the bottom of the garden Colin could think. At the bottom of the garden Colin could feel more than just a babysitter.
Auntie Janet’s garden was bordered by a big wood at the bottom, and there was no fence or hedge to stop anything getting into their garden, or anything to stop a little boy getting out. For a few minutes Colin stood looking into the shadows of the wood, watching the way the light played across the ground and through the leaves and lower branches of the ancient trees. All of a sudden he was sure he heard someone calling his name, someone calling his name from within the wood. Cocking his head from side to side, in much the same way as he had seen his dog, Toby do many times he concentrated hard. He still missed Toby a lot, but Auntie Janet had said there wasn’t room for a dog too. Cupping his hands around his ears he listened more carefully to see if someone really had called his name.
Colin was a sensible boy and had listened to his mum and dad when they had told him about how dangerous it could be to talk to strangers, so although he was listening carefully for anyone calling his name he was also ready to run back up the garden as soon as he sensed any danger. It had only been about a year since his mum and dad had gone off in the car and never come back. That was when he had been moved into Auntie Janet’s house. He still missed his mum and dad and often cried quietly at night when the house was quiet and he was in his small bedroom in the attic. Everyone had told Colin that he had to be a a man now and that he had to be brave, so he never cried in front of anyone, and hoped no-one heard him at night either. Although he was living in a house full of people he felt very alone most of the time, and often quite sad.
To hear if anyone really had said his name Colin took a step closer to the woods and cupping his ears again listened.
“Colin….Colin,” a gentle voice said. It didn’t sound very far away but Colin couldn’t see anyone or anything that might have spoken.
“I can hear you but I can’t see you,” Colin whispered quietly into the woods. He felt a bit foolish talking to the trees and checked over his shoulder to see if anyone was listening or watching him.
“Come into the woods a little bit and you will see us,” another voice said.
“I, I don’t know. I’m not really supposed to. I’m supposed to be playing with my cousins,” Colin explained to the trees.
“Just one or two more steps, Colin. Don’t worry you are safe here with us.” the first voice said.
“But, but… how do I..” Colin stuttered, and so wanted to move into the woods to see who he was talking to.
“No buts, or hows Colin. Just one more step.” the voice urged.
Colin thought for a moment as he looked back and forth from the house and the woods.
“Just one more step?” he asked, but there was no answer. Colin thought that just one step couldn’t hurt, but didn’t like to break the rules that the grown ups had imposed upon him. Having stood there for what felt like a very long time Colin decided to think no more and took that one more step into the woods.
All of a sudden Collin’s world changed. Colin thought he had stepped into a different world. Looking back over his shoulder he could still see the garden and his cousins playing, but it was almost like he was watching it through a film. He looked back into the woods again and was happy he’d taken the extra step. The dappled light that he had seen from the edge of the woods had grown brighter, the sounds of the woods became louder, although pleasantly so, and the smells of the woodland became so intense they made Colin sneeze.
“Bless you,” somebody said just to Colin’s right, and then giggled.”I bet you didn’t expect such a change did you?”
Colin looked to his right and there as clear as day were two children, both about his age. They were a boy and a girl. The boy was slightly taller than Colin with short dark hair and a smiley face. He was dressed in a Ninja Turtle tee-shirt and brightly coloured shorts. The girl was about the same height as Colin. She had long blond hair and the blue-est eyes Colin had ever seen. She too was smiling at him. She was wearing a summer dress of too many colours for Colin to see clearly. It actually looked like the colours in the dress were changing as Colin stared at the pair with his mouth open.
“Who are you?” Colin asked after he had regained his senses a little.
“This here is Donna, ” the boy said indicating with his hand to the girl, “and I am Esau.”
“Delighted to meet you,” said Colin, remembering his manners. This was a phrase his gran had told him he should use whenever anyone introduced themselves to him when they met.
“And we you,” Said Donna quietly. “Although we’ve known you forever.” she added.
“Forever?” Colin asked.
“Just about,” replied Esau.
“But, how…. why… where…” Colin stumbled over his words again.
“Well, they are a lot of questions, or would be if you finished them, which is quite natural,” Donna giggled.
“We are your best friends forever,” Esau said as he took hold of Colin’s hand.
Colin felt a tingle run all the way up his arm, over his shoulders and then all the way through his body. Suddenly some of his questions were answered. He felt all at once at ease and happy.
“That’s right,” Esau said, nodding.
“Did you just read my mind?” Colin asked.
“You allowed me to know what you were thinking.” Esau let go of Colin’s hand and sat on a tree stump. Funnily, there were two more tree stumps which Colin hadn’t noticed before, so Colin sat down too, as did Donna.
“So you really are my guardians?” Colin said with amazement in his voice. “My mum told me that we all have guardians, or angels to look after us. She said that whatever happened I would have someone looking out for me. But I thought angles have wings”
“Your mum was right about guardians, and we can have wings if you’d like us to.” Donna leaned over and gently placed her hand on Colin’s knee. This wasn’t a gesture Colin would have liked from any other girl, but Donna was obviously special. again he felt the same tingle he had felt when Esau had held his hand. In an instant his mind was filled with images of his mum and dad. There were many happy pictures of the three of them together having fun, and then some of his mum and dad smiling gently at a small boy, who Colin recognised as himself. Looking at Donna nad Esau as the images played through his mind he could see faint outlines of wings, just like the angels had in some of the books he’d read.
“Yes, Colin, they are gone forever, but they will always be part of you.” Donna removed her hand.
“I don’t know whether to feel happy or sad now.” Colin said truthfully. “I’m all of a jumble.Mum, Dad, and now you…”
“That’s fine, and normal, Colin. They want you to be happy, but of course you miss them so you are sad too.” Donna looked deeply into Colin’s eyes. “But know this. We are always here for you. Not just in this wood, but always. We thought it might be fun to meet you for the first time here, in a no-man’s land of nature and beauty. Whenever you need us all you have to do is think of us and we’ll be there to help and guide you. You are not alone, Colin, and never will be. You are loved and special”
Those were words that warmed Colin’s heart. They were words his mum had said to him many times and he could almost hear her voice under Donna’s as she spoke them.
“Not alone,” he said dreamily. “Never Alone.”