They play in their would-be innocence on the sandy creek bank. Play house, with a recovered beer can found washed up on the bank, with a plastic cup and fork, with driftwood log couches and a sand-molded sink.
Their giggles are sliced by her voice, suddenly harsh and shrill, theatrical, "How can you be so..." and his voice, overpowering hers, shouting, growling, words they don't understand, but are too familiar.
The pain is not yet understood but is no less real. She is crying, and running, and crying. He chases her, first as part of the game, that's what the boy does, but then he's chasing her because she's crying. At the path's edge she climbs the nailed-on wooden slats into the branches of the tree, hoists herself up onto the wide raft-like surface nestled in the branches. Here, she is flat face down and convulsing with a grief she doesn't understand. Nothing is right. All wrong, it's all wrong.
He hesitates at the trunk of the tree, then passes by. She feels his presence, and then his leaving.
She senses his return. Then hears him, climbing, more cautiously, less boisterously than usual. She peeks out from the golden curtain of her hair. His face appears over the wooden ledge, eyes wide and wet. He is holding on with one hand, pulling himself up and over. In the other hand she sees the two treats, thin white paper clinging to melting stickiness in the August heat.
He sees her eyes brighten a little, as she looks at the cherry popsicle. He holds out the orange pop with one hand.
Her lip trembles, and he holds out the cherry.