It wasn’t just that summer vacation was coming to an end, and that life would soon be classrooms and textbooks and waking up early to get dressed. This was Tara’s twelfth summer, and she could see childhood’s end bearing down upon her not far off.

There would be school dances, growth spurts, algebra, and other distasteful things to contend with, combined with the pressures she’d seen unleashed on her older sister. The obsessive desire to act older, to cast off childish aspects and habits…it didn’t excite a dreamy girl who preferred to stomp around the yard and scribble down stories in worn-out notebooks.

Tara’s family had a house on the literal edge of their tiny town, with houses across the street and a relative wilderness to the back, bounded on one side by a farm. The highway, sometimes audible through the trees, had brought development to the east: an ugly mini-mall and fast food joints fused with gas stations. But if she walked in the other direction, Tara could find excitement and stories to be told in the woods.

She set out one day, feeling a strong urge to be outside and muddy among the trees. Her older sister and ostensible babysitter was on the phone with her boyfriend–another accoutrement of growing up that Tara was less than enthusiastic about–so with their parents at work the wold was free and fair even though Tara was theoretically forbidden from going in. But rules were made to be broken, and broken especially in the service of squeezing out a few more honey-yellow drops of summer from the dying light of August.

It was, after all, Tara’s last summer.

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