Come in, come in. The mist has settled, you may as well sit, sip a cup of tea, read a few tales. No introductions are needed, river folk know what needs to be known.
There’s apple spice cake and cheddar if you’re hungry. Milk and sugar for the tea, unless you brought a flask of your own.
Don’t open the window if the crows tap and call, nor heed those gossiping tabbies.
I’ll be working in the far alcove if you have any needs or she knocks upon the door. Don’t want to keep her waiting.
Enjoy her photographs and her 12-line tales, though she’s a bit loose with the truth, too revealing with the magic.
Until you visit again may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.
She had found the first letter quite by accident, during a game of hide and seek in the wood, waiting silently for hours, believing in her cousins who told her to hide, unknowing they would not bother to seek her out, except when it pleased the pair to steal into the secret lives of others.
Maxi had never been alone in a wood before, there was so much to explore, to hear, to spy upon and in turn, learned she was spied upon by unknown others, she liked that best of all.
The letter was in the remains of an ancient tree trunk, resting upon the softest pile of vibrant green moss as if on a velvet pillow, as if it were being presented at a royal court.
During that day of discovery, Maxi sat and watched the weather smoothed trunk, the still letter, for hours, at a distance in case someone showed up, but finally acknowledging her cousins cruelty and surrendering to her own hunger she abandoned her vigil, taking the letter home, hidden inside her jacket.
The paper was roughly textured, embedded with violet petals, covered in an indigo colored ink, a flowing cursive hand, a short introduction, a request for a response, the asking for a pen pal.
Maxi had always wanted a pen pal, someone from Scotland or Ireland or Wales, someone who lived in a castle or near a castle or within sight of a castle, or a crumbling old keep, someone living with history and magic all around.
Here was an opportunity, so she began a correspondence with an unknown writer of the wood, someone who knew the wood, who spoke with trees and foxes and owls, someone who would not reveal their name.
Maxi spend many days composing her weekly letter which she left on the moss pillow inside the old tree trunk, sharing adventures and stories, hers seeming gray and shallow, lacking excitement, knowledge, lacking magic when compared with the missives she received.
She was certain her pen pal was full of magic, for the letters revealed gossip from crows, gossip about Maxi’s cousins, and revealed transgressions voiced be the trees, the river, the meadow flowers, transgressions committed by villagers, and there were questions too, such as why horses were imprisoned by fences, some dogs chained and some cats never allowed to roam outside even though all asked for their freedom.
Maxi began to wonder too, wonder about fences, about the possibility of trees having conversations, about crows chiding, about time expanding in directions not understood and how could she learn to hear and speak to the wood and all those who lived within it.
Keeping the correspondence secret had taught Maxi how to walk softer in the world, to know the differences between the sound of paw and human footfall, the song of bird, the rustle of short and long leaf, for it was the one condition from her unnamed pen pal, no one must ever see the letters but Maxi herself.
Finding the cousins at the trunk, Maxi hid from the raucous pair, she could hear their voices rising, daring each other towards the stump, daring to pluck the letter hiding there, laughing satisfied they had discovered Maxi’s secret, stealing something belonging to her, and as Maxi watched, her heart beating quickly, her stomach growing tight, the elder cousin reached for the letter, only to have it catch fire, cinders floating away into the the tangling branches overhead, then reaching into her pocket, fingers protecting the letter hidden there, Maxi touched not her own smooth stationery but a roughly textured, violet embedded envelope.