Nicky pushed a lock of his dark hair out of his eyes, trying to concentrate on where to put his foot next. This particular tree was one of the hardest, and one of the tallest, that he'd ever tried to climb before and he really didn't want to slip and fall. Glancing down, he realised he could see nearly the entire playground from his position and made himself focus on pulling up just a little higher so he could see all of it.
With a small grunt of exertion, Nicky clambered up onto the next branch and sat swinging his legs in their shorts, looking around from his perch high above everyone else. He smiled to himself, waving to his mummy to make sure she knew he was ok, and holding on tighter to the branch he was sitting on when he saw how nervous she looked.
Nicky knew he was safe where he was, he was the best tree climber that he knew, and being high up in trees was the only time Nicky really got to think. He may only have been six years old, but Nicky thought about all kinds of things.
He thought about being smaller than most of the other boys at school, and he thought about how they didn't really seem to like him much. Nicky thought about how sad his parents had looked when he'd asked about getting a brother, maybe, someday, and how they'd explained that that wasn't going to happen, and he'd make friends soon enough. Nicky had thought that he'd make friends through joining the choir at his school, but the girls just ignored him and the boys thought he was even more stupid for wanting to sing.
Nicky rubbed the back of his neck where the spitball had hit him as he left for his singing lesson during class earlier in the day, and nearly lost his grip on the rough bark of the tree. He looked around, suddenly realising how high he actually was, and turned to climb back down, feeling out with his feet for each branch until he reached the last one before the ground. He sat down, then slipped so he was dangling from it, swinging slightly and singing under his breath.
Nicky finished the last verse of 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight?' and dropped down onto the grass, landing neatly and managing not to fall forward onto his hands and knees like last time. Those grazes had hurt for days, and his mummy had been kind of cross at the stains on his shorts. Nicky turned around and gasped, coming face to face with a boy with the blondest hair he'd ever, ever seen.
The blond boy's eyes are fixed on Nicky's and it's a moment before either of them speak.
"You're really good at singing," says the blond boy, his face breaking into a grin, "that's from The Lion King, right? I love The Lion King! Timon and Pumbaa are the best ever!"
Nicky blinks, letting the boy's chatter wash over him, unable to think of anything to say. He always gets kinda shy when he's meeting people, and for a moment he wishes he was back up in the tree, high up out of the way of everything. It's a couple of seconds before he realises the boy's stopped talking and is now looking at him curiously.
"Weren't you scared? Up in the tree I mean?"
The blond boy is peering up through the branches, then looking back at Nicky, his brown eyes wide and curious.
Nicky shakes his head, smiling a little.
"Not really... I like being high up, and I'm a pretty good climber too so..." He trails off, the blond boy grinning even wider than before, and Nicky thinks that maybe this boy actually likes him, might actually want to be his friend.
"That's so awesome. You really are a good singer too."
Nicky's confused. Only his mummy and his singing teacher have told him that before, and he can't quite work out if the boy's joking, and is going to laugh at him and run away the moment Nicky says something else. He decides to try anyway.
"Thank you..." he smiles at the boy, "I... I like singing, singing's fun."The blond boy is nodding enthusiastically, and he opens his mouth to start talking again, but Nicky cuts across him before he can start. "I'm Nicky."
The blond boy grins again.
Suddenly, Nicky's on the ground, being hugged ferociously by the other boy. He wriggles out from under him and stands looking down at JJ and brushing down his blue t-shirt. JJ's looking back up at him, his hair a mess and his face the picture of confusion.
"What was that?" Nicky frowns, flicking a clump of grass off his arm and glancing over to make sure his mummy didn't see him fall.
"I was hugging you... Do you... don't you like hugs?" JJ asks, sounding a little crestfallen and looking down and at his dusty legs, fingers playing with the Velcro on the straps of his sandals. Nicky can't help but feel bad, he didn't mean to make JJ upset.
"I do like hugs, I do, but... you knocked me down and it just made me think of the boys at school tripping me up and..." Nicky falls silent, noticing the look on JJ's face as he stands and opens his arms, his eyes once more on Nicky's. Nicky steps forward and lets JJ hug him, only hesitating briefly before hugging him back, smiling.
"The boys at school that knock you down are stupid, k? I'll be your friend now."
Nicky tightens his arms around JJ, and they hug for a little while longer, two little boys, one dark, one fair, one in a blue t-shirt, and one in pink, standing against the world.