Staten Island

28 years ago

A boy walked out of his house. When he got to the end of the road, he turned right, and carried on walking. He walked and walked, until finally, he found the place he was looking for.

It was a forest. The boy, although he was only eight, had been fashioning a tree-house to play in.

Someone had already made one a few years ago, but a group of kids had come and destroyed most of it. All that was left was the splintered roof, near the brink of collapsing.

He found old planks of wood that someone had thrown out, carelessly dumped in the forest, and gathered them up carefully. He leaned them against the tree, and started to climb slowly up.

When he got to a reasonable height, the boy stood up on a thick branch, scanning for other things he could use in his tree house. He spotted something, half-hidden by a wide tree. Thinking it was an animal; he picked up a rock and threw it. It wasn't that he wanted to hurt it; he just wanted to see what it was.

To his surprised a wail of pain came from near the tree. He quickly slid down from the tree, scraping his sides in the process, and ran clumsily to see what it was.

A girl, about his age, looked up. She was clutching her arm, wincing slightly. A small bead of red rolled down her arm and dripped onto the forest floor.

'Who are you?' the boy asked, worried. Had she come to claim the tree house for her own?

'I'm Rowan,' she sniffed. There was a shine of tears in her eyes. 'You hit me with a rock.'

'I'm sorry,' the boy said awkwardly, shuffling his feet uneasily. 'Are you okay?'

'I think so.' Rowan stood up shakily, rubbing her arm. 'What are you doing?'

'I'm building a tree house,' the boy said quietly. 'Do you want to help?'

Rowan's eyes brightened. 'Okay.'

The boy stuck out his hand, like the men did to his mom when they introduced themselves to her. 'I'm Barney Stinson,' he said.