From a distance, the dilapidated treehouse looked the same as it always had: a scaled-down version of the big house on the property. As he walked closer, Jay could see the broken windows, the peeling blue paint, and the missing shingles.
When Jay Morton and his mom had come to live at the Bridger House in 1986, the treehouse was the coolest thing he’d ever seen. Built on a platform that wrapped around two huge live oaks, it seemed like something out of a fairytale.
Clayton Reed—the eight-year-old owner of said treehouse—had been equally exotic. Red-haired, freckled, and as skinny as his name implied. Not to mention the most creative person Jay had ever run across. They’d bonded over stories; novels, comics, anything they could get their hands on. Jay had loved to fall asleep to the sound of Clayton reciting the fantastical tales he seemed to pull out of thin air.
Although Jay had been forbidden to hang out with the son of his mom’s boss, the boys found ways around the rules by secretly meeting in the treehouse. It was their safe haven. Later, after the Reed family lost their money and the Bridger House began to crumble around them, the boys—now young men—would meet in the treehouse and drink. They’d kissed for the first time in the treehouse and had the first fumbling sexual encounters. The boys had promised to keep in touch when Mrs. Reed abruptly let Jay’s mom go and they’d been forced to move to Charleston so she could find work. After a while, the promised emails and phone calls had dwindled to nothing, but Jay had never forgotten Clayton.
Now, more than twenty years later—Jay was back in the town of Summerville.
When Jay had decided to buy an old house on the outskirts of Charleston and fix it up, nostalgia had led him to look in Summerville. When he realized the Bridger house was for sale he knew it had to be fate.
He’d bought the house sight-unseen. It was a crumbling old wreck and would take an obscene amount of money to fix up, but he had to believe fate had guided him and that it wasn’t some ridiculous mid-life crisis.
Behind him, the crunch of underbrush announced someone’s arrival.
“I had a feelin’ you’d be back here,” Clayton drawled. Jay’s skin prickled, despite the late summer heat and he turned to face his old friend. Twenty years had done him well. Still freckled and ginger haired of course, but the carrot orange had softened to a reddish blond and his blue eyes were bright in his handsome face.
“Yeah, couldn’t resist taking a look at the old place,” Jay admitted, giving his old friend a lopsided smile. “Hey, by the way.”
“Hey, yourself.” Clayton’s smile was blinding. “What are you doing in town? I couldn’t believe it when I got your message on Facebook after all this time.”
Clayton held up the keys he’d gotten from the real estate agent. “Just bought the place. From the old crab traps in the root cellar to the treehouse out back, the Bridger property’s mine now.”
The open, friendly expression faded from Clayton’s face and with a solid, skull-rattling blow, his fist connected with Jay’s jaw.
It took me a while to write this, mostly because the story kept shifting. As it did, I quickly realized there was a hell of a plot bunny here. Clearly, Jay and Clayton have a story that needs to be told. Who’d like to read it?
Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics.
I look forward to seeing you next Monday!