• If I really let my mind travel back it was an odd place to start with. Why was I even here? It was just a place, an odd place really. A place that had been spur of the moment. I didn’t even honestly like it here, yet here I was sitting and reading in the tree.
    I could feel the hot Louisiana sun beaming down on me. She was trying to coax me out of that tree, I know it. I wouldn’t listen though I said, “No thank you miss! I like it up here.” So I stayed.
    The tree was a place near my house, I mean… close enough, surely close enough. I would go there in the day and at night. I risked getting caught leaving my house in the middle of the hot nights just to go to the tree. My mom said she always wondered why I went to the tree, “Must be his favorite place.” She thought out loud as she washed the dishes with a smile.
    “No mama. I hate that tree.” I never gave her a chance to ask anything else before I left to go to the tree.
    Why I hate the tree isn’t as complicated as why I still go to the tree and sit in its limbs, rest in its shade, although I hate the cursed thing.
    It was a few years ago, under that very tree, that my heart was broken.
    No it’s not what you’re thinking. A girl didn’t reject me there; it was something far more important then any girl I’ll ever meet.
    It was another sunny day and I was relaxing with my little sister there, under the big old willow. It hung over us like a crying women.
    My arm was around her because she was sleeping. I was ten when she was born, so although we were siblings we were so far apart it seemed odd to think of her as a little sister. So she became more like a daughter to me then anything.
    “Brother, when we gonna go home?” Her sweet little voice called to me. I glanced down and saw her rubbing her little four year old eyes with a clenched fist.
    “You wanna go home now, Lacy?” I asked. That wasn’t her name. Mom and Dad had named her Sophia, but she didn’t like it.
    “Just doesn’t suit me well.”
    “Well what do you want me to do about it?”
    “I want you to call me something else, Brother.”
    “Alright then. I’ll call you Lacy.”
    The name had just stuck, she liked it a lot.
    She hadn’t answered my question so I just picked her up and headed off towards home.
    Another reason I was more like Lacy’s dad was because our parents couldn’t care for her properly. They were always busy trying to scavenge for money for this or that.
    But someone had to be there for Lacy because she was born with a weak immune system. She was always getting sick. I always had to make sure she wasn’t putting her fingers in her mouth or doing anything else that would make her sick. I had to be the one looking after her. That’s why when it happened that night under the willow tree I cried. I was sixteen and I cried like a three year old.
    “Brother… brother.” The little voice hissed me from my sleep.
    “What is it Lacy?” I could hear how groggy my own voice sounded.
    “Can we go to the willow tree brother?” She asked me. Even in the dark I knew she was smiling.
    “Lacy… not tonight.” I tried to explain it softly to her so she wouldn’t start crying and get us both into trouble.
    “No brother. We gotta go! We just gotta!” She complained in a rushed whisper as she shook my shoulder.
    “Why Lacy?”
    “Cause the little boy said he’ll be there. He needs me to put him to rest.” That was the first time she talked about them. In six years it was the first time she mentioned the ghosts that spoke to her.
    I sat up in bed and pulled her into my lap, “What are you talking about Lacy?”
    “The boy… he’s been talking to me. His name is Justin. He’s only ten and he needs to be put to rest before one of the bad ghosts gets him.” She wasn’t looking at me. She was watching something on the floor and her sea green eyes had this weird glaze over the top of them.
    “Alright. Lacy! We’re gonna go.” I said giving her a good hard shake hoping to banish the glaze from over her eyes.
    She looked up at me her normal green eyes shining, “Thanks brother!” She said with a grin.
    Her in tow we snuck out of the house. It wasn’t the normal thrill of getting caught that had me shaking that night. I’d heard ghosts all over the place especially on an old farm like ours. It just scared me; Lacy… my little Lacy, was seeing them and talking with them.
    “There he is!” She said and pointed to a figure standing at the base of the willow tree. She ran over to him and started chattering on about something. I walked over slowly, but as I approached I saw the smile… the ghost was actually… happy.
    “H-hi?” I didn’t know what to say! How do you greet a ghost?
    The dead boy just gave a little bow.
    “Brother… can we put him to sleep now?” Lacy asked.
    I nodded, how was I supposed to know what she had planned?
    “Okay! Justin you’ll finally get to rest.” She promised him with a grin.
    The ghost boy smiled and I saw his lips move in what seemed to be a way of thanking Lacy, but no sound came from him.
    Lacy smiled and took the creatures hands. Of course they couldn’t touch because he was only an entity, a piece of something that once was.
    “On a quiet night, a peaceful night. Underneath this starry sky I use myself, my soul and my mind, to give you the rest you deserve. Sleep well.” Both their eyes were closed and I watched as a wind that didn’t touch me whipped Lacy’s hair around her face. Then, before my eyes another, clearer, purer Lacy rose from the solid body of my sister.
    The Justin boy smiled and I actually heard his voice this time as he rejoiced, “Thank you Lacy! You’ve granted me the best gift. Thank you! Thank you!” After those last words he was torn away by the wind. Nothing more then a wisp in the night air.
    “Brother” The voice was soft, pure and… Lacy’s, but a Lacy who knew far more then her six years in existence.
    “L-lacy?” I slowly turned around to face where her solid body was and when I looked the body was on the ground, with a glowing Lacy floating above, “Lacy!”
    “No brother…” Her voice sounded so motherly… so pure, so…
    “Lacy…” My voice was nothing more then a soft whisper and it got lost on the soft night air.
    The glowing Lacy came next to me and caressed my face, “Brother, you know why I did that right?”
    I shook my head, I didn’t. I didn’t understand.
    “Brother… Justin had been a roaming spirit for years; I had to put him to sleep.” She explained.
    “But Lacy! You died… why did you have to die?!” I could hear the tears clogging my throat even as I spoke to her, trying my very hardest to be strong.
    “Send me to rest brother.” She asked in a voice so the question wasn’t even a question.
    “How Lacy?” I asked as I kept the tears at bay. Even if she was dead I wouldn’t cry before my sister.
    “You know how.” She told me as she waited.
    “No Lacy… No I don’t!” I said shaking my head, I was so angry! “What brother am I? Older brothers are born first to protect the little ones who come after them. And look here! Lacy you’re dead! I failed at being a big brother… I’ve failed.” I sank to my knees in the grass below that old willow tree.
    Lacy followed me down, “That is how brother. You didn’t fail because you helped me.” With that another gust of wind came and took her away to where ever it is the souls go.
    It was only then that I let loose my tears beneath that weeping willow tree. I felt as though the tree was weeping with me.
    That is why I hate that tree, but that is the same reason I must visit it everyday. Maybe you don’t believe any of that story, but it’s all true.
    My parents have convinced themselves that Lacy ran away that night. They never even mention her anymore. All the pictures that once decorated the walls are gone; I was never told where they were put.
    Sometimes… if I go to that tree late at night on the same night Lacy gave herself for that other boy, she’ll visit me, but I can never see her anymore.
    So it makes me sad, that her image fades from my mind a little more each day.
    “But as an older brother, even if I couldn’t protect my little sister, her memory will never fade from my heart.” And that I will never forget.