The Singing Tree
by Rati Mehrotra
The singing tree blooms once a year in May, for about forty seconds. We'd been
trying--and failing--to catch it in the act for as long as I could remember. This year was no
exception. We piled into the wagon and drove away from Ennismore, Dad singing loud, tuneless
road songs that made me want to close my ears.
Mum twisted back and gave a big, fake, isn't-this-fun smile. "We're going to hear it bloom
this year. I can feel it in my bones. I can smell it in the wind."
I rolled my eyes. She said that every year. And every year we came back disappointed,
while news channels gushed with breathless reports of lives transformed and wounds healed. All
malarkey, as far as I was concerned.
Ria, my older sister, snorted. "Why can't we do normal things on the long weekend like
other families?" she said. "Go to the beach, stay in a hotel for a couple of nights. Something I can
actually tell my friends about."
Dad stopped singing and Mum's mouth pressed in a thin line. "Hotels are dirty," she said.
"And they cost money," I added under my breath.
Mum frowned. "What did you say, Kitty?"
"The name's Kitari," I snapped. I hated it when she called me Kitty.
"I should know," said Mum. "I named you, didn't I?"
To my relief, June and Jade began to fight. I could always count on the twins to divert
Mum's attention. I looked out of the window, feeling the breeze on my face, smelling the bright
freshness of spring. It was a sunny day, just perfect for being out, and if I hadn't been feeling so
rotten I would have appreciated it a bit more. All I could think was--here I was, stuck with my
family on a stupid road trip, while Tanya and Mikkel made out on Cobourg beach. Their families
had decided to go together this year, and Tanya had made no secret of her delight. Poor Mikkel,
he didn't stand a chance against her. Neither did I, with my flat chest and mousy hair.
Perhaps it was better this way. At least I didn't have to see him kissing her. I sniffed and
gulped back a sob.