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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:52:35

“KATIE,” SAVANNAH O’Neill sang. “Come out, come out wherever you are.”

She snuck up to the mountainous rosebush, searching through the wild abundance of pink tea roses for a glimpse of red curly hair, a freckled cheek or bright blue eyes.

“Gotcha!” she cried, pushing apart the thorny branches only to find C.J., the orange tabby, sleeping beneath its leaves.

This is getting ridiculous, she thought.

A quick Saturday morning game of hide-and-seek with her eight-year-old was beginning to take all day. Savannah pushed through the kudzu vines, ivy and weeping willow branches that dominated the back courtyard, but Katie wasn’t in any of her usual spots.

She’d upped her game.

Savannah tripped over a broken cobblestone, catching herself against a thick blanket of kudzu vines that had eaten up the fountain and obliterated the bird feeder.

It was getting very third world back here. Soon enough, these games with Katie would require a machete.

That would add a whole new dimension to kamikaze hide-and-seek.

“I told you,” she called out. “You can run but you can’t hide.”

The branches of the cypress rustled over her head and Savannah smiled, backtracking to the trunk of the old tree.

It was only a matter of time, Savannah thought, before Katie worked up the courage to climb the tree. The hundred-year-old cypress was a beauty—bigger than the two-story house in front of it, and its roots were pushing through the cobblestones, breaking up the courtyard like some kind of underground monster.

As if it had been yesterday, Savannah’s foot found the small lee in the trunk, her hands found the knobs on the lower branches and within seconds she was halfway up into the leaves. She was careful to look for snakes, and hoped her daughter had done the same.

What, she wondered, would her clients say if they could see their staid researcher now? The kids at the library, who made faces at her behind her back, would fall over their stolen library books if they saw mean old Ms. O’Neill climbing trees.