The trees needed to be bigger, so Alex and Hope and Carolyn were making them bigger. Carolyn liked to be called Skye but her name was Carolyn. She was a skinny blond girl. Hope had a nose like a ski-slope and a drawling, sarcastic voice. He was good with the trees.

Alex climbed up into the branches of one of the trees and edged his way out to the end of the branch. “Big,” he told the branch, and laughed at the dullness of the command, at the sheer unimaginative squalor of the word. There was no poetry in his soul. But the tree knew what he meant, and it burst forth, growing bigger, buds swelling and opening in seconds, new twigs jabbing down at the ground, tips already feathered with pale green leaves, already swelling buds. The branch he was perched on rippled underneath his jeans and swelled, shouldering past him like a weightlifter.

He pushed it as long as he could, new growth after new growth, forcing the tree higher and wider and leafier, until spots danced in front of his eyes and there was a bright coppery taste in his mouth. “That’s enough, Hammil,” Hope shouted. “Move on.”

When Alex dropped from the last branch there was a waxflower stuck in his hair, white, lovely, and fragrant with spring.