The child sits at the base of the tree, silently weeping. Her arms are crossed over her upraised knees, her face buried in her arms. Tears fall from her cheeks, staining her pants and the soil on which she sits. A few even land on the tree roots.
A gentle touch on her cheek startles her, and she looks up. She is alone, the canopy of the willow sheltering her.
The tree itself rustles, its branches gently swaying. The child’s misery turns to puzzlement. There is no wind, and yet the tree sways of its own accord.
More tears slip from her eyes. Another gentle touch, this time on her opposite cheek, and she turns to catch sight of a branch brushing a tear away. A single, salty drop rests on a leaf then drips to the ground as the branch pulls away.
The child is in wonder, her pain momentarily forgotten. She looks up at the tree, amazed to see a face there, sad but compassionate.
Her tears flow anew, her grief given release. She leans her head against the willow as its branches envelop her in a tender embrace.