She closed her eyes and listened. She could hear birds chirping, the wind blowing in the trees, the occasional creak of the swings, the faint buzz of cars driving on the road nearby, and she could hear people. People talking, whispering, people walking, running, people loving, hating, people laughing, crying, people rushing, waiting. From the nest swing she could hear everything.

The playground she was in was long forgotten, hidden in the depths of the forest. No one went there anymore. It was small, but Maya felt comfortable there. She went there often, as it was her escape from the world. As well as the green nest swing, there was a rusty roundabout that didn't turn, swings that creaked when they moved, and a dirty red slide, overgrown with moss. The playground was surrounded by a wiry fence, and the only way in or out was to climb the tree that had grown intertwined with the fence, which she called the ladder tree, as a cluster of trees and plants had grown by the gate, rendering it unusable.

The surrounding area was shadowed over by the trees, but there was a slight parting in the foliage above where the nest swing was, bathing it in sunlight, or moonlight, which wasn't unlike a spotlight. At the moment, daylight was filtered through the trees, bathing her in light. A cool breeze blew around her, moving grass and plants in waves, and unsettling creatures. She had never seen anyone else there.

As she lay there on the swing, half immersed in her thoughts, she was suddenly brought back to reality as she heard footsteps close by. She sat up and looked around disbelievingly. She didn't want to attract attention to herself or the playground. Who knew who it might be. Perhaps it was just someone on a walk through the forest, who had strayed from the path. Or maybe it was an owner of a multi-millionaire company, looking for even land to build on, trying to find some part of the forest that would fit their needs. Maybe it was someone looking for somewhere to chop down some trees, to get some wood to use as fuel, or to cut a clearing. Her imagination wasn't helping her right now.
Maya tried to calm herself down, but she knew that if certain people found the playground, it would be destroyed. She looked around frantically, trying to place the sound. She spotted someone's legs from between the trees. They were walking along the same small trail Maya always walked on to get to the playground. They were headed towards her.

She quickly climbed up to the top of the ladder tree and clambered along the branches to above where the person was walking, hoping she was out of their field of view. Lucky for her they didn't seem to notice her. Maya took a long look at the girl walking beneath her. She had long, straight, light brown hair and an indescribably beautiful face. The girl was wearing a white and yellow horizontally striped crop top and dark blue high waisted jeans with white trainers.

Maya was so captivated by the girl that it took her a few seconds before she realized that her hands were slipping, but a second too late, as she was already falling down. She managed to grab a branch to stop herself from falling, but there was no doubt that the girl had seen her, as Maya was hanging right in front of her. She dropped to the ground and dusted herself off as the girl looked at her with raised eyebrows. Maya felt horribly dull compared to her, in her grey leggings, over-sized blue hoodie and old rugged black trainers, with her shoulder length wavy black hair tied back into a scruffy ponytail.

"Hello" said the girl. She had a soft, gentle voice, which was relatively quiet, and distant.

"Uh hi" Maya replied awkwardly. "What were you doing in the tree?" the girl asked curiously.

"I was wondering who else would be walking in this area, since it's so hard to find..."she tried to subtly drop in the question of how the girl found her, as she didn't want to ask directly.

"Funny you ask that—or say, rather,– I actually followed you here." Maya raised her eyebrows. "I was just curious to see where you snuck off to so often" "Huh" replied Maya, evidently wanting her to explain herself, "So you've been watching me?" "No no no, I just— erm—" she trailed off.

"I'm Lily" she stated. "I just moved here and I liked the look of you, so I tried to figure out where you spend your time, so I could accidentally-on-purpose run into you" she gave a small smile that made Maya's heart flutter.

"I guess this place isn't the kind of spot you can do that though huh?" She gazed at the trees surrounding them before looking back at Maya "What's your name anyway?" Maya noticed that she had a funny way of slightly tilting her head when she asked a question.

"I erm– my name's Maya" she answered, slightly flustered.

"That's such a gorgeous name! Although admittedly not as gorgeous as the person who owns it" Maya looked away, blushing. Was she flirting with her?

"Would you mind showing me your secret hangout place?" Lily asked. "Er–" She hesitated for a second "Alright"

Maya led her to the base of the ladder tree. "This is the only way in or out" she told Lily, "So you'll have to climb it" "That's alright, I climbed trees all the time at home"

"Where are you from?" Maya asked as she began climbing up. Lily, right behind Maya, said, "New York. We used to live in Agloe, but then we moved here, to Lancashire"

"If you don't mind me asking, why did you move?" Lily paused for a second, before saying, "My dad got a job here" She stopped to jump from the tree "and it's his dream job. Plus, it pays more"

"That's so cool. I mean it's not often you see someone pursuing their dreams." Maya looked over her shoulder at Lily, impressed.

"Yeah" Lily squirmed uncomfortably, before looking around her and taking in her surroundings. "This place is awesome"

"Now it was Maya's turn to twist uncomfortably. "Yeah. I erm– you're– the only person, other than me, who knows about it." She looked up at Lily "If you don't mind could you– could you keep it to yourself? Please?"

Lily looked at her and smiled sadly, "Of course. It's not like I have anyone to tell anyway, seeing as I know nobody here" "Well, you know me?" Lily smiled, "Yeah. Yeah I guess I do" They were quiet for a moment.

"What school do you go to?" "St. Kevin's. Where are you going to go?" Maya asked her as she sat on the nest swing.

She grinned excitedly, "I'm going to go there too! I'm so glad we're going to the same school. I hope I won't be intruding your friend group. If I am you can tell me and I'll go and– " "You don't have to worry about that." Maya interrupted her as she patted the swing beside her, signifying she wanted Lily to sit beside her. "I don't have much of a friend group anyway. Jamie will welcome you with open arms" Lily's smile faltered slightly as she slowly sat down beside her "So you're, um, in a relationship then?" Maya laughed, "No, no way. Not with Jamie. I'm a lesbian"

Lily's face flushed and she looked away, "Sorry, my bad"

Maya smirked "It's okay, it's a honest mistake." She lay back on the swing before asking, "What made you like me?"

"What?" Lily turned to her, confused.

"Earlier" she started "you said that you liked the look of me. Why?"

Lily leaned back on the swing, "I dunno. I guess it's just the way you carry yourself. You just seem so… original" she looked at Maya "It's admirable really. How you can be yourself without worrying about what others think of you" Maya scoffed "That's hardly true. Of course I care about what others think of me. I just– I guess it isn't as big a deal to me. It's not like anyone actually cares whether I wear a pink shirt or a blue shirt." She finally looked at Lily "y'know?"

Lily looked at her skeptically, "I'm pretty certain we both know I'm not talking about shirts"

Maya rolled her eyes at this, "It's just an example." "I know, but still. You shouldn't discredit yourself" "Mmm"

They sat on the swing for hours, talking about everything and anything, and before they knew it, the sky was dark and the only light they had was the moon's rays shining through the foliage. The area had become quiet, and the only sounds you could hear were the trees swishing in a gentle breeze and they occasional rustle of an animal scurrying from one part of the forest to another. Lily and Maya were peacefully lying beside each other on the swing.

"Hey Lily" Maya said quietly, breaking the silence that had previously hung in air. "Do you– do you want to meet me here– again– er— do you?""Maya heard Lily smile when she said, "Of course I do"

"Okay" she smiled. "Meet me here at– say– 5?" "Okay" Lily turned to look at Maya.

Maya turned her head to look at Lily and she was suddenly aware of how close they were. She could just lean in…

Lily was evidently also aware of their short distance as she suddenly sat up and said "We should probably get home" as she scrambled to get up. Startled, Maya mumbled her agreement before slowly getting up out of the swing.

The walk back to the town was in an awkward silence, and both girls felt relieved when the walk, which had felt a lot longer than it usually did, was over, and they had reached the town. When they were standing outside the entrance to the housing estate they stopped and Maya looked at Lily before saying, "This is where I leave you." "Okay" Both girls looked around awkwardly before mumbling their goodbyes. Maya walked into the housing estate and, without looking back, walked into her house, number 16.

Once inside, Maya let out a deep breath and closed her eyes as she leaned against the door. "Why does the new girl have to be so gorgeous and so straight. Just my luck" She thought to herself.

"Oh, you're back" a voice brought her back to reality as she opened her eyes to see her little brother Dylan watching her from the kitchen. "Mum left some pizza for you" he started, pointing his head towards the kitchen counter, which had a slice of pizza on a plate set on it. "she's at another important meeting" his disapproval obvious in his tone, "and Emily's at some party or something" Emily was their older sister. "Alright, thanks" Maya mumbled as she watched Dylan go upstairs to his room. She went up the stairs slowly after him and went into her bedroom. She stopped and looked around for a moment.

Her room wasn't big, but it wasn't small either. She had a single bed in the far right corner with a shelf that reached the ceiling beside the wall at the end of it, to her immediate right from the door. At the opposite side of her room from the door was a window, which looked out onto their small backyard, which, other than the shed full of tools in the corner, was empty aside from a few empty plant pots lying around and a plastic chair that was missing a leg, resting against the wall. A wardrobe was situated beside the door to the hall, and there was a desk in the corner diagonally across from her shelf. Her walls were painted a dark blue and the wall that her desk was leaning against was completely covered in drawings, notes, photos, and the like. Along the edge of her ceiling, where it met the walls, there was purple, blue, white and black fairy lights hanging all the way around.

Maya grabbed her pajamas from her bed before getting changed into them and going back downstairs to grab her plate of pizza. She dragged herself into the sitting room and turned on the TV and began to binge watch her favourite series. She watched until the early hours of the next day, when she fell asleep.