Tiny sat in the bustling café with a winter-spice muffin and a capful of steaming nut broth. Friends and neighbors crowded the tables, but despite the noise and good cheer she felt like she was the only person in the room. Her heart-bird let out a lonely sigh. It was in that moment that she heard the Excuuuuse me. It wasn’t coming from the kitchen, the storeroom, or even Mary Margaret on the next table. Ahem. . excuse me! There it was again. Looking down, she spotted a young oak leaf—its smooth curved fingers curled towards her, beckoning her closer. Tiny placed her ear to the little leaf. Not alone, never alone, it squeaked. Tiny gasped then reached out to touch it, but the leaf floated up and fluttered towards the open window, pausing briefly for Tiny to follow.

Tiny slipped through the door and followed the oak leaf down the street. She ran to keep up as it bounced behind buildings, careened around corners, and danced across the meadow until it reached the edge of the Wild Briar Wood. She stopped to catch her breath. Dusk was descending and her heart bird flapped nervously in her chest. The oak leaf continued its journey deeper into the forest. Tiny followed, but doubt oozed through her mind like the darkness growing around her.

Finally, she stepped into a bright clearing. The oak leaf sank onto a warm grey rock, and Tiny stopped too, gazing around her. Willow, beech and pine, maple, birch and oak all swayed together in the cool twilight breeze—the tips of their twigs emitted a soft silver glow as though the tree spirits were awakening. You are not alone, they sang. Not alone, never alone. The trees sang a song as ancient as the Earth itself. To her surprise, Tiny’s heart-bird joined the chorus. She hummed quietly at first, then sang unabashedly with a voice both loud and brave. Tiny let herself feel the loving warmth that filled the clearing, finally in the company of friends.