I first became aware that Eliza was able to show signs of wear and tear when I was ten. She fell off the monkey-bars, and grazed her knee. When Mrs Frank put the plaster on, Eliza winced. Her nose screwed up. She looked like the squirrel that sits in the old oak tree at the end of the playground.
A week later, after Geography on Tuesday, Eliza showed me her knee. All the signs of monkey-bars and squirrels had gone. I knew then that Eliza was just like me. So I invited her to join my climbing club – we met on Wednesdays after school. She nodded politely, which I took to mean a yes.
Over the years of climbing club, we climbed hundreds of trees, maybe even thousands. I scraped my knees and hands so many times I thought the magic would surely run out sometime, but it never did. Eliza’s didn’t either. Like lizards with new tails we attacked each new summit with fresh palms – tiny creases already forming in our shiny new skin. We knew we were magic. Our socks and shoes, and shorts and shirts, never recovered from the wear. Their tears never healed. But ours did.
The second time I became aware that Eliza was able to show signs of wear and tear was when the magic ran out. She lay, draped in heavy blankets, on the sofa that ran alongside our drawing room window, looking down onto the birch tree’s canopy of catkins that shadow our front path. The blankets that covered her were coniferous green in colour – I’d bought them to try and take her back to the trees, to bring the magic back. But it did not return. Eliza wilted; the years of climbing long ago appeared as a fantastical tale as I watched her winter season approach. She lifted her willowy face towards me.
I pulled the heavy tendrils of the blankets back, exposing her knotched and knobbled knees. A shallow graze lay stinging on the surface. I reached for the medicine box, and took out a plaster.