She was so interesting, was the thing. All trees have spirits, dryads as humans once named us, but we are still trees at heart. I loved my forest dearly but it was ancient and I was young. Trees live so much more slowly than the world around them, but when we are young it is almost like we do not. I was the only sapling in my stand and the others were so old they were scarcely able to rouse themselves to speak. By my fifth year I had already taken the form of a passing deer and it allowed me some freedom from my bark but still I ached for companionship. If I had never met her I have little doubt I would have grown past the phase as all trees do, forgotten my youthful exuberance with the turn of the season, but I met her and it changed me.
She was young—ten just like I was—exploring the woods around the home she had recently moved to with her mother and father. I know now that I did not live so very far from people even then but no trail passed close to the stand where I grew and so she was the first I saw. I think she saw me for a kindred spirit back then, something young surrounded only by the fully grown, because she talked directly to my branches and leaves.
You look lonely here, she said to me. Only adults all around. Well don't you worry, we'll be best of friends, not like there's anybody else here to talk with.
And she did talk, rattled on about how terrible moving was, how she missed her friends, how there were hardly any other children around and how the ones that were had made fun of her freckles already. I listened to every word and when at least she left for home I mourned her company and how unlikely it was she would come to see me again.
She came back though. Again and again for weeks and then months she returned to share her joys and sorrows. But she grew quieter and quieter over time, had less and less to share, and I began to fear she was wilting, fading like some trees did because they'd let loose their new leaves too soon and had had them taken by a late frost. Somehow, in all those weeks and months, that human girl had become my friend, my only, my dearest, and I resolved to be a friend to her as she was to me.
Deer are simple creatures and their tongues not shaped for the language of man. I needed a new body to speak with my friend and so I set about making one. It was difficult. Unlike the deer whose form I had mimicked directly I did not want to steal my friend's face and so I was forced to work from memory and imagination. It was a hard form to hold and required much practice to become comfortable in, my tongue felt thicker than it should and balancing on two legs was much more difficult than balancing on four or a lattice of roots.
I did it though. Because she was my friend and I feared she would be lost to me if I didn't tell her.