Henry Abenteuer, an eleven-year-old boy, often frequented the woods behind his large, white home. Nightingale Lane was inhabited only by the Abenteuer children and their foster parents. Living on such a deserted street gave Henry and his siblings free reign of the uninhibited trees, stones, vines, and moss. Although great spaces of farmland stretched before the front of their home, woods and forest lined the back of the house.
As Henry grew older, he began venturing into the woods, notepad, pen, and pocket knife in hand. Often times, he would curl up in the crooked branch of an oak, or at the foot of a maple, drawing the intricate and vibrant green ceiling of leaves before his eyes. He even ventured into the world of writing as he would write tales of where a train of ants might be headed, or of a kingdom of squirrels just around the bend.
After many months of daily trips to the entrancing mass of trees, he felt connected to the miles of wood. He took ownership of them. There were times when, at the height of his natural connectivity, he felt as though the trees understood him more than any human ever could. Henry, having faced great and confusing hardship in his life, appreciated the silent fortitude the trees gave him.
Henry's parents, while on a vacation to Italy, had disappeared a few days before his ninth birthday. He and his two siblings, Oliver and Anna, were placed into foster care and into the home of an old man and his wife, the Cranes. Henry, Oliver, and Anna could never escape the looks of pity and concern that followed them wherever they went with their new foster family. Many believed his parents to be dead; some dared consider the idea that they had abandoned their children altogether, because, after all, Italy was a magical place and children were exhausting. Henry could never allow his mind to wander to such thoughts. He was diligent in believing that they were out there somewhere, searching for them and trying to come home; that they had a reasonable explanation for their disappearance.
It was the woods that truly masked the heartache he felt whenever his mind became invaded with horrid thoughts of his lost parents. The woods provided cover and peace that the planes of farmland could not. Today he found himself perched on the lowest branch of an old cedar, deep within the woods. He had every intention of sketching the green caterpillar inching its way across a branch above his head; however, the longing he felt about seeing his parents somehow slipped through the barrier of the woods, following him into this safe space.
It was supposed to be a two-week vacation. A vacation. They were so excited. He gave up blocking these thoughts out. As the speculations continued to weave their way through his mind, he sunk deeper into the crook of the branch, turning his head toward the canopy above, and pushing his glasses back up his nose. They'll be back, he assured himself. They always come home from their vacations.
It was true that his parents, the Abenteuers, had taken quite a few vacations. They had been all over the world: France, Iceland, Russia, India, Australia, and many more places Henry was hard pressed to recall. Henry reminisced that each time his parents returned home they brought with them gifts of the land they had explored. Still, to this day, Henry displayed the miniature Eiffel Tower, the black stone from the beaches of Iceland, the hand painted Russian teapot, the hand embroidered towel of India, and the boomerang his parents had gifted him from their travels. They were all placed on the shelf above Henry's bed, precious mementos of his parents.
The light, fading into dusk, was Henry's signal to begin his trek home. Sighing, Henry packed up his belongings into a leather satchel Mr. Cane had lent him. Mr. Crane was kind in that way--providing help and guidance when asked. He methodically slid down the trunk of the tree as his feet met the soft ground beneath. Without turning back toward his forest, he slowly walked toward home.
It never occurred to Henry that his parents were much nobler people than he could ever comprehend; that they were off protecting him and his siblings from an unknown evil. As he stalked out of the woods, he remained entirely naive to this thought. It was not until two months later that the truth of his parents' disappearance would begin to unravel.