Pine needles from the branch above her poked her back.  Taliya didn’t mind.  The open wagon full of uniforms from the factory where her mother worked would be driving by any time.  Once she jumped in, the pine needles wouldn’t bother her any more.

 In all her six years, Taliya had never been beyond the row of pine trees that divided the living quarters of the city from the government headquarters.  She could see the lake and trees and flowers as well as the beautiful buildings and cobblestone street that surrounded the lake from her perch in the tree, but no commoner like herself was allowed past the pine tree line.

 She didn’t think that was fair.  Why did she have to stay stuck in the part of the city that had no grass or trees or flowers, where row after row of identically built square houses separated by narrow dirt roads made her feel trapped and invisible?  She wanted to go beyond the tree line.  Beyond the cobblestone streets.  Beyond the city gates.

For the past two years, she had spent her days and nights reading about the world beyond the gates.  Glorious things awaited her in this Land of Zandador, and she was done reading about them.  She wanted to explore the world for herself.  She knew she was still too little to survive on her own, though, so she would just escape for the day. 

The western gates always opened at dawn on Saturday to send the uniforms produced in the factories that week to the capital of Japheth, and they always opened again at dusk to let in the shipment of food from Japheth.  She figured she could leave with the clothes and return with the food.  Her parents would never even miss her.

A whining mule captured her attention.  To her right, five wagons each pulled by two mules and driven by one soldier headed her way. 

She held her breath as they approached on the dirt road that led under her branch.  One by one, they plodded by.  The drivers stared ahead of them, so no one noticed when she let go of her branch and dropped into the last wagon in line. 

A giggle escaped from her lips as she buried herself under the clothes.  A tiny little girl had outsmarted a bunch of mean, stern grownups.  Now she was about to experience the best day of her life.

Too bad she would never be able to tell anyone about it.