Amazing Kids! Magazine

Why the Leaves Change Colors

By Hayley Fleener, age 15, Texas


I smooth down my skirt one last time, pick up the tray, stand up straight, and glance at the clock. Good. I am right on time.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Crowe,” I say with a bright, vivacious smile.

“Hmph,” the old man grunts indifferently.

Nevertheless, I continue to serve his lunch and attempt pleasant conversation. I am determined to succeed where others have failed. Grouchy, old Mr. Crowe will not fire me.

“Have you had a good morning, sir?” I ask as I pour a refreshing glass of iced tea.

“I was enjoying the calm silence,” he replies grumpily.

“Ah, I see,” I say and nod. Just yesterday, he had been angry for me standing mute! I place the lemons and napkins on the table beside him and look out at the serene forest visible from his large porch.

“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t?” I say.

“Small talk about the weather? Hmph,” he grunts again. Undeterred, I push forwards with the conversation.

“Well, this is my favorite kind of weather. It’s nice and sunny with puffy clouds and a comfortable breeze,” I say cheerfully.

“Her favorite, too,” Mr. Crowe says, without his usual grunt. I withhold a gasp. This is progress. Underneath his pain and walls, I know Mr. Crowe is a good man.

“Your wife’s?” I ask softly.

“My Siena,” he replies.

“The trees are lovely, too,” I say, in order to continue the new, fragile conversation without pushing on sensitive topics.

“No, she hated them,” he says with a grunt that originally might have been a laugh.

“Why?” I ask with curiosity.

Mr. Crowe looks at me for a moment and then looks back outside towards the trees. He rocks in his chair, and I stand in silence as he thinks. He glances over at me tentatively and sighs.

“She was an odd bird, my Siena, but in a good way. It only made me love her more,” he says with pure admiration and love mingled with bitter-sweetness.

I don’t prod or push. I simply stand and wait and look on eagerly. Mr. Crowe closes his eyes, relishing the memories.

“She hated those trees,” he chuckles, “I always said I’d paint them for her—every color of the rainbow if it’d make her happy. I guess I never did get around to it.”

I smile and nod, though I don’t know why he would paint the leaves.

“Well, sit, girl,” he says, and points to the other chair.

“Thank you, Mr. Crowe,” I say, beaming. Getting this grouchy, old man to open his heart to memories and healing has given me a sense of joy and satisfaction.

“Trees represent life, you know? Siena always thought they did a right poor job of it, too. Life is too complicated and messy, she’d say,” he continues. He hesitates and stares blankly at the trees.

“What didn’t she like about the trees, Mr. Crowe?” I ask.

“The leaves,” he says lovingly. “She always thought leaves shouldn’t just be green. They should be yellow and orange and pink and blue—even brown. Brown, she’d say.”

“That’s a lovely idea. Siena sounds like a wonderful woman,” I agree quietly. I don’t know if he heard me. His eyes are glazed over, and he is too deep in pain.

“My leaves have been brown too long. She wouldn’t have liked that one bit. She always said brown leaves should grow back green…No, not one bit, my Siena,” he says, and shakes his head.

“Colorful leaves, Mr. Crowe, imagine that,” I say, as I look out at the green forest that is feeling more and more boring.

“Siena was a bright one, kindest you’d ever meet,” he nods, his voice rough with unshed tears.

“I’m sure. I’ll be dusting, sir. Will you be all right?” I ask.

“Yes, get to work. You’re running late,” he says and reverts back to his gruff exterior.

As I dust the pictures of a young man and woman, I recognize a pair of eyes shining with adoration. It’s a shame to see them so heavily hidden with bitterness.

“Ms. Wells, you’re late and unkempt. What’s that orange substance there on your skirt?” Mr. Crowe asks as I hurry onto the porch with his (three minutes) late lunch.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Crowe. You see, I was doing a favor—” I say rather flustered.

“Don’t think that listening to a nostalgic old man will excuse you from doing your job correctly,” he says with a withering glare.

“Of course not, sir. It won’t happen again,” I promise.

“Hmph,” he says, “do you have that soup I like? It’s chilly today.”

“Yes, sir,” I say, thankful for my earlier choice.

“Good,” he says and looks back down at his book.

“Mr. Crowe?” I say hesitantly. “Isn’t it a lovely day?”

“Huh?” he says and places his bookmark on the well-worn pages. I see that he is reading a stack of letters bound together.

“I was just looking out at the view,” I say with a note of excitement that I couldn’t hide.

“Thought I told you about the view yesterday,” he says gruffly.

“Well, it’s changed since then,” I reply.

“Changed ho—” he stops and looks in awe. Clearly moved, he smiles as a tear slips down his cheek. The eyes from the picture make a hopefully-no-longer rare appearance.

“Now Siena would have loved this,” he chuckles whole-heartedly. I am taken aback, but then I laugh, too.

“I like her metaphor about the trees. I think she should have it right at least once,” I say.

Mr. Crowe looks at the orange stain on my apron and back at the trees once more. I try not to squirm under his scrutinizing gaze.

“Thank you, Ms. Wells,” the old man says sincerely.

“You’re very welcome, sir. Now,” I say, taking a seat and a bowl of soup for myself, “you were kind enough to tell a story yesterday. Do you have another one, or is it my turn?”

If Mr. Crowe objects to his maid sitting and eating lunch with him, he doesn’t comment on it. Though he is a man of few words and many grunts, I don’t think he minds. It is quite obvious that he needs a friend more than a maid or cook. I, Virginia Wells, am determined to be all of the above.

“I think she can see her trees, don’t you?” Mr. Crowe says instead of answering.

“If she can’t, then I’m sure we can tell her someday,” I say with a small, hesitant smile.

“I think I spoke enough yesterday. You said you had a story?” he says. Hope rises in my chest. He is finally going to let someone help him.

“Yes, I do, Mr. Crowe. I have a Siena as well. His name is Dylan. He’s never complained about the trees, but we had quite a rocky beginning that I think makes quite a story,” I tell him as he rocks in his chair and looks contentedly at the colorful trees.

I tell Mr. Crowe stories about how I met my husband and when he proposed. I reminisce about funny stories from my childhood and tell him about things of substance that happen in my current life.

Mr. Crowe, in turn, leaves his grumpiness in the past with his grief. He becomes like a grandfather to my children. They love him, and he loves to read to them or see them play in the forest of colorful leaves.

And now, every fall, when the leaves begin to change colors, I tell my kids a story.

“It’s all because of Siena, an odd bird, that girl. You see, she hated the trees…”


  1. Paul Fleener /

    Wonderful story from an extremely talented author that warms the heart of all the old grumps.

  2. Darlene Sprague /

    That was awesome, Hayley! You are so smart and talented! I look forward to reading many more!

  3. Kim Fleener /

    Heartwarming story ❤️

  4. carley petru /

    this story was amazing!!! it’s very eye opening and delightful! defiantly a 11 out of 10!

  5. I’m so proud of you, boo! I hope and know one day you’ll become a great author who identifies themselves as a “New York Times Bestselling Author.” I really loved the significance of the the names, and the story was very touching. I love you so much! Amazingly spectacularly majestical and snazzy job!! :))))