Note: this is Part III of a three-part story....to read Part I click here to read Part II click here
I suppose because of their grief, no one noticed my failed spirit. They assumed my sad, pale face was the result of my own grief for my beloved aunt. I missed her terribly, but I knew in my heart, if she were here, she would never understand my fear. I wondered if she would try to tease me out of it, or tell me how disappointed in me she felt. These cruel thoughts made my fear and self-loathing even worse. The certainty of my impending death became a solid, embedded reality.
A sudden sound of applause along with cheering and whistles brought me back to reality with a start. The head instructor had finished his speech and now, it seemed the time was at hand. I was still looking around for an escape, even while my father was pulling me to follow the crowd.
My eyes found a face. The smiling, pleasant face of a young child, a little girl perhaps five or six years old. Her hair was long and brown, with ribbons tied all around. She walked over to me and looked up with big bluish-gray eyes.
“You’re afraid.” she said. A statement, not a question. The crowd of students, instructors and family members were moving slowly but surely towards the inevitable area of departure.
I said nothing in response, just looked at her briefly, then away. The girl reached her hand out to me, touching my sleeve. “Wait, I have something for you.” She moved closer. “Hold your hand out.”
Not in the mood for games, I ignored her and tried to move away. My father glanced at me and said, “Are you coming? You will miss your turn.”
“Take this now, you must!” the child insisted. She took hold of my hand and dropped something into my palm.
I looked at the object, at first without recognition, and then in disbelief. “Where did you get this, where?” I demanded.
“A lady, over there,” she gestured vaguely towards some trees. “She told me to tell you this will make you strong and brave.”
I closed my fist around this impossible thing and felt my spirit lift. Opening my hand slowly, I looked again and surely and truly it was a tiny clay dragon. The same one I had made for my aunt, the same one she always carried with her. “Strong and brave,” I repeated.
“What did you say?” my father asked. “Of course, you are strong and brave, never a doubt. You will fly away with the best of them.” He hugged me to him and said, “Go on now, it is your turn. You can do this!”
Turning back to the little girl, I saw that she was gone, nowhere to be seen. I felt goosebumps rising on my arms, then gave a little shiver. “Thank you, auntie,” I whispered to the wind. Suddenly and blessedly I felt new, happy, strong, the fear had lifted. I felt wonderful, alive and confident. The thought of the horrible accident that took my aunt from me could no longer hold me frozen in time. We will never know why or how this deadly event occurred. My parents said repeatedly that it was no one’s fault, that life takes twists and turns we can’t understand. I knew I could do this. I tucked the little dragon into my pocket and thought to myself, “it’s you and me, auntie, up there now.”
I jogged down the little hill, said a big hello to my instructor and flying partner, and together we climbed up onto the back of the huge black and silver dragon that was roaring, waiting to carry us up into the sky, into the clouds and into the world of flying.
Copyright August 2011 by Robin Larkspur. This is an original work of fiction. Reproduction of this work is strictly prohibited.