Words that would stay with me forever
Ten years have passed and not a day goes by that I don’t think about that day. I can’t forget it and push it to the back dark spaces of my mind, no matter how hard I try. My name is Bernadette, I live in the Enchanted Forest and this is the day my life broke.
The day began normal, bright and so full of promise. But it would not be the sun that lit up my village; it would not be the children’s laughter that would echo in my ears. That fateful day would haunt my nightmares for the rest of my days.
I woke up early, I had plans to pick a special flower for my mother, it was her birthday and I wanted to show her how much she meant to me. That’s how I thought when I was seven. That people needed physical items to show their love and appreciation, I was very mistaken.
The sun had barely risen when I left our home. I lived there with my Father, my Mother and my younger brother, Alexander. We were simple people, Father was a hunter and while most fathers wanted to part certain skills to their sons, mine took great pride in teaching me how to shoot. Last winter he started the lessons and since my quiver and bow never left my person. It had simply become an extension of myself.
Back to my mother and the amazing gift I was going to surprise her with. Yes it was a flower, but not just any flower. While my village had abundance of daisies, tulips, daffodils and petunias, they were not what I sought. No, I couldn’t be simple, I had to make everything difficult.
I was searching for an orchid, one that was as blue as the sky. Legend said it was painted by the water goddess herself. Magic wasn’t available to me in this land, but legends were open to everyone and they fascinated me to no end. Stories that were passed down generation to generation, and somehow an element always was lost or changed. So behind every legend held a grain of truth.
I wandered off, much further than I ever had. But if that’s what it took to get what I wanted, so be it. A little danger never hurt anyone, or at least if they weren’t prepared.
How long I searched, I don’t know, besides there sun was quite high in the sky when I finally took a break. I took off my quiver and placed it on the ground next to my bow. Then I sat down on the grass and took in my surroundings. Around me were tall trees in small clusters. I had to remember what I had read about the blue orchid. It was supposed to be in the middle of a lake. Was a lake close by?
I closed my eyes and wished, because at the tender age of seven, that’s what I did. Wished on falling stars, and flower petals and eyelashes.
Then I felt a soft mist of water touch my face. I opened one eye to see the area in front of my transform completely. I not stood at the edge of a lake. But was it the right lake?
I stood up and tentatively walked forward. The lake was breathtaking, crystal clear and something out of a dream. Only a few yards from the shore was the blue orchid. Honestly, there it was, as if waiting for me. Getting it seemed easy enough, but legends are never what they seem, they were always much darker.
I carefully waded into the water, it was shallow enough. I tried to not disturb too much water, afraid I might awaken something below the surface. My mind began to imagine what was down there: mermaids, sunken treasure, large creatures. But I had to stay focused.
I got to the orchid and pulled. It did not come up as easily as I thought. It was actually putting up a fight. How was even possible? But it did and I pulled harder. It did come up, along with the hand that had a string grip on it. A human hand that terrified me so much I let go and fell into the water. Then something grabbed my ankle and pulled me under.
All I could do was flay my arms around. It suddenly was so dark I couldn’t see a thing, much less what wouldn’t let go of me.
I was seven years old, I wasn’t supposed to die yet, there were still so many things I wanted to do…
Before I lost touch with the world, whatever had held me suddenly let go. I frantically swam back to the light.
Finally back on land, all I could was cough up the water that was in my lungs. Why was I let go? Did someone or something just save my life? I searched around for any sign of movement. But there was none. All there was in the clearing was my blue orchid, perfect and peaceful.
I gathered my thoughts and pulled myself to my feet. I put my quiver and bow back on my back and began to head home. Mother would be so proud and pleased with me when I returned home. I held the flower to my chest as if it was the most important item in the world to me.
My trip home seemed much shorter than to the lake. My parents were at the fish tent in the main market area of our village. They were most likely buying dinner for tonight. My father was holding my brother while my mother worked her magic on the fish merchant. She had a way of always getting exactly what she wanted. It was something I always admired about her and wished for the same skill one day.
She turned to see me, soaking wet and opened her mouth to scold me. That’s when the world began to move at a snail’s pace and all the noise stopped.
My mother’s eyes turned to terror and I turned around to see six horsemen riding through the village, right towards me. Their weapons were raised and hacked anything in their way. I stood rooted in place when I should have been drawing my weapon, or better yet, running.
My mother reached me, picked me up, and ran behind my father to our house. There were finally sounds, noises, screams of both the living and the almost dying, of things being broken beyond repair, of peace and security being shattered.
We reached the house; my brother was handed off to my mother as my father picked up his long bow and quiver.
“Get inside! Whatever happens, do not open the door!” He pushed us inside, but I grabbed his hand.
“I can help, I can shoot!” I yelled, finally finding my voice. But in all honesty, what could a seven year old do?
“No!” He shouted. “Get inside, protect your mother and your brother!”
He slammed the door shut. I drew my bow and pulled an arrow back. No one, besides my father was coming back through that door. Behind me, my brother began to cry, as scared as everyone else.
I can’t begin to describe the sounds I heard, even to this day. But I couldn’t allow myself to let my fear get the best of me. I had a job to do.
Before long, the door flew open and my father was thrown in, a knife deeply embedded in his stomach. I shot one arrow out the door, it was the only thing I could do. The door shut again, smoke began to creep under the door.
Were they burning us alive? I locked eyes with my mother, who simply pulled me into her arms and began to whisper in my ear. “I love you so much, Bernadette, your father loves you so much. I need you to be a brave girl and live.”
I could only stare at her. Was she telling me to run, to get away while they died? What was happening?
“You have so much to offer the world; you will play a role in protecting it. You alone can change the world. You are capable and brave and very loved.” She led me to a back window that was level with ground. She picked me up and pushed me out the window. “I can’t leave your father or brother, but you can live and survive out there. Do not let them catch you, I worked too hard and gave up too much for you to be in his clutches.”
“I can’t leave you!” I could finally form words after what my mother had said to me. I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. To this day, I still don’t. Who was he?
“Bernadette, listen to me, sometimes you have to sacrifice those you love for a better life.” Those words stayed with me forever.
She handed me a dagger and hugged me tight before one last push out the window and into complete chaos.
Fires, people running, screaming, dying before my eyes. There were now more than six men on horseback and even more on the ground. It seemed the only thing on their minds was to destroy everything in sight. And they were accomplishing that too well.
All I could do was run and avoid being killed. Would whatever saved me at the lake save me again? Or had I been saved so I could be killed here? Or was I on my own?
Then I fell over a dead body and tried not to scream to alert someone to my whereabouts. But it harshly reinforced the fact that I was alone and had to rely on myself.
Before I was able to get up, an iron grip enclosed around my ankle. I looked down to see a much older man was holding it.
“And just where do you think you are going?” He asked in a tone a tone that only frightened me more. Something changed in his eyes, like he knew exactly who I was. This must have been who Mother meant, I had to get away. I guess instinct kicked in and my other foot shot out and made contact with his face, most likely braking his nose. Then the dagger came out and went in so deep into his arm that the blade broke.
He let go and I crawled away. I ran, nothing else mattered. I just needed to get away and live. Was it a cowardly move? Was it the wrong choice? Did I even have a choice?
I reached the edge of my village and made the mistake of turning around. All I saw was fire and the end of my childhood. I fell to my knees, my hands went to my mouth but no sound came out. I was in too much shock to cry or express any emotion.
What was my mother taking about? Did I have a bigger part to play? Could I change the world? Could I do something with my life? Who was he and what did he want with me?
Suddenly I heard a small noise from the bushes; I quickly drew my bow, ready to shoot. But to my surprise, a small girl stepped out into the clearing. I had seen her around the village, but I didn’t know her name.
“Hello there, I’m not going to hurt you.” I tried to be as calming as I could be as I lowered my weapon. “I live in the same village as you. What’s your name? Are you hurt?” My last question was stupid, of course she was hurt. Our village was gone.
She stared at me before bringing her arm up; there was a deep gash along the whole length. But that wasn’t what worried me, it was the blood steeping through the front of her dress.
“Come here, can I see your cut please?” She took a hesitate step forward before falling over. I caught her and gently placed her on the ground. All I could do was attempt to stop the bleeding. I had no other skills beyond that.
She went in and out of conscience all night. And there was nothing I could do. She died the next morning; I gave her a proper burial, or as proper as I could.
Now I was alone. What was next for me? Where did I go from here?