June sat back down in the chair as she placed her finger in Violet’s tiny hand. Violet was now fully awake and in a playful mood. Violet squirmed and wriggled as June rocked back and forth in the chair. Delilah laid comfortably on her side, wrapped in the blankets, with the pillows balled up under her head. Her eyes were opening and closing often. She struggled to stay awake.
June continued to rock back and forth as Delilah fell in and out of sleep. Violet continued to grasp onto June’s finger tightly. The house was silent. Then June began to speak softly.
“Violet. That is such a lovely name. I have a story to tell you.” June quietly spoke. “All Prohibits hear this story as children or at least a version of it. You don’t know this, but you’re a Prohibited. You’ll find out in time what that means. But I’m going to tell you the story of how your kind began. It’s a beautiful story of love and loss. It’s a story of strength and sadness. But it is your story. It’s your legacy.”
“I have a feeling that you’re a renewed hope, and you’ll be a great presence in the continuation of this story.” June laid back in the chair with her head rested as she looked up to the ceiling and began speaking.
“Sixty-three years ago, an infant daughter was born to an average family of Normals.” June looked back down at Violet. “You see, Dan and I are considered Normals. We don’t have the gift of the golden eyes or the power of protection that Prohibited do. Until the day this special child was born, there had never been a Prohibited. She was the first.”
“Her parents were so excited for her arrival. I know this because I knew them. I was 10 when she was born. They were great people, and they attended the same church my family attended. She was their first and only child. They had prepped for her arrival, and on the day she was born, they made their way to the local hospital. They hadn’t gone because the expectant mother felt pain. They had gone because her water broke, and they could feel, by touch, her stomach tighten and then release.”
“They initially thought something might be wrong, so they met the doctor at the hospital. They put all the monitors across her inflated belly and found that she was indeed in labor, yet her mother felt nothing. Through the entire birth, her mother didn’t endure pain—no slight discomfort.” June looked up at Delilah to see that her eyes were now closed. June continued speaking to Violet.
“The doctors were confused but not too concerned. The thought was that somehow her body was simply producing its own internal epidural. Whatever the reason, the child was born without incident and perfectly healthy. As the nurses began cleaning and checking the new baby girl, one of the nurses called to the doctor attending to the mother. The tone in the nurse’s voice stopped everyone in that room.”
“The doctor went to the child, and there were whisperings among the medical staff. The mother became greatly concerned and pleaded with the team to ease her anxieties, but they could not. Most of the staff and doctor whisked the newborn out of the room. One nurse remained to help the new mother and father, who were both frantic, having not been told of the issue. And, there was an obvious issue.”
“The nurse tried to console the new parents by telling them that their little girl was fine but that the doctor needed to check on a few things with the baby. As the nurse completed the mother’s recovery process, and as the father continued to hold her hand, the nurse left the room. The parents, who were so excited to greet their new child, were left dumbfounded, not knowing why their new baby was removed so quickly. They hadn’t even gotten to see her, and nobody was telling them anything.”
“The husband did all he could to comfort his wife, but he was as concerned as she was. After some time, the doctor re-entered the room, looking quite solemn. He closed the door behind him and addressed the new parents. He explained that she was very healthy and responding well; however, there was some concern regarding her eyes. He explained that the child’s eyes’ color was a radiant gold as if they glowed. The doctor told them that the staff was unsure what this meant medically or even if it meant anything at all. They had never seen this before and wanted to make sure everything was okay. He consoled them by stating that they were going to do a few more tests, and then they would bring them their child.”
“Can you imagine Violet? How frightened they must have been?” June looked back down at Violet, who continued to wriggle in her arms and squeezed her finger. June looked up to find Delilah fast asleep. Delilah had heard and told this story many times, but Violet was hearing this for the first time. June continued.
“So after many hours of worry and examinations, the child was brought to her anxious parents. The doctors couldn’t find anything wrong, and therefore there was no immediate concern. Her parents were excited to meet her finally. Her eyes glowed a breathtaking hue of gold, and they fell in love with her instantly. With all of the love new parents possess, they welcomed her into this world. They had no fear of her. When they were in her presence, all they felt was love and compassion. This was their normal as far as they were concerned. They didn’t know that life would bring so much joy and pain in such a short period.”
“Throughout time, the doctors did scans, lab work, and examinations. She was studied, and experts flew in from around the world to inspect the girl with the golden eyes. But nothing of medical concern was ever found. By the age of three, the doctors had lost interest, and they were left to live a seemingly normal life. It was around this time that I began to babysit her. I had seen her and heard of her, but to get the opportunity to know her was something that I hadn’t prepared for.”
June laid back embracing her memories and smiled as she shared with Violet her experience with the child. “They had named her Genevieve. Her friends would later call her Gen, for short. She was a beautiful little girl. Her cheeks were so round and rosy. Her smile was contagious. And her eyes, oh, her eyes were simply radiant. It was almost shocking, but not in a threatening way. She amplified everything pure and good.”
“I remember, when I babysat her, that it was an absolute pleasure. We would play hide and seek in the yard, we played with her dolls, and we played dress-up; whatever we did, was simply pleasurable. What impressed me most, how I knew this child was different, was that when I was around her and had really gotten to know her, all worries and concerns would simply disappear while I was with her. I hadn’t noticed this effect at first because it was so new, and she was so adorable that I just thought that the newness of knowing this little girl hadn’t worn off yet. But as the years went by and I continued to insert myself into her life, I recognized that all my worries and anxieties left when I was with her. As I got older and she got older, I still found excuses to go see her. Her parents and I got along magnificently.”
June took a deep breath and continued. “You see, a lot of people in our town feared her. She was bullied and abused by some. It wasn’t uncommon for her parents to get a call from the school that a classmate had thrown her in the mud or had used her as a target for their pencils. Throughout the years, it had gotten worse. The family home was broken into many times, and trinkets were taken. It was almost as if people were wanting trophies of the girl with the golden eyes.”
“Occasionally, news personnel would show up at their doorstep, and then a frenzy of publicity would begin. The family was hounded relentlessly. Even as a young child, when her parents would go into town, they found people crossing the street not wanting to come near Gen. People would stare, sometimes say cruel things, or even spit at the little girl. I, however, found her existence to be a comfort. Her parents were very kind people, and they were kind to me. They welcomed me on any given day.”
June’s memories flowed like a memorized fable. “As I got older and busier in my life, I realized that although I saw less and less of Genevieve, I would go see her from time to time, but for selfish reasons. If I was heartbroken because of a boy or had gotten into an argument with my parents, that’s when I sought out Genevieve. It occurred to me how selfish I had become. Although Genevieve would always be excited to see me, I was only seeking her out because of the comfort she brought me. I needed to change that.”
“On the day I graduated high school, I went to see Genevieve. I wanted to be able to share my joy with her, not just my heartbreaks. Her parents welcomed me as usual, and Gen, who was eight at that time, came racing down the hall to hug me. I reciprocated and then knelt to talk to her. That’s when I saw it. She had stitches on her right cheek. I asked her what had happened. Her parents explained that while playing with some classmates, one of them had cut her with a pocket knife because he wanted to know if she would bleed like a normal person. My eyes filled with tears. How could someone let alone a child, be so cruel?” June’s brow furrowed as if she were reliving the moment.
“I told her how sorry I was that she had to go through that. And in her cheerful way, she told me that it was okay and that the boy had gotten his answer. Her parents asked her to go to her room for a moment while they talked to me. She happily left. Her parents explained that it was no longer safe for them to remain in our quaint little town. Through the years, they had been receiving threats, and the abuse that Gen had experienced was only getting worse.”
“They asked if I had heard that more children were being born with golden eyes around the world. I told them I had heard rumors but wasn’t sure if it was true. They confirmed that it was true and that doctors had been reaching out to them as they wanted to do studies on all the children born with golden eyes. They didn’t want to participate and were being pressured, almost threatened, that they must relinquish their daughter. I was heartbroken for them. They explained that the pressure or insistence wasn’t only from the doctors anymore. They believed that governments wanted their daughter studied too.”
June looked down at Violet. She feared that her fate would be similar. “They had been visited by men with credentials from government departments they had never even heard of before. They had felt obligated to let Genevieve meet them, but now they felt that they might be in danger, more importantly, that Genevieve was in grave danger.”
“They expressed their trust in me and that although they couldn’t tell me where they were going, they would try their best to keep in touch and updated on Genevieve’s life. I felt like my heart was being ripped out. The thought of not seeing Genevieve ever again broke my heart. I swore that I wouldn’t tell a soul. They knew I wouldn’t. They knew I loved Genevieve in a way that most did not. That’s when they shared with me her gift. I was not prepared. They asked me if I had ever remembered a time that I should have been hurt when in Genevieve’s presence. I didn’t know what they were asking.”
“So again, they questioned. Was there ever a time or instance that you can remember having come close to danger or being hurt but weren’t when Genevieve was with you? I remember thinking that this was such an odd question to ask. I still wasn’t exactly sure what they meant as my mind began to think back to times spent with Gen. Her parents waited as I recalled my memories. That’s when I remembered something.”
“When she was about five, and I was fifteen, I told them as I remembered, I was climbing the large oak tree on the side of their house. Gen was watching me. She was telling me to be careful. I paused for a moment as I pondered the memory. I told them that I was quite high up, pulling myself up to a large limb, using my feet against the tree to push myself. I was wrapped around the large limb, ready to wriggle my way to the top side, when I lost my grip. As I was telling them, the memory became clearer, and I was speaking as if it happened yesterday. I told them that I remembered losing my grip and beginning to fall, but then, I found myself perched on a limb below. Now, that in and of itself wouldn’t be outrageous. However, I explained I was on a limb below but on the other side of the tree, as there was no limb directly below the one I had been climbing.”
“I sat pondering how I had not remembered this or questioned this incident at that time. It wasn’t until this moment I even found it strange that I hadn’t fallen to the ground with a hard thud. I must have looked to Gen’s parents with a rather quizzical look because both parents smiled at me. Genevieve’s mother placed her hand on mine to let me know it was okay. I’m sure if I’d tried to recall other memories that were there ready to be unveiled, I could have, but this memory alone was enough for me.”
“Her mother began to explain that they had found that whoever is in Genevieve’s presence remained safe from harm. They described it like a wave. A clear wave comes across the situation and removes the person from harm or stops the harm itself. At that time, I didn’t comprehend what they were saying. I get it now, but I didn’t then.”
June looked down at Violet, who was still awake and alert, listening to the softness of June’s voice. Her grip on June’s finger remained tight. Violet’s expression seemed to urge June for more. June continued.
“I asked her parents how they knew this. They said they had begun noticing these situations as early as Genevieve’s infancy. They gave me a few examples. My eyes must have been huge with confusion or shock. I remember asking them that if Genevieve can keep others in her presence from being harmed, why then does Genevieve not protect herself. They explained that it appeared that Genevieve could only protect others. She cannot protect herself from harm or danger. I then remembered a time when Gen’s mom had a burn on her hand. I asked her how she was able to get burned. It was simple; her mother explained, she was not with Gen at the time. She must be with the person to keep them from harm or danger.”
“I remember my brain having a tough time processing this information. But I had to ask one final question, and then I couldn’t absorb any more. I asked if Genevieve knew she could do these things. They told me that they believed she had always known. They felt like it was inherent, like knowing you can see, smell, or taste. It just is. They told me that they had talked to Genevieve for years about keeping this gift, that’s what they called it, the gift, a secret. They felt very confident that Gen knew how important this secret was. Gen had never shared this with me. I didn’t feel betrayed. I was impressed because I thought Gen shared everything with me.”
“I don’t remember the walk home that evening. Gosh, I don’t remember much of anything after that conversation. It’s a blur now, but I do remember thinking about the conversation a lot. I remember meeting with Gen and her parents one last time before they went into hiding. I think I was the only one that knew the extent of their story because no one in our town knew what had happened to them but me. And I never told.”
“As the years went by, I kept up on the news of the children being born with golden eyes. There was a lot of curiosity by people, but also a lot of fear. I was sad when I heard stories of children with golden eyes being taken and never seen again or, worse, killed. I began to recognize what a hard world this is. The golden-eyed children were labeled The Prohibited when Genevieve was about twelve years old.”
“For me, it was appalling. Hearing on the nightly news, Genevieve and her kind being referred to in such a derogatory way made my blood boil. As more and more children were being born with golden eyes throughout the decades, the more the common man feared them. Hatred for them became a daily occurrence. Families had begun to go into hiding. Sympathizers like Dan and me began creating safe houses for them and their families.”
“Communes were set up across the globe to keep them safe, yet, more and more deaths of golden eyes continued. There was not one conviction on record for their murders. People accepted this as if they were blind to the hatred being displayed in front of them. Governments had succumbed to the public cries for The Prohibited to be contained or eradicated. Yet, supporters and sympathizers fight for the rights of The Prohibited. If we didn’t, I don’t know what would become of your kind, little one.” June looked down to see Violet’s eyes had become heavy as she fought sleep.
June continued while she rocked in the chair. “So we keep fighting, Violet. We have hope that one day The Prohibited will be accepted and welcomed into society. We have rebels who do live amongst the Normals. They can do this because they stay in groups or pairs and can protect each other. They are stared at and endure verbal beratement. They aren’t welcomed into stores, theaters, restaurants. They’re only allowed to go to places that accept Prohibited. Those places are rare, but we focus on creating more every day. Normals, unless they are sympathizers, won’t enter these businesses. Normals who hate try to close down any place that allows The Prohibited. They protest outside their doors. They intend to make Prohibited feel less than human all because they are different.”
“Yet, Prohibited are the most loving individuals I have ever met. They are brave souls. Can you imagine such hate? I can’t, and I see it every day, Violet. We have sympathizers that house and employ The Prohibited. Those are brave souls. They face hardship and hatred every minute of the day. They aren’t safe, ever. They are retaliated against constantly. Their businesses and homes are damaged or destroyed, but they rebuild. Those people, they are the brave ones.”
“And what of Genevieve? Well, no one really knows. I received an occasional letter throughout the decades—letters from her family and her telling me of her life, struggles, and successes. I waited on those letters every year. I was so excited to get those updates. But as time went on, the letters came less and less until eventually not at all. There are rumors and speculations, but no one knows for sure what became of her. I wish I knew. I truly wish I knew.”
June stopped rocking the chair as Violet’s grip released from June’s finger. Her eyes were closed, and she was again peacefully sleeping. June continued to rock for a while as she recalled her memories from long ago of Genevieve and the comfort that she brought. These memories made June happy. Whatever happened to Genevieve, she may never know, but she likes to think that she has survived and is living a happy life, whatever that looks like. But for now, June will keep fighting for Genevieve and all Prohibited everywhere.