Mastering others is strength,
Mastering yourself is true power.
* * * * *
I once thought strength was something you were born with. You were either born strong willed, or born weak minded. Just as you were either born good or evil. Black and white thinking kept my mind at ease, helped me to justify the things that happened in my life. I had never thought in grey, I loathed the color. Grey confuses and conflicts the mind. It never crossed my mind that strength is born in troubling times, when you have lost more than you’ve gained.
I was once weak, swayed by the opinion’s and comments of those my age. Words pierced my skin, insults ate away at my soul. I was an exposed nerve, navigating our complex world with a constant chip on my shoulder.
My story begins in a small town, located in Eastern Texas. My life wasn’t full of tragedy. Misery and trauma weren’t the cause of my soft-hearted-ness. Life was fair to me, as it is to most people. The good meshed with the bad, creating a life that was pleasant and appealing to the eye.
There was much I couldn’t remember from my childhood, a head injury taking away some of my memory but things like that were often easy to let go.
I had two caring parents, which was more than most people had. My Dad, with his smile that lit up a room and a laugh that sent others into hysterics. He was the joy of my childhood, brightening the dark spots that would form. My Mom, with her kind hearted nature was the backbone of our family. She would laugh through my Dad’s antics, smiling with the joy her little family brought her.
As it always does, tragedy struck. My Dad died when I was only eight years old, too young to have contained many memories of him. The one memory that stood out the most was the night we built a bonfire in the forest behind our house. A bear had wandered into the little clearing, frightening me as I clung to my Dad’s sweatshirt. The bear stalked forward, unaware it’s life was in danger. Fear sent me spiraling backwards, hitting my head against the earthen floor. Dad chased the bear away that night, fear did not follow him as it followed me. That was the night my memories became just out of reach, a harsh mist clouding many of them. While some memories remained clear, others were tainted by the same mist.
Mom mourned, as widows often did. We held each other tightly, fearing one of us would be next to leave this world. Life without my Dad was a difficult adjustment. The stages of grief passed over me faster than they did my Mom, leaving me some-what frustrated with the world.
How easily someone could be ripped from your life, someone whose place was impossible to fill. I spent an entire year searching for a way to fill the hole inside of me, searching for some way to dull the ache in my heart.
It was the day after my ninth birthday that I found Micah.
My Mom threw me a birthday party as she did every year, even though I insisted I didn’t want one this year. My first birthday without Dad, it was a hollow birthday to say the least. Many of the invited children didn’t show up, but that didn’t surprise me. Friends were scarce during this point in my life. I didn’t fit in with the other children, never quite knowing what to say or do around them.
I had woken early the next day, venturing from the house on my own. Our backyard was huge, or perhaps that was just my childhood memory. An old swing set sat towards the edge of the woods, a place my Dad and I used to play.
There were times as a child where I would become incredibly frustrated, unable to understand why some memories were just out of my reach. The day after my ninth birthday was one of those days. I wandered up to the play set, struggling to recall my Dad’s face as he pushed me on the swing. Anger does things to the mind, removes fear when fear should be present.
I wandered into the woods; determined to find our old bonfire site. I needed to see for myself, see the place I had lost so many precious memories. With child-like innocence and ignorance, I walked into the woods. The words of my parents swirled in my head, a clear warning not to venture by myself.
I knew I was lost when the sound of running water filled my ears, it’s fresh scent filling my nose. I approached the wide stream with its bubbling waters and overgrowth of shrubbery. Large rocks coated in shining green moss stood out against the clear blue waters.
It was when I pulled my eyes from the moss coated rocks that I noticed a pair of golden eyes staring back at me. A boy, my age from the looks of it. His plump lips were parted in shock, a mop of bronze hair sitting on his head. I was too young to view boy’s as anything other than friends, but Micah held a certain beauty that most adults struggled to attain. His skin was deeply tanned, yet looked smooth and soft. His golden eyes matched the hues in his hair, lit by the sunlight.
‘Hello!’ I called out, my hand raised in an attempt to wave at the boy.
That was the first time I had met Micah, and I watched in a stunned silence as he fled from the stream. Our friendship had a slow start, but I continued meeting Micah at the stream for many years. I would often go on the weekends, spending the entire day with him. He was my first friend. Elusive yet charming and kind.
The next weekend, I returned to the stream with it’s bustling waters. The boy was already there, perched on a rock as he poked at the running water with a stick. When his eyes met mine for the second time, they held no shock. I watched silently as a lopsided smile formed on the boy’s face, and he beckoned me closer.
“I’m Micah.” The boy smiled, handing me a stick of my own.
“Raelynn.” I grinned back, joy filling me at meeting my first friend.
I watched Micah grow through out the years, still holding the beauty he had as a child. His features elongated, his tanned face aging into that of a man. His hair remained bronze, his eyes still gold but everything else had changed. His boyish figure turned slim, traces of muscle protruding from his skin. Micah would never speak of his family, of where he returned once his time at the stream was finished. We rarely spoke about our home lives. The time at the stream was a reprieve from our home life, a life filled with as much good as there was bad.
I never minded knowing little about Micah, and he never pushed me for answers. We talked about hopes and dreams, lives beyond the ones we were forced to live.
Life at home had become much more strenuous. Mom was still my rock, anchoring me to this life preventing me from floating away. Starting high school was a monumental point in my life, pushing me farther away from the kids my age. Fitting in had always been a struggle, making friends was nearing impossible.
My second friend was a shy girl by the name Alyssa Porter. Short with chocolate colored hair and a healthy splattering of freckles on her face, Alyssa had approached me during lunch. I spent my time at home and school with Alyssa, my weekends with Micah always on my mind.
One Friday afternoon, I had ran home with tears streaming from my eyes.
A group of kids at school had pinned me against the locker, ruining my white blouse with a bottle of fruit punch. I never made it inside my house, Micah and our stream at the front of my mind. Micah wasn’t at the stream when I arrived, as I typically met him Saturday’s.
My tears dripped into the stream, mingling with the cool waters. A silent gasp left my lips as the face of a young girl peered at me from the water, a look of bewilderment on her face. Porcelain skin, white hair and crystal blue eyes peered back up at me.
“Raelynn?” Micah’s confused, yet calmly smooth voice called out.
I turned my head to meet his golden eyes, and when I looked back the girl was gone. Micah’s face contorted in confusion as I told him about the girl in the water.
“You didn’t see her?” I frowned, tilting my head at Micah as he crouched down to the water.
“I did not.” Micah shook his head, his finger tips grazing the water’s surface.
Micah turned and touched my damp shirt, toying with the red stain that had formed.
“You are sticky.” Micah pointed out, a smile toying at the edges of his lips.
I let out a little chuckle when Micah dragged his finger over my sticky cheek, bringing it to his lips.
“And you taste like fruit.” Micah grinned, but it fell from his face as he noticed the tear tracks down my cheeks, “You have been crying.”
“Kids at school.” I frowned, “Their not very nice to me.”
“They do not seem very intelligent either.” Micah raised his bronze eyebrow at me, earning a quiet giggle.
“Their not all bad.” I smiled softly, “Some just ignore me, but others like to pick on me.”
“School does not sound very enjoyable.” Micah frowned, as if he never heard of the concept.
“You don’t go to school?” I asked innocently, a stick in my hand as I poked at the water.
Micah shifted, his face clear of emotion. “I do not.”
“Oh.” I nodded, “Lucky, I wish I didn’t have to go.”
We continued our meet ups until I turned sixteen years old; A monumental age where I came from. My meetings with Micah became scarce, the two of us becoming busy with our lives. Often, I would go to the stream in search of him. A frown would plague my face whenever he failed to show up.
We grew distant, but Micah would always be my first friend.