Written by Ourali
This work was last updated October 31, 2019
She’d thought that maybe she’d been dreaming, dreaming that today had happened. She’d forgotten what land she stood on, what air she breathed. She’d forgotten about that day 5 years ago when she’d come crashing into the very forest she currently stood in. She hadn’t realized where they’d come.
The breath was knocked out from her lungs, her body coming to a standstill. He kept walking, ignoring the fact that she’d stopped in her tracks. He stopped in front of the large stone in the middle of the clearing, hiding what she knew would still be there. Her hand went to her neck and the dangling ring she cherished, the metal warmed from where it hung against her chest. It was the last thing she still owned from Earth. The thought shocked her; for so long she’d referred to Earth as Home that she hadn’t even realized when she’d stopped referring to it that way. she hadn’t noticed the change in herself. Just like she hadn’t realized the significance of the dirt beneath her feet.
She walked forward, still holding the ring. She didn’t want to see, not really, but she felt like she had to. Her heart pulled her forward, knowing what she had to do to truly say goodbye to the world she’d once belonged to.
His eyes met hers as she paused beside him, the twinkling brown soft with the significance he knew she was feeling. His hand brushed hers. I’m here, it said.
With a strength she didn’t know she still had, she looked down at the little sheltered place where the rock made a small cavern. Too small to fit a person inside, but big enough for a hand to slip into. She bent down slowly and reached inside, feeling around in the dark earth for what she knew would still be there. There. The feeling of leather, cold to the touch and smoother than any of the leather she wore, artificial even. She held the wallet gently, almost afraid that it would go up in smoke, but no, it stayed as real as it was. Her hands shaking, she pulled it open and reveal the cards that were so significant then. Her driver’s license, with her full name, her date of birth, and a picture of her as she once was. The face in the image was alien to her now, her cheeks fuller, her eyes dull, framed by the hair she’d straightened every day like clockwork.
She replaced the card and continued to search through her old world until she found what she’d felt the most acute loss for: a picture of her with her family at Christmas in Times Square. Her mother and father clutching her and her sister, all smiling, grinning in shared happiness at being in the place that they’d all wanted to go to for so long. Her as her old self, the self that had been a cog in the machine of that society, fitting like a glove. She hadn’t felt like she’d fit, and likely no one did, but now looking at this picture of a family, her family, she found that she had fit. She’d been in her place.
That person in the picture was in her place, but the person who stood there with her wallet in her hands and with the man beside her was in her place, too. For so long she’d wanted to go back, to reclaim that space she’d been ripped out of. Change can be sudden, shattering, and harsh, but change can also be slow. She’d changed.
And she didn’t think she’d go back if she had the chance. Maybe she would, just for the chance of seeing her family again. Their absence would always be sore, but that was exactly it: their absence was sore, but not her own. She’d hated the slow loss of her old self, she’d hated having to learn and understand a world unfamiliar to her, but now the cog she was fit in a different place. It was a loss, and it was just a change.
And somehow she was okay with that.
She looked up at the man beside her. His patient face stared down at her, compassion evident but non-oppressing. She looked back down at the photo of her family, of herself, and placed it back into its pocket. She closed the wallet slowly, patiently, and replaced it gently in its protective hole. When she stood back up, she finally exhaled. It was the easiest exhale, the lightest since she’d been on this planet. She looked up at the sky, at the stars that held her former home, at the stars that guided their way through the forest, and turned away from the rock.
She stepped towards the edge of the forest, walking a bit before looking back at the man following her. He didn’t speak, but like the magic that lived in the forest, his question floated gently to her.
Where to?, he asked.
Home, she said.
And that’s where they went.