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On Wings of Hope
I haven't felt this kind of pain since I lost my first life all those years ago.
The angry clouds above pour our their rage upon the earth, but for all their fury all I can hear is that one decisive breath, that one horrible click. The thunder pounds and the lightning screeches with brilliance, but all I can see is that one determined rise in hackles, that one awful twist and sneer. The rain hurtles down, millions of silver talons that rake my skin with frightening ferocity, but the only thing that registers is the flutter in my chest and the shatter of my heart.
I have lost my second life.
I'm soaked with the tears of the heavens, and yet I'm drowning on the inside. The lightning can shred the sky all it wants, but it will never come close to the splintering, the smashing of my very heart. I blink, and I remember.
We were in Wells Fargo when it all went down. The entire scene plays before my eyes with cruel clarity. Meg and I walking in, the receptionist handing us some papers along with a fake smile, the representative sitting us down. The representative answering the call of nature in the men's bathroom and Meg telling me for the billionth time to call her Mom, and me telling her to call me Annie, and her telling me to each her own. Me laughing and saying that Mom wasn't a nickname for Meg, but Annie was for Tiffany, and that just because she'd decided to adopt me when I was an adorable little seven year-old didn't mean I had to call her Mom. Meg telling me I'd long since lost my charm and that she should have realized what she was getting herself into. Both of us laughing, the representative practically sashaying back, and then the doors crashing open and the shadows leaping in.
Only they weren't shadows, they were men. Though they don't deserve to call themselves human. They were thieves. Robbers. Pilferers. Purloiners. They didn't just take five grand, they took my life. They wore Halloween masks like the monsters they are, and realization of what they were doing was instantaneous for everyone present.
That included Meg. Meg the heroine. Meg the cop. Meg the idiot. Meg who had just gotten off of duty and thought it unfathomable to not do anything about the situation. All of us sprawling onto the floor, looking up, watching Frankenstein dive headfirst into the vault, drunk with all the money he saw in his near future, and us sick with disgust. Dracula watching us all, and suddenly Meg with a gun pointed to his chest, and Dracula leering... and Dracula reeling, and Frankenstein lurching out of his stupor. And suddenly there Meg was on the floor, and her life and my life pooling out onto the floor in crimson clarity.
The police came. The coroner came. The apologies and the tears and the cards came, too, but they fell on blind eyes, deaf ears, and unfeeling hands. My best friends Lionel and Rach hugging me with storms in their eyes... Aunt Belinda before me, moving into the apartment. My grades dropping like the rain plummeting to the thirsty earth and my teachers looking at me as if I've sprouted a third nostril or something equally bizarre. And then...
Suddenly time is flowing again, a stream of perpetuity so unlike the choppy waves of before. I realize I've lived the past three months in chunks of time, completely spacing out for entire minutes and not recognizing it, as if watching a staticky feed or a flashing siren: I've only been awake for fragments. Where am I? What is this place? Aunt Belinda smiles at me, motions to that strange beautiful expanse stretching out before us. And I look out and see petals of light flitting between the dandelions and the fingers of grass that reach for the sky, blinking on and off like my life has been. She's saying something. What is it? I shake my head, try to thrust myself above the muffling waters of grief.
"...we called this the Wishing Field."
"Meg and I always came here when we needed some alone time, or if we were sharing secrets. It was our paradise, our Eden, our Narnia. See the dandelions?" She glanced at me, a question bright in the dazzling green eyes that were so much like Meg's.
I nodded, speechless at the meadow's beauty. It was dusk, and the petals of light were gorgeous against the inky cobalt canvas of night, frolicking among the flowers, which the dying light traced ever so faintly.
"The fireflies were our favorite part," she smiled sadly, "and we loved them. We liked to say they flew on wings of hope, powered by little children's wishes and dreams. Meg came up with that, actually. Ever the poet. You know."
The corners of my mouth just had to reach up a little at that one.
"She always said if something terrible happened to come here and remember the fireflies. I don't think she ever realized the truth of what she was saying, but the fireflies have kept me afloat these past months. And Annie, if you ever want to come here, you know you can. This is our place now." She gazed off into the distance, and we both sat on the soft ground and watched the fireflies dance, weaving a tapestry of light in swirls.
My first life had been taken when I was six years old. My father was a drunk and my mother had spent six years between his knuckles and my face. She saved my life. Her name was Lina Tsai. I kept the name she gave me -- Tiffany Tsai -- and never forget her name.
My second life had been taken by monsters who chose to take other people's money instead of making their own. Meg had meant the world to me. Now that world was gone.
But in its place had sprung up a new life. A life with Belinda. A phoenix burns before it can rise from the ashes. A swan sings before the wings of its soul touches the sky. A forest melts to ashes before new leaves can take root.
On wings of hope shall I fly.