Posts Tagged ‘children’s story’

The little girl climbed the tree rather tentatively as it had been a long while since her small hands had clasped the rough branches. She was not truly frightened, but some days she wondered whether she had somehow forgotten the strength and agility needed to ascend to the lofty heights of the familiar branch which had borne her weight so many times in the past. After such a long absence, everything seemed so strange and familiar at the same time, and that in itself seemed very strange.

The boy was not here, but everywhere there was evidence that he had never been far away. Glittery blue dragonflies dangled from odd lengths of string, not just from one branch but in fact from them all. She smiled then giggled as she brushed past them; how her imagination set them free from their strings and sent them into frantic, blissful hovers, each wing moving in a different direction to achieve their magically perfect stillness, like falcons riding the rolling wisps of wind, suspended from distant clouds.

Yes, the tree was full of dragonflies, their gossamer wings glistening in the tranquil sunny haze. It took some time to spot any butterflies at all, and when she finally found them, they were somehow dull and faded and tattered from neglect. They looked like lost whispers, like tired, grubby napkins. Like a child’s toy – once cherished, now almost forgotten. Yet somehow the small child’s presence in the tree filtered soft rainbow prisms of light onto their tired paper wings, spinning ever so softly so that one might think they might almost twirl back to life. She took a breath, and exhaled slowly, savouring the air, the light and life itself.

The next time the young boy climbed, the magical breeze blew against his skin like a whispered secret. He brushed past many twigs that scratched his arms and legs as he searched for what he knew he would find. He darted between the dragonflies he had suspended from every hopeful branch. He scanned for shimmers of colour amongst the myriad of worn butterflies, but everything was old and nothing was new. Disappointed as he had been so many times in the past, he lowered his back against the tall trunk, one foot upon the branch, the other barefooted leg dangling like lost hope.

Idly, his fingers played along the rough bark of the branch that held him. The tree that once had been so young and vibrant had now grown to ancient wisdom; every furrow of bark was familiar. The next moment, something felt strange to his touch, small and soft, somewhere between the feel of bark and leaves. Careful not to dislodge the tiny unseen mystery, he bent down carefully to see whatever secret his branch now held. The magical breeze blew again, and with great care the wide-eyed boy made his way back down to the earth’s thick carpet of leaves.

Though excitement flickered through his thoughts like a ripple, he knew he would need to be more patient than he had ever been before. It might be a very long time before the chrysalis would transform, but when it finally did, the stained glass mosaic of butterfly wings would bring a new flush of colour and renewal to the tree’s ancient branches. He had already waited a very long time. And now as he looked back over his shoulder to the silhouette of the tree in the fading sunlight, he knew he could wait just a little longer, and maybe even forever, for a new butterfly to emerge.


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And just when the boy was certain that all was lost, a small, ethereal barefooted figure in a lavender dress with violet eyes faded from nothing into luminous reality before him. The small section of path over which she floated seem to sparkle dimly, as though lit by distant starlight. He had always been certain that faeries existed; he had felt their ever-present magic as he had wandered through the woods and explored the intricate, winding path of the secret garden. Though he had seen paintings and statues and many pairs of tinsel wings dancing across the enchanted woods of his daydreams, he had never seen one suspended in flight with his own eyes before. Now finally as he had always hoped, one had appeared before him, possibly because before now, he had never truly needed to move from faith to certainty.

‘Do you know what it is you have lost?’ she asked him in a shimmering voice unlike any he had heard before, and instantly his heart filled with hope that she would be able to help him find it. ‘Life has become so … difficult,’ he stammered. ‘Where there was once the purest joy, now there is the heaviest sadness, and it has taken over everything. And even in the brief moments when sorrow seems to fade, there is a deep void. I am still a child, but each moment I feel that I am growing very, very old.’ 

She nodded, and a lilac tear threatened to form in those spritely, bright eyes that had already spied his pain from where she had sat hidden, nestled amongst the flowers. She had seen this boy many times before as he had wandered through the woods, and of all the people she had watched intently, making their way down the winding path, she knew that his heart was the fullest with belief. When he reached the leafless tree adorned by long, strange pale pink tassels, she knew that he wondered whether they were faerie feathers, and that he would be both totally surprised and not surprised at all to learn that indeed they were. 

She could see other questions that now rose to the surface of the boy’s deep blue eyes that looked more like the ocean on an overcast day than the eyes of any child. The heart within her pounded as words from long ago echoed inside her mind, replaying the moment that the ancient faerie wisdom had passed into her possession: ‘Cascadacia, you must understand that every faerie has one special mission that she must fulfil in order to earn her Eternal Shine.’ And so she had sat amongst the flowers each warm Summer’s day and golden Autumn’s day and brisk Winter’s day until the first crisp day of Spring when the white haired boy had appeared upon the path. He had looked so deeply troubled, and before she could even make the choice to fly, she found herself hovering over the path before him.  ‘Tell me what has brought you here today and what has put those clouds into your eyes …’

The child sighed, not knowing where to start, but tracing his thoughts back carefully to his loss of levity. ‘I once had a friend – a little girl with pink cheeks and cheeky eyes that danced like fireflies. We played like only true children can, racing every day to a magical tree to dangle paper butterflies and dragonflies from its branches. How the magic breeze would blow through the leaves of that tree, making our mobiles dance like wind-chimes! How the chaos of smiles littered the heavens like comets, transforming the darkness into blissful, childlike, cosmic splendour. But then …’ he faltered, his voice trembling in the shadows of unfolding revelation.

The faerie sensed the pain of the story before the boy could tell it. ‘Then, something happened. I watched my friend … grow old before my eyes …’ His tale was one of pure lament, but as his voice faded into the background, Cascadacia knew that she must disconnect herself from all the boy said to help him understand the truth that would unfold. As though from a distance, she saw his fiercely guarded tears fall to the ground, sensing that it was somehow the loss of his own youth that caused his devastation. 

And as his story became infused with even greater sorrow, she felt the strongest urge a faerie can feel welling up inside her, subsuming her entire frame. It was several moments before the boy could disconnect from his discontent enough to notice the purple faerie begin to shake violently over the path before him. He found himself disarmed by the intensity of the unlikely sound that bubbled up from the depths of the faerie’s soul. Her irrepressible giggle grew into an overwhelming cascade of laughter, and for a moment the boy felt utterly betrayed. How could she laugh with such abandon in the face of his deep suffering? How could something as lovely as a faerie be so heartless when childhood had been so utterly lost?

The sound of the faerie’s laughter resounded throughout the woods; and with every moment, an unfamiliar joy sang into the shadows of the small boy’s mind. Though he could not form words to explain what was happening, he surrendered like dry ground to the relief of rain as all sadness dissolved completely, and he knew that sorrow would never again darken his thoughts. He had known traces of childlike joy before, but now he absorbed it to the deepest core of his being. And as he grappled with the exchange of suffering for joy, he barely noticed that while the sound of lavender laughter intensified and filled him with unquenchable strength, the outline of the faerie was slowly fading in the air before him.

Only moments before, she had been a bright and delightful confirmation of all that he had believed to be true. Now as she faded from the view of his eyes and back into wherever it was that faeries disappeared, her endlessly echoing laughter had become a golden promise that all sadness was forever banished from the recesses of his heart. He remembered the question she had asked him, ‘Do you know what it is you have lost?’ 

He tried with all his soul to remember, but the sorrow of what he had once lost was now lost to him forever. No, he had not imagined the lavender faerie or the delicious joys of eternal childhood – they were equally real and true. But what of the sorrow he once felt at the loss of his little friend, who had slowly turned in his mind from pale pink to ashen grey? Or the sadness that he felt as his eternal youth proved little more than a momentary delusion? With one final lavender laugh, these vanished completely from all recollection, completely unreal and untrue, nevermore to be entertained, even in moments of absent distraction.

In the next moment, he saw his little friend with the pink ponytails in her hair running towards him along the forest path. ‘You found it!’ she squealed with delight. ‘Found what?’ he asked, the old, familiar sense of silly fun forming a broad smile across his brightly beaming face. ‘Your sparkle!’ she giggled, ‘It’s back in your eyes – just like magic!’ And he realised that she had not grown old and neither had he, and he knew with absolute certainty that neither of them ever would and that the sadness that once consumed them both had been dissolved forever. And as they ran laughing in the direction of their favourite tree, the faerie dying in the nearby flowers smiled to know that her mission had been fulfilled, and that her shine would live eternally in the undying laughter of the children.

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Three friends ambled slowly along the concrete walking path, looking out over the expanse of wet sand and the calm shallow waters of the inlet at low tide. As always, the white haired boy gently held the hand of the rose-cheeked girl, while the girl with pink overalls and bows in her hair lagged a little way behind, fascinated by the pulsating movements of a small pink sea jelly that bobbed just below the water’s surface. Its soft dome occasionally broke the surface to catch the few sunny shimmers that managed to reach the water from the heavily overcast umbrella of sky. But quickly, the sky’s umbrella developed a small tear, and gentle rain, now becoming heavier, sent the three scrambling to the nearest covered picnic table. Laughing, they shook the rain from their hair, and soon they realised they were not alone.

A young man was sitting on the other end the table, feet on the bench, hands in his pockets, the hood of his grey jumper pulled up over his head. He smiled as he watched the trio of children laughing amongst themselves at how wet they had become so quickly in the rain. “It’s only water you know,” he remarked which for no real reason made them laugh even more, and soon he was laughing with them. “We were thinking of maybe going for a swim a bit later on,” the rose-cheeked girl told him, “But now it feels like we’ve already been in.” She had always been the most confident one of the three, even though sometimes she felt as though she was a little on the outside of the friendship the other two seemed to swim inside. She grappled within herself to accept and understand the wordless language they seemed to speak to one another when thinking about the ocean they both loved passionately or the Friendship Tree they often climbed together and always wanted her to climb too. She was slowly starting to comprehend how such a friendship could exist when the boy’s heart belonged totally to her, and with time she was growing to understand and love them both for wanting her to be part of their circle.

“Why settle for running in the rain or going for a swim when you could dive?”, the young man replied, turning slightly so the children could read the ‘Scuba Dreams’ logo printed on the back of his jumper. “There’s no greater adventure in all the world than an underwater safari. You kids are just the right age to start learning, you know.’

“I don’t think that’s something I would ever do,” the girl told him, a small crack appearing in her usual courage, “But these two here – they would do that in a heartbeat.”

At the sound of the man’s words, the white haired boy’s vivid imagination had already taken him under the water, and as always the girl in the pink overalls was not far behind him. They had only ever seen the ocean from the top and its hidden mysteries had always intrigued them. Now their minds transported them both deep under its glassy surface, and together they glided through the warm water, its mysteries no longer hidden from their eager eyes. They soared above the sandy bottom like birds soar above clouds, marvelling at the shapes and colours of spiky black urchins, large cobalt seastars attached to enormous purple boulders, bright tiny fish and massive blue groupers that swam towards them, inviting them to interact. In turns, the children pointed out to one another a beautiful brown eagle ray, taking magical flight from the rocky ocean floor. Then, a spotted yellow moray eel poked its head out from a crevice between some rocks like a wide-eyed, open-jawed snake, and the girl in the pink wetsuit felt a strange fear and thrill combine to course through her veins like water. She knew that the creature would not hurt her if she didn’t touch it, but the strange sight filled her with a powerful sense of awe and wonder.

And then she saw the white haired boy, motioning her to join him in the water just a little way ahead. Before she knew what he had called her to see, he had disappeared into a large crevice under a rock ledge between two enormous boulders.The girl always carried her bright pink torch with her into her deepest daydreams, and its bright white light now shone through dark water, bouncing from wall to wall to reveal that she had in fact followed the boy inside a large underwater cave. It was like entering the hall of an underwater castle, its cold stone walls protecting anyone brave enough to venture inside. She glided slowly through the water, hovering over large rocks, searching behind and under ledges for hidden treasure and mysterious creatures that might inhabit this underwater kingdom, this secret palace made of boulders.

Then her torchlight caught the white-haired boy ahead of her, waving frantically, pointing towards something that had just swum past the spot where he now hovered weightlessly in the dark water column. She glided towards him, following as he increased speed to find whatever sea monster had just brushed past him. She reached his side and he pointed down to what appeared to be a mottled flat brown rock, nearly seven feet in length. Slowly her eyes made out the wide shape of a head with beady eyes on its flat top and a tassled fringe along its jaw, a long body with fins and an enormously long tail. The creature had settled quietly down onto the cave floor like a dragon guarding the castle, and she sensed that if she did not disturb it, it would leave her peacefully alone. At other points in the cave there were small fish, and a fast moving brittle seastar made its way through a nest of red shrimps that scurried busily under the lowest rock ledge.

“It’s perfect down here,” she thought to herself, for words in this world were as impossible as underwater butterflies. “It’s almost perfect,” thought the white haired boy, his mind tossing like waves between the joys of exploration and the feeling that, while this adventure was rich for two, it would be all the more treasured if it could be shared by three. There were so many colours inside this cave – the yellow and orange sponges adorning its rocky walls and the brilliant blue of the ocean above that occasionally peaked through rugged holes in the cave’s ceiling. Gold sunlight sometimes streamed in, its dappled beams dancing like happy children on the boulder walls. And there was his friend with her bright pink torch, a little too excited as always by all that she could spy with her little eye, where every adventure was for her just another funny game. Even in the darkness of the cave, he could sometimes see a smiling sparkle in her eyes when she spotted some new creature darting in or out from the cave’s rocky crevices. But for him, there was just one colour missing – the vibrant red of the girl he loved the most – and in his heart he wished for nothing more than to one day share this magical underwater world with her too.

And at this thought, he caught from the corner of his eye a large moving object that sent a small terror through him, causing his heart to skip a beat and his lungs to miss a breath. Had he disturbed the large flat wobbegong shark that he’d just now seen resting on the floor of the cave? But no – now that his heart had settled and his eyes had found their focus, the moving object seemed to be holding a torch of its own, and it wore a mask through which vaguely familiar eyes could be faintly seen. As the dark shape moved closer, the boy recognised the eyes of the young man the children had met in the shelter earlier when it had started to rain. “Come follow me!” the man motioned, and the white haired boy and the girl with the pink torch swam slowly and steadily behind him to see what he had discovered. Gliding through the dark water, he led them back to a place just inside the entrance of the cave where sunlight streamed like liquid gold through one large gap in the cave’s domed roof. Then he motioned them to surface inside the cave and their three heads now broke the water’s surface to catch sight of whatever it was that the diver had brought the children here to see. Actually, it was not something he had found, but someone he had brought with him, and the eyes of the white haired boy sparkled more brightly than as if he had discovered the richest pirate treasure. Sitting on a rock near the entrance of the cave, her legs dangling in the water, sat the beautiful girl with the smile full of roses. Her friends’ eyes filled with awe and wonder. How had she come to be here? And how had she found the courage to join them in the cave?

“After you two disappeared under the water, this one realised there was fun to be had and she didn’t want to miss out,” the young man explained, nodding in the direction of the beaming girl he had led down to the cave to sit on the rock in her cherry red bathers.  She waved to her friends and blew the white-haired boy a sun-dappled kiss. “I’m feeling braver now,” she whispered down to him. “Next time, I might be brave enough to put my head right under the water and explore the cave a bit further with you both.” And as they leaned warmly into each other’s smiles, they barely noticed the girl with the pink mask disappear back below the surface, sending tiny bubbles back up through the water until her head popped up again. Swimming over to her lovely friend, she lifted her arm out of the water and placed a delicate object into her open palm, folding the girl’s fingers gently over it to briefly hide the tiny treasure. “I saw this down there before, and it made me think of you,” she smiled, and the girl whose eyes sparkled like rubies opened her hand to discover a small red, heart shaped shell. “Tonight when you go to sleep, place this shell under your pillow – it will help to make all your Scuba Dreams one day come true”, her friend whispered.  “And next time we go exploring underwater” the boy beamed, “My heart tells me you will be brave enough to lead us on the adventure.” “I think so too”,” the beautiful girl replied, her cheeks rosier than he had ever seen before.

“So what do you think, kids?” the young man in the Scuba Dreams jumper asked the three children. “Do you think one day you might go for a real underwater adventure?” They barely heard him – their eyes were still full of their magical daydream about all finding each other in the underwater cave. The words he spoke reminded them where they were, sitting on a picnic table in the park.  The rain that had been falling heavily now softened into a gentle mist that faded and dissolved like the underwater cave itself. “I think we will,” replied the girl in the rose dress. “No doubt,” said the white haired boy. “For sure!” the girl in pink squealed with delight, and with that the three friends waved goodbye to the young man, linked their arms together, and made their way back down the concrete walking path alongside the calm shallow waters of the inlet and into the brightest sunlight.

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“Our Friendship Tree is a sacred place,” declared the girl in the pink overalls to her constant companions, the white haired boy and the rose-cheeked girl, “But the time has now come for me to take you both to the most magical place I have ever been and the most magical place you will ever see.” Her sea-blue, ocean-deep eyes twinkled with delight, for this place was more magical to her than pixie dust, more magical than the wonders of deep, dark water, more magical than the beloved Friendship Tree itself.

She had stumbled across the Foxglove Spires Garden quite by accident and had only ever been exploring there three times by herself. Each time had been more magical than the last. With every expedition, new secrets had unfolded themselves to her amazement. The gardens had become the hiding place of her dreamiest dreams, her richest inspiration and her most perfect imaginings. She had longed to reveal even just a few of the hidden spaces and treasures she had discovered to those she treasured most, and every night she dreamed of further discoveries, made all the sweeter by being so sweetly shared. And when she awoke that morning, she knew with her first conscious breath of air that today was – without doubt – a day destined for a new kind of adventure.

Seeing their reflections mirrored back to them in their friend’s excited eyes, the boy in the blue coat and the girl in the red dress both reached to run their fingers over the silver friendship charms that hung around their necks. Their soft fingertips pressed through the tree-shaped holes pressed into the flat round pendants, as they always did before beginning a new adventure. The necklace spoke like a silent whisper to the three – and to all who saw them together  or apart – of unity and discovery, but most of all of the purity and joy of eternal friendship. Their silver charms caught the few rays of sun that managed to break through the heavy cover of cloud, their gleam reflecting in the eyes of their pink friend with the star-twinkle smile. She ran her fingers over the matching pendant that hung on a silver chain around her own neck, celebrating the special bond she shared with her two friends and signalling the start of their next exciting adventure.

The  pink girl linked her arms into the arms of her two friends and led them smiling down a long pebbled path towards a tall grey stone wall covered in ivy. A thin piece of dark green rope had been strung loosely across the wall’s narrow opening, and the girl’s eyes lingered on it solemnly for several moments. “I’ve never seen a rope across the entrance before”, she sighed, her sunny face forming a slow, apprehensive cloud. “I have a really strange feeling about this. I don’t think we can cross it. It’s got the kind of magic that says “No-one should enter today”.  “But our magic is stronger”, replied the white haired boy, lifting one end of the rope and motioning his friends to move past him through the arch of the stone wall. “Two could never cross that rope, but three can,” he intoned, nodding with his usual confidence that he was never wrong. He recognised the hesitance in the pink girl’s round blue eyes, but used all his inner magic to try to dispel it. He suspected that the garden hidden behind this stone wall held the deepest, strongest, most secret kind of magic.  And somehow he sensed that if the three of them didn’t explore together here today, they may never have the chance to do so again.

The beautiful rose-cheeked girl observed the looks and words that passed now – as they so often did – between her two friends. She loved them both with all her heart, yet her eyes always clouded over whenever she saw their eyes meet or heard their words connect, exposing a powerfully deep and unique bond that only the strongest friendship could ever make possible.  The white haired boy was the prince of all her fairy-tales, and she sometimes she struggled to open her heart wide enough to share him with anyone else. But when she looked across the pebbled path and into the now slighlty anxious blue eyes of her friend with butterfly patches sewn onto the knees of her favourite pink overalls, she saw straight down into the depths of her rose-red heart and knew that there was love enough for all three of them to take this next adventure together. “It’s ok”, she smiled at her friend, her beautiful blue-green eyes filling with love and reassurance, “We’ll stick together no matter what happens. You brought us both here; now, if you please, you must surely take us on an adventure!”

The girl in the pink overalls felt safe once again in the love of her two amazing friends, their words and thoughts reassuring her, despite her fears that bobbed at, then just below, then at the surface again, that the garden may somehow be unwilling to truly welcome them inside today. Linking their arms together once again, the trio crossed the threshold of the stone wall entrance and into the magical world that awaited them. The children with the white hair and the red summer dress raced ahead, allowing their quick steps to take them wherever the winding pebbled paths may lead. “Slow down!” cried their friend, her voice calling unseen from somewhere behind them, “You’ll miss things! There’s a secret hidden just off the path at every step! Come back to me! Come back and see!” And they turned around and retraced some steps to find her standing at the top of a broad stairwell made of large cobbled stones, leading down into a deep circluar garden.  Overgrown ivy spilled onto the circle of stones that encompassed a weathered stone urn. “It’s a garden within a garden,” breathed the girl in the red dress. “There are more gardens within this garden than any of us could ever count,” her pink friend replied. “Breathe the air in deeply – it’s different in every space. Every hidden corner of this secret garden makes you come alive in a different way.”

They all breathed deeply. Then the trio headed off again, sometimes together, sometimes the pink girl lagging behind to take her own deep breaths, then leaving each sacred spot to catch up to her friends again. Then just as she heard her friends’ voices laughing again around the next corner, the pink heart within her stirred as she neared a gently familiar space. It was undetectable from the path, the old wooden structure completely covered over by a blanket of thick ivy that climbed up its tall round beams. The blanket spilled across its open top to create an almost solid canopy, through which just a vague hint of cloudy sky could be seen. “Don’t move on too quickly,” she implored her friends. “This is the most magical spot of all.” But it was too late. Their heads had only just disappeared through the far side of the shelter, their voices now disappearing down yet another windy path. This place was more than a hidden garden shelter; this place was the child’s very soul itself. She breathed in the cool, sun dappled air deeply, every cell of her body being completely infused with the sweetness, the freshness, the purity of the magical secret space.

A long, rugged wooden table ran down the length of the outdoor room and a faded wooden cabinet with empty shelves rested where a back wall would be if one existed. Beside the shelf, in the corner of the structure that seemed to absorb the life of the plants that grew up and over and through its deteriorating wooden frame, grew the solid frame of a small tree. Its sturdy trunk and long limbs had somehow become an organic part of the structure itself. If every other beam fell down, this tree would surely hold the structure up. There were branches and leaves somewhere high and out of sight, extending up and out through the illusion of ceiling made by the gnarled, woody remains of some climbing plant that had long since forgotten how to flower. The tree stood as naturally beside the empty wooden cabinet as though the seeds of both had been planted at the same time. They had grown tall and old together, watered by rain and nurtured by softly infused light. The pink girl leaned into the tree, head resting, eyes closed against the V that stemmed from the trunk, then she slowly dissolved, becoming one with the tree’s strong, smooth branches. Her friends spied her from outside the shelter through the gaps the ivy hadn’t yet filled in and smiled to each other at the girl so blissfully lost in her moment alone with the tree, feeling as though she was truly one of its branches. This wasn’t their tree; it was her tree and hers alone. They knew she would catch up soon enough.

Further down the path, the beautiful, breezy rosy girl found and climbed half-way up a special tree of her own.  This tree was taller and more richly cloaked with leaves. Its labrynth of strong, low branches was made to be climbed. She wrapped her hand around one limb, then the next, climbing higher and higher still. Her white haired boy was close behind her, climbing the limbs that were closest to hers. “This is our Tree,” he thought out loud to the lovely girl, who had transformed into a climbing rose. “It’s not the same one we usually climb, but it’s exactly the same.” “It is,” she agreed, and they climbed with bliss and glee, both hearts pulsing wildly with intense joy, love and fun that brought flecks of bright sunshine into the very heart of the cool shaded garden. Just as the boy was about to steal the sweetest kiss (and to give an even sweeter one in return), the girl in the pink overalls appeared at the top of the path that led down to the tree. Exactly as her friends expected her to do, she let out a pink squeal of delight at the sight of her friends climbing high in the tree’s branches, and she ran towards them down the steep, sun-dappled path.

“It’s the Friendship Tree! I knew we would find it in this garden! I’ve been here three times before, but this is the first time I’ve seen it. It’s been waiting until we all arrived here together to reveal itself!” She climbed up into the tree with her friends, and it was as though they had climbed together in this exact same tree a thousand times before. “Look what I can do!” she squealed, wrapping her hands and ankles around a thick branch to hang upside down, looking back up into the laughing faces of her two companions sitting astride on one of the branches above her. Her pretty rose friend looked down at her and smiled, “Maybe we need to climb down soon and explore the other parts of the garden?” And as much as they never wanted to climb down at all, they all knew there were a million other secrets just waiting to be discovered – secrets that could only be discovered together. They jumped down from their branches and ran through the garden, laughing and exploring, and at every turn of the pebbled path they found a new, well-hidden garden secret. Sometimes ancient candlesticks with tall green candles appeared magically at the bottom of old stone steps, leading down to a beautiful cracked concrete urn. Other times, there were ancient ruins covered in ivy, with a small wrought iron table and seats faced to peer into magical lakes through narrow stone archways. Once a large lizard crossed the path in front of them and stopped still as they giggled and inched themselves closer, to see if they could make it a friend. Then they arrived at a beautiful lake, embroidered with lillies and surrounded by tall, sprawling willows, and an enormous lakehouse, full of empty seats just waiting to be filled.

And like all children on magical adventures, the happy trio found themselves tired and thankful for a place to sit and rest. The white haired boy raised his hand to the pendant tree around his neck and whispered ‘Thank you Tree for our adventure today’. And the girl with the rosy cheeks touched her own necklace softly and thought ‘What would our lives be like without this friendship? May it never end.’ And their eyes both turned to the girl in the pink overalls, who raised her hand to the pendant hanging on the chain around her neck, only to find it was not hanging on the chain around her neck at all. Her pale face went an even paler shade of pink, closer to white, her eyes filling with disbelief, then a dawning sense of despair. “It’s gone”, she told her friends, dismayed. “I’ve lost it. I knew we shouldn’t have come into the garden today!” Her blue eyes, always so full of sunshine and stars, now filled with tiny clouds, then steady drops of rain. “We’ll find it!”, declared the boy, and instantly the trio took collective flight to trace back through every secret space of the garden, desperately searching the ground covered by every step back to the start of the path for the silver gleam of the lost, treasured pendant – finding nothing. Separating to search every inch of the path back to the stone wall entrance, and back to the lakehouse once more, finally the exhausted children found one another again at the trunk of the tree they had climbed and swung from so joyously. The girl in pink sank to her knees, then sat sobbing, grieving for her most precious treasure that surely was now lost forever.

The depth of her sorrow was enough to bring a tear to any eye close enough to see. The white haired boy sank down beside her and gently placed his hand on her shoulder. “Yes – it’s gone. But time has a strange way of restoring the things that matter to us most. Our pendants have kept the three of us together, but they are not magic. Our friendship is the true magic; the pendants are just symbols of something we will carry forever deep within us. That is something that can never be lost,” he said as he tapped his friend gently on the head, her sad eyes brightening ever so slightly. Standing nearby, the rose girl felt her own eyes cloud as they had done so many times before, still processing the bond that existed between the other two. It was rare and deep, and sometimes she felt it was part of a circle she stood far outside. But when the eyes of the pink girl turned in her direction, fearful that the bond of their friendship might somehow be broken by the loss of the necklace, a deep love seemed to spring from the wells of her heart, stretching out towards her tearful friend like the arm of the boy around her shoulder. Instinctively, the rose girl lifted her hands towards the pendant around her own neck and undid the chain’s small silver clasp. Then she moved with outstretched arms towards her friend, seated at the base of the tree. “With this necklace, I give you my heart, my love and my trust,” she said. “It will stay with you forever and its magic will never be lost or broken.”

Now the girl’s deep blue eyes flooded, and when she could find no words to thank her friend for her enormous sacrifice, she threw her arms around her shoulders and tears of gratitude spilled onto the ground. One of the tears landed in the cup of a fallen leaf, and the white haired boy thought he noticed an odd gleam reflecting in the teardrop’s watery mirror. He squinted – maybe the silver gleam was simply a stray ray of sun?  Then he smiled broadly, recognising a familiar shape and pattern shimmering upside-down in the tear’s salty dome. He stood slowly so as not to disturb the girls as they hugged, lifting his arms high up to the branch where the girl in pink overalls had suspended and swung herself upside down not too long before. Removing the silver necklace and charm from a small twig, he softly fell to his knees again and placed it gently around the neck of the beautiful girl in the red dress whose own neck was now bare after the sacrifice she had made.

Before she realised that his touch was anything more than a tender embrace, the boy looked the rose girl deeply in the eye and said softly, “‘Time has a strange way of restoring the things that matter to us most,” and he took her hand and raised it to find the pendant that had now reappeared like magic around her neck. Wide eyed with wonder, the two girls embraced the boy, then each other, then the trio linked their arms and made their way back up the long winding pebbled path to the stone entrance covered with ivy. They stood for a moment, looking at the dark green rope that blocked the exit. Laughing, the white haired boy put his arm around each of his friend’s shoulders and they walked straight through the rope, out into the blinding sunlight of the world beyond the secret garden, knowing they would all return the next time the garden chose to welcome them in.

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