An eleven-year-old girl woke up on a patch of sunlit sand. Her small elfish ears picked up the sound of crashing waves and the rustling of bushes and the dense canopy of intertwining branches and leaves to her right. Her green eyes opened slowly, first slits, and then wide open and darting quickly over her surroundings. The girl propped herself up onto her elbows, which sank into the squishy beach sand. Her waist-length, light red hair whipped around her face. The girl slowly stood up and gazed at the sun sinking down below the horizon and the waves crashing inches from her soaked sneakers.
To the girl’s surprise, a girl that seemed a little younger than her and a boy that seemed her age were quickly approaching her. Before the girl could think to hide, the boy had spotted her and was pointing her out to his friend. As they approached, the frightened girl heard their voices.
The younger girl said to the boy, “Who is she, Mathew?”
The boy, Mathew, responded, “Liri, shush. She doesn’t look dangerous.”
Liri looked slightly doubtful and hung back a bit, keeping her distance from the strange girl.
“What’s your name?” asked Mathew gently.
“I don’t know… I don’t remember much.” The girl started to panic. “I don’t remember anything!”
“It’s OK, we will call you Freedom,” said Mathew, eyeing the girl’s wild and free hair.
Freedom nodded her head slowly.
Liri stepped forward, “You can join our group, if you like. We are free, with no one to tell us what to do. We come and go as we like. Our leader and helper is Indigo. She will know how to help you. Will you come with us?”
Freedom followed Liri and Mathew, leaving her footprints in a trail behind her as she journeyed deeper into the forest. Soon, Freedom began to see some huts and living structures, overflowing with about two dozen more children, laughing and frolicking. Liri and Mathew approached an older girl who looked to be fourteen with long, dark brown braids running down her back.
Mathew explained to the older girl, “Indigo, this is Freedom. She doesn’t remember who she is or where she is from, but she wants to join our group of roamers.”
Indigo thoroughly scrutinized the new girl’s face and then simply said in a melodious voice, “What would you like to learn here, Freedom? You can choose anything, but only one thing you can learn. Then you must teach.”
Freedom thought for one moment and then her emerald eyes lit up with pure excitement and childlike wonder, “I want to fly.”
Liri and Mathew looked at each other, confused. Indigo stood expressionless, but then broke into a wide grin, “Then that you must, and will, learn, so then you can teach us how to fly.”
Over the next few weeks, Freedom studied the birds that soared through the forest. Their composure, wing structure, wing motion, and anything else she could think of that had to do with flying. After several attempts, which ended in pitying glances exchanged between Liri and Mathew, a great deal of frustration, and six broken sets of paper wings, Freedom wondered if she needed a different approach to flying. She sat thinking at the bottom of trees where birds zoomed by overhead, and often voiced out loud her questions to the feathered flyers. “How do I fly? What’s missing? What’s wrong?”
One evening, Mathew came to inquire about how she was doing. Freedom said miserably, “It’s not working. I know that I should try a different angle, but I don’t know which one.”
Mathew slid down on the tree trunk next to Freedom. “You’ll find a way. I know you will. I believe in you, Freedom.” He squeezed her hand firmly and reassuringly. Freedom smiled slightly, but her smile was quickly replaced with delighted shock as she looked down and saw she was floating two feet off the ground!
“I just needed to believe in myself!” Freedom exclaimed. “That was the key the whole time!”
She steadily rose higher and higher until Mathew was craning his neck to keep her in sight. “Try it! It’s fun!” she yelled.
Mathew joined her in the air and she began to propel herself forward through the great blue sky. With Mathew alongside her, every limb in Freedom’s body tingled with elation and energy as the wind ruffled her red hair and Mathew’s short, caramel-colored hair. Then Mathew was speaking in a different but achingly familiar voice, “Penny, wake up! Penny! Wake up!”
With a sudden jolt from her brain and her body, waking up suddenly, she remembered who she was. She was Penny Dylan. She had been sleeping, and it had all been a dream. Her little brother, Hunter, gazed down at her. “I can’t believe you were sleep-talking again! You know that my big soccer match is tomorrow morning! What was so important, Penny?!” He looked slightly amused but still very angry.
She sighed as she lay back down on her bed, “Oh, Hunter, I had the most wonderful dream. I was flying. I was free.”