Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Into the Land of the Elves: "They Fascinate Me!"

The Diary of Miss Aidyn Hall, elf friend
August 6
7:30 PM
“They Fascinate Me!”
           
I didn’t want Apple Blossom to get soaked again, so I let her use one of my rain shells. It was much too big for her to wear, so I had to wrap it around her like a blanket. She didn’t protest, and in fact she seemed to like being wrapped up so snugly in the warm jacket. “I wish we had clothes as warm as this,” she said, snuggling against it. “Even our winter pelts aren’t quite so warm.”
I had to carry her, and when I picked her up she wrapped her arms around my shoulder and pressed her head against me. It was a wonderful feeling to be so trusted and loved. “Will we see anymore humans?” she asked a little nervously.
“I can’t promise that we won’t,” I said truthfully, “but I can promise that they won’t hurt you.”
            But we didn’t see anybody as we made our way to the magnolia archway. As I waded through the mud that packed against my boots, I realized that no one in their right mind would be out here. Even the Grand Elder Guardian had taken shelter from the pouring rain, but I could see the other guardians watching us from under leaves and thick patches of brush. As we made our way through to the Greenwood, the trees shut out the rain enough for me to set Apple Blossom down. “All right?” I asked as I wiped her face with my slicker sleeve. She nodded.
            Someone was waiting for us on the other side of the bridge. My heart skipped a beat—I was terrified that it would turn out to be one of the palace servants, or a courtier, or Apple Blossom’s nursemaid (she did still have one, even at ten), or even the queen herself. It was hard to see through the rain, but when we got a little closer I saw that it was only Raindrop.
            “Hey there,” I said, giving her a little wave. “What are you doing out here in this nasty weather?”
            “I could ask you the same thing,” said Raindrop. “You never come around when it rains. And Apple Blossom, where have you been? Everybody’s been looking for you!” Oh great!
            “I was…” Apple Blossom began, but I interrupted her; “She found her way to my house…you know, in the human world. She wanted to see where I go when it rains, and she wanted to see what it was like. I found her at my door earlier this afternoon. We waited out the rain for a while, and then I decided that I didn’t want her going home by herself, and I wanted to make sure that everyone would know where she really was. So here I am.” By the end of my explanation, Raindrop looked as if she had seen a ghost. For a few moments, her mouth formed a perfect O shape until she was able to stammer out a response.
            “You…you were in the…the human world, Apple Blossom?”
            Apple Blossom nodded. “Yes, I was.”
            “Are you sure that’s the truth?” Raindrop asked. I could tell that she really didn’t want it to be. But Apple Blossom said, “It is the truth. I was going to make up a lie, but…” She looked at me. “I couldn’t ask Aidyn to lie, too.”
            For a few moments, poor Raindrop had been struck dumb. She kept looking up at the sky, shaking her head, as if she just could not—or would not—believe  what she heard even after being told it was the truth. Finally, she said, “Did…did you run into other humans?”
            “We didn’t run into any,” Apple Blossom said truthfully. “We saw one, only one. But he didn’t approach us. I don’t even think that he saw us.”
            “But suppose he did?” cried Raindrop, her eyes wide.
            “He didn’t,” I assured her. “I am one hundred percent sure of that.”
            Raindrop was silent again for a moment. Then she said grimly, “Apple Blossom, you know that you’re going to be in trouble.”
            “I know,” Apple Blossom said with a sigh. I squeezed her hand. The two of us followed behind Raindrop as she scampered into the village, shouting, “Apple Blossom is back! She’s here, and she’s all right!” The next thing I knew, we were swarmed. There were officials from the palace dressed in gold trimmed green cloaks. There were armored soldiers other than the green-clad civil soldiers, carrying long swords at their sides. There were palace courtiers and servants. There were ordinary villagers—men, women, and children. This, I knew, was only a fraction of the search effort. What amounted to the entire Greenwood must have been out there looking for her for who knows how long! And now a woman whose silks and velvets indicated a palace attendant was scooping her up and kissing her forehead. She kissed her about five times before wrapping her arms around her and rocking her gently, the way that a human might do with a lost child who had just been found. “Are you all right, dear?” the tearful woman asked.
            “I’m fine, Beryl,” Apple Blossom said. “Aidyn found me.”
            “Aidyn the human?” the woman asked, slowly turning to look at me. My god, if looks could kill! “Yes,” clarified Apple Blossom. “She took me into her house and kept me safe and took care of me.”
            “There’s more to it than that,” I told Beryl. “Where are her parents?”
            Beryl’s response was to continue to stare daggers at me before carrying Apple Blossom off into the increasing swarm. Raindrop followed, and I was close behind. The armored soldiers pushed ahead, calling, “The princess has been found! She is found, and she is safe!” The cloaked officials trailed behind them.
            “Why did Mother and Father send out all of these people?” Apple Blossom asked Beryl. “They know I go out when it rains sometimes.”
            “They also know that they can always locate you when you do,” Beryl said sternly. “Only this time, things seemed to go a little bit differently, didn’t they?”
            The king and queen arrived before Apple Blossom could say anything further. “Oh, Apple Blossom!” her mother cried, prying her out of Beryl’s arms and wrapping her own arms around her. She dropped a kiss on her daughter’s forehead, and Apple Blossom kissed both of her cheeks and said, “I’m all right, Mother. Really, I am.” Then she was passed to her father, who responded with more hugs and kisses before his face turned very serious.
            “Where did you go, Apple Blossom?” the king asked very sternly. “Don’t tell me you were here in the Greenwood, for I know that you were not. Remember that I can always tell when you are lying to me.” Tall for a Jadeite, the man surpassed my height and conducted himself in a very imposing manner. I wanted to say something, but there seemed no appropriate time. Apple Blossom looked at the ground and said, “I was in the human world, Father.”
            “The human world!” In an instant, the king turned his firey blue eyes on me. I wanted to shrink. “You brought her there!” he hollered.
            “I didn’t!” I protested, taking a step back.
            “She didn’t bring me there, Father!” Apple Blossom said. “She only found me there! I went on my own!”
            Now the king turned those firey eyes on his daughter. “Why would you do such a thing?!” he roared, but she didn’t recoil or even look away. She looked right into that blue fire and said, “I just wanted to see what it was like.”
            The king pressed his fingers to his temple in exasperation. Then he unleashed a barrage of nasty-sounding words in a language that I could not understand, though I figured that it must have been the tree elf language. I gasped, but whatever he was saying must not have been too bad, as Apple Blossom was not crying and the others were not expressing any sort of shock or disgust. Even Raindrop only hung her head as if she was familiar with this sort of display and felt ashamed. Just a parental lecture, I supposed.
            And just like a typical child, Apple Blossom interrupted this lecture. To each of her father’s laments, she had a willful response in the same language. Back and forth, the two of them argued, until Apple Blossom shouted in clear, plain English, “Because they fascinate me, Father!”
            Everyone was silent. The king took a step back and shook his head as if he needed to clear it to believe what he had heard. The queen’s eyes were wide, her mouth forming a small O shape. The crowd was struck dumb. My mind was working, wondering what on Earth she could have possibly meant by that. Who fascinated her? Then I realized: humans! Humans fascinated her. They did not frighten her the way that they frightened the others, they fascinated her. That’s why she wanted to see our world. That’s why she wanted to make sense of the books and find a connection. That’s why, except for when she saw my neighbor, she never showed any real fear of humans. On that very first day, she had told me that she had always wanted to meet a human, to play with a human, to befriend a human. She wanted a human at her birthday party, to entertain and to introduce to her friends and family. She had approached me that day without fear, and showed me off as if I was a thing to marvel at rather than to fear. She never thought that I was a monster. She never thought that humans were monsters, and all of the kindness that I had shown her and her friends only affirmed her viewpoint.
            The king spoke more softly now, and whatever he was saying sounded like a question. Apple Blossom answered with, “I’d like for us to speak in c…I mean English, Father. I want Aidyn to be able to hear.” The wagging tongues of the surrounding crowd became much more active. The king looked at me and then back at his daughter before nodding. I was astounded by how much power the little girl held over this king. Since Apple Blossom’s birthday, I had only ever seen the king in passing. But from what Apple Blossom had told me about him, his love for her came before all else, and he placed her on the pedestal of a mini goddess. I could see that now. The man loved his daughter so much that he gave her the power to talk him down.  
            “They do fascinate me, Father,” Apple Blossom went on. “They are so different from us, yet so much like us. They eat different foods, live in different homes, have lots of strange tools and devices, and have no ability to channel the jade essences. And yet they speak the same, have the same feelings, can do so many of the same things, and they even almost look the same. We are not so different. Somehow, I always knew that. I always doubted that all humans were the monsters I was taught they were. When I met Aidyn, I learned that I had been right! Now, I am more fascinated by humans than I have ever been!”
            A young lady in the crowd spoke up. “Princess, don’t you realize that she could be trying to trap you? She’s fostering that fascination, doing whatever she can to entice you, filling your mind with interest in her and her world…and then she’ll be able to lure you in! She’ll have you right where she wants you!”
            “She wouldn’t do that!” Raindrop cried.
            “I’d never even dream of it!” I chimed in.
            “How dare you say such things about Aidyn!” shouted Apple Blossom.
            “It’s dangerous to trust her!” insisted a man in the crowd.
            “She is my friend!” retorted Apple Blossom.
            “Mine too!” Raindrop said.
            “A human could never be the friend of a Jadeite!” an older woman cried.
            Finally, the queen called the crowd to silence. She clapped her hands together loudly until each and every pair of eyes was on her, and the soldiers commanded the attention of the few who weren’t so willing to give it. Apple Blossom scurried over to me and wrapped her arms around my waist. I laid my hand on top of her head.
            “This situation is certainly far from the ordinary,” the queen began, “and I understand your concerns, as any abnormal series of events will incite concern. However, we have no reason to believe that Aidyn is untrustworthy. My daughter has always shown good judgement when it comes to choosing friends, and from what I have observed, this is no exception. Aidyn is adored by my daughter and well received by her friends and their families. She looks after Apple Blossom and keeps her safe as well as entertaining her, and she has never indicated even once that she might lead her astray.” She turned to me then and nodded. “Aidyn, I thank you for bringing our daughter—our princess—safely home, and I apologize for the impulsive accusations of my husband and certain citizens of the Greenwood. Human or otherwise, you are our daughter’s companion, and you have given us reason to trust you. As such, we shall always accept you with open arms.”  
            I was so stunned. I didn’t know what to say. My arm was around Apple Blossom, who gasped and tugged at my shirt excitedly upon hearing her mother’s words. I simply nodded and said, “Your majesty, I…I thank you.” My voice had returned to me. “Yes, thank you. Thank you for your acceptance, for your hospitality, and above all…for your trust.” My heart fluttered so much that I was sure it was going to soar straight up into the sky. Apple Blossom had her arms around me, and in a sudden surge of emotion I scooped her up off of her feet and embraced her. I snuggled against her as she wrapped her arms around my shoulders. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Painted Darkness (Once Upon a Time in the Fairytale Forest)

Note: Thought it is never mentioned, the narrator's name is Lenore.

Darkness here, and nothing more.
            My wings do not pierce the darkness, but become a part of it. My entire body becomes one with the increasing blackness as I make my way through the night. I am moved by the peace, the solitude, and the hint of beautiful sadness that only the dark can bring. The blackness deepens and I know that the night is ideal; it’s the perfect shade of black, so silent, so secretive…and so treacherous. It’s the kind of deep black night in which weary travelers are led astray, those who wander are lost, and fools are swallowed up by the darkness. It’s the kind of night that gives way to thoughts of fear, of hopelessness, of unseen hobgoblins lurking in the shadows…and of tragedy.
            I find my perch on a branch completely enveloped by the dark. To the ordinary observer, I am nothing more than a spot of black paint in the image of the night. Such an ordinary observer could not know that I am watching, waiting, and anticipating the next unlikely visitor that the darkness will send to me. My feathers are ruffled by the winds of the early spring night and the chill strikes me so deep in my bones. The atmosphere is so perfect that it brings a tear to my eye.
            And then he comes to me, a spry-looking young man, his hands jammed into his pockets and his hair tousled by the wind. He tries to hide the fear in his eyes, as young men are apt to do. But there is nobody to hide from except for me, and it’s no use trying to hide fear from me. The young men are the most amusing, as they never realize that their fear is as plain as the light of the moon until you play with them a bit, and then they understand that they are not as tough and collected as they would like to be. I emerge from the darkness and perch on an old log just an arm’s length away from this young man. I call out to him.
            He glances at me for only a moment, but in that moment, I can see the terror. He’d like to think that I am only a bird, but I am a raven. Ravens are the harbingers of death and despair, the night birds that lead the lost to their doom. But he is not ready to reveal his fear. He passes me by and walks off into the night, and I follow him. I perch on a low-hanging branch and call out to him again.
            He will not look at me. He is a fool, with his head held high. He will not look at me until I abandon this form that melts into the darkness a little too well. First I shed my birdy talons, then the thick black feathers on my chest. I cast aside my wings and my beak, and a plait of long black hair forms from the feathers on my head. In a raven’s place now stands a woman, with skin as pale as the light of the moon.
            “Young man!”
            He starts, and then he turns to look at me. His eyes are wide enough to pierce the night, and so hopelessly confused that I cannot help but laugh. “Oh, what an amusing character you are!” I say, before tightly wrapping my arm around the young man’s shoulder. “I do believe that I am going to have my share of fun with you!”

            My, does the little imp ever struggle and fuss! The fool that he is wants to run off into the night. But I know the night and its ways much better than he ever could. “Stop your fussing!” I order him, and pull back on his arm when he attempts to tear away from me. “My company is preferable to the cruelty of the night! Run away, and the darkness will surely consume you!”
            “I don’t care!” he insists. “Just let me go! Leave me alone!”
            I wrap both arms around him to keep him from running loose, and I lift him from the ground as if he’s nothing but a mere toddler. He screams, but there is no one around to hear him but the darkness, which does not care. My arms are wrapped around his legs and he cannot kick. His arms are firmly pressed against my torso and he cannot strike out. I can feel him trembling like a leaf in the wind. Even in my firm grasp, the fool struggles, but it’s all in vain. When he realizes that he cannot escape, he begins to cry. Alas, his fa├žade of bravery has been stripped away, revealing who he truly is! The foolish young man who was so sure of himself in the night is now nothing more than a frightened little boy, and I do not feel the least bit sorry for him. In fact, I am greatly amused by his predicament.
            Together, the young man and I proceed into the darkness. He looks up at me with his desperate eyes, still filled with tears, and says, “What are you going to do with me?”
            “What do you think I plan to do with you?” I inquire.
            “I don’t know,” he chokes out. “You’re kidnapping me.”
            “Am I, now?”
            “Of course you are.” I can feel him shudder.
            I don’t provide any further comment. One thing that the night has taught me is that silence can easily play with one’s mind; the mind is forced to fill in the blanks by itself without a voice or a sound to do so, and the mind cannot always be trusted. We are both silent for the rest of the way to my home, and I know that his mind is filling in the blanks.
            In the darkest area of the forest, where very little light reaches even in the day, we reach the secluded little manor that I call home. I carry my guest inside and gently set him down on the soft black couch. I am not worried that he will flee, as I have effectively eliminated his hope of escape. He looks up at me with the eyes of a frightened child. He is still trembling.
            I proceed to my piano, its white keys providing a subtle contrast to the rest of my black world. I place my fingers on the keys. The dirge comes so naturally to me that it’s as if it plays of its own accord. “Black is the color of the painted darkness in the picture of the night,” I say over the sound of the dirge. “It is the color of the unknown, that great beast so feared by all. It is the color of uncertainty, of the cold fear that strikes you in every bone, every muscle. It is the color of ebony coffins, mourning clothes, the hidden journey of the dead into places unknown…”
            “Why tell me this?” the young man asks.
            “But alas, black is the color of the comfort of sleep,” I continue. “It is the color of the feathers of the wise old raven; that clever bird knows that the painted darkness can be a thing of beauty, while others may call it an eyesore. The darkness cannot be good or bad. It cannot be your friend and it cannot be your enemy. Like the raven, you can never be sure of its intentions.”
            “What are you saying?” the young man asks rather defensively. “Are you talking about yourself? Are you talking about me?”
            “I speak of the night,” I elaborate, “and how beneath its painted blackness, it is an entity of pure grey. It must be respected, for you never know its true nature. It must be heeded, for you never know its motives. It cannot be tamed, nor can it be reasoned with. But it can offer you safety and comfort just as it can offer you peril and unease.” With that, my dirge ends and I shed a single tear.
            “I understand now,” the young man says. “I get it. You’re telling me to be more careful at night.”
             There is nothing more for me to say. One by one, I blow out the dim candles lined up along the polished stone wall. In the meager light of the final candle, I can see my guest’s eyes begin to fall. Enveloped by the uneasy darkness of a room, he will feel warm blankets wrapped around him as he falls into the comforting darkness of sleep. When he awakens, it will be light, and I will be gone.  

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Princess and the Soldier (Once Upon a Time in the Fairytale Forest)

      In this great big world, there are people who manage to be loved and wanted by just about everyone they know. Alas, not everybody can be as fortunate as this, and those who are not can get by just as well with being loved and wanted by a select and special few. It takes a truly poor, unlucky soul to be made to manage in this world with nobody at all to love and want them. I understand very well that though it is thankfully rare, these kinds of unfortunate souls do exist. I was one of them.
   Even the toymaker’s apprentice knew that I would not be wanted. I was made as part of a regiment of fifteen tall tin soldiers, all the same: clean uniforms of stony grey, cedar colored hair trimmed to our ears, rounded caps, rifles at our sides. The only differences were the number and order of medals pinned to our lapels…and me, Avaline, the only woman in an army of fourteen men. “This one’s a lady,” the toymaker’s apprentice said incredulously.
            “Yes, she is,” said the toymaker.
            “Well, these are soldiers,” said the apprentice, “soldiers for a war. There are no ladies in war.”
            “Well, now there is one,” insisted the toymaker, “and her name is Avaline.”
            But the apprentice shook his head. “The boy won’t want her. He’ll only want the men, and then you’ll have wasted all of that tin to make her. What will you do with her then?”
            “We’ll see what he wants,” said the toymaker, and he patted my shoulder the way that a father would. He did not see that I was holding back tears.
            “The boy” was the toymaker’s son. It was his birthday, and we were meant to be his very best gift. We were polished until our tin gleamed like silver in the light, and then we were instructed to march into the boy’s bedroom, where he sat surrounded by all of the other toys he had received. When he saw us marching in, a smile lit up his rosy face, and I was so delighted that I forget about what the apprentice had said. I wanted to smile back, but I could not while I was on duty. The boy looked over our stony faces, our clean uniforms, the imposing rifles at our sides. “These are yours, Walter!” the toymaker said cheerily. “Do you like them?’
            “I like all of them except for the girl,” the boy said. I nearly dropped my rifle and fell to my knees! I thought I felt my tin heart sink straight down into my stomach! I wondered if the men on all sides of me could feel that I was trembling. The toymaker hid the disappointment in his voice. “Really? You don’t want Avaline?”
            “No, just the men,” said Walter.
            “Are you sure you don’t want her?” the toymaker appealed. “She’s a major, you know.”
            “I’m sure,” insisted Walter. “I don’t want a girl major. So can I have the men?”
            Don’t you cry, Avaline, I ordered myself. You are a major in a respectable army, not a weeping maiden. “All right, Walter,” said the toymaker with a sigh. “You can have the men. I’ll keep Avaline. Come back here, Avaline.” I didn’t want to move. To leave my post was to go against everything, but it was an order from my superior. I took my place at the toymaker’s side, keeping my head held high though it felt too heavy to do so. I remained stone-faced as Walter led my men away, and they followed him dutifully without giving me even a glance. The toymaker took me by the hand. “I’m awfully sorry, Avaline,” he said. “I’m afraid that’s just the way that little boys are. But I won’t be getting rid of you. I’m far too proud of you for that.” He gave my hand a squeeze and led me back to his workshop. I was off duty now, and it was all right to show my tears.

            I could have stayed with the toymaker forever. He treated me like a daughter, and whenever I could I helped him around the workshop to repay his kindness. He never made me feel as though I was not wanted, but at the same time he was unable to make me feel as though I was. As much as he treated me like a part of his family, I knew that I was really an outsider who didn’t belong anywhere. My former army fought all of their battles without me and seemed to have forgotten that I ever was a part of them. Walter had assigned a new man to take my place as a major; the only indicators that I ever was a soldier were my uniform, my military-issue rifle, and the medals pinned to my lapel. I did not feel like myself anymore, and I had never gotten a chance to feel as though I truly belonged. So that is why I decided to set out and find a place where I did belong, provided that such a place existed. Late one evening, long after everybody—the toymaker, his wife and son, his apprentice, and all of the other toys—had retired to bed, I took a piece of paper and a pen from the toymaker’s desk. I wrote:

Went out into the world, as it is a soldier’s duty. Don’t worry about me, for I will be all right. Thank you for everything. Avaline

            I quietly crept into the toymaker’s bedroom, where he slept peacefully beside his pretty wife, who belonged to him and him to her. I set the note down on his bedside table, and I just had to look at him for a few moments before I could truly decide if I was willing to leave the man who had granted me life and treated me so kindly. I did not want to lose the memory of his face—his bushy, dark beard and his warm, lively eyes, his frizzy dark hair, his good-natured smile. He had treated me with love that I knew the world may never show me. But what good was love, I thought, if I did not truly belong? I kissed both of his cheeks and departed from the room. With only my rifle, my medals, and the uniform that bore the name I did not wish to forget, I stepped out into the great big world.

            I longed to find anybody that I could belong to, but I never dreamed that I could ever belong to somebody like Annabel. Who could have ever imagined that an old wayward tin soldier could be loved by a woman with all of the beauty and regality of a princess? In the morning, I look out the window and see her reaching out to the sun in greeting, illuminated like a wild divinity of the forest. She clasps her hands and twirls on her toes, flaring out her golden hair and her silken gown. Her eyes catch me smiling at her, and she smiles back. She rushes to the window and kisses my lips, and I know in my heart that this is love. Something I had never gotten a chance to experience seems so real and so effortless with her, and it’s astounding just how real a feeling that I’ve never felt before can be. I know that I could never love anyone as I love Annabel.
            Annabel had also been cast aside by a child who did not want her. The little girl had requested a lovely china doll to be her friend; one with sea-green eyes, rosy cheeks, long black hair, and a beautiful castle and garden for the two of them to play in. Well, the dollmaker worked long and hard for many days and many nights, but on the very last day of work she realized that she had no black hair and no time to find any. She had hoped that the little girl would be happy with long golden locks, but it was not to be. The little girl took one look at Annabel and burst into angry tears, and her mother cursed and berated the poor dollmaker for being unable to give her daughter what she had asked for. So Annabel was left all alone in her lofty castle, with nobody at all to make her feel loved and wanted.
            I loved Annabel the very moment I caught sight of her leaning her pretty golden head out of one of the castle windows. But I wouldn’t have dared to speak to her. I was an outcast tin soldier, wandering like a vagrant with no real purpose, and she was on par with a princess. Surely, I was unworthy to even look her in the eye, much less actually speak to her and ask if she would have me! I was frozen to the spot, so overwhelmed by her beauty that I did not notice the first drop of the first rain since my departure.  By the time I came out of my spell, it was too late to search for any sort of decent shelter. I felt the cold water seeping into my joints. It slowed me down, forcing me into a limp and then a pitiful crawl. Finally, brought down to my hands and knees, I managed to drag myself under an old willow tree—the closest thing to a shelter that I could possibly make it to at the moment. Of course, it wasn’t enough. Every part of me was all locked up, and the rain continued to pour upon me on all sides. Cold drops slipped off of the willow leaves and seeped into my shoulders, my head, and my neck. I was done.

            As a rule, Annabel and I don’t like children. How can we? Our experiences with them showed us that they are horrid, spoiled brats who only ever think of themselves. But every rule has its exceptions; my life would have ended that day, had it not been for two children. Their names were Laura and Hana, and though they were both older than ungracious little Walter, I did not trust them. It was Laura, the younger one, who found me all locked up beneath the willow tree. She was a pleasant-looking child with a pretty face, but I still expected her to laugh or kick me or throw rocks. I did not expect her to free me from my rusted prison.
            Laura and Hana’s kindnesses reminded me of the toymaker. Together, the two of them guided me until my body remembered how to move. Their careful, gentle attentions brought warmth and health back to me, and I began to feel like a soldier again, not an unfortunate pile of rusted tin. The two of them were good company, and it wasn’t very long before I considered them my friends—the only friends I had ever had since the toymaker. I forgot that they were children, and I forgot that children were not to be trusted.
And so I confided to my friends that I was in love with a beautiful china doll that lived the life of a princess, in a world so far from and so above my own. I confided to them that I could never love another as much as I loved her, and that she was the only reason I even understood that a thing called love existed. But I concluded by clarifying that there was no way that a beauty like her would ever love an old outcast tin soldier, and by the time I had finished, the assertion of this reality had driven me to very undignified tears.
Toys are not able to speak to children in the way that children are able to speak to eachother. So when Laura and Hana understood my plight, even in the very limited ability I had to get it across to them, I knew that they were my friends for sure. And in that moment, anything at all seemed to be possible, if it was possible that someone like me could have true friends.
           
            Thanks to those two girls, Annabel and I learned so much more than just how to love eachother. We learned that there are friends for us. We learned that the world is not necessarily as cruel as it seems. Above all, we learned that we were not meant to live in this world without the love of another. I realize now that even those poor souls out there, still wandering the world with nobody to love and want them, must have somebody out there who will someday learn to do just that. They may not know it yet, but it is there.
            This world is a good one, filled with so many wonderful things. I think about my old squad mates and I pity them; their life is a war, and battle is all that they will ever know for the longest time. By now, the only indicators of my past as a major are the markers on my uniform and the medals on my lapel. My squad mates, who have forgotten that I ever existed, will only know the brutality of fighting in pointless war after pointless war, led by a childish little tyrant. But I know what it is to be more than a soldier. I know what it is to be a knight to a beautiful princess, and I know what it is to love. If you ask me, this is far more valuable than medals or titles could ever be.