by Cathy Zhang Qihua (age 16)
coordinator for Maple Leaf International Academy: Mirjana Petrovic-Filipovic
school: Maple Leaf International Academy
This ancient wood was veiled in tender sunshine, and its branches swayed gently in the wind. It was quiet outside. And it was boring.
I looked at all these delightful views with no feeling. I comprehended this wood well enough. I knew each path and each stone in it; I even knew that little moss on tree roots stretching out of the ground.
I lived in a village which was nearby the wood. Only people who had magical powers lived there. Indeed, I had a supernatural ability as well. I could understand the plant’s language, which was dull.
Other kids could make up a fire with their hands, freeze the lake even in summer or fix broken things in only one second. They always flaunted their powers when they played together. But for me, I could hear grasses arguing about who was the owner of the dewdrop while I sat in the meadow.
No one thought my ability was remarkable, not even myself. Actually, I hated it.
It was time for lunch. I stood up and wanted to go back home.
When I slipped into the village and tried to hide in the shadow of the eaves, a boy saw me.
“Who’s that?” he shouted, and a laugh stretched his voice.
More kids found me, “That is messy!” a tall girl replied in a sharp voice before I could react.
All kids guffawed. They walked toward me and formed a circle. “Messy! Messy! ” they yelled in chorus.
Once I chatted with a long vine that grew unkempt leaves, I got this nickname.
I had to raise my head to stare at their eyes. I hoped I could spout fire from my hands to scare them, but I couldn’t. Everyone looked at me with unfriendly faces. It seemed that I was a rotting apple stacked in their eyes.
I was retreating. I was angry. Hurt! But I couldn`t stand for myself. I was being lonely, being laughed at. Everyone knew that, but no one helped me! So I ran away quickly. I wanted to leave here, leave these people and their cold hearts.
I rushed out of the village and ran past the wood, the lake, and the meadow under the burning hot sunshine, toward a direction I had never been. Everything kept silent, even clamorous grasses. I could only hear my heart punching my ribs crazily. Why? Why did kids not like me just because I didn’t have some extraordinary ability? I looked at my hands and tried to wave them. Someone could freeze the lake and hold a ball of fire in their hands. But not me. Why couldn`t I do it? Who wants to understand plants` chat? That’s useless!
“It is unfair!” I shouted with disappointment. “That`s so unfair!”
“What is unfair?” a weak voice asked.
I stopped and looked around.
I was on a hillside. And there was a pine in the shadow.
“I’m a pine,” he said.
“I know that,” I replied impatiently.
Two living things are standing on the hillside, a tall and thin pine, besides a pale and weak child. The wind kissed the child’s face gently and went past. Yet the kid looked sad. He kicked pebbles on the rugged and rough ground.
“Don’t speak to me!” I yelled to interrupt his word, ”I can’t understand you! I don’t want to understand you!”
But the pine didn’t listen. ”Did you know? There hasn’t been anyone who could understand me. I have no friends. The most meaningful thing to do is wait for the sunshine to light my needles at noon every day. Most of the time, I stand in darkness,” his voice sounded cheerful, ”Sometimes I think about what kind of life I would have if I were born in a wood. Maybe I`d have some friends.”
I stopped walking in circles. I stared at him. Suddenly, I wanted to do something cruel, although I knew it was wrong.
“I come from the woods,” I said with a rigid attitude, “People there are not friendly.”
“Oh,” to my surprise, he was not pitied at all, ”Now I am glad that I wasn’t born in the woods. I can wait for the sunshine whole-hearted now.” His voice was peaceful now,” I was born here. I have no choice. Like I grow sharp needles on my whole body. I can’t choose that, either.”
I was surprised, and I felt sorry now. I pondered deeply, then asked carefully, “But don’t you feel pain?”
“Actually, I did, but only in the past.” The pine didn’t have a face, but I knew he was smiling. “One day, I realized that no matter how strange I am, that’s me, myself.”
The word grabbed my heart and filled something in. It seemed that a strange idea was growing, expanding there quickly. I heard my voice tremble, “But—-don’t you feel lonely?”
“Grasses dislike me,” the pine replied softly, ”they are afraid of my needles. You can’t find any other plants on this hillside. As I said, I have no friend.”
He didn’t answer my question directly. But I thought I have already known the answer. Suddenly, I had no more questions to ask. We were silent.
We were isolated because we were different. For the pine, the difference was sharp needles. For me, it was my weak ability. Although the pine was lonely, he kept his gentle and peaceful attitude. He could find something to do to make his life more meaningful. He accepted his difference from his heart. So what should I do?
I thought I knew the answer. I raised my head with boiling-hot tears in my eyes.
“Thank you,” I whispered.
Winter came. It was getting cold outside.
It was Christmas. I went to the hillside with my gift. I walked past the woods and the frozen lake. I heard other kids laughing and calling my nickname behind me, but I ignored them and went ahead.
“Merry Christmas,” I said gently to the grass under my feet,” Merry Christmas!” they replied in chorus.
Finally, I arrived at the hillside, “Merry Christmas, pine,” I said. “Merry Christmas,” he answered.
I hung my gift on the pine’s top. It was a light that was star-shaped. I turned it on and looked at the light that covered each needle.
“It is sunset now,” the pine said softly.
“Yes,” I replied with a smile.
The gold sunshine touched the white snow as if the two lonely souls snuggled closely.