When I was a little kid, I always thought that gold was the most important thing in the world. Sometimes I would drag my mom towards a jewelry shop and sit there, ogling at the glimmering objects laid carefully against the red velvet. My hand reaching out. Begging and begging the glass that separated us to shatter and go away. But this one memory changed my heart from gold, to a living, beating thing.
Triss sighs. “I don’t think I’ll be able to make it that far! Doesn't it look deeper there?” Triss whines, her hand tugging agitatedly at the loose pieces of hair that escaped her bun.
I had known Triss since birth. My mother and her mother met at the hospital, while giving birth to us. We were born just one day apart from each other. She was a friend that I trusted and loved and she always returned that back to me with a generous helping. Sometimes I actually wondered if she was magical. Every second, every breath that passed between us was like the first stroke of paint brushing against a blank sheet of paper, creating our own fairy tale unlike any story ever told. A whole new kingdom would be painted in our minds, me as a princess, Triss as a queen. We were met with magical lands where we were swept in hurricanes of imagination, stretching the bonds of reality. Triss and I together was a new story just waiting to burst at it seams, to begin unfolding itself as it did on this one lovely day.
Both of us were standing on a dry, sandy bank above the gurgling stream, daring each other to go explore the gold. A gentle golden glow flowed over the vicious waves, taunting me. Leering at me. The waves seemed terrifying and the water looked frighteningly cold. But I really didn’t want Triss to think that I was a scaredy cat. I wanted her to remember me as a brave leader not a cowering lion from the Wizard of Oz! I cleared my throat hoping that my feelings towards the stream would disappear down my throat as well.
“Triss.” I tell her nonchalantly. I don’t want her to see I‘m nervous too.
“I don’t think it reaches past our knees there. It’s probably the same as here.” I mutter.
But it’s really obvious that she doesn’t believe me. I wish she would though.
I was at my grandma’s house for summer break. At the age of ten, the sweet green grass growing in the back yard and the smell of my grandma’s Sugar Apples cooling on the kitchen counter was just my picture of heaven. Triss had decided to spend the summer with me, so her family rented a house right next to ours. I knew it was hard for her to suddenly come here after all the years she had lived in her cozy home town but she told me that she was just overjoyed to see me for the whole summer. But this wasn’t what had lifted my spirits the most. In fact grandma had bought a membership card for the local lake! I was super excited. I could see right from the start that this was not going to be a boring, old summer.
It had all began when Triss had spotted an overgrown path caked with dirt and rotting leaves, leading from the lake to the unknown.
“Hey, what is that?” Triss wondered out loud, her head bobbing towards a corner of the property of the lake. I strained my eyes to see clearly, blinking the water out of my eyes. We had been swimming in the lake for what had already been hours and were chilling out on a sunny patch of concrete.
“Oh my goodness! It looks just like a path to a fairy tale story!” I cried as I jumped up from the concrete, scraping my knees in the process. The path smelled pungent yet sweet and had a welcoming appearance. As I walked, I dreamed up what might actually be waiting for us at the end of the path.
“Maybe it’s a castle full of coins, built on sand made of diamonds!” I exclaimed.
“Or a swimming pool made of melted silver and gold!” Triss chorused. And when we were standing there gaping at what had to be our very own magical stream, we didn’t know whether to be disappointed or overjoyed.
* * *
It was like a small gift from nature. Precisely, a miracle. With trees framing the edges, Swamp Candles swaying in the afternoon breeze, and the water as pure as crystals, it was one beautiful sight. Time flew by as we attempted to catch some silvery fish that streamed across our legs and into hidden rocks, creating imaginary food out of the leaves and branches littered here and there. Gazing at the clear blue sky dreaming of imaginary worlds where the trees could talk and the flowers could dance. Laughing together while sitting on the bank of the stream, telling hilarious stories that had happened during the long school year with the sun warming our faces like a faint golden glow. Our utopia was interrupted by the sudden words…
“It looks like gold!” Triss says to me, face thoughtful as if she had been contemplating for a long time. What did she just say? It was as if time stopped. I ran over to her and dug my nails into her arm.
“Where?” I breathed.
“Over there.” She waves her hand excitedly towards a small clearing at the edge of the stream. It seemed gloomy and dark down there and the water had a different edge to it. Not a pleasant gurgling sound. It was more like a dominant grumbling, sending tiny vibrations against the water. Pushing away my stubborn imagination, I lumbered over to the place Triss had indicated earlier. Clear as glass, I could see exactly what she was talking about. Hidden behind some rocks, I could see pieces of golden glittering objects, mixing with the pale blue hues of the water. Mesmerized, I leaned closer. It was gold. Real gold. The kind of gold that shone brilliantly, glimmering like a thousand watt light. As I pictured my family gaping at me, all leaning in, trying to catch a glimpse of the breathtaking object in my hand, I forgot all about Triss. I just knew that I needed that gold no matter what. And here we were, both of us, trying to muster up the courage to cross the stream where the water was dark and murky, and seemed to growl at us, baring its fangs viciously.
No matter how much I tried to hide it, I was one big scaredy cat. I couldn’t watch horror movies at all and even the mention of Chucky sent me diving under my covers. So I wasn’t really that surprised when Triss was the one to at last to begin the journey towards the other end of the stream. Squelching through the water, hands swaying in the air keeping balance, letting out a yelp once in awhile when she stepped on something unexpected, Triss continued down the stream. Her eyes looked wide and searching, her lips pursed in concentration. Finally bending down, her face set in an expression of determination, she groped around blindly. I held my breath, as the seconds became hours my thoughts hazy with worry. Get it! Get it! I chanted in my head. Suddenly, her face scrunched up as if she was trying to hold onto something that was slipping away. Sweat beaded against her upper lip. Gasping, she scooped something up from the muddy bottom of the stream. Her eyes sparked up and her lips parted into the most brilliant smile that I had ever seen. Triumphantly she held it up and then stopped. I watched as her face fell.
“It’s not gold.” She called back, her voice a thick mixture of desperation and longing. Seriously? I whimpered softly. It was all Triss’s fault. If she hadn’t mentioned this, I wouldn’t even have been bothered for this whole drama.
“It’s all your fault. It was your stupid idea to do this in first place.” I huffed and turned my head so that I wasn’t facing her anymore.
“Hey. I tried my best. Please don’t blame me!” She pleaded as she trudged towards me.
“Whatever. Just leave me alone.” I retorted. What a stupid friend she was. So much for my hopes then. Already looked as if summer was turning out to be a bummer.
“It’s really pretty though. Look at these blue and purple swirls.” She added as if trying to brighten the mood. She returned to my side and clasped her cold, pale hand into mine. I was just about to pull back when I was flooded with a cascade of memories. Us eating s'mores in art camp. Me walking down the street holding her hand as she pretended to be a horse galloping around in the middle of a grassland in Africa. Sharing a candy cane on Christmas looking up at the stars and trying to count them. And then it hit me.
Gold doesn’t matter. Nor do the diamonds or the rubies. They are special and yes, beautiful things but my friendship with Triss was priceless. I would never be able to buy our special memories together. If she was gone I would never be able to replace her with any other being on earth. Our bond, our friendship was our treasure. And we stood there together for a long time, our hands linked together, connecting an invisible bond that was undestroyable. As the sun set over the glimmering trees in the distance, I listened. I listened to my living, beating heart.
To all misfortunes and hardships, Resilience lashes back - refusing to be discouraged, inspiring others during battle. Galloping on a steed of perseverance, protected by an armour of determination, surrounded by shields of courage, he leads the community to victory.