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  • Hailey (Jangan Branch)

The Forest Girl

It was spring where fragrant flowers bloomed everywhere. I went on a picnic in the woods near my neighborhood with my family. I prepared a mat to sit on, my parents prepared food and a camera, and my younger sister unpacked her balloon from last week's cherry blossom festival. She loved it and carried it everywhere she went. When we arrived at the picnic area, Julie and I ran around in excitement. But as she tripped over a rock, her balloon flew away. "My balloon!” she cried. "Don't worry. I will go and get it back for you. Wait here." I picked up my cell phone just in case and went into the deep woods where the balloon flew off to.

When I just entered the path, I felt a suspicious presence behind me. I quickly turned around and saw a girl whose face was half covered under her hair. “Who...are you?" I sputtered. "I am not telling you anything before you answer my questions, stranger. Why are you standing in my area? Did your parents leave you here just like mine?" Her angry voice echoed in the woods… Leave her in this deep, dark place? I was so confused and shocked. I took out my phone to call the police so I could help her. But when she saw me dialing, she took my phone and yelled at me. "I do not need anyone’s help! They will be disgusted by my hideous appearance and make fun of me, just like everybody else." She sounded like she was about to cry. I felt sorry for whatever she went through. "What are you talking about? Your appearance is not strange. It's normal. You look like any other normal elementary school girl like me! But you need some food, clean clothes and a warm house. So let’s get you some help, okay? I promise I will be here for you." As soon as I finished talking, she removed her hair to show me her entire face. And there was an eye missing...

She slowly spoke up. "I… I lost it in a car accident. My parents left me here because they couldn’t stand looking at my face one more day. They called me a monster and locked me in their basement for days. They were probably right. Maybe I am a monster with one eye, haggard and dirty! Are you scared of me now?" I hugged her without saying a word. I hugged her so tight I could feel how bony she was. Her tears were dropping on my shoulder as I hugged her tighter. She finally spoke after a long silence. "Thank you… for not running away from me. You are the only person who didn't yell at me or run away but... hugged me." "We all have our complexes, and like you said you lost your eye in an accident. It wasn’t your fault. Come on. Show me around.” She nodded and said, "I am Florence." "I am Lina. I am glad we met today." I had a glimpse of her smile as we stood up. It was warmer than spring.

As I was chattering with my lovely new friend, the balloon came to my mind. "Oh no, the balloon! I promised my sister to get her balloon back." "I know my way around here. Let me help you." "Thanks, Florence." I followed her down the path, and we stopped in front of an old tree. There it was, stuck in between decaying branches. Florence took a glance at my face and started climbing the tree without any hesitation. She got to it in a blink of an eye and landed lightly as if it was her hundredth time. She handed me the balloon and said, “Here, fair and square. Your sister is lucky to have you around all the time.” I thanked and hugged her goodbye. I promised her I would come by every weekend to bring her food and hang out. On my way back, the grass felt soft underfoot and the whiff of floral scent was gently touching my face. It must have been because of my lovely new best friend, Florence, that everything felt more beautiful.

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