I noticed a face looking at me. I paused, turning towards the figure as she too turned to face me. We approached each other, our gazes skimming over familiar features.
Finally, our eyes met, and everything else fell away. The deep chocolate pools, with a hint of honey – was that always there? I searched those eyes, for that something I had always sought when searching those eyes – for the answer to the question I had been asking since I was a child: Who are you?
I squinted a little, leaning closer. The figure mirrored my actions. Sighing, I stepped back again, and froze as I saw wide, hopeful eyes shining at me. I felt my face soften at those eyes crinkled at the corners in its childishness, laughing at some unknown joke. She smiled wide, and I knew I was smiling back in kind. I saw in her eyes a confident little girl chatting to everyone and anyone; a carefree little girl dancing away at a wedding; an innocent little girl drawing and dreaming of the future.
I went to reach out to her but stopped as in her eyes I saw what I hadn’t before. Sadness. Her smile fell away, and worry gripped her. She was biting her lip, searching my eyes for something. She leaned towards me and whispered: Who are you?
She then sighed and stepped away, and her eyes shone with tears. I lifted a hand to my face and was surprised to find my cheeks wet. I wrapped my arms around myself, and she mirrored the hug I couldn’t give her. She kept staring, waiting for me to say something, anything. I didn’t know what to say, yet unbidden my mouth opened and whispered, “I will protect you.”
She continued to stare. Did she not hear me? Maybe she didn’t believe me.
She then dropped her arms, and her sadness fell away into… nothing. I couldn’t read her eyes anymore. There was no hint of any emotion. Her cold face leaned in, and I saw a quick glimpse of the teenager who shut herself off from the world.
My face, I realised, was now a breath away from hers. I searched her eyes but the bright pools of chocolate were now a dull shadow. I was surprised when she spoke, her voice low: Who are you?
The question didn’t hold the curiosity the little girl had asked her question with. Instead, this question was filled with a deep hopelessness, someone who had given up on ever being given an answer.
We both pulled away, and the youth, suddenly a young woman, frowned. Her lips tightened to a thin line and in her eyes there was hate. A fury so deep I noticed myself take a step back away from her. Her stare was hard, and she in turn stepped forward towards me. I did too, caught by something in her eyes. I saw in them that she was warring with the emotions inside her, the very feelings she had shut away so long ago. Tears began to streak down her face, as she could no longer contain her anger.
She suddenly jerked forward, staring deeply into my eyes. I was held frozen, as she rasped out: Who are you?
I felt myself choked by tears, once again caught by surprise by my own reaction. She continued to search my eyes, and I felt my heart break at the desperation I heard in her voice. I tried to reach a hand towards her, and she did too, but before we made contact she pulled away. Her arms wound tightly around her, closing off from me.
I closed my eyes, unable to bear seeing that sad, lonely woman.
When I finally opened them, I found myself staring at that first figure again. She smiled knowingly at me, and just as quickly her faced turned to shock. Then we both laughed out loud.
The shadows of my past selves flashed in a movie sequence in her eyes as she stood strong and confident before me. My hand lifted to my chest, feeling in my heart a fluttering of emotions: joy, sorrow, fear, anger, hope. It remembered the carefree little girl dreaming of a world she knew nothing about; the youth who locked away her emotions, too afraid to trust herself to face them; and the young woman who felt alone as she finally confronted her demons. It remembered the journey it had been on.
I smiled at my reflection, leaning in to stare into the very eyes who had told me my story. I whispered softly to them:
“Thank you for showing me who I am.”
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