Even when flawed we can find our strength through characters we can relate. A heroine defines her own path. Meet one who lives her life through a fairytale retelling (loosely based on the princess and the frog) and another who beat Destiny at her own game.
May in the bayou is sticky, hot, and a lot of fun. You must be thinking how those combinations are even a fit?! Well, honey, May is the month that brings all down to the Crawfish Festival. People stomp their feet in joy to the banjo playing bands, rock out to the local artists, and enjoy the culture in this small Louisiana town. Filling their guts up on crawfish, sucking on their heads, then diving into the feast of potatoes and corn.
Mmmm, Mmmm, does this food smell delightful!
Now, if I had two legs and a big old stomach to fill, I shove my face right into that big old hog they have roasting. Yet, I’m just a bitty old dragonfly with a tale to tell. One that is not mine. Ain’t no one want to hear about dragonfly love, we leave that for the Discovery Channel enthusiasts.
What we see cannot truly be seen by the eye of an outsider. The bayou is not just a swamp area with country bumpkins wrestling gators and calling their turtles Earl. It’s magical in many forms and few appreciate the sentiment it offers. The community here has seen the magic with their own eyes and gained a real fairytale to use as a bedtime remedy for their children, in a version fit for them, of course.
The creatures of the bayou, big and small, are the keepers of the untold stories buried in the dirt. We fly around, some of us admired by our colors and others swatted or crushed because of the fear in the minds of those we watch. Those that will never know of the secrets we gain. Kindness is not always birthed, and it is rare to witness a unique being from a small child to an adult.
They say nature can be a cruel beast, yet the wickedness of another can twist the heart of a man and woman; a cycle of chaos fueled by pride and overlooking forgiveness. Pure hearts can lose their value by the torturous shadows that aim darts at life, that twist dreams into nightmares, and push one deep to the edge.
My tiny little heart pinged with joy the first time I met the light I keep. Her gorgeous brown eyes filled with innocence and her smile as bright as the summer sky with cute little dimples you can’t help to go “awwww” over. A picture that will never leave my mind. The thing about us creepy-crawlies, we don’t live long, but our spirits do. It’s a perk to being a keeper, die to be reborn and never betraying the lives we’ve learned to admire. Devil knows I’m probably thousand years of rebooted action.
In all my time, not once had an experience of another affect me so deeply that it pushed my tiny soul into a dark hole. Pushed so deep it felt like the lines were cut and to never be found again. Like being a young dragonfly thrown into the big old world with not one buzz of advice. Frightening the shock wave was that burst through the bayou like ten thousand bolts of lightning looking for a fight. All us little critters quick to find a stump to hide in. Post Traumatic Varmint Syndrome is what I call it. Now, I can’t go around flapping my wings screaming PTSD for I ain’t no human. I tell you every time us critters hear a flicker; we go back to a place we never wish to be. Now my momma always told me not to get blabber of the mouth and I’m just going on and on about me. You’re no head doctor, although for a human you sure is easy on the eyes.
Maybe one day a star will come knocking on my leaf while I rest and grant me a wish. I bet I would be a fine lady with thick thighs, long beautiful tresses, skin as smooth as cream of wheat, and eyes that would mesmerize. Not only that, I probably could lay it down like a boss, if you know what I mean. Oh, silly me, all this time you probably don’t even know what I am saying. You see me sitting perching on this cart, fascinated by my colors and my alien like resemblance. I was born with spectacular sight and can pinpoint that you are a true outsider. Curious of Cajun culture? Following a rumor of a legend?
No. You are a skeptic, a non-believer. Your heart is filled with boring facts and what we like to call conneries. Translation for that, have to have a fact followed by another boring datum mind of yours, well, that be easy. Take a bull add shit and you get bullshit. Reasons need no explanation, you love life and never question the good that comes in it. Honey, I sense that you are not happy in this life you created. You have that hell-bent expression, the one where city life was swallowing you whole, and you need country air to bring you out. Even a fine fella like yourself can be a victim of loneliness. It’s not just the throbbing organ between your legs that craves the warmth of a fine female, it’s also the damn ticker in your chest you are so determined to punish.
I’ve seen these signs before and maybe their story will open that cynical mind and stubborn heart. No one leaves this Louisiana town without a smile on their face and love in their chest. Oh, us Cajuns know how to cook up the right medicine. Especially this fine little dragonfly. Now, let’s see. I got to flap my wings to the right and then shake it to the left, jiggle my zin-zin, bounce to the beat, then let the magic jump to its feet. Cause honey you are in for one hell of a treat.
Ah, it begins.
No voodoo here or screams of fear. All you got to do is listen. You will feel a little fuzzy like you done had a couple of them mixed cocktails. You are physically awake, aware of the surrounding things. Probably thinking you having a breakdown of sorts talking to a dang dragonfly or more of me talking to you. Worry your head not because you ain’t Dr. Doolittle. A part of that sweet brain of yours is going to take a trip, like going to the movies except not much time will pass. A view of life will take on a new meaning and your eyes are going be clearer.
Please keep your hands and nah I just playin’. I take tips in the form of flies, butterflies, small meaty things. Make sure you be a good pal and leave me a satisfactory review. Again, I pulling your chain; we don’t get graded. That shit for the birds. We need some of that meditation music so I can be like, “Relax, close your eyes, and let yourself go.”Nah, for real now. Never doubt what you can’t understand because your eyes will always be your interpreter. Not many get the honor to see the raw beauty behind what makes the story a masterpiece. Take not for granted this gift your given. Don’t worry honey, Sabine the dragonfly, going to take good care of you.
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The sound of a bell chiming hits Nara’s ears with the same intention as a bucket of water being poured over her head. Her eyes popped open with alarm as she realized she would be late on such an important day. A day in which she would have to prove herself worthy.
“Holy Shibblets! Time has run away from me. I must hurry,” said Nara as she fumbled to gather her gear and uniform. Almost tripping over her feet, she made it out the door with no falls to the face.
Quickly down the cobblestone streets of Riverspell she ran, carefully avoiding any collision with pedestrians that lacked awareness of others. Cutting corners, Nara arrived at the training center with heavy breaths. Her fingers become frustrated as they fidgeted with the clasp of her uniform, but they succeeded. Slipping into line with hopes of no one noticing her tardiness, Nara’s heart beat at a thousand miles of excitement. As her turn came up, she approached the center with every attempt at ignoring the angry glares from the men who disapproved of her being there. Nara’s family are commoners, but her bloodline unknown puts fear into the citizens of Riverspell. A couple who was barren and looked at as a blessing found her. Her hair black as the night, her eyes the color of fire, and her skin the warmth of caramel. Nara always knew she was different, but none the less she was a commoner; frowned upon as filthy scum. Easily compared with thieves and mongrels.
No woman has ever become a warrior for the high guard and Nara was determined to prove a female can pull her weight just like her male counterparts. A female who comes from nothing, but fights for everything. She stood with confidence, waited for the administration to speak.
“Nara Winterstorm. Daughter of Charya and Triven Winterstorm. What have you to say commoner? Why do you seek placement in our guard?” asked the administration.
Bowing her head in respect, Nara spoke her piece.
“My skills surpass those of some of your strongest men. Quick on my feet and invisible to the eye. I blend in like a beggar on the street which gives me an advantage over any threat to the high court. Let me prove my skill.”
Looking down at her with both disapproval and curiosity, they allowed a test of her abilities. First one-on-one combat, then two, and so forth. With her double blades drawn, Nara defended and struck with cat like motions; swift and smooth. There is much for her to learn, like control. She impressed, and that counted.
With a hand raised, the administration calmly but with volume said, “Cease.”
As Nara halted, the sniveling snot of a fighter showed his slightly less approving side as he knocked her down and pressed the tip of his sword in the crook of her neck. The fighter smiled down at her as if he conquered an army.
“I said cease!” said the administrator with a more demanding tone.
The fighter withdrew with a look of fear of what would come if he disregarded a direct order from his superior. Nara stood up with her head held high, defeating the fighter’s assumption of victory.
“Nara Winterstorm. You have made an impression. However, there is the concern of distraction. A woman of your stature may cause an uproar of actions with the other fighters.”
It did not matter what era you lived, woman were always looked at as fragile and weak; a safety hazard of sorts. Nara became annoyed with the gesture, but would not be categorized as a delicate flower.
“May I speak freely, administrator?” asked Nara.
Nara stood tall and with a deep breath, spoke her truth.
“Fighters are trained to focus on their intended target. Should I be in a way punished if they cannot control their personal manner? I have proven myself and do not see a fair justice of being a questionable distraction just because I have a few more amenities. I bow to you with respect, but disagree on reasoning.”
Kneeling down with the sign of veneration, Nara waited for the outcome in which would determine her title in this world. All she ever dreamed of was to wear the uniform; to make her parents proud of her and to encourage others to break the barriers. Nara always felt within the center of her heart there was much more in this life for her. She used to stare out the little window of her home, imagining a realm far different from hers; one in which she was not on the bottom of the scale.
“Nara Winterstorm. We, the administration, have conferred with great thought and have concluded that you may enter placement with one exception. You must adhere to all training and be assigned to an advisor without discord. What say you?” said the head administrator with squinted eyes.
“Aye! I am honored for the chance and will not fall to disappointment’s fate.”
Nara could not contain her excitement any longer as she turned down the alley. With a shining smile on her face she felt as if she floated on a cloud, running towards the small cottage she slept in.
“Mother! Father!” yelled Nara in pure joy.
“What is it child?” asked Nara’s mother as she appeared from the side of the cottage with a cloth basket in hand.
“News with greatness attached. Mother, I made placement with the royal guards. A dream no more and imagine when my name is scribed in the books of the Great Hall for all to see.”
Nara’s mother teared up. Was it joy, disappointment, or worry for her child?
“My daughter. My heart shares your joy, but it is also clouded with worry. We are nothing but poor beggars and I fear this is all they will see in you.”
“Ah rubbish. They treat anyone not of royal blood shoddier than a pig. My beautiful daughter, you have brought our house honor and made us proud. This eve we shall have the finest roast and celebrate,” said Nara’s father as he popped through the doorway of the cottage.
“Father ‘tis expensive and needless. A good stew is all the feast we need. Trouble yourself not.”
Nara embraced her father with a hug tight as cuff and a kiss on the cheek, sweet as the summer night sky.
“Daughter let this old man spree on the finest meat for his shining light. ‘Tis only every blue moon we get to rejoice,” said Nara’s father as he grabbed his pouch of coins.
“Aye, Father. Mother and I shall swelter some bread for the roast.”