The Voice *trigger warning*

There once was a little girl filled with mischief. She was all frizzy hair and dimples, bright eyes and mischief, she wore dresses and she loved to play outside and scuff up her Mary Janes.

She was playing outside with a friend in the woods, fighting bandits and discovering treasure, because you could be a treasure hunting sheriff when you were 6, simple limitations did not apply to you. Her friend had been called home and knowing that a good sheriff did not discover gold without her deputy, she collected her things, namely the stick that was shaped like a firearm (I mean you can’t let something like that go), to go home.

As she gathered her things, suddenly, the entire forest shook and she fell over hard on her bum, treasures raining down around her. A voice rang out through the trees as if it were made of thunder and with strength that echoed through the marrow of her bones, “DO YOU ACCEPT WHO YOU ARE?”

Startled and afraid she looked up to the trees, and the shaking stopped. No sure how to answer, she high tailed it out of the woods as fast as her scuffed Mary Janes could take her.

She avoided the wood for two weeks until the call of gold brought her back.

She grew older, and when she was 8 she was once again in the woods. She and her best friend were playing in a teepee one of the neighbors had erected for just that use. They were Indian Princesses lost from their tribes. A large storm had washed out the only way back home. They had built a teepee to collect themselves and decide how they would make it home the long way through a rocky gorge, known for dangerous falling rocks. They almost didn’t make it before her friend was once again called home.

Collecting her bark plates and acorns, she once again felt the earth shake as she grabbed ahold of the poles supporting the teepee. The voice still like thunder crashed through her like waves from the sea demanding, “DO YOU ACCEPT WHO YOU ARE?”

Timid and afraid she dropped to her knees and whispered as faintly as the breeze, “no, I don’t know…”

The shaking ceased and she jumped up and ran, leaving the acorns and bark behind.

It was almost a month before she returned to the wood to play. But the call of adventure once again would not be denied.

Middle school, 11 years of age all different sized teeth, thick frizzy hair and glasses like coke bottles now adorned her nose. The dimples mixed with acne and while the other children were not particularly kind, she really didn’t care because after school her best friend and she would be in the teepee writing in their journals about boys. Well really boy bands, and clothes they couldn’t afford and wouldn’t never in a million years be allowed to wear. In that teepee friendship lived, and so did she.

So after school she went to the wood and did just that with her friend who had a boyfriend- gosh they even held hands! They giggled and talked until once again her friend was called home for dinner.

As our young woman collected her journal once again, she felt the earth move but only tremble, and as if yelling loudly next to her ear she heard the voice ask “DO YOU ACCEPT WHO YOU ARE?”

Shocked, though it had happened before, she whispered, “yes,” and the shaking stopped and the voice’s echo left her ears. A sense of peace floated over her as she collected her things and went home.

A little confused, she stayed up that night writing about the four times she heard that voice. She didn’t understand what it could mean by accepting who she was. But as most 11 year olds, a phone call from a best friend put such philosophical questions from her mind.

She returned to the wood the next day wondering briefly, before preteen topics took over, if she would hear the voice again now that she has answered.

She was in 13 on her way to high school and she and her best friend were at the teepee in the woods as usual. Not so much pretend nowadays, more so realities and homework. They still met to get homework done or just talk but there was nothing amazing to discover because they already had (or so many young folk think at that age!).

Once again, her friend got called away, by her cellphone this time and went on home. When her friend left she chose instead to stay behind and finish up some homework when she felt the ground tremble slightly and the voice like a nearby friend said, “Do you accept who you are?”

“Yes,” she said, “I think so. I think when the time comes you’ll see I do too.”

The earth trembled lightly and she heard the intake of a breath, like a sigh on the wind, and then nothing.

She stayed in the teepee another hour, finishing up work and walked slowly home, wondering about the voice.

She was 17 years old and one summer night she laid in bed wondering at the moon. Her parents were out on a date, so gross, and she was alone. Laying in bed she felt it shake lightly and a whispering voice asked her urgently “Do you accept who you are?” Alarmed, she leapt out of bed and grabbed her cellphone and keys. She ran for the front door where her father left a baseball bat whenever he left her alone. The moonlight glinted off of the polished ash. Grabbing it she ran out of the house to the wood.

Through the trees she ran, pine needles sliding under her feet making her steps soft. There in the distance she saw the teepee a dark structure in the moonlight. She heard scuffling and crying from within, a yell and a whimper.

Throwing open the cloth doorway she grabbed the bat like a major league slugger over her beautiful friend struggling underneath someone she had believed a worthwhile man.

Power filled her voice as she screamed, “GET OFF HER YOU PRICK!” And the bat swung down, right into his ribs. A thud and a holler of pain rent the air as she brought the ash bat up again and again, aiming for his legs, torso, arms. Anywhere but the face, for she knew if she wasn’t very careful she would kill that worthless man.

Mad and scared, the man-child ran full force into her knocking her out off the teepee and fleeing into the night a bruised coward of a man. He was not a coward because he ran away, but because he tried to steal something that wasn’t his under the pretense of love.

She got up quickly and went back inside the teepee where her friend lay, tears streaming down her cheeks as she sobbed into herself. Dropping the bat she came over and held her until the sobs subsided. Together they righted her clothing and called both of their parents and the police.

Her friend was taken via ambulance to the hospital for an examination and rape kit.

She was taken home and hollered at like she could have died and praised like she had never been.

Never again would she be idle and carefree in the wood. She knew with a certainty that she indeed accepted who she was. Months later she would graduate high school and apply to the police academy where she would graduate and meet much worse than she did that night in the teepee. Gladly she would go and protect again and again because she knew who she was.

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