Her hair is a long, silky sheet of brown, her skin milky and soft, her eyes like chips of sky, clear blue, on a spring day.

When she smiles, it's like the first rain after the scorching hot summer, warm and rich, a yearly promise that bad weather always passes. When she laughs, it's like the wind racing through a sunflower field, chasing itself and swirling through the joyful blossoms.

Strange, how things balance out in life. She understood what it meant to be in that dark pool of blue syrup, unmoving, unwilling to move. She knew, because she had been there. She waited for me on the surface, comforting me, telling me I must return.

It was she who was whispering in my ear when I'd had enough. Her voice kept me from opening the drain, from pulling the plug. She said she understood, and that she'd been there, and that was not where I wanted to be.

Then she left. She exited the scene, though without her consent, went off for a year in a different country, where I was born, and where her family had begun.

I never really understood Serenity. She was always a shimmering reflection of herself, a glimmer of soft blue light on the surface of the lake. But at the times she gave me most, I was too busy drowning in my sorrow to find her, to try to understand her. It was unimportant. I was the one who had to be understood. I was the one who mattered.

I came out of this selfishness soon after she left. Drew myself out of the syrup, finally, with the help of a few others and of God. But she wasn't there. I was in contact with her, yes, but I sensed something different. It wasn't the same anymore, our relationship. We had both changed so much it was impossible to ever be the same. And in truth, I don't think it ever really existed the way I thought it did.

All her life she'd been ridiculed, convinced over and over again that she had no place among the people she lived with. All her life, she'd been teased and beaten and crushed by everyone around her for her outer appearance, and where she came from. They never knew how beautiful she became, how her eyes, chips of ice, glow from underneath the curtain of brown silky hair. They never knew how she cried, how she wanted to die, how there was nothing between her and death but her angelic older sister, who would take her in her arms and tell her it was all right.

They never knew her talent for words, her talent for light and shadow. They never saw her drawings, emotion and pain etched in charcoal, beauty etched in black. They never knew the songs in her head, the light in her eyes, the dark in her soul.

And neither did I.

But in that other country, they did. They understood. And she was happy.

When she returned the following year, she was ambivalent. She had just had the greatest year of her life, despite all she feared. She had finally found a place where she could fit in, and just as she found it, she had lost it. She closed her eyes and felt that sensation wash over her once more, so familiar and terrifying and welcoming and dark and caressing and painful.

It was back again, and suddenly I was the one with the answers and she was the one with the questions. It was back again, and suddenly I was the one crouching on the surface of the syrup, calling, and she was the one finding sanctuary there. It was back again, and she offered hardly any resistance to the calling of the razor, to the calling of the darkness etched forever in her heart. Life was a dance, and all she wanted was to rest.

She crouched low, eyes shut tight, gathering strength. She knew that by telling me, she would hurt me, but I left her no choice. I wanted to hear what I couldn't bear to know.

And suddenly, when she told me, it was all right. Suddenly I understood that it was not Serenity who had fought the dark for me, but it was me. Serenity was there, on the surface, reassuring and listening. And that was all I had to do.

And it was all I did.

Now the light is restored to those chips of sky. Now the darkness has ebbed, stroked to sleep by the lull of her strength. Now she is beginning to see the beauty I see when I look at her. Now she is beginning to see the power I was drawn to when I had nothing else. Now we both stand, different, strong, knowing everything about one another... yet never understanding.

I will always know Serenity, and I will always love her and support her and be there to laugh and cry with her, and sit back and marvel at the magnificence of her body and soul.

And maybe, one day, I might even understand her.