I watch her as she shifts and sways to the music. Nothing can stand between her and movement; the music charges her from deep inside, glowing gold, emitting a childish freedom I can only wish for at times.

I wonder. Does she have any idea how beautiful she is? Not through the hungry eyes of a lovesick man, or the bleary eyes of a love struck parent. Through the judging eyes of a close friend, seeking nothing, gaining nothing from this beauty but beauty. Does she see her happiness, the golden glow of her everlasting cheerfulness, how it gleams and glimmers in the dark?

When she looks into the mirror, almond brown eyes wide and searching, does the see the radiance before me, or the remnants of what she considers an ugly past? When she studies her hands, busy with math or poetry, does she see her immense ability to create, to build, to bring into existence?

She was a beacon in the dark for me once. Steady and firm, her ever-creating hands stretched out to me in the black. She was a daisy amongst the weeds, an oasis in the desert I was combing for answers.

And then she began her own dance. When I was settled and content, she released her grip on me and started searching. Always happy, always stubborn, always tapping her foot to the rhythm...

When we disagreed, I yearned to talk to her again at the same level as before, to share her life, to have her share mine. I was so afraid to lose her, yet completely unwilling to give up what I had learned. It takes more strength to stand up to your friend than to your enemy.

We healed with time, both of us learning valuable lessons about judgment and acceptance. We were changed, but never unwilling to dance.

I wonder as I watch her... I never wanted to tell her how much good he did for her. How he picked up the pieces of her self-esteem and carefully built them back up. He was the first one who ever really told her she was beautiful. No strings attached, no lies to be made. He just told her the truth, what she needed to hear.

It broke my heart to think of all the good he could have done her if the situation had only been right. It broke my heart to think that I, with her parents and the whole world, stood between her and what he could have given her. I knew that where I stood was right, but it took so much strength to stick with it, knowing what I was asking her to take away from herself... but there was also the blatant knowledge that there would be others, others who could do so much better for her. The hope that she would learn this and know this and take on the hope, the searching faith...

And I wonder as I watch her. She is serene, calm, at peace now. Searching, yes, searching for a pose but always in time to the music in her soul. And I wonder... why did I never tell her? Why did I never look her deep in those beautiful eyes she thinks are so plain, and say to her, "Joy, you are beautiful"?

Maybe because it doesn't sound right from me, I try to answer myself. Maybe because I took it for granted. I have always been a decent judge of myself, never lied to myself about anything.

But she turns to me, brown hair fanning around her as she turns, eyes sparkling, and smiles at me shyly, and I know the real reason I didn't have to tell her that I think she's beautiful.

She already knows.