I didn't want to be the princess or the fairy to be waited on hand and foot like the other girls
I didn't want to be the princess or the fairy, waited on hand and foot, like the other girls. Instead, all I had ever wanted was to have the stage, the purple tutus and a spotlight directed at me as I twirl gracefully around on pointed toes. Just like the little figure in the sapphire studded music box my late mother gave me. Was that too much to ask for?
I had given up on life. Life seemed meaningless after my five-year-old dream of being a ballerina was crushed. I remembered that it was a very nice day. Little tufts of clouds were floating in the big blue sky. The sun's bright ray was reflecting off the sea's mysterious cerulean waters. Nothing foreshadowed the tragedy that occurred.
The car was stuffy as daddy drove to destination unknown. I still do not know what was the cause of the accident that day.
All I remembered of that fateful moment was a loud crash and the colour of the sky as I lost consciousness.
I recall being conscious for a little while. Scared to death, all I saw and heard was the steady hum of ghosts in cobalt outfits and white masks. Falling into the vast chasm of darkness and muted pain, I was silently screaming for someone to save me.
Slowly blinking, I smelt the nauseating antiseptic air. The room was blindingly white. No one was in the room. Trying to move my legs, I found that they just would not budge. I was paralyzed. I couldn't move my hands or scream. Coldness gripped my heart. Am I dead?
I was hooked to many machines. Many needles were protruding out of my arm in a grotesque manner. One machine was familiar to me. The breathing machine. It was what supported my comatose mother after her fight with lung cancer.
A long time ago, daddy signed some piece of paper and the doctor shut off the machine. Blue was the colour of my mother's face as her life slowly drained out of her body, and of my tears as I fervently said to myself that I'll never turn to the monster, that took my mother's life away, for help.
But here I am, attached to said monster. I hated myself for being so weak. I hated my arms that couldn't tear away the mask on my face. I hated my legs for not functioning properly. I abhorred the colour blue.
I became a bitter and lonely child. Children ignored me or stood and stared and asked why I was in "that thing". Grown-ups looked at me and then very quickly looked away. Noise made my head ache.
Months later, I was taken in a pushchair to stay with Miss Ginny. She wrote storybooks in her little studio in the quiet seclusion of the Kingdon-Ward nursery. I later found out that both the owner of the nursery was named in honor of Captain Frank Kingdon-Ward, a famous plant-hunter that had discovered myriads of exotic plants and won numerous awards for his contribution to horticulture. I found an inkling of peace there, far far away from the ear-splitting noise and people either shuddering with disgust at the sight of me or watching me with pity in their eyes.
I had the chance to visit my father's grave only once during my childhood. The sun was nowhere to be seen that day. Ominous clouds that hinted rain were hanging in the atmosphere just waiting to pour down when the right moment stroke.
Mommy's grave was just beside daddy's. Bouquets of coloured flower adorned the site – red, white, yellow, orange, purple, pink – and I remember thinking 'Shouldn't it all be black? Daddy and Mommy are no more here, it made no sense that all the flowers are so bright and cheery; Even if they are in paradise. Or at least a deep shade of midnight blue? To compensate for the tears heaven should be shedding?' At that thought, I shook my head. There is no such thing as blue flowers. We silently made our way back to the nursery.
One day, a man came and took hold of my metal wheel chair, stood in front of me and looked deeply into my eyes as he asked me one question.
"Would you like to go around the world with me and see the flowers and trees that grow there?"
Stunned that anyone would want to take me anywhere, not a single sound escaped my lips but I managed to nod my head.
"All right, I'll tell what we'll do," he said, "You can hold this map. I'll push you around and when we see the plants, we'll find their country on the map so you can see where they come from."
This was how I started the most important journey of my life.
"This is the Flame of The Forest from India. That is the Red Ginger from the Malay Peninsula. Now let's look at the map. See that's India, and just a little to the right," he helped my weak arm to glide across the parchment, "that's the Malay Peninsula."
I saw many flowers and trees of different hues, shapes and sizes. Some had simple names like the Chalice Vine from Mexico, or the Grafted Desert Rose from East Africa. Others were too difficult for my six-year old tongue to form.
Then, I saw something that I would never forget. Lifting my hand with much effort, I felt intense pain but nothing stopped me from the task.
"What are those flowers there?" I pointed to some deep blue flowers that I thought were more beautiful than any of the others. All revulsion towards the color blue dissipated and was replaced with the awe I was feeling towards the flower.
"Those? They are the blue poppies of Tibet"
"All poppies are red," I objected with the naive certainty that only youth brings.
"Yes, most poppies are red, but there are blue ones in Tibet"
"Where is Tibet? Is it a long way?"
"Yes it's a very long way. Look, it's between China and India high up in the Himalayas, the abode of snow." His hand glided higher up the map.
"I would like to go there and see the pretty flowers"
"Well, perhaps one day you will."
I looked across to the road that I had never taken notice of, "Would that road take me there?"
"Oh, yes," he answered, "nowadays you can take that road to the airport and take a plane to anywhere you want."
"If a person could walk, that road would take them to lots of places, wouldn't it?" I asked wistfully.
For a moment, there was no answer. I could only hear the cacophony of chirping birds and buzzing insects.
"You really want to go there, don't you?" he said gently.
"More than anything in the world."
"Well, Miss Ginny told me that you wouldn't do the exercises anymore and you refuse to go to the therapists. Is that true?"
Hanging my head lower, awash with guilt, I whispered softly, "Yes".
"The exercises hurt and my legs won't move anyway."
"Well, little girl, if you do as the therapists tell you, your legs will get stronger and you'll be able to go wherever your heart desires."
"Really? Truly?" It was questions asked by a child that tasted an inkling of hope. A child that needed reassurance.
"I'm sure of it. Nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it," he grinned.
Time passed, and, although I didn't see that man again, I remembered every single syllable uttered during that conversation. I started the therapy with vigor. Every time I felt excruciating pain, I just closed my eyes and envisioned that I was walking towards that blue flower.
I loved saying the word Himalayas, a wonderful word for a child as it rolled off the tongue giving an air of importance.
We moved away from the nursery and the blue poppies, but they stayed at the recess of my heart. If I closed my eyes, I could still see the blueness of the poppies and smell the sweet air inside the nursery or maybe it was because the flowers brings back my most treasured memories of the kind blue-eyed man who helped me find a way.
When I was in my early twenties, I begun questioning whether the poppies were the imaginations of a child as I had seen vibrantly red poppies, yellow poppies, white poppies, even orange poppies but not a single blue poppy.
There were not any means of confirming whether blue poppies really existed during that time. The internet had just taken it's baby steps into the world. So the elusive flower remains a mystery until one day I can save enough money to visit the Himalayas and see the blue poppies growing – even just a little glimpse.
For now, I'll just surround myself with the colour that is now the colour of my dreams.
Author Notes: This story was submitted for the Royal Commonwealth Essay Writing Competition. :) And it got Highly Commended. But I'm very sure that it still needs constructive criticism. Thanks for reading.