“You come back here young lady!” rang the angry voice behind her as she ran out of the dusty old house. “Jessica Lynn!” screamed the shrill voice as she ran down the broken sidewalk to the sanctuary of the small jungle behind the ‘Dead End’ sign at the end of the street. Once inside she would be safe, alone. Her little feet made a pitter-patter sound as they ran, avoiding any cracks in the broken sidewalk. She might not like her mother, but to break her back would be the ultimate sin.

She ran as if pursued by demons, which, in a way, she was. One very angry mother demon who would do very bad things if she caught her. The street seemed like it was miles long and she feared she would never make it to her forbidden sanctuary. Even though she had been told time and time again to never go down there into what the demon called a ravine, she couldn’t resist. It was her safe place. Whenever pursued, which was often, she fled here. Whenever she was sad, hurt, and alone she took solace in her forbidden jungle. To her, it was a place of mystery. It was a place of magic. She secretly believed that somewhere in her lush green jungle, amid the frogs, minnows, trees, shopping carts, discarded tires, and occasional rusted-out car, there was a doorway. A doorway to a place where she could be happy. A place where she was loved. Never beaten or yelled at, never lonely or sad. She believed this doorway led to her own personal haven and if she just kept looking long enough, hard enough, she would eventually find it. When she did, she knew she would never come back to this world filled with dusty old houses, angry, brutal demon mothers, and broken sidewalks that took forever to run across.

Just as she reached the little metal fence and sign that read Dead End in big bold letters she heard one last yell that sounded far away. Her mother chose not to chase her. She knew exactly where Jessica was going and would wait for her to come back. She always did. Her mother was fine with waiting, it only made her anger more fierce, how sweet it would be when she finally got her hands on her. She would get rid of all her pent-up anger and frustration. It was better than therapy. “Worthless brat.” She muttered as she watched her daughter climb over the fence into the littered ravine. She knew the neighbors were watching but she ignored them as she straightened her back, turned, and walked back into her home to wait for her daughter’s eventual return.

As soon as Jessica climbed over the fence and entered her jungle she felt safe. She knew her mother would never follow her here. Anything to do with nature made her mother angry. The only time she would voluntarily go near a tree was when she was picking out the perfect switch to use. She always chose the long, thin ones. They created just the right-sized welts.

Feeling safe and quite at home Jessica expertly chose her footing and made it down the steep, rocky, weed-ridden hill into the ravine. It was as if the world had suddenly become a different place, a place of magic. Her tears dried up and her breathing slowed. Had anyone happened by at that moment, they would have seen a little girl with dark thick hair and tear-stained cheeks, wearing a hand-me-down dress, shoes a size too small, with one scabbed knee, standing in a ray of sunshine with her head tilted ever so slightly, a look of rapture on her face. They would have thought they were seeing a vision, a child from another place, someone ethereal, someone special, for the essence radiated out of her for a brief moment. A moment that perhaps every beaten down, hurt, rejected unhappy person has. A moment when all of their worth, all of their soul is available, on the surface. Their specialness and uniqueness is laid so bare so that if they were seen, their viewer would be rendered speechless and in awe at their beauty. This moment is usually reserved for the battered souls who otherwise wander this earth invisible and unimportant and usually, when they have this magical moment where they can actually be seen for who they truly are, it happens like this, in the blink of an eye, with no witnesses. At least, no witnesses they are aware of.

Jessica was reveling in the beauty of her little private world. To her, it was as if time had stopped and the outside world, the world of sadness, no longer existed. She would find it today, she vowed to herself as she picked her way through the roots and undergrowth of the deeper forest beyond. She would find her doorway; she would find her magic, her happiness. Listening to the sounds around her she smiled and made her way deeper into the trees. She would follow the brook today. It had to be somewhere near the water. She listened to the symphony of the crickets, birds, and frogs, the whispers of the trees and the soothing bubbling of the brook.

She started to walk alongside the brook but the sound was so enticing she jumped in and started kicking up the water and laughing. The sun was shining through the trees in rays that made everything shimmer. The brook itself was shallow along the sides and at its deepest, in the middle, came up to her waist. The water was so clear she could see the multicolored rocks below sparkling as the light swam through the water, caressing them making them and making them shimmer so well. She jumped and splashed, startling a nearby squirrel who ran up a tree chattering. She laughed, a sound so pure and clean, and dove under the water, running her hands along the sparkly rocks, so pretty to her they might have been precious jewels. When she came up for air she laid her head back and floated down the brook watching the leaves of the tall green trees sparkle in the sunlight. For the moment she was safe, serene, and happy.