“Art is meant to be abstract,” Micah thought with acute certainty. “We’re not always meant to be able to decipher it right away…sometimes we just have to take it for what it is and let our mind’s eye do the rest.”
She bit her lip and swallowed hard. At this point, Micah was lagging behind the rest of the group, and she decided that she better catch up. After all, the last thing anyone needed was for this shy, quiet, contemplative girl to go missing…again.
Micah always seemed to wander away occasionally. It was a well-established fact that she often needed to be alone to think about things. Though no one knew to the exact extent or amount, there was a lot on her mind at such a young age.
Her longest disappearance had been when she was eight. She had decided to venture out of her house one evening. You see, Micah came and went so silently that it was sometimes hard to believe that she was a real girl at all. Much of the time, she seemed like a spirit; a lost ghost who never quite refrained from her mourning.
When she had wandered away on that occasion, a search party was set out the minute she was confirmed missing. Micah’s foster mother had called her to dinner, but when there was no answer, the woman was in near hysterics. After checking Micah’s room and realizing that the child was nowhere in the house, the panic had struck.
“Where has she wandered off to this time? Oh, that girl worries me out of my wits! Where could she be?” Ms. Stevens had cried, pacing nervously about. But it was to no one’s surprise that Micah was found a few hours later, playing in the creek with the frogs.
Finding the “runaway” came as a great relief to the townspeople. Perhaps it gave them hope that what was lost could always be found again. However, Micah learned to believe this more than anyone, and not even a brilliant girl as she could accomplish such a feat. She knew better than anybody the reason why she wandered. Micah, the girl who hardly made a sound, and whose presence was nearly impossible to sense in a room.
Back when she lived in her old house with her real family---she was seven at the time---her fraternal twin brother Mark was the only one whom she truly connected with. He has the ability to automatically sense when Micah was near. Even if he didn’t see her at first, some strange intuition enabled him to notice. Without her making a sound or he turning his head, Mark would greet cheerfully, “Hello there, Miss Micah! How’s my favorite twin today?”
It was as if the two of them had a unique bond of some sort---perhaps telepathy, or maybe it was merely a close relationship between brother and sister.
Mark had white-blond hair and icy blue-gray eyes, as well as skin the color of milk. Micah had his eyes and complexion, but her hair was black as the stroke of midnight. It was no doubt that she held her brother exponentially dear to her heart.
When he drowned in the creek one afternoon, Micah’s heart shattered for eternity. Her last poignant memory of Mark was kissing his cold cheek as he lay in his casket. In a melancholy, quivering voice as soft as the wind, she murmured the words, “I love you, brother. Now you shall rest in peace forever, though forever came much too soon.”
So as Micah dipped her feet into the chilly waters of the creek, the sound of frogs and crickets surrounding her, people thought they understood. Here was the poor little girl, returning to the site of her brother’s death. Micah held a little green frog in her hand; its skin smooth, wet, and slimy. Mark had given her a frog once, but when they brought it into the house, Mother had a fit. When Daddy came home, he was, in contrast, cheerful and relaxed as ever. “I reckon this fellow ought to learn to look before he leaps!” he had said with a chuckle.
Daddy had convinced Mother to let them keep the frog. They hadn’t named it though, and Micah and Mark soon released it back into the wild. “The froggie really liked meeting us, I’m sure. But it was sort of a vacation for him, and now it’s time that he go back to his friends and family,” Mark told his sister. He had always possessed wisdom far beyond his years.
From this experience, Micah learned a crucial lesson. Sometimes, in life, if you truly love someone or something, then you have to be willing to let it go. However, this moral had ironically collided with cruel fate. A few months after Mark drowned in the creek, Mother and Daddy were badly injured in a car crash. Finally, since they could hold on no longer, the couple passed away side by side in a hospital room.
The memories were so vague to Micah; not because they escaped her mind, but because she wanted them to fade. Perhaps it was an attempt to lessen the excruciating pain of the three losses. But no matter how hard she tried to forget the immense sadness, it kept coming back to her. Everyone tried to comfort her, yet no one truly understood. However, not even Micah herself was aware of one little memory which held more significance than anyone could’ve ever imagined…
“Mommy!” the little boy with the white-blond hair had exclaimed. “Will you give that necklace to Micah someday? Like how Grandma gave it to you?”
The mother laughed merrily, her golden brown eyes gleaming. “Yes, someday, dear. But be sure to keep it a secret until she turns ten. I want her to be surprised. It’s a family heirloom, you know, or something that’s passed down for generations. For example, my grandmother gave this necklace to her daughter (my mother), and my mother passed it on to me. Oh, I can’t wait until the day that Micah wears it! It will be like reliving the past all over again, except this time through the eyes of a mother,” she had replied, ruffling her son’s hair.
“I promise, Mom. I won’t tell her until then,” the boy vowed earnestly. He even pinky-swore.
“That’s my boy,” the mother smiled. “I’m the luckiest parent there ever was, as is your Daddy. We’re so blessed to have the two of you.”
Just then, a message traveled to the boy’s mind, just as one senses sunshine on a warm morning, or the wind on a chilly afternoon. He was not at all surprised as his sister entered the room, bid her mother and brother goodnight, and climbed upstairs to bed.
Meanwhile, the delicate silver chain around the woman’s neck glistened in the light of the living room. Someday, her daughter would wear it with pride.
“Micah!” her teacher called, zapping her back into reality. She was still in a haze from her trancelike state, but she obediently followed the rest of her class into the next exhibit. “We are like a flock of sheep, hoping to be guided in the right direction. But maybe, in life, only we know where we’re going…”
Her thoughts were once again interrupted, this time by the tour guide. “And here are paintings by contemporary artists who portrayed traditional art through the eyes of now. Kind of like new versions of old artwork, except the pictures depicted are totally original. Feel free to look around, but don’t touch,” the woman said. She had red hair and wore thick rimmed glasses.
“Hmmm, intriguing,” Micah mused. She looked about her, gazing upon paintings which portrayed people in centuries past. She could hear a few of the girls whispering to each other, probably discussing boys or the latest gossip. Micah often wondered what it would be like to have a best friend. To have someone to confide in and trust; one who truly understood her. However, she had never been scorned or cruelly teased by her classmates. As a matter of fact, someone always seemed to be looking out for her, as if to make sure that she hadn’t disappeared. The story of her escaping to the creek to play with the frogs had spread throughout the town, and people seemed to have immense sympathy for this little girl who had lost her brother and parents in the same year.
Suddenly, something caught Micah’s eye. It was an oil painting of a young girl with chestnut brown hair that reached just below her shoulders. A small, simple smile was present on her face, and it somewhat reminded Micah of Mona Lisa’s countenance. There was a feeling of immense astonishment and wonder that permeated throughout Micah’s heart, mind, and soul. What was it about this one painting, which was no more vibrant or larger than the rest---that utterly captivated Micah so much?
Finally, an answer came to her. As she studied the oil painting more closely, absorbing every detail---from the golden brown eyes of the girl to the way her eyes gleamed so naturally---something deep inside of Micah’s mind clicked. Past reminiscences she had strived so hard to forget about floated back to the surface of her brain; the memories returning more clearly than she had ever recalled them before. The way that Daddy’s smile and laugh could brighten up a whole room, as could his mere presence. Micah would always remember the inimitable pride that Mother had for their family. Not to mention how she made them all feel special by giving them the confidence they needed to succeed and grow…
And Mark. The way he saw the world; so intensely, so magnificently and openly. He was quite protective of his “little sister” (though he was only older by ten minutes), and he had undoubtedly been Micah’s best friend. As everything came flooding back, Micah was utterly shocked to discover three things. One, the setting of the painting consisted of a small creek, whose waters had elevated after a long rainstorm.
“Just like how the creek looked the day Mark drowned,” Micah speculated. Chills ran down her spine, and she shivered uncontrollably. People were starting to stare…But Micah didn’t notice. It was as if the only people in the room were Micah and the mysterious girl in the painting. The shocking revelations seemed endless as she perceived what the girl held in her hand. It was a tiny frog. Nameless.
The final shocking discovery was one that Micah did not fully know the meaning of, and she recognized it vaguely though powerfully. She had seen it before, but never thought much about it. This was an undeniably strange thing for a girl who pondered everything.
There, around the little girl’s neck, was the most beautiful piece of jewelry that Micah had ever seen. It consisted of a silver chain, delicate but strong, which had an intricate medallion. It was engraved and embellished in designs of little squares and ivy leaves, as well as tiny gemstones. In the center of the medallion was a cross. In so many words, Micah was gasping for breath and could not turn her gaze away from the painting before her.
As the girl stared back at Micah, with eyes that looked far too real and alive to have been painted, all of the shadows of realizations and memories came together at once. Micah was staring right into the eyes of her mother.
The proceeding moments passed by in one hazy blur. When Micah read the tag of information about the painting, it merely said:
This oil painting was found in the attic of an old art gallery a month before it was put on display here at the Crendler Town Art Museum. There is no date or artist’s signature on this piece of artwork. Nevertheless, it is assumed to have been painted over the past few decades, as the canvas is still in good condition. No one can identify the person depicted in this painting. Thus, countless aspects of the above piece of artwork shall remain as mysteries to all who fix their gaze upon it.
Micah suddenly felt lightheaded, dizzy, and anxious. Her whole class surrounded her as she trembled and gasped. “What’s happening to her?” “It looks like she’s gonna pass out any second!” her peers exclaimed. The teacher walked Micah over to a nearby bench, where she laid down and tried to block out the whispers and worry around her. Her foster mother came and took her home, and Micah was in a daze for the rest of the afternoon.
“Are you alright, child?” Ms. Stevens asked, extreme concern evident in her voice. She always had a tendency to worry, and today was no exception. Micah’s strange ways and quiet demeanor only added to her foster mother’s puzzlement and careworn nervousness.
“Yes, I’m fine, I promise…I just wasn’t…feeling well, that’s all,” Micah responded uncertainly.
“Well, then I’ll take your temperature when we get home, and I’ll call the doctor…Honey, I’m worried about you. You were doing so well lately, and you seemed…happy, almost. The counselor said that you were finally beginning to open up a little bit…Now, I don’t know what to do…” Ms. Stevens’ voice trailed off.
Micah wasn’t listening though. The moment she got home, she had renewed stamina and vigor. She climbed the stairs two at a time, and pulled out the box labeled “family memories” from under her bed. It was filled with family photos, and Micah knew exactly which one she was looking for. Finally, she found the picture of her mother at Micah’s own age. She hadn’t looked at any of the photos, let alone this one, ever since the death of her parents. Staring at the past images only made coping even more difficult. But now, for some reason, the wall of grief and indifference that Micah had built up was slowly diminishing brick by brick. Perhaps it had something to do with the unbelievable phantasmagoria she had perceived at the art museum.
As Micah stared at the photograph for what felt like the first time, a curious sense of tranquility enveloped her. This time, she did not tremble with astonishment upon realizing that this photo of her mother looked nearly exactly the same as the one in the gallery. However, the picture she held in her hand was black-and-white, while the painting at the art museum was vivid with cool colors.
“Mother…Daddy…Mark…family,” Micah whispered, the words sounding foreign to her ears. Presently, she flipped the photo over to reveal words written on the back in neat cursive. It said: Roberta-Patricia Maxwell. 10 years old. Mulberry Creek.
Micah’s prior observations had been accurate. The picture was taken in the very creek where Mark had drowned. Tiny tears began to form in Micah’s eyes, but this time, she welcomed them. They flowed as freely as the waters of the creek…and now as deep as the heart of Micah’s mind.
On several later occasions, Micah returned to the art museum to inquire further into the matter of the painting. However, these efforts appeared to be fruitless, as no one could trace the origin of the mysterious piece of artwork. Believe it or not, Micah knew more about it than anyone did. However, she never told a soul that it was her mother.
It was only a few weeks later that serendipity showed through the clouds of fate and unanswered questions. Micah began to wonder about the necklace, and this thought triggered a chain of memories---literally. She recalled a silver chain that gleamed in the sun, as well as in the light of the moon. It was the medallion that Mother wore; an inexplicable symbol of a family that lived and loved. A brother and sister who understood each other better than anyone else. And finally, a bond that could never be broken.
When Micah looked into the box of “family memories” once more, she could see the necklace in nearly every single picture. One day, as she sifted through the photographs, Micah came to the photo at the very bottom. It was of she, Daddy, Mother, and Mark at the beach years ago. Impulsively, she turned the picture over. Half to her surprise, she saw a few sentences written in neat print.
To my dearest sister Micah (also known as my favorite twin),
I haven’t left, and neither have Daddy or Mother. I am so sorry that we came home before you did, but I know that you will come home someday too, when the time comes. As always, I can sense your presence as I see you from heaven. Now, you have three guardian angels who are always watching over you. We will be there for you whenever you need help spreading your wings. Also, praying really makes a huge difference. I can’t really explain it any more than that. God will never abandon you, no matter what happens in life. You just have to talk to Him, because He loves you more than you could ever imagine. Please, don’t be sad. I want you to smile again, and someday I hope you find it in your heart to be happy like the old days. I know you will. I have faith in you, so now it’s your turn. Have faith in God, as well as in yourself. And remember that good-bye is what you make of it.
Your loving brother,
P.S.—I hope you like the gift. Mom planned to give it to you for a long time. Sorry it’s a little late. But there’s no time like the present!
Micah’s eyes were wet with tears after reading the note. As she reached back into the box, she felt cool metal on her palm. Rays of sunshine came pouring through the room as the realization dawned on her. Carefully, yet without hesitation, Micah pulled out the elegant silver chain. When she held it out in front of her, fond memories of her family drifted in the air. She felt a newfound sense of calm and security, as well as the presence of her parents and brother.
“They’re been with me all along,” Micah whispered to herself. She held the necklace to her heart and closed her eyes. As she did this, silent voices of love and faith whispered to her heart. Micah felt the reassurance and closeness that she had so desperately missed.
Now, she could almost hear Daddy’s laughter, Mother’s low humming, and Mark’s cheerful whistling. It was all coming back to her. The voices of the past, the beat of the present, and the coo of the future.
From that day forward, Micah wore the necklace with pride. She no longer felt alone, and whenever her heart trembled or her soul cried, she was comforted by the never-ending flow of family memories. Goodness became more visible everywhere Micah looked, and God was always there to guide her. In times of hardship, she spoke to Him, and she was finally set free from the unbelievably painful losses. It took several more years before she healed, but not a single day went by without Micah expressing her gratitude for the loved ones who would never truly leave her.
As she walked down the street, in rain or shine, the contemplative and curious girl would look to the sky and breath in the fresh air. She tried to live every day to the fullest, and cherish each passing moment. The silver necklace reflected unbreakable connections, and little green frogs hopped about the unforgettable creek. Intertwined with all the possibilities that life had to offer, Micah had hope in her heart and happiness in her existence. It was because of the three angels walking with her wherever she trod.