Evaluna D, 9th - Jerusalem
The sea, the sky and the green grass. Maeve breathed it in, all of it. Standing on a rolling green hill, the craggly grass digging into her heels as the wind blows the blades to and fro. The sky, vibrant and blue as ever with a few fluffy white clouds drifting with the passing of time. And most of all, she breathed in the sight of the sea. The rough, rolling waves, the cold blue gray kind, that at first glance, seem menacing, but if you knew the waves like Maeve did, if you knew how they built up gathering speed before crashing down over itself, curling and foaming you would find a home in them. If you had spent your short eleven years twisting and ducking through those waves, you would never want to see them go. Maeve loved the sea, she loved her home, and she loved her country. The great Ireland, the best place and only home Maeve had ever known. She closed her eyes and breathed in the salty, fresh smell of the ocean. She hoped it would block everything out, the painful hunger in her stomach, the desperate looks on her parents faces, and most of all, she tried to block out the fear. And there were so many things to be afraid of. Never seeing the rolling hills again, never hearing her mothers gentle voice, leaving her home behind to wander the world in search of belonging. But she knew she couldn’t show her fear, because she was one of the lucky ones. She tried to be grateful, as she should be.
There was nothing to be jealous of, most of those who stayed would slowly wither from the lack of food, many would die. She could see the desperation on the faces of her neighbors, friends and parents. At night, her mother would hold her tight and tell her that soon, so soon everything would be normal. The sky would be blue, and once again, people would laugh. Maeve tried to believe her, she did, because she should but she knew that she could never see her home the same way again. Not after you’d seen hundreds and hundreds of people slowly dying, worn to the bone, begging for food or help while people simply walked by. Not after you’d walked by piles of bodies, disease ridden and starved, wondering if you were next. And not after you’d felt hunger, burning tirelessly away in your stomach while crates and crates of rotting potatoes lay right outside your door. After that, how could your country still be your beautiful, gorgeous home you adored? Maeve looked over the hillside, the one she knew so well. She tried to hold onto the image, lock it in her memory. She closed her eyes and tried to take in her childhood, even though she felt as if it had deserted her. She knew she must go, they would be waiting on the side of the road. Waiting to take her away. Maeve took one last, deep breath, concentrating on the freshness of the air with its salty scent, the smell of home, trying not to think that this would be one of the last she breathed in her homeland. As the last wisp of air left her lungs, Maeve turned and ran from the hillside. She ran to leave it all behind her, she ran to forget it she ran so she didn’t have to say goodbye, over and over again.
Maybe, if she ran quick enough, she could forget she ever left. When she reached the road, she saw them, standing close, hands tightly grasped for comfort. Maeve approached them quietly. They had hardly spoken a word all day, her parents, no one knew what to say. They broke apart when they saw her, but Maeve stepped between them and took one of their hands in either of hers. She needed them to be close, as close as they could be till they were miles, oceans apart. She knew she couldn’t need them, if she did, she wouldn’t survive, but while they were here, she would be as close to them as possible. The trio made their way in silence down the deserted road, clinging on to each other. Maeve tried not to be scared, but fear was the only thing she had felt for years, she couldn’t remember how to not be scared. But the port was approaching, her fate coming closer with every step, and her grip on her parents hands became stronger with every second. Maeve pushed away the panicked thoughts threatening to push themselves into her mind. This was it, the end. Everything from here was unknown, her life was unknown. Her dreams for the future were inadequate because they didn’t apply to where she was going. She would have to dream new dreams, create new hopes and expectations, view the world from a different perspective.
On her left, her mother slowed to a stop. They were here, at the port. A giant, looming ship stood before them, far more threatening than it was hopeful. Crowds of people around them, relatives of departing citizens crying, hugging, sometimes rejoicing. Her mother put her arms around her and pulled Maeve close. Her embrace was comforting, natural, the way she had held her on those long, cold, hungry nights. It makes her feel safe, protected. She released Maeve and then crouched down and looked into her eyes.
“Maeve, I want you to know that this place is always here for you, it’s your home. I want you to have a good life, to follow your dreams, have all the opportunities you can’t have here. This is the best option, I know you’re scared, that’s good, and I know you might hate me for this, but you’ll see one day why I’m choosing this for you, I love you.”
“I don’t hate you, at all.” Maeve said quietly, she needed her to know that. Maeve’s mother smiled, a teary, relieved smile.
“This part of your life is going to be hard Maeve, you might be scared and alone sometimes, but don’t you give up, I taught you how to be brave. I know you’re capable of this.”
“All passengers taking the 126 aboard the Sagamore, please begin to embark the ship.”An announcer called out. Maeve’s body went rigid with fear. Her father now pulled her into a tight embrace.
“I love you, we believe in you.''Maeve gripped him tight, she couldn’t let go. “This isn't the last time, if you know that and believe that then it will become true. You have to let everything go now, don’t forget it but don’t let it hold you back.” But Maeve wasn’t ready to let go, and she had never thought she would have to be. And now she had to be, she could see it in her parents eyes, they needed to believe she could do this and be brave as much as she did. For them she stood up straight, for them she didn’t cry, for them, she pushed the shaking fear from her voice as she spoke.
“I’ll come back, some day, but until then, this place, my home will be with me wherever I go, in whatever I do I’ll remember these hills and your advice. I’ll be strong, like you taught me, I know I will be.”
“Once again! All passengers taking the 126 aboard the Sagamore, please board promptly.” Maeve’s mother and father pulled her into one last, tearful embrace. When they let her go, she looked deep into their eyes, one last time, so that she would never forget their comforting sight. Maeve turned and walked towards the boarding dock, hundreds of people pushing with her. She was the shortest head in hundreds of adults and in seconds, her parents were lost in the sea of bodies. Maeve was alone, even among the crowds, she was completely by herself in the world. It suffocated her, the tears threatening to take hold, her confidence and boldness waning by the second. She needed to see them, one last time. Once aboard the gigantic ship, Maeve found the closest staircase and sprinted up several flights of stairs. She emerged at a balcony, people leaning off the edge to wave goodbye to their loved ones as the boat began to pull away. Maeve wove herself through the people, pushing and maneuvering till she was at the edge. For a second, all she saw was the mass of people, but then she saw them, waving, crying, holding hands. Maeve pushed herself against the side of the boat. She waved, a symbol of goodbye that held so much. It symbolized every goodbye she was supposed to have with them, all the time she should’ve been given that would instead be replaced with unknown, it symbolized her love, her sorrow, her fear. It was everything that should have been, maybe still could. It was possibility, the unknown. It was a little girl, saying goodbye to the life, the people, and the country she loved.
Students 6th-12th Grades