When I was a child, I use to play in the forest alone around Grandma’s house.Mother and Father needed a break from raising a rambunctious kid so  I got to spend time with my grandmother in the country every summer. I was never afraid of the animals because there was one creature who watched over me. It was a lonely stag. It ruled over the emerald forest. Before he never spoke a word to me and just stood there dignified up on his hill. I was only a child of five at the time I first met him.

I remember preparing my backpack and filling it with snacks before heading out on my own every morning. My grandmother never worried while I was out, she was as ancient as the forest and knew it was safe. She  had a twinkle of wisdom and spoke with a tone  of calmness and mystery. Nothing fazed her and she always listened to my stories intently with merry smile.  When I told her of a white stag I saw, she told me his name. Spirit.

Granny lived in the country all her life and when her children grew up they went to the city but she loved tending her garden and working on her little farm. She was surrounded by thick forest and loved the peacefulness. On the east side of her farm was a Big Brown Mountain. There a river flowed near it and also where  beautiful meadows of wildflowers flourished. I usually played picnic with my imaginary friends Jen and Philis. 

The stag would watch  me curiously on the other side of the river. I was so afraid the first time I met Spirit. I thought I was seeing a ghost but it just stood there observing. After a few days I finally called to it but it just tilted its head slightly. Later I got use to seeing him somehow and I always felt he was guarding over me. Gran could also see me in meadow from her window so I always felt safe. 

I still remember the day Spirit and I became official friends.

Jen was always the worrier and Philis was the smarty pants. They showed up a year ago when I was playing in the meadow. They were much older to then me and lived in the forest. They never told me where they came from partly because I never asked and it never came up. We always were playing pretend princesses from our respected kingdoms.

I told them to mind Spirit. Jen said wild animals are dangerous. Her short hair has always looked frazzled when she was nervous. Philis had a fair complexion and long red hair. She wore large square glasses and had an intelligent charm. She calmed Jen by holding her hand and took a look at the stag. She analyzed him like a specimen and confidently smiled.

"I’ve been thinking Mave, I believe he likes you" Philis spoke and I flushed red from the comment.

"Meeeee, but I don't even know him" I choked on some cookies and drank water to clear my throat.

"Well he keeps looking at you"

"Maybe he's looking at you Philis" I retorted.

"You silly, we are invisible remember" embarrassed from the realization, I dropped my head in defeat.

“Maybe he wants to be your friend” Philis inquired.
“Or maybe he wants you to be his dinner” Jen put it grimly while she hid behind Philis’s  pink dress.

“Spirit, no, he would never do such a thing” I said to them both. Just then their eyes grew big and fearful, their mouths widening in horror.

“Mave don’t look behind you.” Jen quivered. Philis stood stunned with no words.

I didn’t know why they were so suddenly frightened. Maybe they were playing a joke on me again which they did often. I began to turn to see what they were looking at. In moments, my eyes met the Stag’s eyes just 5 inches from my own. It’s black eyes looked endless into my own and it breathed gently. I was  startled and fell on my back.

The stag also got surprised and jumped gracefully back, floating like a feather in the wind. I don’t know what spurred me to stand and approach Spirit but he too reciprocated my action. I touched his muzzle and patted him lightly. He blinked approvingly and nudged my hand to let me know he liked it. He then bowed and gestured for me to ride him.

“Mave, don’t, he might hurt you” Jen warned still hiding. Philis had already relaxed and approached the stag.
“He won’t hurt her Jen, he just wanted a friend too. Mave give him a ride.” Philis was excited and egged me to do it. 

Without a second thought I climbed on his back and he began to fly up. I grabbed his white mane and pale mist followed behind us. It shimmered in the sunlight. I watched Jen and Philis get smaller as we ascended. They were waving at me and I felt my stomach drop with dread as I saw how high up I was. It wasn’t until I got to see the whole forest, the house and the purple mountains in the distance did I begin to relax.

“Mave, are you okay?” A small voice spoke in my head and Spirit turned his head. It was coming from him. I was a bit shock but I felt he was a kind soul.

“I am, why didn’t you talk to me till now” I asked.

“I was too shy, I’ve never met a human girl before and I didn’t want to bother you when you were playing. I finally got the courage to talk you today because you reminded me of something” Spirit narrated and he climbed towards the clouds.

We burst through the puffs like a rocket and I felt the fluff of the cloud hit my face like smoke. The clouds were turning purple and orange as the sun began to set. I saw a breathtaking landscape of vibrant colored puffy mountains. They were massive and circulated in harmony like living white paint. It smeared and churned. I was mesmerized. Spirit and I played the spotting game where we try to make figures out of the clouds. We saw rabbits, a baby sleeping and cities. We played till evening till the stars came out.

He flew me to a grassy cliff, there I waited while he went into the dark forest to get us food. When he returned. I saw his glow approaching but this time not as a deer but as a young boy. He had silver hair and black eyes. He had an oversize red scarf around his neck and wore white shirt with blue shorts. His arms was  filled with apples and nuts. I was amazed at his new transformation.

“Your human! ” I exclaimed.

“No, not really it’s just my magic. I turned human so we can talk easier.” He smiled and sat next to me. The cliff looked over the forest and I saw my grandmother’s chimney smoke which was a few miles away. I convinced her earlier that day to allow her to camp outside. She set up my tent near the meadow and I told her I’d sleep early. Now I’m here on a mountain, under the stars with Spirit eating apples and nuts. Suddenly, light bugs began to light up in the nearby trees.

Light neon green lights began to swirl around us. Spirit laughed and told them to dance. The light bugs began to swirl in circles and then turn into a wave. Suddenly a cold chill blew towards us. It was the biting kind of wind and I shivered. I was wearing my sleeveless green jumper dress and my long brown hair flew wildly with the wind. 

“Here, this will help” Spirit came from behind me and wrapped his big scarf around my neck. It smelled like pine and it was very warm.

“Why thank you Spirit but what about you?” I stammered doubling the scarf like a small blanket around me.

“It’s fine, I’m unaffected by temperature. Hey watch this.” He comfortably said and began to stand. His hands moved graceful in the moonlight and blew something in his palms. A small bright orb whispered out. It span wildly and a white aura swirled around it. He took a deep breath and then blew it toward the sky. Like a floating balloon it floated up. It entered a small cloud above us and mystical light began to sparkle blinding light.

“Spirit what are you...” Before I could finish, white powder began to fall. It was beginning to snow. It was very light. All at once, I forgot all about my coldness. It was my first time seeing snow.

Spirit looked at me warmly and watched me play in the snow like a child. I span around in circles and tried to catch it. It was so beautiful. My summers were never the same after that night. The night Spirit became my friend.

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Photo credit to Oscar Keys