When I was six years old, my father left me for a better life, one filled with drugs and amenities that my mother and I could never supply him with. I was often left alone in our one-bedroom apartment to keep myself company and to wonder if this is what life was all about; always alone with darkness waiting in the end. I’d look out the window at the cityscape and vast sky to only imagine the freedom out there. I dreamt up an imaginary world, one where I mattered, where I was important, where people loved me, and cared about me.
When I met Miles, my dream was slowly becoming real. As I stepped foot on the grounds of Freedom House, I instantly felt a sense of relief and belonging. There was beauty here that I never knew existed. There was a distinct scent that I will never forget and would forever be synonymous with Freedom House, the scent of fresh bread baking, rising with a soft center and a slightly golden crisp outer shell. My old life was gone forever.
As I walked through the front door there were people everywhere, busy at work, cleaning, cooking, some were leading meditation sessions, and others were painting. They were all working together to sustain the freedom we all wanted. As I looked around, every person’s face was overcome with joy. Miles led me into the kitchen, the smell of basil lingered in the air. I met Freedom House’s chef, Penelope. The depth in her eyes and her smile were contagious, “Welcome, everything in this kitchen is yours and you are free to eat whatever you find here. We bake fresh bread every day.”
I couldn’t believe the generosity given to me within just a few minutes of being at Freedom House. I had felt more love within those few minutes than I ever did in my entire life. Miles walked me through the kitchen and out to the backyard, which they called Freedom Park. To the left, was a small fenced off area with chickens, pigs, goats, and two white peacocks. To the right was a stone path leading to a cement water fountain surrounded by flowers. Past these, a dirt path led to a small pond, and in the depths were the coy, colors of orange, black, and white swimming gracefully in spiral motions. There was a structure behind the pond, a doorway. As we entered, I was overwhelmed with happiness. Then I saw him.
A man sat crossed legged on the floor, tapestries and candles shone behind him, creating a dim and soft halo around his shoulders and head. His long, golden brown hair reminded me of the sunrise. He wore an ocean blue bandana and in the center was that same familiar symbol painted in black. His beard was full and thick but groomed to perfection. His sharp features and thin face brought all focus to his crystal blue eyes, bright yet consumed with depths of darkness. He wore a short sleeved white shirt that hugged his body in a way to show every muscular intricacy. He tucked his shirt into flowing beige pants that almost resembled a skirt. He sat with a very calm and content expression, not at all affected by his surroundings. Men and women sat on the outskirts just gazing at him with admiration and gentle smiles.
Miles approached him and got down on his knees, “The Darius, I have brought to you a soul in need of freedom.”
I walked forward. With a force outside of myself, I came down to my knees. As I looked up to his face, those bright shimmering eyes were intensely staring into mine. He never lost eye contact. He sat in silence staring into my eyes for what seemed like an eternity, exposing every weakness of mine. He lifted his hand slowly to my cheek and softly touched my face. He then said something that I will never forget, “You have so much beauty but not enough freedom to let in shine. What are you called?”
“My name is Samantha.”
“Samantha, this is your home now. Everything here is now yours since everything here is everyone’s. We welcome you. In order to begin a new, free life, your new name will be Ivy.”
The Darius put his hands out, palms up, and I slipped my hands onto his. He gently held them, softly rubbing his thumbs over my fingers, and looked into my eyes. His smile was humble, and his touch was calming. I was fourteen and had finally found a place to call home. I was finally wanted. My life had begun, right there in the depths of Freedom Park and in the heart of Freedom House, among the open redwood sky where the smell of baked bread and the sounds of animals were my new sanctuary and I was now Ivy.
-Written by Sterp
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