“It’s okay.” She told him. “Take a few paces forward and you find yourself in a new place with a new purpose.”
“I can’t just abandon all I was and what I am.” He protested. She studied him, wondering what to say. The feeling of loss the boy felt she knew all too well. There was something in the air that told her he still had more to learn. But perhaps not from her.
“Consider this forest.” She began, hopping off her rock, “The healthy, strong trees remain, while the sickly trees die and become food for new growth. People are much the same: it takes more than one tree to make a forest as much as it takes more than a single trait or action to make a person. The good towers over the bad if allowed to see the sun.” She tapped the boulder with her foot. “Sure, there are some things that will last a lifetime and may not change: you will never be rid of the shape of your face or the blood in your veins. But look.” She motioned towards the lichen and moss growing on the stone, and from her bag pulled a small sculpture of a bird which she gave to him. “Beauty and growth, made possible by what was already granted.”
He pondered her words, turning the sculpture over in his hands. As she paused he listened to the breeze and the brook’s faint trickle of water. He looked toward her again as she took a lungful of the air and prepared to speak once more.
“People are like forests; if they embrace the ever-moving flow of life they will mature. Still water grows stagnant, still air grows stale. Indeed, after seeing the destruction of a disaster such as a fire, it can be easy to forget that even this is natural and with time there will be life and strength again.”
“I understand.” He said, gazing up at the canopy. “We all have a purpose. We must all take in bad and give out good. Like a tree.” He turned to her and smiled. “The fruit… does not fall far. But a sapling must… travel?” She nodded, encouraging the metaphor. “It has a purpose. I have a purpose. That’s something I’ve decided. For myself.” As he said it, he half-laughed, half-sobbed. But all of him believed it all.
There was nothing more to say. Nothing more to pass between mentor and student. The two friends shared an embrace, wordlessly thanking the other for all the lessons, all the wonder and all the adventure. Both pairs of eyes shining with emotion, she silently fastened his pendent around her neck and as he tightened her bracelet around his wrist.
He gathered himself, turned and walked down the path with a confident sort of finality. She watched him till he was hidden from her sight, and she brought her hands to her face, starting to memorise the smile she hoped would never leave her.