Aubree peered out the window and stared at the leaves as they danced in the wind. A robust breeze collected several fallen ones from a small pile situated under a tree. They swirled upward into the air with ease. After a short flight, they made their way back toward the ground, swaying from side-to-side as they dropped.
Aubree sat on the couch, stuffed to the brim after consuming her aunt’s delicious Thanksgiving meal, wishing that she moved with such grace and simplicity. The car accident that she and her cousin experienced a year ago stripped her of that. Her right leg had been shattered and required a plate, a rod, and several screws to piece it back together. Left with chronic pain and a change to her gait, she remained hopeful that with ongoing physical therapy, her suffering and hobble would be minimized.
Her cousin, Camilla, sustained a fractured wrist. Though injured less severely, she continues to struggle with persistent pain, tingling, and numbness throughout her hand and fingers.
“Come on,” Camilla smacked her on the thigh then pulled her off the couch. “Let’s go outside.”
Aubree grumbled but obliged her favorite cousin. Born the same year, the seventeen-year-olds grew up together; they were cousins and best friends. They shared everything, including the memories and effects of the car accident. Often, the two were mistaken as twins. The way they wore their hair was the main thing that differentiated the girls. Aubree preferred to keep her long, brown hair pulled back and braided, while Camilla opted for unbound and flowy hair.
Camilla dashed out the door; her hair blew free like a flag. She neared the tree that shielded the leaf pile then stopped. Raising her face toward the sky, she inhaled a long, deep breath.
Donning a mauve-colored jacket, Aubree limped over toward her cousin. She crossed her arms over her chest to ward off the chill and watched as Camilla absorbed the sunlight onto her face.
“Isn’t autumn the best?” Camilla beamed. “Remember when we’d jump into the pile of leaves after our moms spent hours raking?”
Aubree giggled. “They got so pissed—especially my mom!”
“That’s ‘cuz auntie did more work than my mom!” Camilla said through laughter.
“Well, at least your mom knows how to cook.” Aubree rubbed her stuffed belly as she spoke.
Camilla’s eyes widened. She turned toward the leaf pile situated under the nearest tree. Her eyes glinted with frisky energy.
“I know that look,” Aubree began. “What brilliant idea are you pondering?”
Camilla pointed to the leaf pile. “Let’s jump into it—like when we were kids!”
Before Aubree had a chance to reject the idea, Camilla yanked her by the arm and headed toward the pile of leaves. She staggered, but her cousin’s support helped to steady her steps. The wind took control of Camilla’s hair, whipping it every which way—including her face.
“JUMP!” Camilla screamed through her chuckles.
Aubree peered through her barely opened slits then leaped toward the middle of the leaf pile. She readied her left foot to take the impact of landing on the ground to compensate for her damaged right leg.
Down came their feet into the damp pile. Instead of finding a solid surface beneath the leaves, they kept descending. The ground opened up and swallowed the girls. Their bodies tumbled down into a dark abyss. Though they rolled and slid down a steep grade, their bodies didn’t make contact with any surface as they fell.
A moment later, they became aware that they had stopped descending—but registered a floating sensation. They hovered mid-air in pure blackness.
“What the hell?” Camilla called out. “Are you okay?”
Aubree felt around, patting her body then released a sigh. “Yeah, I’m good. Where are we? How did this happen?”
“Aubree,” Camilla’s voice cracked, “holy shit, we’re like—floating.”
A dim, amber-colored light began to illuminate the subterranean destination, drawing their attention toward it. The lighting allowed them to visualize their surroundings, and they found themselves floating and moving around a cavernous place.
“Y-y-yup, I’m sure,” Camilla muttered.
Stunned, the girls’ eyes widened, and their mouths hung open. They scanned the subterranean area in silence. Aubree and Camilla spread their arms wide, hoping to grasp a wall or something secure.
It started snowing—in reverse. Instead of descending from above, snowflakes ascended from below. Small flakes skimmed their bodies and seemed to kiss any exposed skin. Instead of being cold and wet, the flakes were warm and dry.
The amber-colored lighting brightened, creating a beautiful ambiance as the strange snow suffused the area. Nerves and tension eased in both girls. Aromas of Thanksgiving began wafting throughout the air. First, a combination of sage and thyme invaded their nostrils. Then odors of nutmeg and clove appeared. Finally, the scents of pumpkin permeated the mysterious place.
“Are we dreaming?” Aubree asked her cousin.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Camilla answered as she scanned the place.
The snow intensified, creating larger and more frequent flakes. Brushing against any exposed flesh deepened; the snowflakes infiltrated the layers of skin. The girls’ bodies absorbed the pleasant flecks, and the delightful warmth spread into nearby flesh, creating an orange glow.
The inexplicable event transformed into a full-fledged amber-colored blizzard. It invaded the mysterious underground location—and their entire bodies. Aubree and Camilla remained silent, savoring the comfort that engulfed their souls. They smiled, floated, and glowed. The warmth continued to run through their bodies, charging them with bliss.
Aubree looked at her cousin as she floated nearby. Camilla’s hair rippled, like a ship’s sail in the wind. “Camilla, I—I think we’re moving.”
Camilla forced herself to focus and surveyed their surroundings. “You’re right. We’re ascending.”
The amber-colored light dimmed as they moved upward, into darkness. Aubree wrapped her arms around herself as the warmth dissipated. Goosebumps broke out on her skin from the chilled air.
They rolled and tumbled up a steep grade without making contact with any surface. In an instant, the two were sitting atop the leaf pile.
Aubree patted her body to check for injuries, then shifted her gaze toward her cousin. “What the hell was that?”
Camilla’s jaw hung open as she searched left and right. Her brows crinkled, and she lifted her wrist to inspect it.
“What’s the matter,” Aubree inquired. “Are you okay?”
Confused, Aubree stared at her cousin. “What’s gone?”
“My—my pain. The ache and numbness in my hand are gone.”
Aubree looked down at her body and reached for her right leg. She bent and straightened it a few times, then stood. Looking a bit awkward and confused, she jumped up and down a few times. She then stepped away from the leaf pile and began jogging around the yard.
“Oh my God,” Camilla shouted. “Your hobble is gone!”
“So is my pain!” Aubree cried. “What the hell happened to us? It’s—it’s a magical leaf pile! Let’s go tell everyone what happened!”
Camilla grabbed her by the arm. “Uh—maybe we ought to keep the details to ourselves. I—I don’t think anyone would believe us anyway.”
Aubree took a moment to think, then nodded in favor. She raised a hand and extended a pinky toward her cousin.
Camilla reached up and wrapped her pinky around Aubree’s. The girls pinky-swore that the details of their magical healing would remain among each other.
Author’s side note:
Though many blessings aren’t as remarkable as the events in this story, even the smallest things can bring pure joy.
“We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning.” — Albert Barnes