Once upon a time, there was a girl who escaped the Village. She ran a lighthouse. Her friends who escaped their own villages to live in freedom helped her build it.
The first friend that the girl met outside the Village was the mermaid, and she found her because she loved the sea. The mermaid also loved the sea, but she missed the days before her exile, when she used to walk on the land.
Back when the girl lived in the Village, the Elders gave strict orders to villagers venturing beyond the wall for trade or gathering: do not speak to Those Who Are Not Of Us except to tell them of the Way. Do not associate with them.
The girl knew the rules. She was only supposed to pick berries and return inside the walls straightaway. No lingering, her father said.
But the first time the girl stepped through the gate, she smelled the sea. It wasn’t long before she tiptoed through the woods one afternoon to find it and that is how she found the mermaid.
The girl still remembers that day, the first time she took off her shoes and wriggled her toes in the warm, wet sand. And she heard someone singing. The song made her feel things she’d never felt before.
She danced down the shore, following the sound.
The song paused. Splash.
The girl tiptoed toward the water and peered around a rock. Curled up between the rocks and the surf was a mermaid. The mermaid was crying.
“Are you alright?” the girl asked.
“I miss my friends,” said the mermaid.
“Where are they?”
“Faraway inland,” and the mermaid would not speak further, but continued to sing through her tears.
The girl was so captivated by the song of the mermaid and her determination to be as close as possible to her friends that she came back to the seashore as often as she could to talk with her. Slowly, the mermaid told her story. She was once a land dweller, cursed by the elders of her village to her exile in the waves.
The mermaid accepted her fate as unalterable, but the girl could not. Her hope and sense of injustice was too strong. Each time she visited, she brought the mermaid any news that she could about her friends and looked for a way to bring them back together again.
She knew her elders would not approve. The mermaid was one of Those Who Are Not Of Us, but she didn’t care. The mermaid used to be one of us, she thought. And that matters.
That was the first time that the girl questioned the rules.
A few years later, the elders of the girl’s village met with her. They said she was not in accordance with the Code. The villagers all suspected that the girl associated with those beyond the wall.
“I believe that we should love the outsiders and not hide from them,” the girl said. And for that, they declared her to be Those Who Are Not Of Us. The girl was cast out.
She ran to her friend, the mermaid. “Oh, honey,” the mermaid said. “They cast me out, too. Make it a badge of honor.”
So later when the girl found more outcasts shunned by the elders, others shipwrecked on the shore, it was the mermaid who told her that she was being a lighthouse.
The girl just needed to build it.
And that’s exactly what happened when the pirate and the spy for the Baron came. The girl found the bricks and mortar, the pirate inspected it and suggested ways to make it stronger, and the spy consecrated it as a haven for all future travelers.
The mermaid’s eyes were bright, and she was proud of the lighthouse girl. She was the one who nicknamed her Light.
The future held many storms, and not just the ones that crashed against the shore. But the lighthouse stood.
The lighthouse was there when the girl with gold hair and the girl with the hair of a raven were caught in a gale and their little rowboat needed rescue. Those two were bosom friends even though their elders forbid it. And the lighthouse was there when the fairy in the cocoon asked for help, and when the tea maker was stranded after dark.
The lighthouse girl didn’t work alone. The mermaid, the pirate, and the spy all helped in their own ways.
But the wind changed.
The bosom friends ran off with the gypsies, but they came back to visit sometimes. The pirate left for faraway oceans. The spy married the baron and they traveled to a distant land. And the tea maker needed shelter for a time, but she made her own cottage.
And the lighthouse girl missed them all. But she especially missed the mermaid.
This was because the mermaid stopped coming to sit on the shore. The lighthouse girl heard rumors. Perhaps the mermaid was in hiding from the elders in an underwater canyon, or maybe she’d found more of her own kind in a secret grotto. Whatever the reason, the lighthouse girl couldn’t understand why.
Then one day a message in a bottle washed up on the sand, addressed to Light. The scroll inside read, “Do not look for me, I will never return to this shore.”
The lighthouse girl cried and cried. She wondered if she was still the lighthouse girl at all, and she didn’t know if she could run the lighthouse without any of the others.
And the lighthouse sat dark and lonely. She stopped lighting the lamps at night.
But as the months passed, the girl realized that helping to build or maintain was different than owning. She remembered what the spy girl told her, that the lighthouse was hers before the others came along.
Another storm was brewing over the waters, and the lighthouse girl remembered her name.
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