The Golden Leaf: Part IV
Over the next few days, Jill began feeling more and more different. For each day that she woke up, she noticed this. She also noticed that her bed was filled with leaves. Every time this occurred, she opened the window and blew them all out. The way that she talked began to change slightly and her hair began to subtly change to gold and orange. The numerous colors on her dress were faded, but were gradually beginning to show.
As for the golden leaf, it never left Jill’s side. She took it everywhere with her, keeping it tucked away in the top of her dress. This leaf was becoming more and more a part of Jill, and she knew it.
Contrary to last week, when Jill fought all these changes, she graciously welcomed them. As the colors of the leaves were changing, so was Jill.
While her mother and everyone else didn’t really notice it that much, Jaime was the only one that really noticed.
One day, Jaime confronted Jill again about the golden leaf. This was on a Saturday, in the backyard of Jill’s house, near the forest.
“Jill,” Jaime told her. “I think I know what’s going on with that leaf that you have. I talked to my grandmother last week. After talking to her about the golden leaf, I realized that the story came from her.”
“What do you know about it?” Jill said, sighing. Jill sighed because she really didn’t want to be bothered with something that she already knew. The thing was that Jill didn’t know how she got this knowledge. Whatever it was, it had to do with the golden leaf that she had.
“Well, this is what my grandma told me,” Jaime continued. “She said that her mother had a golden leaf just like yours and that her hair looked very much like yours. Long and colorful. Her clothes were also colorful like that. She told me that her dress contained every color of autumn. “
While Jaime was speaking, a golden flash came from her dress.
Despite the changes that were going on, Jill was still curious about the story. “What was your great-grandmother’s name?”
Jaime thought for a moment. “Oh.” she said. “Her name? Grandma told me that she changed her name. Her original name was Eleanor. But after that, she told me that her name was different. It was after she had the golden leaf for a while. She changed her name to Autumn.”
Jill’s dress flashed again.
“Wait!” Jaime gasped. “Is the leaf flashing because I’m saying the word ‘Autumn’?”
The flash occurred once again.
Jaime gasped. “Jill. You have the golden leaf, just like my great-grandma….That means….”
Jill nodded. “I really like the name ‘Autumn’, but I’m fine with my name right now.”
“Don’t change your name,” Jaime pleaded. “That golden leaf is doing to you what it did to my great-grandma. Try to give up that leaf while you can, Jill.”
Jill sadly shook her head. “I can’t and I won’t,” she said. “The golden leaf is a part of me now. Even if I were to try to get rid of it, it will refuse to let me.”
Jaime shook her head and gulped back a tear. “No Jill….”
“It’s too late,” Jill told her. “I took what didn’t belong to me. I wanted this golden leaf so bad, but was unaware of the consequences. Now this leaf has accepted me, and I, in turn, accept it. These changes are amazing, and I look forward to the end result….”
“No they’re not!” Jaime shouted. “You’re becoming the same thing my great-grandmother was! Please Jill….I will be talking to my grandmother tomorrow. I will tell her about you. Hang in there, Jill….”
Jaime sadly left, walking back toward her house.
Over the next couple weeks, Jill’s hair radically changed. Her hair remained the same length, no matter how much her mother cut it. This got her mother’s attention.
“W-what’s happening to you?” Her mother said, gasping.
Jill smiled. “Something amazing.” she told her. “That’s what. Why would you want to cut my beautiful hair? Just leave it as it is.”
The mother, looking a little afraid, nodded. “Will do, honey….”
From there, the changes continued. Faster and faster they happened. In the next week, something happened with Jill’s outfits. Her mother wanted her to wear something that wasn’t an autumn-colored dress. So Jill put on a pink dress. After showing her mother the dress, it changed before her very eyes into the autumn colors again. Her mother shook her head in disbelief, and told her to try a different one. Jill put on a lavender dress. Jill knew the end result, but she was only doing this to please her mother. The lavender dress reverted to autumn again.
The mother shuddered in fear. “What is responsible for this? Fairies? Elves? Nymphs?” Her mother asked this, because she read and studied various mythologies, regarding remembered and forgotten lore from all over the world.
“One of them is right.” Jill told her. “Which one that is, I’ll leave that for you to decide.”
The mother was a little scared, but she still wanted Jill in a different dress. Going upstairs to Jill’s room, she made sure that it was different this time. Opening up all the wardrobes, her mother found that all of her dresses were the same autumn color.
“Fairies are doing this!” the mother cried. With that, she screamed and ran out of the room.
After she was gone, Jill grinned. “She’s wrong,” Jill said with a nod.
While all these changes were going on, another thing her mother noticed was her drop in school attendance. Jill spent less time at school and more time in the forest. This concerned her mother, who wondered what was going on with Jill.
Every morning now, Jill’s entire room was filled with leaves. Jill dismissed them like before, outside the window.
After the change with Jill’s outfits, the last thing that changed about Jill was her appearance. Her complexion changed, and so did her eyes. Her once fair complexion became more golden and her brown eyes became amber-colored. At this point, Jill no longer took the golden leaf out of her dress. The golden leaf was now grafted to her body. A network of barely visible roots surrounded it, branching out in every direction. The largest noticeable change was in her size. Before the change, Jill was a fair build, and about average height for her age. Jill now was six inches shorter and scrawny. Her arms and legs were like twigs. To say that she was petite would be an understatement.
Jill was in the forest, which she secretly called her new home. She raised her hands and lowered them. This caused a multitude of leaves of various colors to rain down on the forest floor. It was nothing but color. The colored leafy parachutes all slowly drifted down in formation, downward until they rested on the ground below.
As the leaves were falling, Jill danced, immersing herself in the myriad of colors in the now whirling maelstrom of foliage. When her dance ended, all the leaves grouped together and fell to the ground.
After this, Jill left the forest. In the distance, she saw Jaime standing there.
When Jaime saw her, she almost started to cry.
“Jill….” she gasped. “I haven’t seen you in several days, and you look like this?”
Jill, pleasant with everything she saw about herself, nodded. “It’s almost done,” she grinned.
Jaime fought back tears, but she couldn’t help it. “I talked with my grandma,” she sobbed. “After talking to her, everything is clear now. What’s scary is that you look exactly like my great-grandmother. Why Jill?”
“Why not?” Jill responded. “It’s beyond my control now. I just let the changes happen. You should be happy for me. It’s almost complete.”
“What more can possibly change about you?” Jaime wailed. “Your mom hasn’t seen you in days! I talked to her about you and what my grandma told me. She knows the whole story about the golden leaf and she understands now.”
“What’s left?” Jill said, beaming. “To be honest, I’m really starting to get tired of this name. It really doesn’t fit me much anymore. It moreso fits who I used to be. Now, what name would best fit me now?”
Jill raised her hands, causing a multitude of leaves to spin around her in various directions. “Can you think of a name, Jaime?” All the colors in Jill’s dress flashed very brightly.
Jaime was now sobbing her eyes out. “Autumn?” she cried. “No Jill! Don’t do it!”
Jill’s smile widened. “Autumn?” she stated. “If you were to ask me before, I would tell you that I really like this name. Now, I can tell you that I absolutely love it. The name describes me very well. My name is now Autumn. If you call me by my old name, I will turn you into a leaf. Now could you please repeat my name for me?”
Jaime was now sniffling. “Your name is J…..I mean, Autumn.”
Autumn smiled. “Isn’t it a nice name? It’s now done. My transformation is now complete. I will now pay my mother a visit.”
Jill walked towards her house. To clarify, her name is still Jill, since her mother doesn’t know her as Autumn yet.
After entering the house, her mother had a long conversation with Jill. A lot of it was her reiterating what Jaime told her.
“Get rid of that leaf,” her mother insisted. “You are not my sweet Jill anymore. Somewhere inside….you are!” And then she started crying.
“Should I get rid of my heart, too?” Jill asked. “The leaf is now part of me now. To get rid of it would be eliminating my source of life. I have undergone a beautiful transformation. Now leaving my cocoon, I am now Autumn. Say the name proudly. I know you’ll love it.”
“No!” Her mother shouted. “You are always going to be my sweet Jill to me, no matter how different you look….”
For the next several days, Jill kept pleading with her mother.
“Please mom!” Jill insisted. “My name is now Autumn! Jill doesn’t describe me anymore!”
“Jill DOES describe you because I gave you that name when you were born!” her mother countered.
The days passed, and Jill continued pleading. She was relentless, never losing any strength. Her mother, however, was losing her strength more and more by the day.
Finally, her mother admitted defeat.
“Call me Autumn,” Jill pleaded.
Her mother broke. “Okay okay!” she shouted. “You’re Autumn now! Okay, Autumn?”
Autumn grinned. The next day, her mother took Autumn to get her name legally changed. Her mother cried as she saw the name “Jill” get deleted. The name was now replaced with “Autumn”.
“Thanks, mom!” Autumn said with a grin. “I’m going home now.”
Of course, Autumn should’ve told her mother what she meant when she said that she was going home. Autumn skipped merrily into the forest. With only a few days remaining until December, she didn’t have much time.
“Now, I will return it.” Autumn said, nodding.
Autumn reached into her dress and grasped the golden leaf that was grafted to her body. All of the network of barely visible roots disappeared. After this, the golden leaf was just like before.
Upon removing it, a golden outline of the leaf was imprinted on her body, resting where the leaf was.
Autumn took the golden leaf and let it rest in the palm of her hands. “You’re back,” she told it. “Back where you belong. In this forest, resting under the same type of tree where I was imprisoned hundreds of years ago….”
Autumn then recalled the riddle that was told to her when she was still Jill:
I am you, and you are me.
Just give it time, and you will see.
“I’m glad I did,” Autumn said with a smile. “I was stubborn at first, but now I graciously welcome you. You were in Eleanor before. Now, you are in me. You gave us new bodies and new names. I will use this name wisely and will not disappoint you.”
Autumn took a deep breath and blew at the leaves that rested at the base of the tall tree. From her breath came a strong wind that blew all the leaves away until it was just soil and old grass. She then stared at the golden leaf and sighed. “Farewell, my golden tomb.” she told it. “I will see you again on the first day of Autumn.”
At that, Autumn sat the golden leaf down and used her gale force breath to cover the leaf again.
The days went by and got colder. Autumn stood there, jealously guarding the golden leaf. She blended in well with the forest. So well that no one would see her, even if you were to look directly at her.
Finally, the days of winter were fast approaching. At this, Autumn sighed.
“I am exhausted,” Autumn gasped. “I will rest during the long winter, and will awaken in the spring.
And that’s what Autumn did. She lied down and threw her hands back. A large pile of leaves covered her, like a blanket. Her face materialized into leaves and she rested.
As Autumn rested, a faint glint of light was visible underneath the sparkling snow. The snow blanketed the leaves and all of the forest. Autumn was now asleep, with her dreams beginning to fill the white forest….
©2012 K. L. Walker