Deidre: A Fable of Coming Home
Deidre was born on an Island, but it was not where she grew up. She was taken as a baby, immediately after birth. She was of the unlucky one in fifty removed from her home and raised somewhere else.
Instead, she grew up in a harsh land, told she was from there, told she belonged there and nowhere else, and told the Island was lesser in all ways that mattered. In her heart, she knew these things were not true. Yet they stripped her of her name, gave her a new one she did not like, and refused to call her by any but the named they had placed upon her, and told her she would learn or she would suffer. She did not want to suffer, and so she tried and failed to be like them. For from as early as she could remember, she felt a longing for the Island that she was taken from on the day of her birth; the Island that she never truly experienced as others were able to but knew was her true home.
Her abductors taught her to walk in their way, talk in their way, dress in their way, and tried to make her believe what they believed. When she refused, or hesitated, or argued against these things she knew were not for her, were not of her, and which she did not agree, she was yelled at, taunted, punished, beaten, and worse until she learned to hide who she was, what she knew, and where she belonged.
During these dark years in the loud, rough land, death beckoned Deidre constantly while she lived among her captors, imprisoned in clothes, culture, and the mannerisms forced upon her. She was soft in ways they were hard, and that made them hate her, and soon she hated these things about herself. Death was an escape, truly the only door from her cage that she knew existed. She did not want to die, but she knew she could not live in the harsh land, imprisoned and forced to behave in painful, often cruel ways.
When she was still a young woman, hardened against the toxic world and its caustic ways, hiding well to avoid the pain heaped upon her whenever she deviated from the path forced upon her, she met a young man who would become her hero. This young man had been taken at birth as well. He was not from the Island, but had been raised there. He was from the harsh land and had dreamed of coming back one day. He knew of the harshness but in it he saw a beauty that called to him. He also had thought death was the only door until he heard of people leaving the Island and traveling to the harsh land.
Deidre and the young man found a quiet, isolate corner where the young man’s past of being raised on the Island and the young woman’s captivity would not be known to anyone but each other, and she asked him questions about his travels, about the path he had taken, about how she might go home.
It was dangerous and hard, she expected that and was willing to brave anything to go home. It was expensive, which would be difficult, but she would pay anything to be free. She could not take the same path he did; it would not work going the other way. There were similar paths, but he did not know them, had not traveled them, and they did not go the same direction as he had gone. She had more questions, but he needed to go. He was home and wanted to see everything he had missed. She understood that desire as it burned within her as well and so they parted as friends.
Deidre saved her money for the trip. She carefully sought information about a path she might take. There were a few people who wished to aid her, but they too were afraid of what might happen to them if they helped someone escape. Piece by piece, coin by coin, she planned her exodus. On the day she was to leave, she looked back on the harsh land where she was held captive for her entire life to that point and saw there were things she might miss about it, wealth and strength that could be found there for the right person, but none of the treasures could buy the home she felt in her heart, and so she departed.
The journey home was difficult, she got lost many times, the money she had saved to make the trip was spent quickly and had to be replaced by doing things she would never speak of again. There were mountains of pain and she bled often for there was no other way. Each step toward home, she felt herself becoming more of what she had always known herself to be. Each leg of the journey that brought her closer to the Island also brought her nearer to herself. At long last, she stood upon the shore, final leg of the journey, a boat ride across a misty ocean. Without hesitation she stepped off the shore and set sail for home.
The crossing was rough, stormy sometimes, and she felt sick to her stomach with each passing wave. She slept a great deal, ate very little, and stared unblinking into the fog, wishing to see the Island but not able to make out anything but the interminable ocean. Everyone aboard said they were coming closer, that they were on course, and she had to trust them. For they had been there, they knew the way, she paid dearly for their expertise and would have to trust it now that she was in their care, far out to sea.
At long last, the skies cleared, the water calmed, and she saw the Island. She wept for its beauty, even at the great distance from which she saw it again for the first time since her birth. Others wept as well, knowing what the Island meant to so many.
When the ship docked and she took her first step on her ancestral land, the home she was stolen from and denied to her, her heart soared. Other women from the Island saw her, they saw through the scars, both on her body and soul, and recognized her as one of their own. They embraced her with love and compassion, welcomed her to the place she always belonged but had been stolen from.
These women asked her name. She gave them the one she had been forced to use in the harsh land. They told her that was not her name. Her name was Deidre and she had been missed. She relinquished the clothes she was forced to wear in favor of the Island garb that suited her much better. They helped her change her hair to match theirs. They taught her all she needed to know of living on the Island, her home, things she’d not been raised to know. They called her sister and rejoiced in her return.
She had missteps and made mistakes. Everyone on the Island was from there, including her, but most of them were raised on the Island in one fashion or another, and knew the ways from birth, while she had been stolen, taken far away, and forced to behave in ways that were not natural to her and were not typical on the Island.
Sometimes people would see her and know she’d been abducted, know she had been imprisoned, see her often awkward, childlike steps on the Island, her scars, her fear, her pain, and they were angry. Not angry that she was taken against her will and forced to live in the harsh land, forced to adopt their ways that were not her own, but angry because she dared to come back.
“Go back to the harsh land!”
“You do not belong here!”
“You do not know our ways.”
“You were not born here and can never be from here!”
“We do not want you!”
“The Island is only for Islanders.”
They would yell all these things at her and worse. Many would attack her with more than words. Demand she be imprisoned until she was willing to leave. Punished her for being different. Hated her for the scars she bore that they did not.
She cried often and began to hide again from these people. She would not leave the Island, could not go back to the harsh land, and death once again seemed like her only door.
Other women from the Island, who knew her name was Deidre, knew she always belong there and had cried when she was abducted, who only wished for their sister, their daughter, their friend to be returned someday, they came to her.
“These people who say you do not belong, are wrong,” they would tell her. “You are here because you were born here and will always have a place among us. Do not listen to the people who demand that you leave. They are few in number and weak in spirit. The harsh land and the people from it frighten them. Their weakness makes them lash out at you, because the harsh land scares them too much to direct their anger there. They do not understand that your name is Deidre and you are of us, but we do, and we are happy you are home.”
From then on, she wore her scars not with pride, but with compassion. She still did not want them, still wished she had never obtained them, but no longer hated herself for having them. She still made missteps, although fewer and fewer as the years and months passed. She learned to ignore the weak minority of people who did not understand. Whose hatred and small minds drove them to attack one of their own because of what was done to her and not by her.
One day, she saw a crying boy. She saw through his Islander hair, garb, and name, and knew he was from the harsh land. That he’d been brought as a baby to the Island and he did not understand why he was there or how to get home.
“Dry your tears, young man,” she told him. “There are paths to where you want to be. There is a way home. I know it because I have walked them. And you can too.”