The Secret To Happiness

A short fairytale I wrote a couple of years ago... :)

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1. The Secret To Happiness

Once upon a time, there was a forest. A forest where the sun always shone, where the trees gleamed like emeralds and where nature thrived. A place where everything was perfect. It was said that hidden within this forest was a secret. The secret to happiness. Nobody knew where the secret was, how it was hidden or what it looked like. Some said it was written down on an old piece of parchment, some thought it would be heard in the whisper of the wind. People said that whoever found this secret would be eternally happy. Happy forever. Happy, without a care in the world.

Allegra had heard people in the town speaking of this magical forest. She had heard them speaking of the secret that would supposedly enable you to be happy forever. But Allegra didn't believe in such stories. It seemed like so long ago since her life had really been happy that she had almost forgotten what happiness felt like. Occasionally, at night when she was lost in a world of dreams, she remembered a taste of what her life used to be like – cosy and warm, filled with love and a sweet, golden joy she knew she would never find again. But these heavenly tastes of happiness rarely came, and, when they did, they were always gone too soon. Eluding her. Coming tantalisingly close, but always staying just out of her grasp so that she could never reach out and bring it close to her heart.

These dreams brought a little relief to the harsh reality that each day brought to Allegra. Ever since the earthquake that had brought irreparable damage to her home town, as well as killing her whole family, Allegra's life had been cold and empty. She now lived in an orphanage with hundreds of other orphans. There were too many lost children and not enough food, or love, to go around.

One night, Allegra had a dream so sweet and vivid that she felt it was real. A golden happiness warmed her, instead of hiding just out of reach as it usually did. She dreamt she was in a beautiful place. A forest, where she was warm and safe. Her belly was full and she was a laughing, a bubbly, tinkling sound, and playing with her sister. Her sister! Her sister wasn't dead. She was there! Alive! And so were her mother and father. Her grandmother was there too, her wrinkled face smiling lovingly at Allegra. Her family. She was surrounded by her family. And love.

When Allegra woke the next morning, she still expected to be in the beautiful forest. But when she saw the grey walls surrounding her and the nine other girls cramped in the small dormitory with her, she felt so sad and disappointed that she almost cried. To have the golden bubble of joy inside her be burst so suddenly was almost unbearable.

Later that day, Allegra was walking through the town square. She heard a group of children talking wistfully about the magical forest and the secret it held. The magical forest... The secret to happiness... But Allegra had been there, she suddenly realised. She had seen it in her dreams! In that instant, Allegra knew she could be happy, and she knew how. All she had to do was find that forest. The forest in her dream. There she would be happy and there her family would be waiting for her.

Allegra knew she wouldn't be returning to the orphanage. There was nothing for her there. They wouldn't miss her. They probably wouldn't even notice she had run away. So Allegra set off, determined to find the magical forest. To find happiness. To find her family.

Allegra was lying on the ground, struggling to breathe. Her eyes were closed and she wasn't sure if she was awake or asleep. If she was alive or dead. She was cold, soaked to the bone, her stomach so hollow and empty. She was hungry and thirsty, tired and weak. Her whole body hurt. Her throat was screaming for a drop of water, her stomach yelling for a scrap of food, her lungs barely managing to draw oxygen in. 'I give up,' she thought. 'Happiness doesn't exist. Not anymore. Not for me. Just let me rest. Let me have some rest. Let me die here.'

The sun was shining, as it always did, in the forest. Allegra was dancing, smiling and laughing, over the lush, green grass. She picked up a flower and cupped it in her hands. A bright, yellow buttercup. There was no waking up from this dream.

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