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The Girl Who Flew Away

One morning, Ella woke up, stretched and yawned lion-like, and threw back her covers. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and hopped onto her feet. 

She looked down, wiggled her toes, and saw that she floated. 

How odd, she thought, and tried several times to touch the ground. She crouched as low as she could, straining for the floor with all her might. She poked a finger into the rug with no trouble - there it was, solid as usual, but no matter how hard she flexed her big toe towards the floor, it stayed just a millimeter or two in the air. Next, she tried to get heavy. She picked up Marshmallow, her stuffed stegosaurus, but she was mostly fluff. She tried adding her precious blanket, but Blanky weighed almost nothing at all. She grabbed a book, a shoe, and her nightlight, but she was no closer to the floor. So she put it all down again. 

Ella rubbed her nose thoughtfully and considered. She put one foot out not too far in front of where she stood and took a step. Slowly, she let her weight shift forward, testing to see if she had stumbled upon some strange patch of faulty gravity. But there she was, suspended just above the deep purple rug of her bedroom. 

She tied Marshmallow to her chest with Blanky, and walked slowly, carefully out of her room, down the stairs, and into the kitchen where her parents sat eating Cheerios. 

"Good morning, Ella dear," her mother sang, dropping a kiss on her head as Ella skimmed by. "Have a seat, sweetheart, and eat some cereal." 

Her father greeted her from behind the wall of the Washington post, turning down just the corner with a pair of long fingers to show her his smiling left eye. 

Ella ate her breakfast quite normally, except for the funny floaty feeling just under her dangling feet. When she finished, she got up, put her bowl in the sink, and went about her day. She got dressed, got in the car with her mom and went to school, sat down at her desk, and went through her lessons. It wasn't until lunch--recess, really--that anyone even noticed that she didn't reach the ground. It was Nicholas, her math partner and dodgeball rival who noticed first. 

"Ha ha! Look you guys! Ella's feet don't touch! She's growing up! Get it?" 

Suddenly Ella was in the middle of a group of oggling classmates. Their awe mixed with a touch of jealousy, and a bit of danger. However cool it might be that she was, technically, flying, their intuition for rejecting such an oddity overwhelmed even that. The comments slowly turned from wondering to hostile, and Ella felt the press of their budding violence uncomfortably. 

She stepped back. To her dismay, it was not simply back, but up. Before this new observation could be processed by her peers, the bell rang and the sensation was forgotten in the giggling, pushing, jostling of line formations and teachers' rebukes. 

But Ella hung back. In the fray, she was left in the yard to wonder at her new outlook on the world. Now she hovered about four inches from the cracked pavement. 

Wishing for her dear, loyal Marshmallow, she drifted away from school, and turned towards home. Her mother would be there, painting in her studio and humming over the low buzz of NPR. 

Ella's eyes were full of tears and desperation when she appeared at her own front door, and her mother's face was full of concern. She hugged Ella close and murmured soothing things amid the questions: are you hurt? are you ok? oh dear, what happened?!

She sat back on her heels and looked Ella over. And then her face went white and filled with panicked disbelief. She screamed, covered her mouth with her hand to muffle it--eyes wide--and screamed again. Terrified, she turned and ran back into the house, leaving the door ajar.

Befuddled and disturbed by her mother's reaction, Ella poked her head carefully inside and went to her room. She could hear the radio in the basement, but no sounds from her mom. Why was she so scared, Ella asked Marshmallow, but there was no answer. Grown ups were strange, Ella thought, and understanding them far beyond her ambitions. 

Troubled and exhausted, Ella cuddled close to Marshmallow and Blanky and dozed. When she woke again, she heard the familiar sounds of dinner preparations, and felt warm all over. Soon her father's car would crunch into the gravel driveway, and her mother would call her to dinner. For a moment, her floating was forgotten in the comfort of home. 

Eager to put it all behind, Ella jumped out of bed, tumbling forward as her feet hit the air just below the level of her mattress. She looked, dumbstruck, at the space between her feet and her lovely purple rug - she was at least 18 inches from the floor. 

Ella took a moment to absorb this new reality, and steeled herself against the fear she'd surely encounter if her parents saw her in this state. So she made up her mind - she would have to leave. She didn't know where to go, and she didn't know what to do, but she felt much lighter now that she knew she was on her own.

With Marshmallow and Blanky strapped across her chest, she took a quick inventory of her other prized possessions: the Tinkerbell nightlight would have to stay, along with Raggedy Ann and the duck family. Her books would be too heavy to carry, but she changed her mind and put Goodnight Moon into her Star Wars lunch box, next to her emergency astronaut ice cream (stashed away after the last rainy day trip to the Air & Space Museum with her dad) and the Delorean picture she'd drawn after seeing Back to the Future. 

Having gathered what she needed, she crept slowly down the stairs just as Dad came in and kissed her mom hello. Ella watched this ritual lovingly, but more cautiously than she had before, knowing now how delicate these two were, and that it was her job to protect them from the things they couldn't comprehend. 

In a few minutes, dinner would be done and they would worry when she didn't come clomping down the stairs in her usual hurry. Instead, she slipped out the open window and melted into the night.

As she scooted along in the sticky summer heat of DC, she felt herself rising further from the ground. By the time she found the Mall, she was floating from tree top to tree top, kicking at the leaves for leverage. She floated over the Lincoln Memorial, paused for a moment to touch the shiny golden tip of the Washington Monument, and caressed the feather crown of Freedom, at her post atop the Capitol. 

Further and further she rose above the city, watching as first the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill, then the Armory, and, finally, the Anacostia River grew tiny under her. This was all the world she knew until this moment, and she marveled as it dissolved into an unrecognizable grid of roads and lights and roofs, which gave way to the endless dark of woods and, eventually, water.

Ella whispered a few words of encouragement to Marshmallow, snuggled into her fuzzy warmth, and saw the horizon stretch away beneath her. 

Higher and higher. She saw the sun rise over China, and nearly missed colliding with a satellite. Outside the Earth's atmosphere, she got very cold, but managed to wrap Blanky tightly round her shoulders, while keeping a hold on Marshmallow and her lunchbox. 

Further on she passed the moon, and then each planet, though she couldn't remember all their names. Beyond that, through the Milky Way and out into the dark, star-speckled universe she floated. And on, into the space between universes.

For all we know, she floats there still, seeing past the reach of our imagination.

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