In the spring morning, the sun smiled and lit up the River Arno. A flock of birds flew over, looking at their reflections on the river’s surface.
The twittering of the winged beauties and the sound of the river Arno traveled through the air as it intertwined (merged) into a magic song. The enchanting sound made little Mary to cheerful human tune as she enjoyed nature.
Running along the river, Mary reached a sweet-scented grove of green pine trees, wildflowers, crocuses, and daisies. Butterflies fluttered around, from flower to flower. Mary’s eyes followed every elegant and graceful movement of the colorful beauties. She stretched her arms out so to catch them.
Unexpectedly the little girl came to a cave, from which a dim light was seeping out. She stepped with fear towards the entrance and slowly went inside. Leaning on the damp walls, Mary continued to walk along, until she reached a huge room with high, high, ceilings which were lit by the light of a Hundred Suns.
The little girl exclaimed, in dismay at the sight of a beautiful doll with braids and a crown covered in pearls. The princess doll had a little box in her hand.
Mary felt something touched her shoulder; she could not believe it, one of the graceful birds that had flown over the river Arno was suddenly in the cave, perched on her shoulder. Mary smiled and then heard a strange voice:
– Mary, take the box from the hands of the doll and open it.
– Who are you and how can you talk with a human voice – asked Mary – How do you know my name?
– I am your bird – protector, bequeathed to you by your predecessors to protect you and guide you – said the white beauty.
Mary wondered for a while and asked:
– And what does predecessor mean?
– My dear, your predecessors, are your relatives who lived long before you were born. They were little like you, then they have grown as your parents, and then they became adults like your grandmother and grandfather, and then they became older, and of advanced age, they have left life. And today, when they are gone, I am your protector, and I bring you their covenant of the past.
Mary listened in awe (with bewilderment) and with a trembling hand opened the box held by the royal doll. A beautiful gold ring with ruby crimson flashed before her eyes. Mary put the ring on her finger and could only admire its beauty.
Suddenly, her eyes moved and got fixed on a golden leaf, where there were glowing, shiny pebbles with a written word. Little Mary spelled the word letter by letter “S” “E” “C” “R” “E” “T.” While she studied and chanted (repeated) the word SECRET, SECRET, SECRET the bird flew high with a beautiful tweet.
Mary watched her and waved goodbye, sending her a kiss, and she quickly rushed towards the cave exit. Hurrying home, she could not wait to tell her parents what had happened.
Mary’s mum was waiting at the door with concern:
– Mary, you are very late, where have you wandered to so late?
Mary’s charcoaled eyes sparkled. Her little face was beaming, and the dimples on her cheeks grew deeper. She spoke breathlessly about her walk along the river, about the beautiful forest and the magical cave. Her words echoed and her story impressed and excited her parents, but they did not believe the little enchantress. They warned her not to walk alone in the woods and not to enter the cave. Mary frowned, but hunger prevailed, and she began eating with such speed as if she’d been chased.
The next day Mary was playing in the garden in front of the block in which they lived. Her closest friends joined her and Mary shared with great joy the oddities of the previous day.
– Take us to the forest, show us the cave, we would like to see the doll with the pearl crown and to talk to your bird protector- girls shouted all together.
Mary struggled in the beginning, as she promised her parents not to go into the woods, but decided that with her friends she would be safe.
The noisy group headed for the forest. They whistled, mimicking the birds, chased butterflies, and plucked flowers. The children’s noise was in the air in the silent forest. They reached the cave and were amazed by the light of the room, lit by a Hundred Suns.
Shushan, the curly-haired blonde girl, was mesmerized of the beauty of the doll, wearing the royal crown with pearls. Shushan’s eyes became brighter and sparkled like emeralds. Mary intuitively anticipated danger and warned her friends:
– Those who touch the doll are to expect trouble.
The words from Mary reached Shushan’s ears quickly, and she didn’t dare to move. But the gentle and quiet Sofia unexpectedly reached out to the crown of the doll and ripped out a pearl.
– Sofia, you should not take this pearl as it is not given to you as a gift. We do not know who owns this doll; it is not ours – sobbed Mary.
But Sofia frowned and did not want to hear the desperate pleading of her friend. Shushan continued to stare in awe. Suddenly the girls heard a strange noise coming from above, like a flutter….
The girls’ eyes were blinded by the beaming light in the room of a Hundred Suns. A voice, soft and melodious gradually approached them. It was the bird- protector which hovered anxiously in the big room and repeated,” day will turn into night, day will turn into night.”
Suddenly it began to get darker in the room of a hundred Suns. Mary desperately asked her bird protector:
– My protector, please help us, advise us.
Then the bird replied:
– Mary, look at the ring that you are wearing on your hand, and you’ll get your answer.
Mary stared at the ring but received no reply. The red stone shone, but it could not speak. Then Mary thought for a while and got the meaning of the bird’s message. The ring was given to her with the consent and the love of the bird protector. Force wrested the pearl that Sofia took away from the crown. As the light of the room diminished, so was the chance of the girls getting out of the cave.
Mary looked at her friends and felt a tear rolled down her cheek. Shushan, who starred in silence till then, suddenly got frightened and quickly moved towards Sofia. Shushan took Sofia’s hand and begged her:
– Let us return the jewel of this regal doll.
Sofia dropped her hand and together with Shushan arms in arms stretched out to the crown and returned the pearl to the doll.
The light in the room grew brighter and brighter, and girls’ face relaxed. They heard the bird off and happily walked to the exit of the cave. The girls didn’t realize how they spent the whole day in the cave.
It was dark outside. Fear fell upon them in the dark forest. Mary fingered something rustling in her pocket and pulled out the gold leaf. The next minute the girls spelled the word SECRET and were astonished by the brilliance of the small stones that carved the word(SECRET).
So the path through the forest in which they walked hesitantly, was lit by the stones. When they reached at the end of the forest, they saw the golden pebbles of the leaf moving into a new word ‘FRIENDSHIP.’