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“Stay on the path,” they told her, but she was never one to do what she was told.

“There’s danger out there,” they told her, but she heard “adventure” instead.

“Stay on the path, where it’s safe,” they said. Stay on the path where it’s dull, she thought.

For years they had held her hand tightly and kept her close to their side, but she was a big girl now, allowed to walk on her own, and it was her turn to decide.

“Stay on the path,” they told her, and she nodded and told them of course she would, whilst secretly wondering whether to go off to the left or the right.

They watched her walk into the forest, and she never walked out again.

“Stay on the path,” they told him, holding his hands tightly. “Remember what happened to her.”

He listened to the songs of the birds and the breeze through the leaves, and thought that he heard laughter.

He watched through the trees and the bushes, and thought that he saw dancing lights.

One day, when he was old enough to shake off their hands, he ran into the forest alone.

He stood on the path and he listened.
He stood on the path and he watched.
He stepped off the path and he followed her.

They found what they sought, off the path, and they had no reason to go back.

© Kari Fay