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This story centers around Juliana "Jules" Kensington.


This was it. This was the day I would finally forgive that bear for killing my father. It was a few years ago, when I was eight. Ever since my dad fought him and terribly lost, he's tried to attack me if I even came close to him. My heart was pounding out of my chest. My palms were sweaty. I reminded myself that I was brave. I could do this.


I found the bear in an open field. The grass reached up to my ankles, and it tickled when it brushed against me. The wind was still. The sun was bright and warm. It was the kind of day I loved, but I couldn't enjoy it, knowing I had to face the bear. My legs were on complete autopilot as I approached the bear, who was sitting down, his back facing me, eating something. Probably his last victim. I gulped.


I tiptoed over to the giant bear. His fur was midnight-black and shone in the sun. Suddenly, he turned to face me. His eyes were beady and completely fixed on me. We stood for a minute, staring at each other, each waiting for the other to make a move. I wanted so badly to just dash off, but I knew I couldn't. So instead I took a deep breath and began to speak.


"Hi. My name is Jules Kensington. Three years ago, my father died fighting you. You killed him. I just wanted to say that I-"


The bear was apparently in no mood for forgiveness speeches. He smacked me in the head with a paw the size of my face. The pain was unbearable. My forehead hurt like it was shot with a bullet. I let out a wail of pain and fell to the ground, defeated.


The things that happened next were a complete blur. I could hardly see anything and the sounds echoed and surrounded me. I heard leaves crunching under someone's feet and sticks snapping.


"Nick, I- OH MY GOSH! JULES!" I heard my little sister Sofie say, panic and concern in her voice. "IS SHE OKAY?!" my little brother Nick shouted. "NO! SHE'S LYING ON THE GROUND!!!" Sofie screamed. "JULES? JULES?!?!" Nick yelled at me. I tried to yell back, but I just couldn't. My mouth was clamped shut, and my voice was trapped at the back of my throat. I couldn't move. My body was heavy and weighed down. I couldn't see. My eyes were open, but what I could see was a blurry light green blob. "She's dead, I just KNOW she's dead! Why isn't she talking?!" Sofie cried. "SOFIE! IT'S THE BEAR! THE BEAR THAT KILLED DADDY!!" Nick screeched. "WE GOTTA GET IT AWAY FROM HER BEFORE IT EATS HER!!" My sister and brother started screaming and making loud noises to drive the bear away. I heard the bear stomp away, annoyed by the noise. "Jules? Are you okay?" Sofie asked quietly. That's the last thing I heard before I was gone.


First I saw myself as a baby. I saw my mom cradling me and my dad kissing my forehead tenderly. I saw my dad throwing a ball with me when I was two. I struggled to catch the ball and wobbled back and forth on my chubby toddler legs. I saw me squeezing Nick tightly to my chest after he was born. My look of confusion when I found out Sofie was a girl and not a boy like Mom said she would be. My face when learning my dad was dead. So much more. I could see everything so clearly, as if it were happening right then. Every minute, every second of my life was flashing through my mind, all in just a blink of an eye.


Then I was lifted up. It was like I was steel and the sky was my magnet. I was wearing a flowing milky white gossamer gown that just covered my ankles. My hair floated up around me. I looked at my back. Huge snow-white feathery wings sprouted out of it. The whole thing felt so real that I was sure it wasn't a dream. Just then, a familiar face poked through a cloud.


"Sweetie," my dad said, his eyes sparkly with fresh tears and his loving goofy grin on his face. Just seeing his face again, just hearing his voice made my heart leap. I swam through the sky towards him, with so much excitement that it was all I could do not to squeal with happiness. He held me close to him, and just being embraced by him made me feel relaxed and warm inside. His always-present scent of pine trees comforted me. The twinkle in his eyes made my smile even wider than it already was. Having all these things back was almost overwhelming, but it was truly amazing.


"You're back," I said, a small tear running down my face. Dad pulled me closer, and I wrapped my arms around him.


After a minute, my dad let go and took my hand. "Come on. I have to show you a few things," he said. Dad pulled me up into the clouds.


We stepped through the giant pearly gates, and everything hit me at once. The first thing I saw were the colors. There was a rainbow overhead, but instead of seven colors, there were thousands. Every shade imaginable (and some that weren't) were visible in just a glance at the rainbow. Next I noticed the animals. There were tons of species, some of which I had never seen or heard of! Among the hundreds of animals, I noticed one that I had been wanting to see for a long time.


I cradled the chipmunk in my hands. "Hey, buddy," I said soothingly. "Look, I've been wanting to say this for a long time... I am so sorry for killing you! It was a total accident. I was just trying to make an invention to spew out delicious acorns... I had no idea the machine poisoned them! I've always wanted to apologize for that, ever since that day. I'm really sorry." The chipmunk rubbed his head against me as if to say 'I forgive you.' "Thanks, buddy," I said, my smile only getting bigger.


I set the chipmunk down on the soft cloud floor and looked around some more. Thousands, no, millions of people were walking and flying around. Children were playing, adults were laughing, and everyone was having a great time. I saw a tall tree that looked just like mine. I turned towards my dad. He nodded and smiled. I dashed to the tree quickly and climbed into it. I was instantly incredibly serene. My old blue rug was there, too, except it was clean and new. I sat in the tree for a few moments, listening to birds singing their songs that were even more beautiful in this place than on Earth. Then I grabbed a branch and swung down, landing on the ground with a soft thump. I laughed and ran to my dad. "So, do you like it here?" he asked, ruffling my hair. "No," I said. I let my dad look confused for a minute before I said, "I LOVE it!"


"So do I, Jules. Now just hold on a second. You have to try this." My dad glided over to an apple tree and picked off two apples. He floated back over to me. "Here," my dad said, handing me an apple. It was bright red and shiny. I sank my teeth into the fruit. The tart yet sweet flavor of the juice and the crispiness of the apple made it luscious. "These apples are incredible!" I told Dad. "Yes. Yes, they are," he said, biting into his. I wolfed down the rest of my apple in a few bites.


"What should we do now, Dad?" I asked him. "Well, Jules... um... as much as I hate to say this... I think you should go back down to Earth now," he said nervously. "What?! But I just got here! And I can't leave you! Don't make me go back," I sobbed. "I know, and I don't want to leave you either, baby. But think about Nick and Sofie! They look up to you, sweetie. They love you. And your mom." "Mom doesn't love me," I muttered, annoyed. "Jules, honey, I know your mom can be a bit... er..." Dad said, fishing for words. "Cruel. Foul. Malicious. Vile," I offered. "Yes, that, but she really does love you. No matter what you think, she really wouldn't trade you for anything."


"Do I really have to go back?" I asked, looking up into his eyes. "You do," my dad said sadly. "I don't want to leave you... I can't lose you again," I said, my voice wavering, tears streaming steadily down my face. "I'm not lost, sweetie. I'm always right up here, watching you. So don't do anything bad, because I'll know about it," he said with a wink. "And you'll see me again someday." I hugged him tightly, not wanting to let go. "Bye, Dad. Thank you so much," I choked out through my tears. "Bye, Jules. I love you," he said, giving me one last squeeze.


I snapped open my eyes to find my siblings hovering over me. "H... hey, guys," I said quietly, my voice rough. "JULES!" they shouted simultaneously, hugging me so tightly that I could hardly breathe. "I thought you were never gonna come back... we thought we had lost you forever," Sofie said, and I could feel her teardrops on my chest. "You saved my life, guys. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have come back," I said gratefully. "Where were you?" Nick asked, his chubby cheeks pressed up against mine. "Well, it's a long story, but I think you're gonna like it," I said. "I love you too," I whispered, looking into the sky.

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