thirty-seven

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Walking down the brightly decorated street, Nicholas found himself admiring endless rows of flags, representing countries from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. He admired the multi-colored people from all different backgrounds, laughing, talking, and supporting one another as they each proudly held onto their heritage like an ironed mark. There was nothing that could deter their pride.

It was the annual World Festival, where immigrants had the chance to teach others about their cultures and communities. After escaping from his parents' deafening silence, Nicholas joined his friends, parading around the festival, tasting new cuisines, and admiring the blending of multiple cultural aspects that made America the vibrant country he believed in.

Although his America suffered at the hands of injustice, pummeling into eras of suffering and bloodshed among innocents, he still believed. Even after America forfeited its right to life by allowing deranged men the arm of mass destruction, he still believed.

He believed that a country with so many different ethnicities, so many intellectuals, so many freedoms had the ability to cross boundaries, the ability to succeed in the face of defeat.

He didn't hate America.

Freedom was an abstract concept, an idea that motivated the helpless into new lands, where their dreams had no limits. A taste of American freedom was the fruit that prospered when new leaders changed the world, changed the politics, changed the status quo.

People died for his freedoms, and Nicholas found himself more blessed as he reflected upon history.

If it wasn't for those who died in the past, fighting for what they believed in whether it be the constitution or social justice, they had created a new America in their debris. His eyes would have been blinded from the beauty of diversity and its roots in an exceptional history, a book of every evil and every pure deed etched within its borders.

"You seem a little dazed, Nick," commented Elijah. "You alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," he said, clearing his throat. "Where's your girlfriend?"

Elijah's dusky eyes brightened. "Kiona is looking at Native American beads with Dina. They're such nerds," he grinned.

"Like us?" asked Nicholas with a cheeky smile.

"Exactly like us."

The boys erupted in a fit of laughter.

With a smile, his blue eyes landed on the exotic beauty before him, a modest covered girl who managed to steal his heart without his consent, a girl devoted to God in every way possible, a girl who lit up any room she walked into.

As if hearing his thoughts, Dina's almond-shaped eyes met his, melting his insides until he felt heat crawl up his cheeks.

"Look at how pretty the beads are," she said in awe, not realizing the effect she had on him, "Kiona says that each one has a special meaning, a purpose in their placement."

"Really?"

She nodded eagerly, distracted by the smear of colors on the table.

Kiona was Elijah's beloved girlfriend, perhaps his wife in a couple of years. The two had met in the beginning of college, instantly sweeping each other off their feet and whisking into paradise like lost birds. Their love story fell into the pages of romance novels, courtship matching dukes and duchesses of Britain in their valiant attempt to maintain a relationship even when others discouraged it.

Grown from the Native American culture, Kiona carried burdens of society on her shoulders like an Olympian from ancient Greece. Her future had been determined by those who believed change was impossible.

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