Child Of Seven

She is only a child of seven, but her eyes speak of great age. Her small body is hunched over, as if to protect herself. People passing on the street glance at her, and away, as if she is a deformed person who they are told not to tease. Her wide blue eyes peer out from under a mass of inky black hair. She is waiting for her brother. A beat-up monkey she calls Nigel is clutched tightly to chest.

The sky is gray. It reflects her mood. She is scared. The sky churns. Thunder cracks and rain comes falling from the sky—coming down like an Armageddon flame. She can’t remember where she heard it. Bystanders jump in surprise and run for cover. The girl doesn’t move. She doesn’t seem to have heard.

Maybe I should help? Some people think this as they see her, standing unwaveringly in the rain.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knows her brother isn’t coming. Nigel is all she has.

I promise I’ll never leave you.

You look through the glass window of the store. It is the only thing keeping you safe. You must ignore the people. If they notice you, you will disappear. You will collapse inwards, and everyone will see the badness in you. You mustn’t look someone in the eye. If you do, they will see your soul. Eyes are the windows to the soul—everyone knows that.

All you have is the monkey, but your brother will come. You know he will.

I promise I’ll never leave you.

He can’t abandon her in front of this store. He loves her. He said he would come. But it has been days—she thinks. Perhaps only an hour has passed. She doesn’t really know. But her brother said he would come.
She is looking intently at the store window. People tell themselves she is looking at her parents. They don’t ask themselves why parents would look their child outside in the rain. She knows that they believe what they want to believe. The Man has told her.

Nigel is gone. She thinks she’s dropped him. Mommy gave Nigel to her. Mommy will be mad.

She doesn’t know what she should do. Nigel is gone now. Now she has nothing.

I promise I’ll never leave you.

You glance quickly to your right and left, searching for your brother. You know that if he doesn’t come, then the Man will. You don’t see your brother. A sliver of doubt makes it into your mind. You push it out. Your brother is coming. He could be coming now. Any second now. Wait a bit. Now, he’ll come. No? Just wait a few more seconds. Keep looking at the corner. You will see your brother.

I promise I’ll never leave you.

Tears blur her eyes. She is scared. Nigel can’t protect her now—he is gone. She is cold. She wonders if the scrawny girl in the window is herself. She looks hollow. What is that book her sister had read? Ah, yes, she remembers: it is called Living Dead Girl. It is by Elizabeth Scott, she thinks, unsure. She remembers asking her sister why how the girl could be dead if she was living. She doesn’t remember what her sister told her. She thinks she looks like a living dead girl.

Her sister is dead. She remembers Mommy coming home with the Man. Mommy was crying. So was the Man. That is surprising. That is the only time she remembers the Man crying.

Mommy wouldn’t tell her why her sister was dead. Neither would the Man. But she insisted. So Mommy told her that her sister didn’t let someone do something to her. She asked what didn’t her sister do. Mommy ignored her. The Man explained how babies were made. She thinks she understands now.

She didn’t understand then.

I promise I’ll never leave you.

You are at a funeral, looking at your sister. Your sister has pretty brown hair. Her eyes are closed. She doesn’t look dead. She looks like she’s sleeping. Even though her neck is coated with makeup, you can still see the faint line where her head was cut off and sewed back on. You wonder if she screamed. You wonder if she felt the pain.

You feel empty. You wonder if your sister took your soul to the grave with her. If you don’t have a soul, you can’t cry. People look at you. They think you’re happy your sister is dead. You want to tell them you’re sad. But you don’t really feel sad. But you’re not happy. This must be what it’s like when you’re soulless.

I promise I’ll never leave you.

She is very scared. Her brother still isn’t here. It is raining harder. People are looking at her with concern. She doesn’t look at them. Very distantly, she hears her brother’s voice, an irritated voice, talking to her. But it’s the sweetest sound.

Your brother looks down at you. His blue eyes, so similar to yours, are red-rimmed and glazed. You smell the pot on him. He is talking to you.

He says:

“My God, you idiot. I said to stay there and not move, but God! You should’ve gone inside the store. Do you see how hard it’s raining? Are you stupid or what?”

You interrupt his tirade. You ask how long he’s been gone.

“God, you are stupid! I’ve only been gone five minutes—”

He keeps talking, but you don’t listen.

I promise I’ll never leave you.

Only five minutes? That can’t be possible, she thinks. Surely it’s been longer. She wonders how long she thinks she’s been living. She’s only seven, but she feels like she’s seven hundred. Time moves slowly for her. She wonders why.

She’s fallen behind. She tries to catch up with her brother. He walks faster. She starts crying. She wants Nigel. He turns around and slaps her on the face.

She doesn’t feel the sting. Maybe she really is a living dead girl. It sounds right. The revelation suddenly hits her: maybe time moves slowly for her because of the broken promise.

I promise I’ll never leave you.

When your sister died, she took a piece of you with her. Except the piece she took was the most important one. Now you’ll never be alive. You’ll never enjoy life. Everyday, you’ll wonder when it’ll be over.

You’re only a child of seven.





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