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So, one day there was this girl, named Sally. She had -um- pigtails that reached her shoulders and they had been chopped off with a guillotine. The line straight as ice. Each strand was twisted and mangled, into an intricate rope. It busies the eye, developing a never-ending illusion of depth. Her feet bounced upon the cracked pavement beneath her. Skipping to the beat of some Dionne Warwick song her mom sang to call her back from the spell of sleep. I think the top of her head would reach -uh- probably exactly where my jeans start. She was short, but with the potential to grow. Her eye mimicked mine as if she was playing a game; all the way down the street. I hadn’t noticed her acknowledgement of me, which forced my cheeks to redden into a full blown blush. But she may not see my insecurities; I brushed my face, concealing emotions.
Her shoes were made of glass. Her mother must have just polished those crimson rubies this morning. I heard them clank, wondering how they haven’t smashed. They did later. Both bloodied my hand, as she got away. The stitches in her dress were sloppy. But that’s the way these things go when you work from 6-5 and only have enough time to make dinner and wash some clothes before the sun comes back up. Some motivation must have driven her mother to sew it. But even the picture of a smiling daughter wouldn’t prop those eyelids up.
Maybe she won’t notice me, I thought at the time. Just wanted to press a button and blend into the wooden bench I had perched my figure onto. I knew it wouldn’t be so.
That day had to be the 5th that I was there. In a bustling city, nobody notices you; but here in this town of Greggins they all do. That’s why it was my biggest challenge.
Not only was that day the 5th, but it was different. She was different. It was like she dressed herself up for me. Some makeup spread out here and there, a “do-it-yourself” job. The other days she just breezed on by. Head down, oversized jeans; but I knew she was a pretty one with the potential of the being beautiful. That’s what convinced me to visit her house. I usually don’t, once you become close to a person it becomes personal. I could handle the guilt. Had done it so many times.
Just before she passed me those shoes made a beeline towards me, I couldn’t help but smile. She said something along the lines like, “Hello, mister”. I asked her where a girl like her was going on such a fine afternoon. She told me that they were holding a big picnic today at school. There was going to be balloons and a cake and everything. I snapped her out of her daydream when I asked her if she wanted to go to a party. It was a bit risky, she didn’t answer for awhile. I described everything to her. The lights, dancing, and punch. Stuff that could only be televised.
She just held out her hand and followed.
We got on the bus and I gave the driver the two quarters that I had saved up. She ran straight into the back and propped up her knees upon the seat to get a better look. I cranked the window open for her. She laughed as the wind blew those ponytails into my face, giving me a hint of what would come next.
She was smart, I could tell that. I told her stories of what life was like in the war. She wouldn’t believe me when I told her that I fought. I asked her why, I needed to know what gave me away. Her mouth tried to smile and she kept quiet. The bus rolled right on through the country. As we reached the city she asked me where I worked. Cautiously, I pointed at a building on 15th that went up about 20 stories. She was delighted.
We got off and began walking. I told her that I wanted to show her around a bit before going to the party. It wouldn’t start soon anyways. I didn’t pay attention to where we went. Around 12 we reached a market. There was a man with a patchy beard that was drawing pictures. She was amazed. I paid 75 cents for one of her. He highlighted it with greens and blues; that allowed her yellow dress and red shoes to pop. I used to have it hanging in my room, right above my dresser. I’d fall into an insomniac state at night for months after the event. My fists crushed that perky little smile, this glass formed new scars on my wrist.
Next, we went and got two cones of chocolate ice cream and a pretzel to share. As our feet walked upon the path carefully drawn out in the park, we fed bits and pieces to the pigeons that flocked around. She screamed when they gorged around the crumbs and danced along in a little circle around them. So much to not drawing attention. Their stares forced me to draw her way. Staying unnoticed was key.
It was interesting. By this time, for it was nearing 7, they’d get restless. Whining, cranky, wanting to go back home or something. It’s like they couldn’t appreciate what I was doing at all. I pushed her on a darkened yellow swing, that was a set of three. The back and forth motion amused her, as I pushed higher and farther. She had grown tired of asking when are we going to the party, and what time it was. I wished I could know what was traveling through her head. I mean, don’t we always? What do they think of me? It haunted me all the while and still after.
I stopped pushing and as the swing slowly reclined to a stop, her grassy eyes landed on me. Waiting, for what would come next. I swooped down and told her to hop onto my shoulders. I knew her legs were getting tired like the rest of her body. But I also needed to keep her attention. We bounced down the path once again and once we escaped from the gates, I placed her down on the concrete, to approach the big city again.
“Ready for the party, darling?”
It was something to that effect. And man, her face glowed like the mighty sun. She smiled so I could see her molars and her brow line reached the top of her forehead.
“What, you thought I forgot or something? I wouldn’t lie to you, sweetheart.”
She said that she knew that and would never ever doubt me again. I started to whistle the tune of Ode to Joy and she marched right on through. I can’t remember when I had felt so happy.
We kept on like that for about, I’d say, an half an hour more until we reached 38th. Our toes were numb and we had finally reached our destination. The party. She was holding back her weariness. Using up all of the sugar of the cookie, that I bought her after dinner, had given her. We turned down an alley and I could feel her little hand slipping out of mine. I stopped walking and saw that she had too, about three feet behind me. I motioned with my head to keep on going but she pouted back at me and shook hers. My face gave away to a sheepish smile and kneeled right by her shoes. I took her hand and gently pressed my lips up to them.
“I thought you wanted you go to the party?”
My body hung there like a pile of trash. Weary and needed but could only be pitied. I felt my face reclining as if it was about to melt right off my skull. The lanky arms of mine hit the floor. She was still pouting but I a bit of sparkle in her eyes. All I need was hope.
I told you she was smart, right? She knew something was up and definitely didn’t want to be apart of it. If somebody took you down the way of a dark alley that didn’t show any signs of human life, would you follow? Too bad that so many do.
“It’s going to be a hell of a party. But, remember all those people we saw walking around in the city? We can’t invite all of those people now could we? If it was set out in the open, how do you think they’d feel? That’s why it’s down here.”
Again, she just held out her hand and followed.