She sat by herself, but she was not alone. There was something lingering beside her shivering body. Something I couldn’t seek. A voice in the wind whispered a plea into the spirals of her ear. As her legs stretched out over concrete steps, the light denim folding and wrinkling, she giggled into her trembling hands. Or was she sobbing? Or was she replying back to the wind? My cheek became numb under the frigid lamp pole I took cover behind. My own legs trembled with cold and tiredness, bare knees knocking through tears in the jeans. A kit kat wrapper rolled by me with its edges scraping the sidewalk.
I should go talk to her.
Tears blotted her image, but I wiped at them furiously with my dampened sleeve. Her head cocked upward to the gray clouds.
Rain is approaching. I should go home. Mother would be frantic if I came home with soaked clothing.
“Not yet.” Her voice drifted by. “We have to wait.” Long brown curls, draping her shoulders shook as she giggled again. “It will be worth it.” The wind flew by again, bringing in another message and she stood up, pacing back and forth by her beat up, mud stained, blue backpack. Her lips curled into a frown, eyes narrowed to the ground.
“Um, hi,” I say, removing myself from the pole. Her head rises sharply, the light twinkling in her dark eyes. “Is everything alright?” She cocked her head to the side, looking up at me. I towered over her small frame by at least five inches.
She took a deep breath, and unfurled the frown etched into her face. A smile replaced it, showing a mouth filled with green braces.
“Yes, I’m fine. There’s nothing wrong,” she replied, folding her hands behind her.
I nod slowly. “Okay. I just saw you, um, talking to yourself…” I trail off. Her eyes dimmed as her lips twitched. “Okay, sorry to bother you then, bye.”
That was a bad idea!
As I crossed the street, I glanced behind me to check if she was still standing there. The girl has her back to me, hunched over, talking into her hands. The wind picked up, blowing hair into my face. Pellets of rain fall in lazy sheets, but will soon gain momentum.
She needs to go home.
Lifting my knees, I quickened my pace. A car speeds down the street coming from behind me, blasting loud rock music. The sound traveled through the chilly air, vibrating my shivering body. It passed without stopping at the stop sign.
“What the-” My feet stopped at the end of the street, a breath caught in my throat. On the other side, her backpack sat alone with a swinging flap, the tail dragging on the concrete.
Where is she?
“I’m right here, Louisa.”
Whipping my neck behind me to the voice, I stumbled backwards.
“Who said that? Where are you?”
“Go home Louisa, you shouldn’t be out in the dark at this hour.”
The voice surrounded me like the car music. Every word reverberated through my bones and created a churning in my stomach.
“I was just trying to help!” I yell at the dark sky. More and more rain fell in response. My face was dripping and my clothes were drenched.
“Go home! Go home! Leave now!”
My feet slapped hard on the sidewalk, puddles already forming. Sloshing water splashed my pant legs, and soaked my socks.
What is going on?
My house comes into the view, the door wide open. Mother walks down the porch stairs, hands folded across her chest.
“Louisa?” she exclaims. “Where have you been?”
“Some crazy girl was… talking to herself… then this voice was yelling at me!” I panted, resting a hand on her arm. She guided me into the house, taking a glimpse down the unlit street. I collapsed on the sofa and my backpack dug into my spine. My body is completely soaked, but my throat is parched. A water stain grows underneath me on the sofa. Mother takes my things off me, including my shoes. I shed the wet clothing. They peeled off easy like an orange rind.
“Get in the shower and warm up. I’ll heat your dinner, then you can explain what happened.
An hour later
“Yeah, then she just disappeared, mother! After that, a voice was screaming at me to go home.” I scooped a spoonful of mashed potatoes into my mouth.
“She probably hid in one of the bushes and tried to frighten you. Don’t be silly,” she remarked, shaking her head. She pushed her long, brown bangs behind her ear. “This is why you shouldn’t stay too long after school. That’s when all the weirdos come out.” I rolled my eyes at her comment. It’s only six, but because of it’s winter, the sun sets early. I stayed after to finish doing research for my science project on molecules.
That was frightening, but what if mother is right and she did this on purpose? I’ve never seen that girl before in my life.
She didn’t look the least bit familiar, but judging by the backpack and her sitting in front of the school, she must be a student. Polk middle school wasn’t a big place, but I knew a lot of people.
Maybe she was new?
She wasn’t trying to hurt me, she said to go home…
“Who could be at the door?” My mom got up to check the window. “Huh, it’s a little boy, maybe he got lost.”
“Same one from last week?” I said, craning my neck to window. Mother shrugged, leaving the kitchen. A parent forgot to pick up their son last week, and he was walking around the neighborhood, shivering and lost. For the school bus system, they have a central location where students will go to get picked up. I guess he didn’t know how to get back home from there.
“Who is, mother?” I asked, hearing the door close. I picked up my empty plate and set it down in the sink. “Mother?”
Where is she?
Sighing, I left the kitchen to check the living room.
She’s not here.
I opened the front door and a whoosh of air slapped me in the face. Goosebumps rose along my cheeks. the street is empty.
“Mother!” I yelled.
I slammed the door shut, staggering backwards.
“I told you it wasn’t safe out there.”
“No! What did you do to my mother?” No answer. “Mother!” Running throughout the house, tears, streaked my face, the pounding in my chest getting louder each second. “Mother!”
“Mother is gone to the wind.”
*Photo by Darkness on Unsplash