Barbara sits on the lip of the sound, one side silent, the other not so. The not-so side hums, a low, down, deep in the lung wheeze, the kind you can’t shake, not even with a good cough. Barbara hardly hears it now.
She’s sitting on a rock on the lip of the sound on the top of the hill doing Sudoku when the girl pulls her fragments together into girl shape out of the mist.
I’m trying to find my back. My way back’, says the girl.
‘Yes’, says Barbara.
‘There’s no signs up here’, says the girl.
‘No’ says Barbara and offers her a murray mint. The girl shakes, no. But she sits next to Barbara when she makes space on the rock and they both think at the same time about the feeling they used to get when the cold of a rock could still seep into their bum cheeks.
This girl is in a tube dress, sleeveless, covered in big bright lemons and limes. She’s wearing candy pink flip flops, worn down on the insides. Her skin is a map of cuts and bruises and a still burning cigarette hovers where her right hand should be. Did a boar take it? Thinks Barbara, but she won’t ask.
They sit and talk about what to do with a babba coming, especially when your mam is a cow and no one else is bothered, not even him and then the girl says the boys name out loud and puts her one hand up to her cheek. Barbara watches a beetle crawl up over her ear and into her hairline.
The girl smiles then and looks 14 in that smile. Barbara wishes that she wasn’t such a stickler about the rules, but the wheeze from the not so silent side is quiet now; its listening.
Two paths – to the left, a sandy track through a shallow copse to a darkness so sudden that the girl will briefly be reminded of a school trip down a mineshaft and it will be the last nice thing she remembers for eternity.
The other way is grass and rubble but if she persists, she’ll come to some slabs of stone whittled to shine, and these lead down the hill to the car park, the chain pub and the chance to be remembered and hear those rememberings, even those of the absolute cow and the him responsible and think with sorrow and pride – I did matter, I did.
Barbara covers the girl’s cold, ringless fingers with her hand.
Okay, lovey. You need to head left, just through the woods, there and you’ll get to where you need to be. Get going, now. It’s cold out.
The girl lets out a little gasp of thanks. She bites her bottom lip, skips off the rock and takes the track to the left. Barbara doesn’t watch her go; she gets back to her Sudoku on the lip of the sound.
StefanieMoore is a teacher, mother and tap dance champion (North East Lincolnshire, 1994). She is a graduate of the Write Like a Grrl Programme. Writing credits include Dear Damsels and 100 Voices for 100 Years. She has performed work at That’s What She Said and A New Leaf. @Nefnywrites nefny.wordpress.com
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