July 7, 2016

Fiction by Lakesha Landrum: "Don't Look Back"

Lakesha Landrum lives in Atlanta, Georgia 

Don't Look Back

The door opened, a small crack and then wider. A pale hand reached out from the shadowed interior testing the air, its slender fingers and palm reaching toward the sky as if trying to grasp the air in a friendly shake. The door opened wider and an arm and part of a shoulder revealed themselves, all pale. The sun glinted off the extremity, causing an almost ethereal glow.

       As the door open wider, a small round face appeared, equally as pale. As the sun hit her face, she flinched and held her right hand up to her eyes. It was covered in scars. Some of them were long and carving back out of sight on her hidden arm and others were small and a vicious angry red. Realizing her hand was revealed to the world, she quickly dropped it back into the shadowed alcove of the door. Looking quickly about, her faced scrunched she examined the outside world.

      Sun motes danced across a freshly mown lawn as three sparrows flitted back and forth angrily chirping over a bit of twig. The neighborhood was silent save for the birds incessant chattering. Across the still street, the McGregor’s watched from their front window as the pale girl watched the street. Tugging his wife’s attention away from the sight, Mr. McGregor closed the curtains and thought to himself ‘Maybe this time...’

      Up and down the streets people glimpsed the pale hand still stuck out in the rays of the sun, smiled to themselves and respectfully retreated in doors. A small boy riding his tricycle let out a brief bleat of noise before he was quickly silenced in rushed in doors. Head jerking toward the sound, frightened eyes watched as the small child was quickly carried into the house and the door slammed shut.

      Returning her eyes to the grass in front of her house, the girl inched forward, her scarred hand still hidden within the confines of the house. A car zoomed past, sending the girl scurrying back into the doorway. Waiting to the way was clear again, she once again ventured forth. The street was completely silent and still. Standing on the front stoop the girl turned her face to the sun and raised her arms to receive its warmth.

      Long black hair slithered and slid as a gentle breeze brushed against her thin torso. Her thin frame barely filled the rumpled, sleeveless grey shirt and shorts. Her bare feet had all the definition of a skeleton barely covered by a pale covering of skin. The harshness of her scars stood out in stark contrast to her skin. The scars length and barely hidden depth a testament to some hidden torment from deep within the house behind the girl.

      A loud yell from within the darkness of the house caused the girl to frown. Her porcelain face creased with the concentration of ignoring the voice and focusing on the wind and sun. The door slammed shut. The girl dropped her arms, turned and faced the door. With her back to the street, no one could see the look of grief and panic that flitted along with terror and relief across her face.

      She stepped backwards away from the door. Her bare feet now touching the pebbled path, the girl turned to face the mailbox, whose crumpled frame tilted and leaked ages of mail and unpaid bills. Her feet shook as she moved further away from the house, her frame shook when she took another step; tears stung her grey eyes as she moved further. By the time she reached the mailbox, she collapsed onto and clung with all her strength. Her breath came in short panicky gasps as she stared down the street at the road that curved out of sight.

      Across the street Mrs. McGregor was at the window again. The curtains only opened a slit, barely enough for one eye. Her heart leapt as the pale girl collapsed against the mail box. Clenching her fist and pressing it against her mouth, she resisted the urge to go out and help her. She had tried before; her heart broke as she remembered the first time. The girl was on the front step, her eyes blackened, her nose bloodied, and her clothes half torn away. My heart was in my throat at her desperate sobs reached my ears as I approached. The girl’s dark head darted up and before I could touch her, she had darted back into the house slamming the door. I remembered her eyes. Her eyes have always haunted me.

      Closing the curtain against the sight, Mrs. McGregor laid her head against the curtain. “Please...” she whispered, “I know you can do it.”

      As if hearing the desperate prayers of the woman across the street, the girl stood up. Her knees knocked as she leaned away from the mailbox. For the first time the girl looked up at house across the street. She remembered the lady. Her eyes were so full of sadness and pity. She looked like she could help but she couldn’t be trusted. So she had run, back into the only place she had ever known, her place of constant everlasting torment.

      She had watched from her bedroom as the woman stood on the path beside the mailbox. Her hand had still been outstretched, as if still reaching for the girl who was no longer there. She watched as the woman stood up straight and pulled a phone from her bag. She had wanted to stop her, someone always came but they never helped, they never listened. They always listened to her.

      She remembered the time when she had gone to school, covered in bruises, clothes unwashed, hair a rat’s nest of tangles. There had still been dried blood on her arm then from all the cuts. She couldn’t feel her fingers. She remembered her teacher screaming and asking what happened. She remembered being placed into the back of a van, her arm quickly lashed with white bandages and a barrage of questions. She remembered the police, one had even hugged her.

      And then the services came to her home, she begged them not to but they did. They set and talked with her. And she with all her sweet persuasive charm lied to them and they believed her. She had gone to school bloodied and broken and they believed her. She told them how klutzy her daughter was, how lazy. How she was always reminding her daughter to bathe. They chuckled over children and their not wanting to listen. She remembered how they had smoozed and left laughing. And she closed the door and came up stairs and blackness.


      “No more...” the girl croaked and let go of the mailbox. Swiping tears from her cheeks, the girl stared down the street. Hearing a door open across the street, the girl crouched down, trying to make herself as small as possible. Slow and cautious steps proceeded toward her and the girl curled herself into a ball, preparing for the worse.

      “You made it this far, you can make it further.” The girl looked up into the face of Mrs. McGregor. “Get up.” She said holding out her hand, “Get up and let’s go. I left you here once. I will not do it again.” She crouched down to where the girl was still lying on the ground. Softening her voice, she whispered, “It took so much not to go in after you and to know they left you there. I heard you screaming that night. I called the services and begged them to come. And when you stopped-” She started to cry.

      Warm arms encircled Mrs. McGregor. Her eyes popped opened as this frail girl hugged her as hard as she could. Trembling and gasping as fresh sobs burst forth, she clung to the girl and rocked her gently back and forth. She cried for ignoring all the times she saw the child leave the house dirty. She cried for knowing that the girl probably didn’t get fed, she cried for knowing this child had no one and that she let her face an unknown pain.

      Grasping the girl’s arms and pulling them away from her neck, Mrs. McGregor looked at the scars covering the girl’s right arm. The ridges and edges so sharp, palpable like the girl’s pain. Yanking her arm away, the girl hid her arm behind her back. “They’re because I was bad.” Her small voice whispered. “She never wanted me and all I cause her is trouble. I should have never gone to school that day. Looking like this, ugly.” Slamming her hand into the sidewalk, the young girl stood.

      Mrs. McGregor seeing the look of fierce determination on her face, stood with her. Both turned and looked back at the girl’s house. It’s façade of with white siding and red shutters a beautiful contrast to the turmoil within. The curtains twitched as if someone was looking out from inside and then were still. Grabbing the girl’s hand and turning her away from the house, Mrs. McGregor walked home and placed her in her car. “You know”, she said getting in and starting the vehicle, “As many times as I’ve seen you, heard you, wanting to and now helping you, I don’t think I even know your name.”

      And for the first time in her life the girl smiled. “My name is pretty ironic actually.”

      “Yeah and why is that?” Mrs. McGregor asked stopping at a red light.

      “Because my name is Miracle.” She said.

      Mrs. McGregor looked over at the girl who was now staring out of the passenger side window with her scarred arm cuddled in lap. “Miracle.” she said.

      The light turned green.

~Lakesha Landrum

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