Fear has a cold grip around my stomach. I can feel it, squeezing tighter and tighter, pulling my breath away. The water laps far below me. Dark waves threaten me. Mocking me. My knuckles are white against the railing. It seems stupid to be clutching so hard. Holding so tight when in a minute—
I pull my gaze away from the edge. People are walking by. Not noticing. I wonder what home the lady with the black hair is going towards. If her home is good or bad. As bad as it might be, at least she has a home. Not like me. For me only a dark alley. Boys with knives. And cold. Always the cold. It’s worked all the way through me, now, freezing the very center of my heart.
One more coldness. Then it’ll be done. Then no more. I move back to the edge of the rail. I pull myself up. My muscles don’t work so well now. They don’t listen. The fear comes, stronger even than the cold.
“Hey, watcha see? What’s down there?”
I start. Almost teeter over. Catch myself.
It is a little girl. Her dark cornrows with bright ribbons dangle over the railing as she peers into the water beside me. She turns her head to look at me, her eyes bright. Friendly.
“Did you see a fish?” She smiles big.
Her dress is bright, red and full. Fancy for just going on a walk. She sees me looking at it and smiles even bigger. I didn’t know a little girl could smile that big.
“I’m singing tonight.” She swirls, making the dress fill out like a frilly umbrella. “I’m in the African Children’s Choir. We make great music.” She swings her shoulders back and forth, clapping her hands.
I feel a smile start somewhere. Deep inside. I turn away from the water. Let go of the rail.
The little girl’s mother calls her. She skips away, pauses to call over her shoulder, “You should come hear. Everyone is invited. It’s at the church right there on the corner.”
I can picture them. All the dark children with bright clothes. Swaying. Like colorful waves. I walk toward the church on the corner.
At least it will be warm.
copyright 2008 Amy Michelle Wiley
Amy is a freelance writer and editor and a professional sign language interpreter. She is the director of Peculiar People--an international collaborative fiction organization. Her website is www.sparrowsflight.net