October 7, 2015
As the pair move, the temperature begins to drop. Cold wind sweeps across their faces but they hardly notice. They pause for a red light at the corner of an old deli with 'Closed for Business' sign hanging on the glass door. She remembers buying ham there once and being a dollar short. The owner was kind enough to let her go without paying the rest. She has been too embarrassed to return to the deli.
She turns to the boy beside her but he is busy studying the traffic light so intensely that he might just change them with his mind. She wants to ask where they are heading but she does not dare to even whisper a single word. The wind seems content to keep them in its cool folds. She tightens her grip on his arm. He doesn't seem to notice. The light changes. He starts to move. She follows half hesitatingly.
They stop again at another traffic light. She takes another look at him. His face and ears are red from the cold. His eyes are steady and straight. She dares herself to speak. She asks him where they are going. The light changes and he pulls her along.
Her question hangs in the air between them as they walk from one block to the next. The wind keeps up their paces. The boy answers without turning to face her. We are going away, far away. She notices then that he carries a large duffle bag. To where? She wonders. Toward somewhere better, he answers.
They stop at the end of a block. There is the park with the tall leafless trees where she had once waited for him to pick her up after a bad fall from being chased by a dog. She loosens her grip on his arm and lets her hand fall free.
Night comes and the streetlights go on. Over there, not far from where they stand and where the street light is always too dim, is the shoe stand where the boy used to work shinning shoes during the early mornings before school. The boy haven't been paid much and the boss wanted to give him less. He quitted rather than argue. He said some things are not worth fighting over.
She's cold. She has only her thin blue jacket over her school uniform of white shirt, black skirt, white tights and black loafers. She has forgotten her scarf and coat at home. He had rushed her out the door the moment she got home from school. He said it was important that she follow him. She saw the seriousness of his face and knew she had to do what he said. Now she is uncertain.
They stop for a light. There in the right corner is the barbershop where they got their first haircut. He had all his hair shaved off and she got a pixie cut. The cuts were free as they were both under ten. He got a lollipop after his cut but there were no more left when her hair was done. He hardly blinked as he held out the lollipop to her. She knew then that he loves her.
He turns to her now. Her brother. Her dear brother whom had slaved in underpaid jobs just to keep her fed and in school. Only two years older and yet, he is her protector, her guardian. She could not do without him but he could do very well without her.
His face is calm. His mouth is a quiet movement of two thin lines. He speaks of a new life. One where they do not have to be afraid to sleep in their own home. Deep lines appear upon his forehead each time he speaks. The lines are there now. She smiles at his words. How much older he appears now. How wise his eyes are. His square jaw is wider and full of determination. Her brother, her dear sweet brother. It is not hard to believe him. He has a way of making you believe him even without him saying much.
He tells her he has find a way out for her, for both of them. A new start away from their father and mother and the violence. It is very strange to run away when they have parents and yet, they are not running, not really. It is a just a little shift in their lives, a very important, little shift ― something they both need.
Let's go, he says. He holds out his hand. His face now in full smile mode with the crinkles around the corners of his lips and his eyes shine like two moons. She grabs his hand and together they continue walking.
Note: I've been editing this off and on and still, I can't say it's finished but I like it. This story is inspired by the photo which I took a few years ago. I liked the way the girl's hair was swaying in the wind and somehow this story is born. Do you think it's complete? They said a short story should have a beginning, a middle and an end just like a novel, so I hope this story is complete. I don't think I need to have a longer explanation. It's direct enough, right? Thank you for reading.