This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

The boy stood far away from the other children and stared at the lone swing. It was swaying gently and he found it funny since no one or thing seemed to be pushing against it. He contemplated on making a run for it, his Skechers lighting up as he shifted his weight from one side to the other. He was a shy kid or so his teacher had told his parents, but they waved it off and went on to better things. Adult things that resulted in loud noises behind closed doors and plumes of smoke creeping into the crevices of his nose as he came home from school. It smelled faintly of that now. His nose picked up the scent and his eyes followed until they landed on a group of three teenagers atop the jungle gym, their legs dangling like the sticky fly traps that were hung from the ceiling of his kitchen. One of them made eye contact with him and he quickly snapped his eyes shut. That was the shyness acting up.

When he opened them and lifted his gaze again to the swing, disappointment swelled in his chest as he noticed a girl in its place. He glanced at the other swing which looked like it served its time in the prison that was the dilapidated playground. Years of abuse from young schoolchildren and angsty teenagers had left it hanging hopelessly on one rusted chain, its seat frayed and tattered. He must have stared a second too long because the girl suddenly stopped, her feet digging into the hard mulch to curb the surprising speed she had built up.

"Do you wanna get on?"



Well, yes.

"Aren't you that boy in Mrs. Stieber's class that got in trouble for punching someone?"

That wasn't me.

"Are you gonna punch me now?" She said that as if she was daring him to throw one.

"Are you gonna say anything?"

He wanted to. Some days he wanted to scream as loud as he possibly can at someone, anyone, that cared to notice. This girl seemed to notice but he had no urge to scream at her. He was actually glad because she was talking for him. He resisted the small smile that was beginning to form at the corners of his lips.

She flicked her short bangs out of her eyes, revealing a small stitch on her upper left brow. It made him curious but not enough to ask about it.

"Oh, that thing? Momma said I deserved it because I'm reckless and rude and just plain, old STUPID." Her legs began to move again, slowly at first and suddenly at a speed that felt too fast. Just as he was beginning to wonder when it'll be his turn, she catapulted herself through the air. He watched as she landed on both her knees against the hard ground without even so much of a wince. She pulled the hem of her white dress down to dab at the pool of blood that was collecting at the site. It looked like polka dots against the white fabric, as if the designer had meant for them to be there.

"You know you stare, right?" She started to pat the dirt off her too small of a dress, ignoring the fact that she had already gotten blood on it. "It's kinda creepy."

He knew and didn't care because now the swing was empty and he wanted it. She must have known because she stepped only an inch away from it, watching him intently as if he was the prey she had been waiting for all day.

He took a step. The blue and red lights startled him and he wished his parents had gotten him a new pair for his birthday. She didn't flinch. Red. Blue. Red. Blue. It was not until he was a foot away that she fluttered away as quickly as she had appeared the first time. He watched as she sprinted across the playground, around the see-saws, under the lanky legs of the teenagers, and disappeared behind the unkempt bushes that covered the school.

He finally sat down and drew in a long breath. He wished that normal things weren't so hard, so draining. He was scared of every sound that was too loud, lights that were too bright, people that were too outlandish. But it wasn't his fault that he was shy and he wished his teacher had not told his parents.

"Aren't you going to say thank you?" a voice startled him from behind. By now the park was nearly empty and the jungle gym had finally rid itself of the teenage boys and their ashes.

"I coulda stayed on but I didn't and you should thank me for it. Otherwise, you're just being a jerk. Didn't your mom teach you any manners? My mom made sure to beat them into me." She had started to walk in circles around the swing set, her eyes glued to her feet as she walked.

He didn't know if she was serious. Little did she know that talk of mothers, manners, and beatings was a sore topic for the boy. He eyed the girl as she continue to circle him like a hawk. Did her mom really beat her? The bruises on her legs look self-inflicted seeing how she threw herself carelessly at the playground's will. The stitch could be from an accident. He imagined her doing a backflip off the jungle gym, landing this time on her head, and bleeding more than a white dress can handle. He pulled the sleeve of shirt further down, suddenly conscious of the spots on his arm that were darker than the rest of him.

"I see you here everyday. I'm here because I want to be here, but it doesn't look like you want to be here. Well maybe except for the swing but really do you like being here?" She stopped in front of him as she asked the question, her face suddenly all too serious. For a moment, it looked like she wanted him to say yes.

Just then a red Toyota pulled up to the lot. The passenger door was thrown open by a hand motioning to the boy. "Come in, baby!” The night had gotten chillier and the evening breeze carried a raspy voice all the way to the swing set. “Sorry I'm late again." The boy stood up without a word and made his way to the beat up car. He was careful not to look at the girl, partly because he was embarrassed, partly due to the shyness, but mainly because he would have screamed at her.

April 19, 2024 23:51

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