“Oh! Hello there.”
She sits up now, looking at you with wide sky-bark eyes, naïve and happy, but gleaming with a shadowy intelligence. She smiles to you, a smile that you haven’t known or seen in a very long time – hell, your parents don’t even smile at you like that. The grin conveys something, what could it be? Gentleness? Complexity? Occult malice? Your head tilts askew as you delve deeper into thought; you were always one to gaze at a person and try to figure them out. Your sight becomes unfocused as you concentrate more on mind rather than the present time. She acts as if she didn’t fall off of her board just a moment ago as she passed, knocking bitter, warm mocha out of your hand and your books out of your arm. She took quite a tumble, somersaulting before skidding on her shoulders backward. Mentally, you giggle. How could someone be so oafish?
“You don’t talk very much, do you?”
She’s standing now, brushing dirt off of her jeans, worn at the knees with the cuffs stuffed into hi-topped Chuck Taylor’s. The graphic on the side portrays a skull amongst storm gray roses on a white background, with charcoal black laces tied into a sloppy double-knot. She shuffles her feet anxiously and rubs her neck, letting a few strands of hair fall into her face. After she tucks the escapees behind her ear, she straightens her button up, stone-colored over a plain white undershirt, rolled up to the elbows. You noticed something shift over her chest. The pendant is a cartoon representation of an arctic fox, with only a head and tail. Chibi, wasn’t it? Her hair falls in a short, thick tangled mess. It fades from sandy to golden to dark, dark blonde. One could mistake it for being chocolate-hued, as long as they didn’t see the sun rays strike it.
“I guess not. Well, I’m not one for being silent; I’m also not very keen on being impolite to such pretty strangers.”
She’s holding her hand out to you now, that same laid-back, gentle smile etched on her lips. You tilt your head up to look at her eyes. The corner of your mouth twitches, your palm catching hers to give it a firm shake. She laughs, it’s deep and it’s throaty but it’s genuine and that alone makes butterflies flutter in your stomach. Her eyes twinkle now. Sparkle with a kindness unbeknownst to you. Wide shoulders skip as she laughs, her hand leaving yours before she leans back to take a look at you. Under her scrutiny, your feel your cheeks grow hot and the fine hair on the back of your neck stands on end. You reach up to grasp the spot where your neck meets your shoulder, casting your gaze away from her. Your eyes wander to her board, flipped over in the gravel, deck showing for all those curious. Dirty teal wheels still lazily spin but nothing moves the board forward. Purple letters outlined in light blue say BAHME, likely the brand. Under the curved word is a centered graphic; a light gray sugar skull with exaggerated cheekbones and various designs. The skull sends a shiver up your spine. Why? The girl has long since stopped her guffawing and now flips the board onto its wheels, pushing her foot down on the tailfin and sending the nose of it into her waiting hand. She pulls it up under her arm, gazing over to you with a warm gaze.
“Lead the way.”
You were disheartened as you started to walk with her at your side, but she seemed much merrier. You found you didn’t have to give your input on the subject at hand; she would just talk about it. As you both ambled on, she spoke of outrageous things. She told tales of a man with no face, who was over fifteen feet tall and wore a suit with a blood red tie, a young girl who calmed his heart, and a lunatic with a smile cut permanently into her face. Another tale was that of a pair of girls with apparitions attached to them from birth, ghosts that assisted them in their times of need. There was a love story about a heavily abused boy and a shy small-town girl, overcoming odds beyond everything. A story of a witch hunter who was cursed with lycanthropy, who travels around the world and falls in love with a pair of twin nuns confused you greatly, but made you smile nonetheless. There was another epic about a young woman who never fit the norms, didn’t fit into a category. Your favorite, however, was about a female Scottish warrior, who lead her clan into countless skirmishes and got out alive with few casualties. You never wanted the story-telling to come to an end. Eventually, it did.
“This is your place?”
A sky-bark gaze inspects the home in dreadful earnest, the zeal and gusto long gone from her previously peachy mood. Honestly, the settlement would bring any person to tears. The fence around the yard is littered with holes and a Beware of Dog sign is set awry. The mailbox door is barely hanging by its hinges, the flag rusted and one snowstorm away from being ripped off. The thing itself is battered and dented. The yard is yellow, the grass starchy, dead, stiff. The house’s wood is rotting away, window panes dirty and broken. You push up the gate’s latch and step through just before you feel a callused hand grasp your bicep. The touch sends a shock through your body, makes your skin tingle and you want to pull away, but you can’t.
“Wait, just a moment.”
You turn your head back, panic rising in your chest but much to your relief, she lets go. Her hands go around her neck; they fiddle with the small clasp before bringing it back around. In a second’s notice, cool metal touches your skin and the fox shifts upon your breast. For good measure, she takes the hat off of her head and holds it out to you, courage evident in her expression and more importantly, in the gesture. Moments feel like hours as you stare at the ragged thing, loose but soft. It’s black, the hem bended upward for a thicker fold. Gingerly, uneasily, your hand rises and your fingers close around the thing. You were right. It is soft. After you take it, she lets her board down on the ground, stepping onto it and pushing off with one strong sweep of her leg.
“It’s something to remember me by! Just know that I’m always around, that I’ll be back for my hat later!”
Her voice is strong as it calls to you, as you watch after her with your books held tight to your chest. Dark gold hair streams behind her as she skates, jumps off the curb and pushes off to gain speed again. When she’s gone from sight, that’s when you turn and bound up the steps, through the door and up the stairs to your room.
As the door closes, your shoulders hit the chipped white wood, and you slide down to the floor, books still in arms.
You never caught her name.