The lawn sprinkler tips lazily from side to side on the freshly cut grass and onto the sidewalk, leaving the little girl greedily breathing in and out of her nose to catch the smell of water on the hot cement.
Little rivers of water run down her legs from her wet bathing suit, and she shivers as she feels the unexpected breeze.
She stands alone wondering what to do next.
Why don’t you go run around in the sprinklers for a bit? her mother had innocently asked her. It was stifling hot in the house – they couldn’t afford to run the air conditioning – so she thought it sounded like a good idea. Just as quickly as she stepped outside, she heard the click of the door locking behind her.
She knows that her mother won’t let her back in until it was dark outside. She knows she won’t be getting any lunch. She didn’t have have a towel or any sunblock, and hoped that if she knocked long enough her mother might open the door to give her those neccesities.
She had no siblings, no friends. She was actually surprised that her mother had let her outside, it didn’t happen often during the hot summer months. Her mother was always worried that a neighbor would see the bruises that covered her arms and back or that they would question her about the small circular burns that littered her legs.
The man that her mother called her friend, that her mother made her call her Daddy even though he wasn’t, hurt her sometimes. Like when the girl asked for something to eat or if she could watch TV. All that her mother and the man wanted to do was sit at the table and smoke out of the little glass pipe. No interruptions, no requests. They definitely didn’t want to have to deal with her.
She tilted her head upwards and closed her eyes, feeling the hot sun on her skin. She grabbed her hair and wrapped herself up in it. It smelled dirty and like outside. She heard music and laughter, and decided to peek over the fence to see what her neighbors were doing.
She dragged a chair to the wall, and pulled herself up, scrapping her knees and using her chin to help gain leverage. It hurt, but it was always worth it.
It looked like they were preparing for lunch with their family. A tray full of plump berries and brightly colored fruits sat in the middle of a table. She caught of waft of the burning candle, it smelled like the beach. The lady with the white hair was fussing to get everything to look just so, and the man had just started the barbecue. The charcoal gleamed red and the scent of it – the epitome of summer- made everybody in the backyard oohh and aahh anticipating the upcoming meal.
The sun left little twinkles of light glistening in the pool, it looked happy. She wanted to run and jump right into the middle of it. She would close her eyes and hold her breath and listen to the silence of being underwater. She could pretend to be Ariel the mermaid who was swimming back to the sea to her loving father. She would do somersaults in the water and when she couldn’t hold her breath any longer, she would push off the bottom and burst through the surface while the chlorine burned her eyes and tickled her nose.
There was a little girl that she didn’t initially notice who was standing next to the pool eating a piece of watermelon, watching her intently. She felt the color rise in her cheek and realized she was embarrassed to have been caught. She quickly pushed off the wall, climbed down the chair, sat on the cool grass and started to cry.
The scene she had just witnessed was what she wanted for herself. It was summer. It was family. It was everything she knows she will never have as long as her mother is with the man she that she has to call Daddy brings the pipe.
She wants to run away.
She wants to be the little girl on the other side of the wall.
She wants a huge chunk of watermelon. She wants to feel the juice drip down her chin and arms. She wants to fill the sticky it leaves behind.
She just wants to be normal, no more hiding under long sleeves in the middle of summer.
She just wants to be.
I wrote this post for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop in response to Prompt #1: What five images paint a perfect picture of summer to you? Put those five images together in a piece of writing. (inspired by writingfix.com)
I used more than five images in this post, and they all came from a post I wrote back in March titled The Scents of Summer. This piece is fiction, and obviously the girl isn’t experiencing my picture perfect summer. Maybe the other side of the fence is closer to my picture perfect.
I want to thank Nichole for suggesting I start writing fiction again. If you’ve read my fiction before you know it’s always dark, and it felt good to open the closed and locked door in that part of my brain. It so interesting to me to take those scents I love so much and twist them into something else. It is always an adventure to take an idea that pops in my head (the lazy lawn sprinkler tipping from side to side) and see where it ends up. Feedback is welcome – I wrote this in about half an hour and I’m sure there’s lots of things I need to fix. That girl makes me so sad, maybe I will continue her story to see if she can find a happy ending.