It is a dark city on such a late summer evening. The sun is blood over the rooftops, and the girl in the park is sitting in the last rays passing between the old brick buildings.
It is a small park, of course; not much more than a few benches and a couple of old trees, but it is a refuge in a town that is huge, and busy. The trees haven’t begun to turn yet, and the grass and paths are golden in the spaces between their leaves. There are people, and they pass through, but they are few, and don’t spare the girl a glance.
The girl is sixteen; looks fourteen. The cigarette hangs in her hand, ash burned back almost to her fingertips. Black hood over her head and black jeans to her boots, she’s like a darker shadow in the shade of the trees. A lock of crimson hangs forward, and the small silver nose ring glints a little. Under the hoodie is a lace top, black also, and at her breast is a silver pendant: a silver crucifix entwined with snakes. A choker holds a black glass heart with a skull inside to her throat.
Her eyes — hazel, and green — are on the ground, and they wince as the ash burns to her fingers, but she doesn’t let go; only bites her black-stained lip. Not until the purse by her side vibrates does she drop the butt, conscientious enough to crush it. She reaches into the bag, past the driver’s license that says she’s sixteen and the ID that says she’s eighteen, to pull out the battered phone. The little screen says where r u.
She fiddles and sends a reply; stows the phone again. She raises her eyes — not her head — and looks: the trees, the pigeon, the passers-by. There is a moment, brief, when only the girl and the squirrels are in the park, and she gets up, the purse strap across her chest and her hands deep in the hoodie.
Her walk is slow, a little shuffling, her head always down. Her boots are good leather, well-worn, and tap gently against the pavement. They guide her along a path out of the park, though she steps to the grass to avoid the people who are once again passing through.
Where she leaves the park is a sidewalk that runs along the narrow street, cars parked tight in the gutter. She turns onto this; follows the iron fence to the corner. Her head is always down, and she steps onto the street to a screech and the blast of a horn.
Stopped in the middle of the street, a battered pickup continues to scream at her, also stopped in the middle of the street.
“The fuck, girl! What the hell’s wrong with you?”
And she looks up now, and stares at him; her breathing is quick and her eyes empty.
“Get the fuck out of the way!” […]
Read the full chapter here.