This story is one of the November Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
You can’t see it at first, but it’s there.
There’s a fourteen-year-old girl sitting on that frozen park bench, sitting on her hands to keep them from getting just as cold as her nose. Your eyes catch sight of the way her hair is wet. Her clothes are torn. Her face is covered in the grime of the city streets. Did she fall?
You can’t see it at first, but it’s there. Her heart is cracked and is bleeding. The red liquid that is poured from it is becoming frozen in these conditions. If she tells you she’s getting cold, you would say you were too. But then she’d correct you and say, “No, from the inside.” It’s all happening so fast in front of everyone’s eyes, yet no one sees it. She didn’t fall. She was pushed. No one saw it. You can’t see it. Not at first. Not until her heart which has been freezing since he’d first laid a hand on her cracks. Not until it makes a sound so deafening that no one is able to hear another noise ever again.
It is as if lightening struck the ground right in front of you, and finally, you stop to pay attention. You are alert. You are looking around for any signs of danger. Finally, you pay attention to what may lie beneath during the silence that had followed the explosion of ice which emerged from her heart.
You realize that she is alone. No mother. No father. No sibling in sight. When you slowly approach her, feet crunching atop the chunks of ice that had flown from her insides like daggers as a warning to stay away, you see the dirty tears staining her cheeks. You are left to wonder what had happened. Why is she so cold? Maybe she didn’t fall. She didn’t just stumble because she was clumsy. She was shoved into the freezing temperatures of the world.
And now you stand in front of her. She sits still on the bench, staring straight ahead with no life left in her eyes. Your chest is in level with her face. She doesn’t move. You could tell that whoever this girl was is no longer near. A person once known is now a person you knew. The tears are falling, but her face is unmoving. A snowflake fallen from the sky lands on her cheek and turns to ice instead of melting away.
You ask her what’s wrong. She emotionlessly makes eye contact.
“I wandered too far,” she whispers. “Mother told me the streets weren’t safe. She told me not to cross the bridge, and I did. I crossed and I can’t go back.”
You ask her why. You offer to walk home with her. She could get cleaned up. All better. You’ll be fine tomorrow once you get a new pair of shoes and a warm bath. But she rejects you, pushes you away. She says she knows now that strangers are not to be trusted. She can’t cross the bridge. For if she does, she says she will let the wind push her off. She will hit the ground and fall into a lovable pile of crushed bones and pain. It sounds lovable to her, anyway. Enticing.
You couldn’t see it at first. Maybe you were distracted or just wished to mind your own business. But if you held the candle a little closer, you could see that her one true hope was to grasp a hand for help. She was manhandled. Brutally tortured. What she used to be is shattered into a thousand pieces and brushed under a rug for no person to see. If people would just look a little closer, they would see that the girl is crying out for help. She is not begging to be looked at. She is begging for someone to pull her up from the top before it’s too late. Before she’s stuck dying at the bottom, alone in the dark, and heart growing cold.