A Safe Distance

At three o'clock every day that summer, my sister and her friends used to walk down the gray-pebbled path that led to the lake. They would feed the ducks and go swimming if the weather was fine.

I refused to go each time they would ask, which wasn't very often, pleading sickness or homework that supposedly needed to get done. Sounds of laughter and bird cries would travel up to where I lay on the attic floor. I pretended not to mind. My legs were marked by the sunlight creeping through the window slants. It made a strange pattern, looking like X's all up and down my legs.

My sister was two years younger than my eleven. She had Father's cornflower-blue eyes and Mama's white-blond hair. Both my eyes and hair were of an indistinguishable color, somewhere between green and brown. I was tall then, tall for a eleven year-old, almost taller than Mama, who was five foot-seven. My milk-colored limbs were long and lanky.

I was not pretty, not like my sister. Her name is Jane. Mine is Anabelle. It's strange, how names can be so wrong about people sometimes. I should've traded names with her, being the plain Jane, while she was the true belle. But life is funny like that I suppose.


I look like an albino praying mantis, at least according to Jethro, the four-eyed boy who lived next door. He would spend all day traipsing through the fields collecting this yellow butterfly or that black beetle. Wonder what's become of him, if he's become that famous scientist he so wanted to be. He was wild about bugs, anything that had more than four legs. I always watched his insects from a safe distance, not trusting their multiple legs.

Jethro would pass by on Sundays after the morning service with his empty shoebox. Let's go pick dandelions, he'd say, pushing his glasses further up his hawk's nose. I always slathered sunscreen all over myself and put on Mama's big straw hat for these occasions. It became a ritual of sorts, the only outing I allowed myself. Jethro and I would walk into the fields past the barn and the sleepy cows and we'd take turns holding the box. We walked till the box was full to the brim with flowers, the dandelions threatening to take flight in the slightest breeze. Then we would go back down towards my house and on my front porch we'd set up the rickety three-legged table with a jar for collecting money and the sign:


Sometimes the selling was good and sometimes not. We had our regulars, like Old Man Emmett, who came hobbling to my house with his black cane in hand. He'd buy enough flowers for a small bouquet and then give me one. He smelled always of peppermints and his voice was gravely, like the sound an old record makes.

The End

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