While trying to block out her young parent's turmoil, a young girl remembers the kindness of a stranger.
“Make sure you cover up”, my mother said with her sparkling red lips. I had heard those words before.
Following this advice, I layered the soft fleece blankets and the cloudlike down comforter that every now and then pricked me with the tips of fine feathers. And then they would argue, their shouting muffled by the wall.
Next I stacked the pillows, each pink and heart-shaped, the indented stitching of the words “Sweet Heart” placed by my grandmother’s wrinkled hands. Her hands were so soft, the loose skin hanging down, cool to the touch on her tough bones. I would pinch some between my fingers and feel the elasticity, like pulling on beige silly putty or sticky, slick gum under the desk. Under my tower of hearts, I grinned.
Now they were screaming, loud cries piercing through the walls and into my ears like hornets on the attack. I rose from bed and jumped onto the shaggy blue carpet, feeling the fibers between my toes. A hop or two and I pressed the smooth, worn on switch of the white oscillating fan. At first it creaked, the plastic settling and shifting. After a few seconds, it hummed like a fine tuned note, purred and blew a soft, cool breeze onto my face.
I wiggled my toes and closed my eyes. The warmth of the sun from a past memory spread across my face. There we were at Jekyll Island three years past. My mother and father’s bronze bodies were laid out on neon, zigzagged patterned beach towels. I smelled the familiar odor of the Georgia coast, the sewage like scent of a paper mill mixed with the sweet odor of sun tan lotion. From behind my grand sandcastle I heard them joking, laughing and giggling. Looking back now, I can tell that they were in love once.
The sand was blazing and seared my young skin as I rose and walked to them. They heard my high pitched wails, saw the sand rise and fall like drizzle when I fell. The world was on fire, and it seemed like forever. I remember their awkward faces and confused eyes as they stared at me, limbs floundering to form coherent actions. They didn’t know how to save me. Simply put, they were young too.
Thankfully a nearby stranger had their wits about them, unflustered by young love. A man with salt and pepper hair grabbed me under my arm pits. The pressure from his fingertips gave me a giggle. I was always sensitive. He wrapped a warm arm under my bottom and cradled me.
“Walking on lava, huh?” he said.
His grin was slightly yellow, but his teeth were straight. The outward corners of his eyes were slit with crow’s feet. A genuine smile. The glow around his wide brimmed, straw hat cast his face in a soft glow, a halo for my guardian angel.
When I awoke in the morning, my eyes blinked as the echo of his bright form mocked me. I heard music in the other room, classical notes that lulled upwards and downwards in pitch and tone. In the other room were abrupt explosions and curse words from my father’s video games.
Today I’ll wear my straw hat, I thought. I covered up my auburn hair and went outside to make my own noise.