October 1, 2013 § Leave a comment
A piece of flash fiction about what could go wrong – or could it be right – when a little girl throws stones…
Ginny remembered Susie Metson because she always had a runny nose but never a handkerchief. Ginny kept hers tucked neatly inside the waistband of her knickers. Susie liked to wipe the stringy slime from her bottom lip with the hem of her summer dress, and hang around outside the back gate of Ginny’s house whistling loudly until she came out to play.
‘Would you show me how to do that?’ asked Ginny one day.
‘Don’t think so,’ replied Susie solemnly.
‘Your mum wouldn’t like you whistling. Not ladylike.’
Susie wouldn’t tell Ginny what she meant. ‘Trust me,’ she said turning the corners of her mouth into her not-quite-there smile. ‘I know about these things.’
Susie had a laugh like a hyena, was two years older than Ginny and wore clothes that looked like they belonged to somebody else. She wore the same thin dress every summer until the buds on her chest got so big the seams split under the arms. The dress had a violent design of roses the colour of fresh blood, and a tie around the waist that always came undone and trailed in the dirt when they were playing in the field behind Ashby House. Susie said that was where the rich people lived. She didn’t care about the mud, she didn’t care about the grass stains on her knees either. After the dress wore out she whistled at Ginny’s back gate wearing her brother’s cut off denims, but it wasn’t the same somehow. That was about a month before she disappeared.
The two girls always played near Ashby House in the summer holidays because that was what Susie said they should do.
‘Why do we have to go and sit in their back meadow again?’ Ginny complained. ‘I get dirty and there are creepy crawlies that bite. My mum thinks I’ve got fleas.’
‘It’ll be worth it,’ said Susie mysteriously. ‘It’s now or never.’
Each day they crawled closer to Ashby House through the prickly corn. They became as one, bobbing up and down like a pair of nervous hares with the scent of a terrier in their nostrils. Conversations were desultory and often left unfinished.
Soon they found the earwigs.
‘That’s a good sign,’ exclaimed Susie brushing one off her leg and treading on it. ‘It means we’re close to the wall.’
The wall was falling down and made of flintstone, pebbles and lime mortar. Susie began to prize out the pebbles with her penknife.
‘What are you doing?’ asked Ginny.
‘Don’t touch. The white stuff burns. We’ll need these for later,’ she whispered, putting three perfectly round pebbles in her jeans pocket.
‘For the witch. You’ll see.’
They scrambled over a low bit of wall and hid amongst the trees. The garden was overgrown and full of shadows, the house large and proud. The girls waited: Ginny scratching the bites on her legs, Susie wiping her nose.
‘I need to go home now,’ said Ginny picking at her nails. ‘It’s teatime.’
‘No,’ insisted Susie. ‘That can wait. Look.’
An old lady with hair like white candyfloss struggled through the verandah doors and wobbled onto the terrace. She scraped along the slabs with a walking frame towards a wicker chair, sat down, sighed, and folded in on herself.
‘There she is!’ whispered Susie.
‘She doesn’t look like one.’
Susie chose a stone, rubbed it between her fingers, spat on it, and aimed. It bounced along the terrace and came to rest at the old woman’s feet. The white head trembled like a jelly, and the old lady turned her head towards the shrubbery.
‘Who’s there?’ The voice quivered like a frightened child’s. As dogs began to bark in the house, Ginny threw another stone. A window smashed and tinkled on the paving stones.
‘Oh lor!’ gasped Susie, licking her runny nose. ‘I never could throw straight.’
Two black Dobermanns came bounding into the garden.
‘Find the intruders!’ screeched the old lady. Her voice now strong and coarse and angry.
‘Come on, Susie,’ Ginny breathed, tugging wildly at her clothes. ‘The dogs!’
‘Just one more pebble to go,’ Susie whispered, her eyes bright. ‘This one’s for my dad.’
‘Bull’s-eye, she giggled. ‘Revenge is mine. Now run!’
The old lady slumped forward, her head resting at an odd angle on her chest as if she had suddenly fallen asleep.