The bridge. A giant's arm of dark metal, reaching across the deep and unruly waters of the river.
Cars crossed it in double lanes, cyclists picked their way and Esther unsteadily walked the pedestrian strip. There where tourists, there where always tourists and all where bent double in the strong breeze rolling in from the sea further up. Esther watched the double networks of x's that reached out above her head. Strong and steady, glinting here and there in the harsh sunlight. The size of it made her breathless.
And all the way there was something following her.
There where people everywhere suddenly. Esther swayed and almost fell against one of the potted plants. Here there was a blue and yellow light that dazzled in from above. A dome covered the huge shopping center that looked like a glass beehive. Shops; tiny and "getting lost in in" big, where positioned at the edges.
In the center, where she was now, there was a resting area. Spread out between the potted plants an little tables, a few pillars reached up and where surrounded at the base by thick pillowed couched.
Esther always found a seat, even in this thankful, resting crowd of tired people. This time it was a heavy bodied woman with dark, curly hair and a sweat stained purple T-shirt. The moment she saw Esther a crushing look of pity stole across her face and she immediately reached for her many bags, herding them like plastic sheep around herself, and got up. Esther sat down and felt her bones creak. The woman looked over her shoulder a few times before she was swallowed up into the noise and the crowd.
She watched the people and saw that the light did not meet them all the way down. There where other levels, in rings above her head, that got the filtered brightness in abundance. But here, there was mostly shadow. There was shape now, darting and gliding between them, Esther knew what it was. When it was done playing it sat down beside her. There was nothing to see, she just knew.
'Why do you do that?', she asked.
'What did I tell you about public appearance?', a somber voice said, suddenly clear again beside her. Normally she only heard it as a kind of thought, an imprint of some kind. Now it was of actual speaking quality. But she knew she was still the only one hearing it. That looked a little strange because her end of the conversation was all too human and audible to everyone.
Grumpily she reached in her pocket and took out a lumpy, blue and grey phone. 'It's stupid,' she complained.
'What?,' the voice said, 'I can't heard you.'
There was ever the tiniest clicking of class, Esther knew this was because of it's teeth. With a tired sigh she put the phone against her ear. 'Why did you that, what did you do?'
'I get tired, I need their energy.'
Esther felt a chill. 'Does it hurt them?'
'No, that's why I need a lot of them. I take only the tiniest bit. They will be more tired when they get home, believe me, but noting serious.'
She nodded, reassured a little. 'Now...You where going to tell me about last night.'
'I worry about you sometimes; you forget things. You see life a ghost, in glimpses of what impresses you most. That's no way to go, dearest.'
Esther hugged herself, she suddenly felt cold.
'And then there the refusing to eat bit,' her companion continued. 'We wouldn't have to come here this often of you where healthier.'
'I know. It just disgust me. I can't do it.'
'Is it the old problem?'
Esther nodded. Was it ever anything else?
'We'll deal with that later. Now get up, we're going shopping...for clothes.'
People stared at her and Esther pressed the phone harder against her ear, huddling in on herself. 'No, I don't want to. I hate it.'
She imagined a gleam in stealthy, slits of eyes. 'You don't want to obey you mothers wished?'
The thing beside her nodded. 'That's where the money came from. You found it this morning, on your dresser?'
Esther shook her head, uncomprehendingly.
'I'll give you a complete recap of things while we walk. I don't like staying in one place too long. It draws attention of those that take notice. We don't want a repeater of three weeks ago, do we?'
Esther got up, he was right.
Moving in the crowd was it's own thing. It was like being in the deep end of a wave pool sometimes. Esther felt like making swimming movements with her arms, she was a good swimmer and could swim to safe her life in a high tide out at sea. This was different. Noise, smells, people shouting, laughter, little kids crying. She held her phone and in one perfect moment, she was aligned with all the businessmen doing the same thing.
'You got beaten up after school,' she was being told, the voice a pleasant constant in her ears. 'Those girls, you know them, they're from your class and somehow like to torment you.' Esther had been walking up a small, deserted stairway, between the stuffed rows of escalators. Suddenly there was a skinny, sad looking girl walking towards her. Ashen grey hair in a random ponytail, sunken cheeks and black, sad eyes. It was her. She walked towards one of the many mirror of the place and touched the glass. 'It's because you look weak,' he whispered in her ear, 'fragile. And they hate what it reflects on them. They can't tolerate you like this.'
'I...' she swallowed. Since when was she this...emaciated? She touched her cheek, or the little hollow it had become. Grey, grey and pale and saddened black. It hurt her to see herself like this.
She felt the littlest touch on her shoulder. 'You can't avoid every mirror for the rest of your life, ghost girl, you need....a make-over.'
She nodded slowly.
'And black...is not your color. I'm sorry, but you're too pale right now. Get a bit of sun on your face and we'll see.'
'Tell me the rest,' she whispered, phone in her hand beside her black, wide pants, 'I'm starting to remember.'
After they had beat her up she had limped home, defeated like the weakest dog of the pack. She'd taken the long road. The one that led around where the other kids hung out and lived. It had been a rainy day and it hit her just after she'd left the bridge. The path next to the river had been deserted as the drops made the surface a blur, misting over the grass and then the road, drenching her soft sneakers. They'd taken her bag and flung it in the trash, she'd left it there. It didn't matter, she didn't need it anyway. Her back hurt and her shoulders and head where hanging, a miserable picture of self-absorbed suffering. walking the white road that went beside the tracks and bent where industrial began.
And then she'd tripped. The lukewarm rain of the spring splashing in the big puddle around her. She'd stared at the water beside her, still a strong current that led out to sea. It would be cold in there. I want...
I want to...
'Hey, I know you,' someone had said. She'd looked up, startled, and there was the dark cheerleader. Also drenched, but less so. She'd offered a hand and she'd taken it. Dark streaks of mascara covered the pretty face that was now talking about things they had in common. They went to the same school, they hated the same people, "everyone", ...well, maybe they where hated by the same people as well. Then there had been the dare. They had been talking about Alicia, the girl that swallowed a pin and died. Her bigger sister had been in her class, Kimmie had explained, and after the accident they had moved out. This had all happened a few years ago and now the house was abandoned...haunted. Esther had laughed there, she knew the house and there where no ghost there.
And so it had been a dare and later that evening, after the rain had stopped, they'd met there.
'Spelunking,' she giggled into her phone. 'We watched it and she scolded me for looking away when there was blood!'
'You did miss most of the movie,' the voice retorted.
'I know, but I still love it.' Esther nodded. 'I remember now, why did I forget? She went home after that and I watched the shopping channel. ...in the morning Stella came to clean and I stayed out of the way...She found the bottles but said nothing. The money! It really was on my dresser! But...mom, I didn't see her.'
'She even talked to you!', the voice said with an audible sake of the head. 'She told you to buy clothes and you agreed.'
'Fine, whatever. We're here now and that's what counts. I'll remember it later, I'm getting the hang of it.'
'You're strange sometimes.'
'Says part of the strangeness.'
You need to be logged in to comment