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The second short story I wrote. This one is far more random... o_O Don't ask.



Braid


Seen from the front, the girl's hair looked as lovely as it ever had. It still streamed neatly over her skull and behind her ears save for one lone braid that hung down over her cheek. Her wet cheek. In the back her hair was a butchered mess. It looked like it still had a set route to go, stubbornly going in that direction as it had rarely known another direction to go in. But it ended abruptly, sticking out in injured stubs, a body with its limbs cut off.

Because Tim Gavin had cut off her braid.

The girl's tears were not tears of grief for beauty, they were tears of anger and shame from someone whose strength has been stripped away. She had been humiliated. Her power had been stolen from her by a stupid and privileged boy who would never understand how her braid was different from other girls'.

The walk home from the bus was marked by reluctant, heavy steps. As big as her grief was, she knew her mother's would far outweigh hers. At the house, her hand lingered a touch too long on the door knob before she entered her home.

"You're home late," her mother called from the kitchen where she and the girl's father were making a mid day meal. Moments later, the girl's father fled the room as his wife's piercing cry was too great for him to stomach.

"Who did this to you!" the girl's mother shrieked, turning her this way and that in frantic motions as if that might somehow reveal that her braid had just been hiding. "Who took your braid!" It was not a question that demanded an answer, the girl would not have gotten one if she had tried. Her mother was wailing, shouting out to her ancestors, cursing this barbaric time they found themselves living in.

The girl sat down. Her legs refusing to hold her up much longer.

Her mother turned, her eyes large and wild with emotion. "Where is it?" she insisted and the answer did not calm her down in the least.

Tim had it. He had taken it.

The girl winced when her mother started undoing her own braid in her grief and anger. She had never seen all of it loose at once, only the small ones at the front ever came undone in front of her and then it was only for little blessings or small curses. Now her mother's hair cascaded down over her back and spilled on the floor when her mother knelt down. It was almost obscene and yet the girl found it hard to look away.

Her mother was calling out to the ancestors. "Give my daughter strength," she cried out. "Help her get back that which was stolen from her." She was shaking as she kept speaking, her calloused hands fisted against the floor, knuckles white from the pressure.

The girl sat still like a doll throughout all of this, unable to look away. Her hands were neatly folded in her lap, her feet pressed together and tucked under the chair. It was the only control she had right now - the ability to be still - and she exercised it with great intensity.

Outside the kitchen door her father stood, his back pressed against the wall. He wouldn't enter the kitchen. He could feel the grief like a living, physical thing, bulging against the doorway. Grief and something else; something old that smelled vaguely of rotten eggs and metal. This was not the same energy that his wife released at their most private moments. There her hair hid the two of them from the outside world in a dark and solid blanket and it was warm with love. This was something he had never felt before and it frightened him.

The girl's mother was sobbing, but only for a brief few moments before she stilled herself and slowly raised her head from the ground. Reddened eyes found her daughter - stared at her with eerie calm. "You will be all right," she said, her voice steady now. "But you must get your braid back."

--

The girl's father drove the girl to Tim Gavin's house and he waited in the car while the girl took determined steps up to the neat looking little building, past the immaculate flower beds and the all too perky looking mail box. She stopped only when she had reached the wooden door. There was a sign there, a decorated pretty little plank that read 'welcome to the Gavins'. The girl knocked, reigned in the apprehension and rage and tried to look polite. Presentable.

She didn't have to. It was Tim who answered the door, his face falling when he saw who it was. "What do you want?" he asked, instantly hostile, fear lacing his prissiness.

"I want my braid," the girl said simply. That was all she wanted now. She wasn't strong enough to exact revenge on him and Tim was too little for her mother's reach; her mother would never hurt a child.

"I don't have your stupid braid," Tim said with a scowl, then turned his chin up. "I threw it away."

"You're lying."

"Am not!"

His mother showed up behind him as mothers are wont to do, drawn in by their maternal instincts, ready to protect and smooth things over. "Who is it, honey?" she asked, giving the girl a curious smile.

"He took my braid," the girl told her, not bothering with niceties or a smile back. "I want it back."

"Is this true?" Tim's mother asked, looking between them before switching gears into the authoritive. "Tim?"

"No, she's lying!" Tim shouted. It was obvious that he was angry that the girl would come to his house and tell his mother. He had not expected her to do so, had not thought ahead to any possible consequences when he took the scissors to her hair.

"It's in his room," the girl said. She did not know this for a fact, but she felt like she had to sound certain and as authoritative as his mother did if she wanted to get her braid back.

Maybe it was the girl's certainty, or how she kept her young face free of emotion, spoke flatly, kept her gaze steadily on Tim in an attempt to get him to confess. Maybe it was the old magic and her ancestors at her back. Whatever it was, Tim's mother did not take his side and chase the girl away.

"Go get it," she said instead, folding her thin, pale arms over her chest and frowning at her son. When Tim protested that he did not have it, her frown only deepened. "Tim," she said in a warning tone.

Tim looked at his mother, then at the girl and then he stomped off to his room, just like that. The girl thought for a moment that he had just gone off to sulk and get away from them, but then he returned, her long, lifeless braid in his hand.

"Oh Tim," his mother said in the quiet voice of shock and sadness.

The girl took the braid from him and turned on her heel. This was not her sorrow to confront and she certainly did not want the insincere apology Tim's mother would no doubt coax out of him.

She got in the car with her father, holding her head high and her braid close. She would burn it for the ancestors on the next holy day. It would have to make up for all the holy days where a part of her braid would not be long enough to spare an inch or two to appease them.

Tim's mother would no doubt give him a slap on the wrist in the form of one of their weak punishments. He wouldn't get to play a computer game for a week or he'd have to come straight home from school. The girl didn't care whether he was punished at home or not. One day she would have doubled her height. One day her braid would be long again.

On that day Tim Gavin would pay.

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February 2012

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