Lightning flashed. The young woman watched as the terrified little boy burst through the front door of her home. She wasn’t startled. She’d grown used to children trespassing without any regard to her. She always appreciated the company.
So, as the boy ducked under her dining room table, she just watched him unnoticed from the corner of the room.
He was terrified. She could see the fear in his young eyes; she recognized it, because she’d seen it in the eyes of the many other children who’d come to her house to visit. She hated the fear, mourned it, for she knew it drove them away.
But this fear was different. The boy hadn’t spotted her yet, so it didn’t originate from her presence. This made her curious, made her wonder.
Thunder clapped overhead, and the boy crowded further under the table. She couldn’t help but smile at his discomfort; it was so childlike, so innocent. A simple fear of storms, a fear she’d faced during her lifetime as well. If only things were so simple now.
Above the sound of the storm, she could hear the back door banging against its frame. She could tell that the boy could hear it, too, because he kept glancing nervously towards the back of the house.
He still hadn’t noticed her, and she was torn about whether she even wanted him to or not. The past taught her that when her presence was discovered they would always leave. And she didn’t want this boy to leave like all the others.
As she watched and wished, the boy thrust his hand into his pocket and pulled out a yellow cats-eye marble. He kissed it quickly, and then stuck it back into the pocket of his shorts.
When she saw the marble, she knew why she was so drawn to this boy, so curious about him. She knew that his visit to her home was not accident but fate. She knew, because she had an identical yellow cats-eye marble in the pocket of her own faded dress. She kept it with her always, a lucky charm, a protective token, a reminder of the life she’d had.
The boy was a kindred spirit; she just knew it. And at that moment, this kindred spirit was gathering up all his courage and crawling out from under the table. The curiosity about the banging door had got the best of him, and he was going to investigate.
She managed to stay out of his line of vision as he slowly made his way across the room and towards the kitchen. His hand stayed in his pocket, and she knew he was worrying his marble, just as she’d done herself hundreds of times before.
When he finally worked up the nerve to push open the kitchen door, he gasped and then hesitated for only the briefest of moments. She held her breath, anticipating his next move and hoping he’d stay.
But he didn’t. The back door moving in time with the wind was the last straw. The boy’s fear took over, and he spun around, nearly falling over himself in his struggle to get out of the house.
The young woman sighed, moved across the room to the front window so that she could watch his departure. As he ran off into the storm, she lifted a hand to the window and smiled. She wasn’t sad that he’d left, and she didn’t feel lonely. No, in fact, she felt better than she’d felt in a long time. Because the boy with the yellow marble might be gone now, but she knew, without a doubt, that he’d be back.
Author's Note: This is a rewrite of my short story "One Mississippi," which was born from a Lightning and Lightning Bug photo prompt. I've wanted to revisit this story from a different perspective and was glad to be able to do so in response to this week's Red Writing Hood prompt.
By the way, "One Mississippi" is currently published in Volume #35 of Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal. Be sure to check it out!