Who was this strange, enchanted young girl with an athletic build, sensible attire and red hair shaped like jazz hands that waved about at the top of her head?
Better yet, who is she now? And then who can she be?
At first, just about everyone in town asked those same questions. Well, the first two questions at least. For the most part, she was the one who immediately piqued their curiosity but soon that ability to elicit curiousness extended to her entire family. And then it reverted back mostly to her.
This had been true from the start, right after her parents had purchased a nice large rustic yet elegant cabin-style ranch that stood its ground on a substantial chunk of land along a nice and wooded street in a rather posh, tree-lined suburb. The town itself was rather Hallmarkian. As in Hallmark cards…bits of thick paper folder in two with messages printed on them accompanied by matching envelopes so people could mail them to each other in the Olden Days. When mail and the corded telephone were the main modes of communication. (They didn’t know about swirling galaxies then, even though swirling galaxies existed in plain sight.)
While she really did like their new cabin-house and the endless greenery of the land and the quiet tree-lined street, she often silently remarked (to herself of course, not to anyone in particular) that the town itself was more like Disney World. Its own version of an expensive funhouse. Complete with distorted mirrors, people in costumes and rides where up was usually down, down was up, just about everything was sideways and there usually (but definitely not always) ended up being more cause to scream (even silently) or to be shocked than to laugh. A real carnival show, propped up and held together solely by appearances and attitudes.
But others – those who lived there a long time as well as those new entrants who moved in naturally and who appeared to be more in tune with the town’s vibe – thought the area polished and pristine. Whether sophisticated or not, wholesale agreement could be found in one area: no one could say the suburb didn’t flirt aggressively with the northern-most border of a major city. It openly bared its curbs straight to the gutter for all the world to see and rubbed its winding tree-lined side right up on top of the hard edge of the city. If the town could have thrown a leg over, it would have. From this vantage point alone, the city’s grit and glamour, light and dark energies seemed demure by comparison…which she thought rather odd, even if rather true. Who would have thought this posh little town would provide the most intense lessons on appearances, she mused, even more than an urban area could, but that’s in fact what happened.
The town was known as Forest and Hills. A straight forward sounding name. An earthy name; wholesome, even. (Although one didn’t have to stretch one’s imagination too far to think the name also sounded like a bank. Or a golf club. Or a travel agency. Or a line of pretentious purses. Maybe even a landscape company or a riding club.) Forest and Hills. No nonsense. The name made you believe you knew what you were getting. She would learn soon enough this was just about as far from the truth as anyone could get.
She wiped down the Formica countertop that wrapped around the center of the local diner, the entirety of which was perched on the corner of Old Main Street and New Main Street in the town’s historic downtown district. The day had just begun and put forth a gentle promise of something pleasant. She glanced up and peered out through the large picture window, which opened up a vista to the center of the historic downtown, and watched as the day unspooled before her. Polite traffic in all directions moved about on foot, in cars and the occasional bus tricked out to look like a trolley. Milk globe street lights gleamed bright even in direct sunlight. Uncluttered sidewalks charmed everyone who passed by with its vast assortment of colorful birds flitting about, decorated planters holding the sidewalks in place and iron benches holding tired haunches. There was much in the town’s New England feel to admire. Yet something always felt off.
Perhaps it was her age. (She was young.) Perhaps it had been the abrupt shift from city living to suburban life. (She couldn’t remember ever hearing a bird sing in the city. She only recalled hearing squealing brakes, bellowing car horns, and bellowing, squealing people who often shouted vivid language sometimes accompanied by air-jabbing hand gestures.)
Perhaps it was losing her friends and her best friends, all of whom had something just as distinctive about their persons as she had about herself, making the unusual not so uncommon at all. She was unique, just like everyone else.
Perhaps it was the difficulty of making new friends.
He rode by, piercing her view and threading through her thoughts. Pedaling casually on his bike, which carried a small knapsack draped over the front handlebar and tucked within it, a portable radio. She knew this to be true, as did everyone in the vicinity, because they all heard the sounds clearly, loudly, yet beautifully streaming from the center of that knapsack. A symphony of joy, a classical love letter of magic and happiness filled the air, awakening the sleeping heart of every being – human and creature – within earshot.
It was as if he knew the profound stirrings to another lifetime, to many other lifetimes – past and future – that he generated in this one present moment. It was as if he slowed time and conducted it at will, playing it out to his heart’s content. He caught her eye and she caught his. He moved as if underwater. Yet his scarf trailed behind him with its tassels fluttering in the sunlit breeze, as if they themselves released the magic of the symphony into the world and played each chord. He turned his head rhythmically, peering in the large picture window as he pedaled slowly by.
He smiled. She stopped breathing and froze, her eyes glued on him. She hoped she smiled back in return. Her heart leapt. That she knew. Like a galaxy swirling into lifetimes, her heart danced. But she didn’t know if she managed to breathe long enough to smile in return.
NaNoWriMo2021 (which has morphed into NaNoWriMonths2021) word count (not including this notation): 1084 words, for a total to date of 5007 words.