A Faint Trace of Light by Melissa R. Mendelson
A Faint Trace of Light
It wasn’t our first date. We actually had been dating for a few months now, but the dates were more of friendship than what he wanted. I knew that eventually his patience would run out, and tonight, it did. And his car ran out of gas, leaving us in a tight space, waiting on a tow truck, and it was here, where he made his move, not taking No for an answer. So, I left, now stranded in the cold woods that surrounded me.
I could hear him yelling for me to get back into the car, but I ignored him. Maybe, if he wasn’t so rough, I would change my mind. Maybe, if he wasn’t pushing me into the backseat, I would say that I was wrong. I knew that eventually we would do it, but not in a car, not like this. This was all wrong, and suddenly, his car sprung to life. And he floored it down the road, disappearing from sight. I’m sure his car would die again, and I hoped that he too would be left stranded in the woods. But still, where did that leave me?
It was getting colder now. I could see my breath rise and fall before my face. Why didn’t I bring my gloves? They said that winter was over with, but it was bullshit. It had to be about twenty degrees, and maybe, if I was lucky, I would see that tow truck on the road. And I would run to it for help. Hell, I would run to any car now for help. I just hope that it wouldn’t be some god forbid axe murderer, but if I didn’t get warm soon, I was going to freeze. And that scared me even more.
It was just out of the corner of my eye, where I spotted a small house, which was strange. I didn’t think that anyone lived in these woods. There were hikers often passing through here. There were bears and coyotes, which I should not think on right now. What about wolves? No, I
can’t think like that, but for someone to live here? Why would they live here, but as I got closer, I saw that the house was in disarray. The front door was hanging sideways, reminding me of those Wild West saloons, and the floor groaned underneath my weight, threatening to break. What if I fell through to the bottom? Would someone save me? Unfortunately, I knew the answer to that question, but thank God, for the fireplace. There was enough debris here, wood and newspaper that I was able to gather up, and I was grateful for the pack of matches I always had in my bag. My friends joked about it especially because I didn’t smoke, but hey, you never know when matches would come in handy. And tonight, they did.
The fire started quickly, killing the chill growing in my bones. Tomorrow, I would have to leave here and find civilization once again. At least, my parents thought that I was with him, so they shouldn’t worry. That is unless he calls my house, looking for me, and then that would cause a panic. But there was nothing that I could do about it. For right now, I was here, trapped but no longer cold, and I was even beginning to doze when a shadow nearby moved.
My body bolted upright. The hair on my arms and back of my neck snapped. My eyes darted around the small, confined space. The floor creaked as if someone had stepped upon it, but I did not move. I remained curled up by the fire, and my hands were now curling into fists. I wasn’t alone. This room seemed to have grown eyes, and my breath echoed against the broken walls. Someone was here, and they were close. And then a hand fell upon my shoulder, and I screamed, jumping to my feet and spinning around until I fell down. And that was when I saw her, a small ghost of a child, who looked more frightened than me.
A moment later, I heard a door slam shut. My mind raced rapidly. I could leave here, go back out into the cold and hope to find rescue. I could stay by the fire in hopes that the ghost would stay far from me. Instead, I slowly got to my feet and moved toward where I heard that door close. What was I doing, but I couldn’t stop myself. I was now standing outside that door, and I was reaching for the door handle when suddenly that child opened the door. And she gestured for me to come inside.
The bedroom was in ruins. Maybe, a fire had torn through this place. Something bad had happened here, but whatever it was happened a long time ago. And this little girl moved away from me and toward a burnt, broken window. She sat on the floor and stared at a charred rocking horse, which she then gently rocked back and forth. She kept her attention on it, but that was until I sat on the floor near the window. And when she looked at me, I didn’t see hate or anger. I saw sadness, and it broke my heart on how alone this little girl really was.
“Tell me a story,” she whispered to me as she played with her horse.
“What kind of story,” I asked. “Any kind,” and then she appeared by my side, curling up against my chest. “Just tell me a story,” she whispered, almost crying out those words. “Please,” she said.
“I will tell you the story that my mother once told me. Once upon a time, there was this shadow of a little girl. Nobody could see her as she went to school or rode the bus home. Nobody could see her as she stood against the walls at the school parties. All she wanted was to be seen, to be danced with, but she was ignored. The only ones that ever saw her were her family, who was showered in this most brilliant light, and she wanted to be seen in that light. But her mother told her that she had to find herself first. If she didn’t find who she really was, she would be stuck as a shadow, and this little girl tried and tried to discover herself. But she couldn’t see past her own darkness, and then one day, she saw a tiny bit of light coming from her chest. When she tried to pull it out, it disappeared, bringing tears to her eyes, but then it appeared again. This time, she gently placed her hand over it, and suddenly, she could hear her heart beat, a beat that was so foreign to her because it sounded like life, love, which she knew nothing about. But as she listened to this newfound beat, her darkness started to melt, and she started to glow. And this brilliant white light showered over her, and then everyone saw her. The world saw her for who she really was deep inside.”
The next morning, I awoke and found myself alone. The charred rocking horse was left near me. Sunlight shined in through the burnt, broken window. The floor creaked as I moved, and I almost missed it. On the floor written in the dirt were two words, two words that made me cry. “Thank You” she had written, and something inside told me that she was now gone.