Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Prompt: Dragon Inked

Alison took a deep breath and smiled as she walked into the Children’s Home den. “Miss Ally! Miss Ally!” several children called out, waving to her from their spots, some reading, some watching videos, others drawing or playing games. She looked around for a familiar crown of rowdy blond curls and found them hiding under a hoody. Alison hugged the children who ran up to her, admired drawings, and agreed with book choices as she made her way across the room. Finally she knelt beside the hunched figure in a beanbag chair.

“Gabi? Gabriela? Earth to Gabi,” she teased gently. The young girl was absorbed in a book, as usual, and deaf to the commotion around her. Alison laid a hand on her shoulder and steeled herself not to pull away when Gabi flinched and looked up in alarm. She softly rubbed Gabi’s shoulder, adding, “Will you come walk with me?”

“Ooooh!” chorused a few children who heard. They assumed Gabriela was in trouble. She obviously did too, as she gave a curt nod and carefully placed a bookmark in her book. As she stood, she pulled the zipper on her hoodie, but not before Alison glimpsed the familiar dragon tattoo. The two dragon heads faced each other, biting a circle at the base of Gabi’s throat, while their single body wrapped in a Celtic knot all the way around her neck. For the millionth time, she wondered who had inked this child, and why.

Gabi waited silently for Alison, who rose and led the girl across the room to the curious, or indifferent, or hostile stares of the other children. It pained Alison that not one pair of eyes showed friendly concern. Gabi acted like she didn’t notice or care, but Alison knew better.

They walked in companionable silence out to the trails behind the large Victorian house. Alison let Gabi lead the way, and she was gratified the girl chose the longer path. That meant she was prepared to talk. Or maybe just happy to be away from the other children for as long as possible.

“So,” Alison finally said. Gabi glanced at up her, then looked resolutely away. She surprised Alison by speaking first.

“I didn’t do anything to him, Miss Ally, I swear. I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

“Why don’t you tell me what happened, then?” Alison suggested calmly.

Gabi was quiet for a moment. “I was sitting with my reading group up front. Miss Robin was working with us on poetry. You know that one about the fog on cat feet?”

Alison smiled. “Yes, Carl Sandburg. I know it. Do you like it?”

“I guess. Well, we finished and I was walking back, and Perry stuck his foot out and tripped me. I was reading my book while I walked, but I saw him do it, Miss Ally. I did!”

Alison nodded. She wasn’t surprised. “I believe you Gabi. Go on, tell me what happened next.” Gabi was silent again, and Alison had to bite her tongue to refrain from prompting her again.

“Well, I fell right into him, and he pushed me away. He pushed me hard and I couldn’t get my balance. I hit my head on the desk behind me. I felt the smack on the back of my head, and I saw a flash of light across my eyes, then I guess I passed out for a bit. Because suddenly Perry was on the other side of the room shouting and crying, and everyone was staring at me. Miss Robin ran over to Perry, not me. And I’m the one who got hurt,” her voice rose with injured indignation.

Alison nodded, saying nothing. Gabi’s story matched Perry’s except for one significant detail. They continued walking until the path looped around and the house came back into view. There was a bench with a memorial plaque on the back, and Alison sat, waving her hand for Gabi to join her. She kept testing her next question, and she simply couldn’t find the right way to say it.

“Gabi, what about the dragons?” She finally said.

Gabi’s hand flew to her throat. She dropped her head, and when she raised it, Alison saw tears shining in her eyes. “I don’t know, Miss Ally. I don’t know!” she sniffled and started to cry. “No one but Perry saw anything. I want to say he’s just making it up.”

“You want to? But…” Alison rested her hand on Gabi’s shoulder again, and the girl leaned into her embrace.

“I don’t know what happened, Miss Ally. But I know somehow that he didn’t make it up. How could that be? What’s happening to me?”

Alison hugged her and rubbed her back as Gabi cried. She bit her lip on every response that came to mind. She knew with a certainty she couldn’t explain that everything was about to change. Gabriela’s dragons had come to life.

TBC, perhaps

Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle

The Lumineers, iTunes Festival Concert

Time writing:
35 minutes

September word count:

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