A Song for Chloe

April 30, 2017


The marina property had been nearly deserted because it was raining, the kind of warm summer downpour that makes even the air seem green. Nick looked up from the boat he was painting, and out the door of the old drying shed. The brush in his right hand stayed poised, forgotten. A single drop of white landed on the packed dirt floor, and then one more on the toe of his sneaker.


The light-haired girl walked toward him. She didn’t hurry, and she didn’t shield herself from the wet. He had the absurd thought that she owned the rain; she was completely at ease in it because it belonged to her and she had been made from it.


When she reached the door, she wiped the water from her face and smiled; a little bit shy, just a girl. He put the paintbrush down across the top of the can.


“They said I could find you here,” she said. “Do you know how to drive a boat?”


He nodded, but he couldn’t find his voice.


She was a girl who spent most of her time alone. She loved Shakespeare, but when she tried to say so, her schoolteachers thought her impertinent. Girls her age just didn’t. She adored ballet, but was dismissed as a dancer because she moved with the music, and not the way she had been told to move. Social conventions were foreign and bewildering. She had to memorize them like mathematical equations. The politics of being a popular girl were conducted in a language she didn’t speak. She wore no masks, because she didn’t have any to wear.


Being beautiful made things much worse, because people were drawn to her and then disappointed by her strangeness. When they left her alone, it hurt more than having been shunned in the first place. Her honesty seen as unkindness, she got repaid in whispers—but she was profoundly kind. Creatures who didn’t speak, butterflies and bears, toads and crows and trout, knew it and accepted her as a secret sister. The beasts loved her, and she moved with them perfectly. No one ever saw it, though.


She was more than a little bit magic, although she would never have used the word aloud, or even thought it. She saw movement and colors where nobody else did. She had been born knowing a little of how the universe danced. She felt the secret vibrations in music, and she knew about the Moon. She never told anyone a thing about it any of it, but she wanted to tell this boy everything.


“I can drive a boat,” he finally managed.


He started to say more, but she laughed at him, a silvery sound that made her seem older than she was. She sounded like a movie star.


“I knew you would say that,” she said. “I wouldn’t have asked you, otherwise.”


He was a boy who spent most of his time alone. He could have been an artist, a painter or a sculptor—or a writer, though he didn’t have the patience for poetry. He dreamt when he was awake, so he had learned to be useful, instead. He saw ghosts, the beings that flitted through dark air, and hid behind trees and beneath rocks. They had haunted him before he could walk. Afraid of everything, he worked to make himself fearless. He waited, without knowing he waited, and he looked west from time to time, unaware that he did so.


He saw what wasn’t there, and he did his best to see nothing at all. The girl embodied all the light and color and sweetness he had thought were only his imagination, and his relief was so fundamental it couldn’t be explained.


She bent and dipped a fingertip in a drop of paint, and drew a careful figure eight on the lid of the can. He thought that even the smallest things she did seemed exactly right.


“What’s your name?” he asked.


She stopped painting and watched his face, reading him. Her eyes were dark, and very still.


“Chloe,” she said.


When she spoke, the winds of Faraway began to blow, and took him for good and always.

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© 2016 by Bob Bickford