“Mom, can you buy me that shawl?” the thirteen-year-old girl pleads.
Her mother looks toward where the girl is pointing. An indigo shawl is hanging in a shop window. Red thread, gold thread, and black thread are all woven into perfection, creating elaborate designs across the rippling azure cloth.
“I don’t know,” she hesitates.
“It’s my birthday, Mom, please,” the girl begs.
Her mother enters the shop to examine it, and by the time they leave, the girl has her shawl.
She wears it everywhere. She drapes it across her shoulders and runs in skipping steps so that the tassels dangle flirtatiously. She wears it on her head, and when no one is looking, she unties it so her hair and the scarf are one with the breeze.
The girl is innocent, playful. She is mischievous, and mirthful. Everyone knows her laugh. Her parents call her silly—her brothers say she should be more dutiful.
She is in trouble more than she is not, but her pretty face and quick tongue often save her.
The girl puts on lipstick as she watches TV with her family, and as they murmur sounds of alarm, she is tying her scarf around her waist—See Mama, doesn’t it look pretty? The red thread matches my lipstick, Daddy.
But they don’t notice.
She leaves for school early in the mornings, before anyone has woken up. Her scarf is swathed around her head, her bag of books slung over her shoulder. She skips like a bird, a little blue bird, with feathers dotted in red and gold. Her eyes are dancing as always, her feet in step with her thoughts. Her dancing feet echo on the silent street. It is so quiet today, she thinks. Why is it so quiet?
A blast from behind her is so loud, and so sudden that the girl nearly falls from surprise. She spins around to see a bomb exploding down the road. It is far away, but it sounds closer—feels closer. There is fire and brick and dust—it is shooting towards her, and the girl is running, a little blue bird down the black street. There are more explosions, further away. The girl sees smoke spiraling all around, and she knows she is caught.
She cannot go home, she can only go forward.
So she runs. The girl runs, her blue shawl flapping behind her. She runs through street after street. Sometimes she is aware of people around her—sometimes it is only a place where people used to be. As she runs, her shawl changes color. It gathers the black dust, and singes at the corners. It soaks up the girl’s tears, her innocence, and her playfulness. Still she runs, a child forever forsaken. She goes from town to town, sometimes with others like her, sometimes not. She only knows she must not stay still, or the terror might catch up with her.
Her scarf is still on her head. She vows she will never take it off.
When she stops to gather her bearings, she doesn’t really know who she is. She is a woman with a blue shawl, running from the fire. Sometimes they give her a number, but when she moves on, it changes. She is a bird, a child, a woman. As long as life powers those long legs, and air fills those patient lungs, the woman with the blue scarf will run.
Renessa Visser is a sixteen-year-old student who enjoys photography, playing the piano, and learning how to evoke emotion through her writing. Her writing has been recognized in the Noisy Island as well as regional writing contests such as Take Flight & Write Teen Writing Contest.