I found her trembling on the kerb outside my house, puffy eyes red from crying, quivering eyelashes sodden with tears and dressed not in the countryside uniform of muddy boots and grubby waterproofs, but in white: an embroidered blouse, crisp tailored shorts and pristine white pumps, matching beads adorning sapling arms so delicate they needed no ornament. No, she told me, wringing out a soggy handkerchief and winding it round and around her long trembling fingers, she didn’t need my help. Her brother was coming. Everything was all right.
A car drew up. An unsmiling man and unamused woman, their rock-hard faces staring into some unfathomable distance as thought they’d rather be anywhere but here. The girl got up, all long limbs and coltish legs, young enough to be my daughter. She clambered into the backseat, crying too hard to speak.
They drove away. I stood twisting my hands, watching as the car grew smaller and smaller, and disappeared. And I stood there for some time, wondering who the girl was, how she’d come to be sitting outside my house, and just who exactly had collected her: brother, friend or pimp; the feeling I had just missed the opportunity to do the right thing staying with me, gnawing my conscience for months to come.
Picture of white feather by Stuart Lilley www.photoforbeginners.com