May 2020 Competition WinnerPosted 7 months ago under Uncategorised,
Lilian James-Gets is a South African born writer living in South West England. She likes to explore taboo themes through fictional characters in real-life settings. Lilian won the May 2019 Creative Writing NZ Competition and came second in the Summer 2019 Writer Advice Flash Fiction contest. She is currently writing her first novel, ‘Running on Empty’, about anorexia. Lili is 20 years old.
The market was busier than usual, the town heaving with drumming feet, bodies bustling between colourful stalls. Noise strung itself across the square, volume rattling the ground, vendors chanting prices to the sky and grabbing at the flimsy notes that passed from hand to hand. Smells wove through the crowds – fresh bread, mangoes, incense, and the sun hung heavy in the sky.
A family stitched together with money were eager to get home, the mother’s swollen belly pressing hard against her bladder, the father’s stringy limbs outlined in expensive black silk.
Behind them, a St Bernard loped, tongue lolling about, shepherding three small children along. They were well kept, fringes ironed flat against their foreheads, clothes clean, three pairs of shoes shining with polish. The eldest, a girl with plaits so tight they stretched her face across her skull, hopped from foot to foot, trailing behind her younger brothers.
The market carried on around them; heat congealed in the custard air. Sandals slipped on damp feet. The girl, still looking at her shiny black shoes, fell further behind.
A small man swept the crowds with his eyes. His shadow fell across the young girl and she looked up, feet falling still as her wide-eyed gaze met his. He stared at her for a while, then looked nervously about him before taking a step forwards.
The girl stepped back.
The man took a deep breath, then grinned and put a toe on the edge of her long shadow. The girl moved, so her shape swayed out of reach. The man jumped forwards, his feet landing on the outline of her shaded shoulder.
The girl smiled, her milk teeth missing at the front. She moved again. The man chased her outline on the black tar. She giggled and spun around, fists clenched in delight.
The small man crept closer, and the girl darted in and out of the crowd, laughing.
Finally, he caught up.
“Hello.” The man knelt in front of her. “I’m Peter.”
The girl blinked twice, her mouth in a small ‘o’. “Hello, Mister Peter.”
His shadow swam across her face, her family lost ahead.
“Did you like my game?” said Peter, in sickly sweet tones.
The girl nodded.
“Good,” said Peter. “I liked it too. Have you ever played before?”
The girl shook her head.
“You’re very good at it!” said Peter, baring his teeth in a wide grin.
The girl smiled again shyly and shuffled her feet.
“I know plenty of other games,” said Peter. “Would you like me to show you?”
The girl’s eyes widened in excitement. She nodded eagerly.
“They’re even more fun with more people,” said Peter.
“My brothers are good at playing games,” said the girl, looking around, almost aware of her family’s absence…
Peter snapped his fingers and the girl spun back to face him, forgetting her family.
“I’ve got an idea!” said Peter. “I know just who to ask – if, of course, we can find them!” He put out his hand and knitted his fingers between the girl’s, his clammy palms slipping against her soft skin. He stood and pulled gently on her arm. “Come.”
The little girl looked up at him, confused. “Where are we going?”
“Do you like mermaids?”
She nodded, her curls bouncing up and down in their bunches.
“And fairies?” He glanced ahead, apprehensive, but the family were long gone.
“Like the tooth fairy?” The girl licked the gap under her upper lip, eyes sparkling in wonder.
“Exactly,” said Peter.
The little girl smiled. “Yes!”
Peter smiled too, his eyes in slits. He beckoned her to follow him away from the bustling square. “Well, if you come with me, I’ll introduce you to some!”
The girl’s mouth dropped open, her toes curled inside her shiny black shoes. Peter took a couple of steps and she trotted eagerly after him, swamped by his shadow.
The crowd swallowed them.
Far ahead, the St Bernard stiffened, smelled the air, and barked.
“Be quiet!” growled the father, looking round at the dog and the children. Then he furrowed his brow. He nudged the mother, and her breath caught in her throat.
Two little boys stared up at them. Two pairs of shiny black shoes, curled inwards. Two shadows merging and separating as they rocked from foot to foot, sniffling.