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Back and Forth

Back and forth, back and forth. The swing moves under me almost without effort, carrying me up to the stars and back. The swings, like the park, haven’t changed since I was six years old. Now, nine years later, I come here by myself. There is no one else here. I am alone and here I can think.

I grip the slippery chains of the swing hard. My palm is slick against the metal but I hold tight: up and down, up and down. It’s been a long day. My mind has been full of thoughts, memories I don’t want to think about. I’ve been remembering his hand on my arm.

The bruise he left is still there. He has imprinted his grip on my skin forever. I don’t want him there anymore. I want him to be erased.

A realisation creeps over me. I can feel eyes on me. Has he come back to get me? I take a deep breath, then look up.

A girl is watching me. She has a cigarette but she isn’t smoking it. It hangs limp from her fingers. My gaze lingers on her pale, long-fingered hands: I don’t dare to look into her eyes.

‘You okay?’ she asks.

I shrug. Indifference is the thing. ‘Fine.’

She sits on the next swing and takes a sip of her cig, delicate fingers curling around it. We swing together in silence for a few minutes. She finishes her cigarette and stubs it out against the rusty metal frame of the swings.

‘There was a guy watching you before,’ she says and I raise my eyes immediately to hers. They’re green, like his but not the same green.

‘He follows me,’ I say. I don’t know why I told her that. I don’t tell people things.

She grins at me. ‘Well he ran off quick enough when I gave him the evil eye!’ She widens her eyes and they seem to flash at me.

I laugh and she takes out her fags again. She slides one from the crinkly silver foil, then holds the packet out to me. ‘Want one?’

I take one, though I’ve never smoked before. She lights her own cigarette, then passes the lighter across.

I fumble with it, my face heating up as I struggle to light the bloody thing. After several attempts, a flame flares from the metal. I hold it to the glimpse of tobacco and nothing happens.

She laughs and takes the lighter from me. ‘Inhale,’ she instructs and holds the lighter to the end of the smooth, white shaft.

I inhale and it lights. I draw in thick smoke. It fills my lungs and I breathe with it. There is something soothing about it. We both swing: a lazy back and forth, inhale and exhale.

‘What’s your name?’ I ask.

She smiles. ‘Lisa. And you’re Rose, right?’

I blink at her. ‘How do you know?’

She jerks her head towards the darkness past the limp park gate. ‘He told me. You should be careful of him, you know.’

‘I know. But he won’t leave me alone. He follows me.’

‘You shouldn’t be out here by yourself then.’

I shrug. ‘Don’t see why I should let him push me around. I’ve been coming here since I was six. Don’t think I should have to leave now, just ‘cause of him.’

She bestows a broad smile on me. ‘Good for you. But…be careful, yeah?’

I nod. ‘I will.’

I turn my head and watch her. Dark curls frame a pale face. Her eyes and the long dark lashes make her look witchy but she has a gentle manner. I wonder why she’s sitting with me. She doesn’t know me and there are other swings than the one next to mine. But there she is, sitting right beside me.

She catches me watching and gives me a sparkly smile. ‘You want me to walk you home?’

‘No, I’m okay. I only live round the corner.’


‘I’m not scared of him,’ I say fiercely.

She smiles. ‘Good.’ She keeps watching me and I shift under her gaze, fiddling with my rings. They twinkle at me.

After a moment of silence, she looks away and finishes her cigarette. Mine was forgotten and has burnt out. I drop it on the ground.

She stands and turns to face me. ‘Do you come here every day?’

I nod. ‘Most days after school.’

She puts her head to one side and looks at me. My eyes meet hers. Back and forth, back and forth. I stop my swing halfway forwards. Her wet lips turn up a little in a small smile. She leans forward, putting her face close to mine. I feel her breath, ghosting hot across my skin.

There is no fear. I want her to be nearer and nearer, closer and closer. I don’t want to run, or pull away. I want to keeping swinging forward. I lean in close. She cups my jaw. Her hand is firm but her touch is warm and gentle. She bridges the distance between us and presses her lips against mine. I feel a half-second of hesitation in her body and then she is kissing me.

Warmth floods my body and I reach out and hold onto her. My hand threads in her hair. I can taste her. She tastes like warmth and softness and desire. I chase the taste of her beneath the smoke. It is a short kiss and slightly too wet but her warmth is all I need.

She pulls back and smiles at me. ‘See you here tomorrow then?’

I smile stupidly at her. ‘Yeah.’ My mouth is dry and it’s an effort to speak. ‘Tomorrow.’

She gives me one last brilliant smile, then turns and walks away. I watch her until she disappears into the darkness beyond the park gate. I can still feel her warm hand on my skin.


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