Shadow of a Girl

She sat ,head down .An insignificant speck in a swirl of color.

Derek saw her as he pasted .His life a whirlwind in its self. His manager shoved him into the limo, from the sidewalks hundreds of fans leaned in to get a look at the next big thing. As the limo pulled off he turned to look for her in the crowds. She was gone, the bench hidden in the multicolored fabrics of teenage waste. They would stand for hours waiting to catch a fleeting glimpse of him. How shallow life had become.

He turned to face his manager the short balding man with ruddy red cheeks and an attitude borrowed from day time T.V chattered on into his cell phone. Another photo shoot at six. An evening event at the Omni Shorehem Resort at seven. But now, Now he wished he could sleep.

He woke up in his hotel room. The bed was large and cold, the sheets worn thread bare and way to small for the king sized bed. They were from his own bed at home, back in the projects where he spent much of his young ,where his world became a showcase for all to see. He knew he was crying, if his fans saw him doing this they would think him soft but what do they know? That he is 14 ? that he is Derek Turner? That his first album just went platinum ,he was the next big thing. Yet he felt so small in this large room with insignificant white walls.

He sat up. He could hear Greg. his bodyguard in the bathroom .There was no one else in the suite .He stood in front of the full length mirror and looked himself over. His eyes were dark and powerful. His chin perfectly sculpted said people magazine ,but he thought it was large and ugly. His nose was a small round hump in the middle of his face which made his eyes look too far apart at times. Removing his shirt he traced the scar which ran the length of his belly from the left nipple to his right hip. A reminder of his childhood .I should have died he said silently to himself. Removing his shirt he continued the track of his life. The scars from the fire had almost faded but the doctor said he would always feel the rain. He sighed. It was raining when she died as well.

He turned away. He did not want to see the tears which came years to late. "It should have been you !!" the hate filled words burned in his chest as he replaced his shirt. I'll always feel the rain, but not for those reasons , he thought opening the large window overlooking the city. Thin dark clouds sat on the horizon. He looked down at the street below. There was a girl sitting on a bench at the bus stop across the street. Head down. He knew she was crying. The sky slowly began to darken as the thin clouds came forward.

Derek sighed and hoisted himself onto the fire escape outside his window. There would be plenty of time to be an icon ,right now he wanted to be himself. Derek turner ,just a kid from the project with too many problems and so little time to face them. He looked down at the girl again. She was standing her lank black hair like tentacles around her face. It began to rain. She turned mechanically and began to walk ,to Derek she looked as if she was floating through time. He ran to catch up with her but she was always too far ahead. The rain poured down on him, pounding behind the girl who continued to float away with out direction or credence to where she was going. Derek stopped at the corner .The girl had disappeared in a crowd of Black umbrellas and pushy business people with cell phones. They shoved past him as if he wasn't there. He leaned over panting, soaked to the bone .He turned and searched the intersection for the retreating figure. She stood on the opposite side of the street ,her face a mass of shadow and wet hair. Her clothes were stained and mud splattered but he doubt it was from these clean metropolitan streets. He crossed weaving through cars sloshing in the puddles of oily water. When he reached the spot she was gone ,but he could hear the familiar footsteps echoing on streets long forgotten. He headed towards the neighborhoods away from the business of the downtown , following the empty footsteps.

It was quite dark when they stopped ,the footsteps. He slumped against a tree outside an apartment complex. The buildings were old, long ago forgotten. The empty windows stared at him like so many blind eyes .The doors were sealed off with rotting wooden cross sections, holding back all the secrets that lived inside. He leaned against the tree hugging it for strength. Isn't that what his personal trainer said? "There is strength in nature". Derek's legs collapse. This was so much like the place he used to stay. He could picture the people who once lived here, so much like his old neighbors. There were abandoned cribs and strollers along the street. Dresser drawers and boxes of old clothes littered the side walks ,dumpsters spilled forth on the empty lots brown and decaying . The children would play here because they knew no better. They would live every day with the fear of dying but the boldness to continue living through the night. They raised themselves these street kids. They learned from experience, from the pure brutality of life . Derek closed his eyes wishing the memories away.

The girl sat head down on a swing set so decrepit only its memory kept it standing. Slowly she swung back and forth back and forth. As she moved she began to change, to grow smaller, younger innocent. The mud stains on her white dress grew brighter as she moved. then they began to recede. She raised her head. She was smiling, she looked much like Derek . She swung higher and higher. From the empty mouth of an apartment building came a woman's voice so familiar yet vague and distorted. "Derek go out there and tell your sister to come her out of the rain."

The pain grew stronger as Derek watched a pale little boy walk towards the empty lot with the decrepit swing . He watched her ,her long black hair in two pigtails streaming out behind her. She looked so peaceful way up there singing as she pumped her legs back and forth, as the swing set creaked with her weight. The little boy turned away. "Come play with me Derek" the little girls voice was full of vitality . "Nah ,I gotta finish helping momma .Come as soon as your done" He smiled weakly. He had yet to get his scars and burns but he looked sickly without.

The girl swung on and on. Slowly a noise began to issue from the apartment somewhere in the past. A little boy crying ,the pain so intense his voice grew shrill. Slowly the figure of the boy came again walking tenderly towards the swing set. It had started to rain and he looked miserable. He stopped at the swing and looked around. The girl was gone. He called but no one was there to answer.

Derek woke up in a hospital room days later. His eyes focussed on a girl sitting on the chair besides the bed. Her head was down her face a mess of shadow. He closed his eyes and faded back into a wild and distemperate sleep. Hours had passed since he first saw her. The rain had stopped and she was gone. She slowly adjusted the bed so he could sit up. His hands felt numb on the bed control. The drip of the I.V echoed in his ear. He lay looking at the door. Slowly his eyes focused on a crumpled sheet of paper on his lap. Laboriously he reached for it and with some difficulty managed to straighten it out. Scrawled in messy red crayon were the words "I never blamed you D.". He began to cry. The tears like rain washing away the past.