"Hawk? That's a weird name." She said, sitting on the fence.
I had just told this girl my name - Hawk O'Connor - and she thought it was weird.
"Why did your parents name you Hawk?" The girl asked, jumping off the fence to stand in front of me.
"Supposedly when my parents found out that I was going to be a boy, they saw a hawk soaring across the blue sky," I shrugged my shoulders, "That's what they say anyway."
She looked at me reflectively. I was nervous, but I didn't show it on my face.
As she observed me, I regarded the girl in front of me. She had brown hair that was messily tied up; blue eyes that kept flicking over me and her clothes were a size too big. Her t-shirt hung loosely over her this frame and her trainers were badly scuffed. Her hands moved aimlessly.
I shifted uneasily from foot to foot and put my hands in the pockets of my jeans. This movement seemed to jerk her out of her observations.
"So, what do you see?" I asked.
"Huh?" She responded.
"I see..." She cleared her throat, "I see a young man who is burdened by things he shouldn't be. Also, I see that you are responsible for something your parents do not know about."
"Profound," I muttered, "How old are you?"
"I turned nine last week." She replied chirpily.
"Well, happy belated birthday."
She turned round and saw her mum in the window. She sighed.
"I've got to go." She said, turning and going down the path.
"See you." I said and walked down her road to my house.
The next day rain was pouring down, so I decided not to go on my usual afternoon walk.
I stood in front od the bay window and watched the rain. I turned around to find my three dogs looking at me.
My Bernese Mountain Dog - Max - and my Labrador, Sam, came and butted my knees, while my Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Luke, jumped up. I knelt down and got licked by three warm tongues.
"Sorry guys, no walk today." I said to them. Their tails went down.
Now I felt guilty.
I went into the kitchen and cooked four bacon sandwiches - one for me and one for each of the dogs.
I ate mine leisurely, but Max, Sam and Luke wolfed theirs down and then begged for mine.
"No way guys." I said, laughing.
Once I had hooked the dogs up to their respective leads, the clock struck eight o'clock.
I locked the door as I went out. I did my usual - left down my road, up round the woods where I let the dogs off, and then back down my roan, past the house with the girl sitting on the fence.
I stopped and said, "You're right."
Her hed jolted upright and her steady blue eyes looked at me, "Yeah?"
"I am burdened by a thing I shouldn't be."
"Burdened by what?" She asked.
My green eyes burned into hers, "I can't tell you." I choked out.
"Ok," She said, swinging her legs, "How old are you?"
"Just curious." She replied, shrugging her shoulders.
Out of the blue I asked, "Why are you out here?"
She answered, "I like looking at people and making up stories about them. Also, it gives me a break.
I sensed I shouldn't ask "a break from what?" Leave it for later.
"Fair enough." I said as I stroked Luke, Sam and Max.
I saw her looking at my dogs, so I said, "D'you want to stroke them?"
She nodded and sprung off the white fence.
She stroked all the dogs, but she seemed to like Luke the best, stroking his black brindled fur the longest.
"I've always wanted a dog," She said, still stroking Luke, "Or any pet at all, but my dad won't let me."
"Why?" I had started to ask but she wasn't finished.
"A pet, I think, would help cure the loneliness inside of me. You know sometimes to talk to during the cold nights."
She didn't seem to be aware of speaking, as though she was just talking to herself. Or the dogs.
"I take it that you're lonely?" I said, which shocked her out of her far-away look.
"I said that aloud?" She asked.
"There's nothing to be sorry for." I said.
We stood in silence for a moment, before I looked at my watch.
"Sorry, I've got to go." I said to her.
"It's alright. Bye." She said.
"What are you doing here?" She asked me.
"I could ask you the same question." I said, smirking.
She was sitting on the fence, her hair loose down her back. The pond behind her sparkled in the moonlight. She turned her head towards the pitch-black sky.
I looked up at the stars.
"The stars are pretty." She said.
"Yeah, they are."
I found myself speaking, still looking up at the sky, "I had a nightmare. It was about the night my sister died."
She interrupted me, asking, "What was her name?"
"Annabel." I answered before going on with my story, "Reckless Annabel, she wanted to drive the car. Typical Annie." I shook my head, thinking how excited she was before, "She was three years older than me, so of course she wanted to drive. She buckled herself into the drivers' seat and I jumped into the passenger seat. I was always pulled along with her crazy plans." I paused, seeing the crash in my mind, "She crashed into a tree. Unluckily for Annie, it was on the drivers' side. She was killed instantly. I survived with the guilt and some scars."
"Guilt?" She questioned.
"If I'd stopped her, she'd still be here." I was still staring at the stars.
I leaned against the fence, "So I've told you why I'm here. Why are you out here at half past two in the morning?"
"It gives me a break." was all she said.
"A break from what?" I asked, looking at her blue eyes.
"Oh, do you really want to know?"
I nodded emphatically.
"Well, sitting on this fence gives me a break from being the family slave basically." She sighed, "Ever since my twin baby brothers were born, I've been put to work, even though I was only six years old at the time! It was ok to start with - I understood that Mum was tired and needed a little extra help. But then it escalated - it wasn't making tea every other week - it was making tea every night and doing the washing for everyone."
"Wow, that's... a lot." I said.
"It just feels like my childhood has been ripped out, you know?"
"Mhm. That sounds bad."
"It was - is," She said, "Now you know why I sit on this fence."
We stood in silence for a few minutes, each thinking about how bad it is to have virtually no childhood.
I jerked my head up to look at her.
"I'm moving tomorrow." She said.
"This means you can't come and talk to me in the dead of night."
"Yeah." I said.
The next day I got woken by a van reversing, and remembering what she had told me in the middle of the night, I got up.
I looked at the clock, it said it was 7AM. I put on jeans, t-shirt and zip-up hoodie quickly and ran out of the house, my dogs following me.
When I got to her house, she was just walking out of the gate.
"Hawk!" She said, surprised.
"Hey." I said, catching my breath.
"Why are you here?" She asked.
"'Cause I couldn't let you go without saying bye."
At that she hugged me, her small frame getting lost in my tall one. Wen she pulled away, she had tears running down her face. I knelt down to face her.
"Hey, hey, there's no need to cry." I said, wiping the tears away with my thumb, "We'll meet again."
She nodded and held out her pinky.
"Pinky promise." I said, hooking my pinky with hers.
"Hawk?" She said, as she got in the car.
"Don't feel guilty anymore."
And, as the car took her away, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. As I walked away from the white fence, it started raining.
A/N: Reviews are the only payment I receive.