This short story was written in 2006 and won the county level West Virginia’s Young Writer’s Contest
I stretched out on the soft, green ground, yawning a little. Putting my soda aside, I stretched a little more and ran my toes through the mulch. I purposefully hit my knee against the bar of the swing set, desperate to cure my boredom. Suddenly, a face leaned in over mine. My eyebrows furrowed as I looked at the face with confusion. I’d never seen this girl before. She had short, curly red hair, and her eyes were a startling diamond blue. “Could you push me on the swing?” she said in a small voice.
I blinked, even more confused. A complete stranger had just asked me to push them on a swing. Me. Of all the people around at this park – or even around this swing set – she had asked me. I blinked again, just for good measure. “Uh…sure,” I said, standing up.
She beamed a freakish little smile. It wasn’t demonic-freaky. It was just…adorably creepy. I smiled back, sort of, as she walked to the swing and tried to sit down. I helped her in, seeing as she was a bit too short to get on by herself. She was wearing a long blue summer dress with pink, white, and green flowers printed all over it.
“Hold on tight,” I told her. I had never swung a child on a swing before, having had no younger sibling to play with like this, so I wasn’t sure if I’d accidentally toss her out or not. With that, I started to push her. “Tell me if this is high enough.”
“This is fine,” she said happily, kicking her feet in the proper motions to swing back and forth.
As she swung and I pushed her, I kept furrowing my brow and shaking my head as the countless faces ran through my mind in order to decipher who she could be. Was she the child of the youth minister? Or was she some distant friend’s daughter? But no one came to mind.
“Guess what!” she exclaimed to me as I pushed her again.
“Today’s my birthday!”
“Oh! Happy birthday!” I smiled. That must have been why she had come up to me. She was the birthday girl. It didn’t matter if she knew me or not. I looked up to the pavilion in front of me. There was a birthday party going on, apparently. There were balloons, cake, ice cream… The whole shebang.
“Yep. I’m turning six!”
“Good for you.”
I pushed her a little more, my mind satisfied a little as I seemed to have come to an explanation. It was then that I realized I still didn’t know her name. “So what’s your name, Birthday Girl?”
“Katliain,” she answered.
“That’s a pretty name,” I told her, still smiling. She was cute. That much was certain.
I pushed her some more in silence. There was something about her that was different, despite the current ease in my mind. I had no idea what it was, but something didn’t seem right about her.
“Do you believe in angels?” she asked all of a sudden.
I blinked at the abrupt question but smiled at its innocence upon my recovery. “Of course.”
“I want to be an angel one day,” she said wistfully. “I want to fly.”
I grinned. “I’m sure you’ll make a fine angel.”
She looked at me, turning her head to the side. She gave me that freakishly adorable smile again. She giggled. “Sometimes…I close my eyes when I swing. It’s like flying.”
“I see…” I said.
I felt someone suddenly tap my shoulder. I pushed her once and instructed, “Hold on tight for a minute.”
A small boy with red hair looked up at me. “Are you done with that swing?” he asked.
My brow creased. “No, I’m sorry,” I said as kindly as I could. Though, I couldn’t help but feel that he was being rude. Didn’t he see Katliain was still swinging?
“Oh,” he said, sounding a bit confused, and turned away.
I turned back to Katliain, and my eyes widened. An empty swing slowly began to stop in front of me. I looked around. The little girl was nowhere to be found. “Katliain?” I called.
When I received no answer, I headed towards the pavilion. I tapped the woman serving birthday cake on the back, and she turned around. “Yes?” she asked, a bit startled.
“Excuse me. I was wondering if you saw where Katliain went. She was swinging with me, and when I turned back around, she wasn’t there.”
Something crossed the woman’s feature. It looked like a mix between shock, confusion, and deep sadness. “Please don’t say that,” she told me, giving me a strained smile. “My daughter Katliain died two years ago on her sixth birthday. It was this day at this same park.” She pointed at the swing where I had been, and the boy who had asked if I was finished with the swing was now perched in the seat, swinging back and forth by himself. “That’s her twin Casey. They’d be celebrating their eighth today together.”
I gulped, and I knew my face had blanched. “M-Might I ask…what happened?”
Her eyes fell to the ground sadly. “She was swinging, and I had turned away for just a few moments. Katliain had the tendency to swing on her own, and she’d throw her arms out like she were flying. I had forgotten to tell her to hold on while I wasn’t looking, and she flew off and…well… I believe you understand…”
I stared. I heard the woman apologize distantly as her attention returned to cake-serving, and I slowly made my way down to the swings. Out of nowhere, a familiar giggle resonated in the wind. “I’m finally an angel!” I heard Katliain’s voice exclaim with glee. I turned to look at the swing, only to see Casey gain momentum from the sudden gust. I couldn’t help but smile as Katliain passed on the gift of the swing.
(c) Morgan Lea Davis, 2006