I didn’t submit an opening line for last weeks challenge, but as part of this week’s challenge I sifted through each and every one of the over 500 comments, looking for one that spoke to me. Boy, that was a difficult task. But in the end I made a choice and picked:
“There was a little girl dancing in the graveyard” by Tonia
Here’s the some 1050 words that line inspired.
The Dancing Girl
By Trine Toft Schmidt
There was a little girl dancing in the graveyard. Kneeling in the shade, on the soft moss, I couldn’t take my eyes off the tiny form, twirling and swaying among the somber old slabs of weathered rock.
We were the only ones in the old part of the graveyard which was more like a forest than anything else, the pines grew tall and old here among the almost forgotten headstones. The girl danced in the fat rays of sun that filtered down through the trees.
She was four or five, with short, tight almond coloured curls. She reminded me of my sister. She had the same ever-round apple-red cheeks and the same joyful smile, the same far-away gaze in her eyes.
She twirled and twirled and I abandoned my futile quest to free Mary Beth’s grave from weeds and instead sat down with my back to her headstone to watch the little girl dance. Something about her made my heart beat it hasn’t beaten since I was a kid.
Eventually the little girl saw me looking and she stopped, self-aware and perhaps a little frightened at the sight of an old, wrinkled, white-haired man watching her. She put her hand in her mouth and stood stock still for a couple of minutes while her eyes rested on me. Then she looked up into the blue sky, flung out her arms as if to hug the world, smiled and made her way toward me. She stopped at the next grave over.
“Hello.” I replied.
She looked at me, her eyes scrounged up in an evaluating glare.
“Are you God?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Mummy said that God would watch over me. You are watching me.”
“I saw you dancing. It was very pretty.”
“But are you?”
“No. I am not god. Alas.”
She was quiet for awhile.
“But you are old.”
“Yes. I am. Do you think god is old?”
“Very.” She opened her eyes wide and nodded.
“What does alas mean?”
“Hmm..” I thought about it for a second. “It means unfortunately.”
“You want to be god?” She put her hand on a tilting headstone and lifted her leg out behind her, like she was in ballet class.
“I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it.” “I want to be god.”
“So I can bring mummy back.” She brought her leg down and scissored it back and forth in front of herself.
“Your mummy died?”
She nodded and cast a look over her shoulder. I followed her gaze and through the pines I could see a man hunched over a grave. He was partially hidden behind a shiny new white headstone. His shoulders were shaking violently. Once I had seen my mother hunched over like that, clawing at the ground, desperation breaking her apart in ways only bottomless grief can do. I put my head against my twin’s headstone. It was cold and hard.
“I am sorry.” I said.
“It’s okay. She is in heaven now.” The little girl looked up and waved at a cloud, then turned back toward me.
“Did someone you know die?”
“Yes. My sister.” I patted the headstone.
“Was she old too?”
“No. She was young. Very young. Five years old.”
“I am five years and two months old.”
She nodded solemnly.
“Well, just like my sister then.”
“What was her name?” She stood up on her toes and slowly raised her arms above her head.
“Mine is KimBerly. But my mother always called me KimPearly.”
“Pearly, like a pearl?”
“Uh uh.” She nodded vigorously.
“She said I have to be careful swimming, or the oyster would snatch me right back.”
I smiled. For a minute I could see her life like a little movie in my head. I saw her start school, make friends, have her first kiss under the bleachers, get married, have children. Grow old. Dancing and smiling. Somehow I couldn’t imagine that she would ever be sad. Even if everybody around her died.
She poked me with her foot, pulled me out of my little reverie.
“Can you dance?”
“I can. Or, well, I could, before I got old.”
“Well come on then. We have to dance. Mummy will watch us. Maybe your sister too.” She reached down and grabbed my large cold hand with her tiny warm one. Tears welled up in my eyes.
She pulled me past headstones and pines, out into a clearing. When I just stood there, not trusting my clumsy old feet to keep my from falling, she put her hands in her sides and gave me a stern look.
“Come on. You have to spin around. Like this.” She spread her arms wide, tilted her head back and took small steps while she spun around. It near gave me vertigo just watching her, but I did as I was told, spread my arms out, tilted my head back. And then I spun, slowly, mind you, so I wouldn’t fall, closing my eyes and enjoying the warmth of the sun on my cheeks. Instantly I was five again, laughing with Mary Beth in the meadows behind our little cottage.
I don’t know how long we danced like this. But suddenly she tugged on my hand and I was forced back into the present.
“I have to go now. Daddy is calling.”
I looked around until I saw him, making his way through the old pines toward us. He had the same almond coloured hair, but was gaunt and pale. He looked concerned. I nodded to him and smiled down to the little girl.
“Well bye then, KimPearly. Thank you for the dance.”
“Bye bye, old man.” She said over her shoulder, already bouncing toward her father. As I watched, she flung herself at him and he scooped her up and hugged her close.
I stood still for a few seconds, watching them leave. Then I turned toward Mary Beth’s grave. It was surrounded by the graves of the rest of our family, all in the same sad state of overgrown. A little like myself, I thought. I looked up into the sky and did a last twirl before I made my way home.