Words for International Women’s Day 2021
A Girl With Blue Hair
She was a girl with blue hair. Blue like a peacock, or a kingfisher. That’s all he could say at first. All he would say ever.
He sat all day in the kitchen, our boy, head in his hands. Wouldn’t have any of us near him, not even the cat.
He drank tea and ate nuts. Seemed to crave them. One day I went into the kitchen and he was sitting up, holding a nut in his two hands, nibbling on it like a squirrel. He made a noise when he saw me. Like an animal. I won’t say a squirrel because I’ve never heard one. He dropped his head into his hands again. The nut rolled across the floor. I could see the teeth marks on it. Little marks.
I’d had enough. I shouted. I cried. I begged. And then he said some more. More about the girl. I could only make out little bits. Golden eyes, he said she had, like a hare. I didn’t think he would know the colour of a hare’s eyes. I didn’t. But he insisted. Golden, shining. A hare’s do that, he said, shine on you.
I went looking for the girl myself. She should have been easy to spot in a small town like ours. I asked in the shops. But no-one had seen her, this girl with blue hair like a peacock and golden eyes like a hare. Not until the last place I went to. A shop I’d never noticed before. Funny, it wasn’t new. I thought it must be a charity shop but no, said the woman, nothing for charity. All for the little ones. Children you mean, I said. What children, where, somewhere in one of these disaster zones? No, said the woman. The little ones. They need it this time of year. So dark. So wet. So very wet for them.
The woman and I looked at one another. She inclined her head, ever so slightly. Your boy he is, she said. What boy? I asked. I hadn’t said anything about a boy, I said. No, she said, but I can tell. And she made another little movement of her head, towards the back of the shop. So I looked and I saw her. Standing there, just a little too far off, in a pool of light. It lit up her hair, blue like a peacock, or a kingfisher. And reflected off her piercing, golden eyes. I blinked and she was gone.
You saw her, didn’t you darling? the woman said. Who? What? I said. I wanted to leave, needed to leave, couldn’t leave. Next thing the woman had sat me down, produced a cup of tea. I drank it down in one draught and she tipped the dregs into the saucer. I’ll do you a reading darling, she said. I didn’t want a reading. I said nothing.
She peered at the leaves. Then she stroked my hand. Her hand was smooth, warm, you’d have said the hand of a very young girl. Nature knows, she said. Bring your boy, she said. That’s all you need to do.
Outside the shop the day had darkened. There were no street-lamps at that end of town. I turned towards the brightness of the other shops, just a little further off. I hurried a few yards and then glanced back. I could see nothing in the gloom. Nothing at all.
I tried to tell our boy. I don’t know whether he listened, whether he even heard me. I asked him if he would come with me to the shop but he didn’t answer.
Next day it was as if the seasons had changed. The light was brighter, the air fresher. Our boy said he was going for a walk. He put a handful of nuts in his pocket and left. Walking quite jauntily. He was gone for the whole day, for the whole week, for the whole month. I wasn’t worried. The house was easier without him. And I knew where he’d gone.
We always look for a flash of blue when we walk along the riverbank, the blue of a kingfisher. There’s a nest. With little ones.
The shop? I haven’t been to look again. No need now.
Cath Barton is an English writer living in Wales. She is the author of two novellas: The Plankton Collector (2018, New Welsh Review) and In the Sweep of the Bay (2020, Louise Walters Books). Read more about her writing on her website https://cathbarton.com She tweets as @CathBarton1