I held out a hand.
"Would you allow me the honour of
accompanying you on a country walk?"
Jessica lived a few houses down the street from my home.
She moved there with her mum and dad,
maybe four years prior. We had never spoken before.
She was a diminutive figure with a sad but pretty, freckled face.
Her long red hair was pulled back tight into a ponytail
which accentuated Jessica's striking features.
And yet she seemed to have no friends and rarely,
if ever, held her head aloft to say hello in passing.
I, too, was an outsider, a timid, shy boy.
With no inclination to fall in line and become
just another kid from the estate.
Pausing mid-stride, head bowed above the cracked,
damaged paving stones,
her arm motioned towards mine.
My heart was racing.
A mixture of fear and excitement.
"I'd like that very much" she softly whispered.
We joined hands and made our way to the entrance of
a small unmade road which led to green fields and
"My name is Richard, and..."
Jessica cut in;
"I know who you are, Richard. I was hoping one day to do this."
Smiling, we cast bashful glances.
Soon enough, this unlikely pair were chatting and laughing,
like we had always been pals.
Jessica even initiated a half-skip of a walk ,
while swinging our arms back and forth.
We picked buttercups that day,
made daisy chains,
placing them around each other's wrists.
Wildlife was out in full force.
Squirrels, sheep with their young,
birds singing sweet, tuneful songs...
All at once, the two children,
so ill at ease with the world for so
long, were set free.
"Hey Richard!" my new companion shouted.
"Let's pretend we're rabbits!"
I duly obliged.
Dropping to our knees, smiling and giggling,
we became rabbits indeed,
pretending to dig for carrots,
running from an angry farmer with his gun.
Until it was time for us to return to our homes for tea,
"Bye-bye Jessica, I've had ever so much fun.
Thank you for a wonderful afternoon."
Dropping her sweet face to one side,
smiling broadly, she leaned forward and
placed a gentle kiss on my cheek.
After walking home and saying our goodbyes,
the evening drew in.
Sweet dreams of a special day filled the sleep-time hours.
I awoke to hear my parents in deep discussion.
From what I could make out,
there had been a fire on the estate during the night.
A family had perished.
I made my way downstairs.
"Richard" Father looked anxious.
"It was Jessica's house. You knew her, right?"
I couldn't speak.
I knew her.
We picked buttercups.