As part of Label’s new monthly feature, volunteer Isabelle Lily brings you the first Once Upon a Time short story.
Once upon a time there was a frightened young girl, and this is the moment that her life changed forever:
The girl was sat there on a jacket, her arms wrapped around her legs that shook in the wet wind. Her swollen lip quivered and her damp eyes stared at her bruised wrist. I would have missed her, if not for the way she flinched when I kicked an empty beer can. She was curled up just out of the spotlight of the street lamp, hidden behind a sheet of darkness. It was gone midnight, and I was making my way home from my shift at Barken’s pub, expecting nothing but drunken idiots stumbling around to avoid the reality of their empty lives.
When I caught her eyes, the sorrow behind them caused a lump to form in my throat, so I crossed the road and jogged towards her.
As she noticed I was headed towards her she called out defensively, “y-you don’t need to come over, I’m waiting for a lift!” so I hesitated and stopped; noticing her split lip, red eyes and bare feet. She was wearing what looked like bedclothes – short blue shorts and a tank top – and her hair was damp and clung to her face and neck. She looked vulnerable.
“Are you okay?” I asked stupidly.
The girl shuffled a little, dragging the green jacket from under her and instead wrapping it around her shoulders, leaving my question unanswered. I advanced a few steps, but she sprung to her feet and backed away like a wild animal, suddenly wincing as I saw a shard of broken glass bite into the palm of her foot.
Dizzy from the pain she swayed and let out a soft cry, allowing me to carefully approach her and hold her elbow to steady her. She was still for a beat, before her eyes exploded with sudden anger, “I told you, I’m fine!” she snapped, shoving me away and hunching over to nurse her bloody foot.
I felt stupid then, stood there with my breathing heavy and my arms still open.
After a few seconds I shut my mouth and my expression visibly hardened, “you need to get that seen to.” I told her, not clarifying which wound I was referring to, “Can a friend take you to the hospital?”
“I don’t need to g-“ “Lythia!” A voice bellowed, causing her to flinch and then freeze. Her cold hand clasped my wrist and yanked me down to a crouch in the shadows, “don’t say anything!” she hissed. I stared out into the street, squinting to try and see what she was so afraid of, but I saw nothing. “Who are we-“
“Shh!” she snapped and her hand squeezed my wrist harder. Only then did I notice the way her hands shook and her eyes glinted with tears.
I decided to take the opportunity to study her side profile. She had a sharp jaw and slanted cheekbones with pale skin and dark green eyes. There was a splash of freckles over her nose and cheeks, and her hair was a mess of dark curls. I noticed how her eyes sagged with tire and her lip was slightly swollen- but even so, she was obviously an attractive young girl.
I immediately wanted to know more about her, and wonder made me cruel as I muttered into her damp hair, “tell me what’s going on, or I’ll just leave.” But I regretted my words the moment I saw her eyes, wild with fear as she pleaded “no, please, you can’t!” As the tears spilled over her cheeks I felt my stomach heave with guilt. I quickly slipped an arm around her and pulled her closer, stroking her damp hair and shaking my head as I rested my chin on the crown of her head, “Please don’t cry. I won’t leave you.” I soothed quickly, and from that moment onwards, I never did.
Featured image by: Amie Woodyatt