Entry for the Spring Picture Prompt Competition. 1000 words- featuring a red balloon and a little girl.


1. Red

The air is warm and dead and the outside I can hear the sound of movement through silence. The little golden girl with the fire in her cheeks is outside again, her chequered dress billowing about her knees like the awning of a patisserie on a windy Spring day. She flits up and down, the green grass seeping between her toes and she waves her fist at me, smiling still. My cracked pale lips spread across my mouth like a flame, the corners caught into a painful yet sincere smile. The Sun is cold and milky and its sallow rays fall onto the small something clasped in the little golden girl's rosy palm. It is a red balloon, tied at the end in a secure yarn knot. It floats just above the crown of her head, like a silent companion. The balloon looks through the pale soul of the girl and straight into mine, kindly though; never harshly. It has a secret; a secret of the best variety because we both know that when one is in the possession of a red balloon, the whole world lies beneath our shoes and for once, we are permitted to dream and fly. The golden child laughs into the sky and dreams of clouds and the wings of birds and I remember a time when I was a little girl and had a red balloon of my own; a time when I was able to fly and kiss the sky and hope.


It started and ended with the balloon that stood so patiently by the corner of the market road. The air was cold and empty and from all corners I was smothered by grey and withering adults. I suppose that’s how I found it in the first place: when you are feeling small and unheard, a balloon will lift you above the crowd. It was a market morning during the precious time in my life where my Mama was the only thing that I needed. Everyone remembers a time when their lives were cupped in the palms of a Mother who breathed love and softly-spoken bedtime stories into them. It was a time when I could walk hand in hand with her to the market in my little black-buckled shoes, without the concern of school and Where On Earth Have I Left My Maths Homework? glued to the grey space at the back of my mind. Mama’s back was turned and she was already completely engrossed in the ever-growing price of carrots, so I wrapped the string around the palm of my hand and I felt the soles of my feet tingle slightly as they moved further and further away from the bitter yet familiar ground. Above the bowler hats and briefcases and cobbled roads and striped stall awnings and perambulators and park benches and the iced and crisp flaked leaves, I flew. The red balloon’s laughter carried in the wind all the way to the other side of town. The little trams snaked beneath my feet, moving rhythmically like pieces on a chess board and I imagined lives for all the little inhabitants as the balloon climbed and dipped in the ferocious breeze. In another gust of grey, a flock of crows swirled around us and dived to settle in the rooftops of the swirling town below. In a world of grey, we were colour and hope.

And when I reached the pavement I took my place next to my Mama. She placed her hand on her chest let a relieved breath of air out and I placed my hand once more in hers. I felt the yarn slide out of my fingers and gain height, as I had done before, just as I was continuing to do in my soul. I smiled as the red balloon climbed into the unknown somewhere between the Sun and the Earth. I didn’t cry, because I wasn’t sad. I laughed because it had happened.


As I looked through the panes of the window once more, I was sure that I could see the feet of the golden little girl plant themselves on the ground once more. The yarn of the balloon crawled out of her clasped fist and fell into the rhythm of the breeze of dying sunlight.



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