Issue 34 Mar 2016
Asanda peered at the feet sticking out from under her sheets. The big toes were still there, but the others were nothing more than charred, shrunken nubs. Rivers of shiny white scar tissue streaked the top of otherwise brown skin, skin the color of the mud that lined the bottom of the Buffalo River near her home. Only two gnarled toenails remained.
They were painted purple.
Nail polish wasn’t something a thirteen-year-old girl came by easily in *East London, South Africa. Her parents couldn’t even afford to buy meat most days, let alone beauty products. It was Nekenja that had surprised her and brought the lacquer over last night to console her after Asanda’s only pair of shoes was stolen.
She would never forget the first time they met two years ago at church. Someone in the pew behind her tapped her on the shoulder just as the service was ending. She turned around to find a lanky girl with spotless ebony skin who appeared to be around her same age, perhaps a year or two older. “Hi, I’m Nekenja. What’s your name?” she asked.
Annecy, France, 1535
The hairs on the back of Symonne’s neck stood at attention. No doubt about it, someone was following her. The wind whispered warnings, carrying the sound of leaves crunching underfoot to her waiting ears, but she was ready. She curled her finger’s tightly around the handle of her bucket in anticipation.
Symonne knew something was wrong the moment she stepped outside, but she had continued on, forcing her shoulders to relax while her senses strained for clues. Locking herself indoors would have been a death sentence; the weathered, crumbling walls of the little hut where she lived with her father were no match for an intruder. But, if she could make it through the forest to the gorge, she might have a chance.
She forced a jaunty tune past her parched lips and slowed her pace as she reached the edge of the forest. For her plan to work, she had to appear relaxed, unaware of the danger stalking her from the shadows. She kept her head down, sweeping her gaze from side to side as if searching for something. All the while, she strained the limits of her peripheral vision, hoping her pursuer would make a careless mistake and stray into her line of sight.