In the afternoon she peeks over the wooden fence to see beyond it. Baby tiptoe on a legendary rock and she can just barely see the edge of a house. Tumble, tumble and the rocks in her hands hit the other stones with clicks. She hears the beating of her veins as she goes around carelessly, her dress swishing around her bare knees. Una is a person who spends her time outside, dirty fingers show the cuts and the soil. Her face shows her crooked smile and paper teeth, a lopsided child’s face with the toughness she was born with. When she goes in her yard she goes down the porch steps careful of the wood breaking. It is rotten, and the broken tool box to fix, it is left tucked under dust in the basement. Her feet soles are cracked like an old man’s. Dust and the rocks cover her toes. She watches a dimming sky and inhales pasty chemical smells in a yard that is brittle. Her father’s rusting hammer and buckets of past jobs litter the garden. Like everyone else she ever knew, she kicks the dirt. She wants to be something she will never be: brave and violent. Sometimes she pretends.
In the yard she can see, through her lopsided window, where her mother is wired to a phone, isolated and rankled. Her mother has always been a stranger to her. She sometimes yells, her voice high and dusted with rocks, so she tucks into a ball, still a child hoping to be unnoticed. She walks into the dust of the yard: thump, thump. The bareness of her ankles. Padding on the dry grass and dust. She passes the fence and can see the cracks of light in between each piece of wood. She drags her toes across the soil and her arms to her ribs. She tries to see her imagination, wanting to roll into clouds of daze.
It’s a voice that cuts the air. It splits her mind, and she raises her eyes and swings her head around.
“I’m over here.”
In between the cracks of the fence, there is flexing light and shadow in parallel lines that have broken panels and holes. They are windows, with jailed images, and she leans in and squints. Right there, taking up the space of two, she can see the girl standing there.
Pressing a face from the other side of the fence, she can see a sliver of her eye, the edge of cloth from a dress, her toned skin. She had stopped from dragging her feet, and she responds.
The girl on the other side of the fence moves, a shifting and the pierce to her ears of stones clattering together. Her mind turns pale, and her feet walk over to the fence, her nose an inch away from cracked wood. The girl on the other side is still, maybe because she is trying to see her too, a look in the in-between of fences and light. She can hear the girl’s breathing in the silence of the dead air, and the pulse of veins and skin, a presence of eyes and a heart. She doesn’t know this girl; she has never glanced her on the pavement or in the neighbors yard. The air shifts and kisses the back of her neck, her dirty hair swirls. The girl in the In-Between speaks.
“I am Lucy.”
Her feet touch the dust, flaked skin and ankles, she can see the pupils of the girl, and she decides to respond.
“My name is Una.”
She presses her hand against the fence, (dust and dying) and she sees the girl who calls herself Lucy. She remembers crying, tucked on the border of the living room and a space that is hers, she holds the stitched together canvas doll, Lucy. The doll that carried this name when she was younger.
The girl in the In-Between speaks.
“Do you have stones in your garden?”
“Yes, but they are rocky. It’s not a garden…it’s a yard.”
The rocks littered around her, she backs up and steps on them, rough like the splintered wood of the fence.
“Give me one.”
She looks down, and sees a rock, reaches down, and picks it up, and it rolls in her hand.
She reaches and tucks the rocks under a space in the fence, rolls it under the In-Between.
“Thanks, here’s mine.”
A few shuffled movements and a smooth round stone rolls and bumps into her feet; she picks it up. It glimmers and looks like an egg of a bird. She speaks,
“What kind of garden do you have?”
But it’s too late, because Lucy is already gone.