Chapter 1

Written by: Sumanda Maritz

“No here,” Betina’s gravelly voice told the lady in grey. “I do no wan no pigs at’a my crib.”

It took Stella several seconds to realise that the voice was speaking to her.  Gradually getting out of a daze, she turned her head toward the stumpy old woman covered in dirty layered clothes.

“Ya hear me? I say’d go die some’a else.”

This time Stella understood the old woman. “Why do you think I want to die?” The words felt strange and uncomfortable in her mouth. She didn’t even know what she wanted herself. The almost invisible white haze over the old woman’s eyes showed the start of cataracts.

“I’m a see ‘em of’en ‘nough, but ya do it he’a them pigs a gonna messup my crib. Go do’t some’a else.”  Betina held her head to the side as she looked the grey lady over. She’d come close enough to finally see the girl clearly. It didn’t seem as if she was a jumper for sure. Those always had a certain deadness in the eyes. This one looked more lost, but she didn’t want to take the chance. Life was hard enough without the cops tossing her place again.

Listening to the old woman brought Stella slowly back to herself. It was the first time since the tragedy that her mind felt clear as she looked at how precarious her position on the bridge was. A faint trembling went through her body as she cautiously climbed down from the platform. Focusing on the old woman stopped her mind from dissolving into chaos again.

Betina took her hand and shuffled toward her end of the bridge. Sometimes steering and other times towing the girl away from making her life unpleasant. At the ladder she peered into the girl’s eyes before she asked. “Ya know whe’ ta go?” For a moment Stella clutched Betina’s hand more firmly as panic flickered back into her mind. The panicked look in her eyes was pushed back with obvious effort. She nodded. “So whe’ ya car?” Betina asked. She wasn’t going to let the grey lady go back on the bridge. Climbing the stairs once was enough.

“I’m not sure. I can’t remember where I left it,” Stella’s voice sounded hesitant.

“So ya go to ‘e station, jus’ walk straight,” Betina told her. She watched the grey lady start walking off the bridge toward the service station a block away. Sighing, she started to climb down the stairs.

 

The sun had shifted three fingers when Betina heard the sound of someone heading her way. She was mildly surprised to see the grey lady walking down the slope toward her with two bags of groceries.

“Hi, Betina, the service station told me where you stay. I want to thank you for this morning. You are the first person that didn’t give me that I’m-so-sorry-for-you attitude. Here’s some stuff they said you like. Would you mind if I came to visit you from time to time?”

 

Comments

This is a great chapter, Sumanda. And the way you have developed Bettina's character is very clever, especially her speech. It will be a challenge for me to continue in that vein. Wonderful writing!
This is an excellent chapter. The interaction between the two women is almost audible with each accented word. Each woman had her distinct character and the kindness Stella shows towards Betina show a compassionate while troubled woman. These two characters and the scenario are beautifully developed.
Good chapter. A little confusing in the beginning though.