Rain was falling by the bucketful. A gathering of black, wet clouds hung so low, that they seemed to graze the tops of the rolling hills. In the distance stood a girl in a yellow parka, wearing an overstuffed backpack and holding a frog-shaped umbrella over her head. She was named Hira, the Hindi word for diamond because she had been the jewel of her late father’s eyes. The winds were so strong that she braced herself against a wooden bench, her umbrella unwittingly turned in on itself, to reveal a skeletal metal frame. As her tiny form pushed against the bench the sleeves of her parka receded to expose purple splotched skin. She shuddered as the fat drops splashed against her bruises. Such weather was not unusual for the region and although her eyes could not see it, Hira was close to the shore.
The winds were so strong that she braced herself against a wooden bench, her umbrella unwittingly turned in on itself, to reveal a skeletal metal frame. As her tiny form pushed against the bench the sleeves of her parka receded to expose purple splotched skin. She shuddered as the fat drops splashed against her bruises. Such weather was not unusual for the region and although her eyes could not see it, Hira was close to the shore.
For the last three hours, she had been scouring the hills. The weather had been getting progressively worse, so much so, that when her pink wellington boots touched the ground, mud shifted beneath her weight, spreading to the sides and making a delectable squelching sound. While Hira had been searching her neighbourhood tirelessly for her lost cat, Cinnamon, she had strayed deep into the Seven Sister’s Country Park. On every side lay luscious viridian hills, which stretched far into the distance, churning from high to low, like the waves of a tremulous sea.
As though far in the distance, the girl heard a soft tinkling laughter. The sound carried on the wind and despite the hammering rains, the melodic notes tickled her ears. Tireless and persevering, Hira, climbed the hilly path towards the sound. Not even the most intrepid of hikers ventured the slippery slopes in heavy rain. She clambered to the top, balancing herself like a tight-rope walker.
At the top, three old women sat on a bench under a great willow tree. They seemed in a merry mood as they laughed and joked playfully. They dressed, as most old women are, in many layers. Their faces furrowed, as though a carpenter had carved them from the bark of an ancient tree. Two of the women wore brightly colored sunglasses which Hira found strange, considering the weather. The third had strange eyes, which were so deep in its sockets that you could hardly see them. She looked up as Hira approached, gazing at her with what seemed a dark distance. At their first exchange of glances, Hira stood rooted, spellbound by her mystic cerulean pupils and unable to take her eyes off her. The woman shuffled uncomfortably in her seat, drawing her handbag closer to her chest. From her bag poked a reel of purple wool and a pair of golden shears.
“What you doing so far from home, Love?” The woman on the right asked, peering at Hira through tinted lenses.
“I’m looking for my cat.”
“Are you alone? Where are your parents?”
“My Mummy is working and George is at home.”
“Is George your brother?”
“No, he is my step-dad.” She sighed and looked sadly down. “He told me to find the damn cat.”
The three women looked at each other, eyebrows raised. Unspoken communication passed between them, as they all nodded and smiled sympathetically before turning back to Hira.
“What color is he?”
“You know, I could have sworn I saw something orange streak down that hill over there.” The woman wearing the pink, thick-rimmed sunglasses pointed towards the nearest hill.
“Go to the bottom of the hill, where the footpaths cross. Maybe, you’ll find what you are looking for, Love.”
“Thank you.” She bowed her head slightly in gratitude as she made her way to the hill. Hira slid down it slowly, spraying muddy water into the air. She came into a ravine between the hills, so narrow that there was barely enough room to pass. It was dark in the crevasse, so much so that it admitted only a narrow strip of light.
She stood monetarily motionless on the footpath at the end of the ravine. Robins circled overhead, then dipped into the high grass. Beneath her feet, ants inched closer to her boots before scurrying away.
She rolled up her sleeves before taking a step towards the snaking concrete path which was intersected by a secondary path from the right. Cinnamon sat in the middle where the two paths met, an inquisitive twinkle in his eyes as though he had been waiting.