Bambi sat by the river, drenching her feet in the cool waters. “By the rivers of Babylon,…” she hummed the Boney M song to herself and smiled.
That was the first time she smiled that day. She used to only smile once a week till Ma bought that pup. Then she started smiling a little more. Maybe every few days.
It’s been hard since I left, I know. And although it’s hard for me, I know it’s harder for her. I can see her, after all. She can’t see me.
Yesterday, there were a pack of girls. A pretty lot, but only on the outside. They whispered into each other’s ears as Bambi walked past in her slow, deliberate walk. It pinched her spirit, but she’s strong like Ma so she soldiered on. But I woulda sure have tonked them on the heads if I were there.
Her name really isn’t Bambi. I only call her that cause it’s her favourite cartoon character. Plus her eyes are as big and pretty. Plus, she really likes to be called that.
We have been close since I can remember. I’ve always taken care of her, even though she’s 5 years older than me. But that’s only physical, though. She’s really only 5 on the inside. That’s how she can be so brave. Adults aren’t made like that yea?
I’ve been watching her for a while now. Well, alright, since I left.
The bullets in Belfast rained down hard on me and the others that day. Bambi escaped cause I shoved her in a small alleyway made for one. The noise made her cringe and she started to singing to herself the way she does when we hear bullets. By the time her singing had stopped, so had my breathing.
It’s hard to leave her. How can I? I’ve always been responsible for her. “You’re her guardian angel. Remember that responsibility,” Ma used to tell me.
We can hear Ma’s voice in the distance. Bambi perks up too at the warm sound. It’s like honey. So warm, even when she’s screaming at us to pick our clothes up off the floor. She gets up off the bank, and straightens her clothes the way I always tell her to.
Ma is walking in her red dress which Bambi loves so much. And she’s holding on something – a red balloon. Bambi looks at it in wonder as it bops up and down in the air.
Ma smiles at her and smoothens her hair. “Darling, I know it’s been tough these past few months.” Bambi casts her eyes down and plays with the hem of her skirt. “It’s okay, don’t worry”.
“I have something for us.”
She takes Bambi’s hand and puts it around the string tied to the balloon and holds onto her. “It’s time we get back to our routine. Not that we will forget, okay? Because we should never forget beautiful people we love. But so that you can start going to school and studying properly again and I go to work and not get yelled at that big stump of a boss everyday for being a little slow”.
“Okay” Bambi whispers.
“When you’re ready tell me, and we’ll let go together”.
They both close their eyes. I like to think they are thinking back to all the times I was in their lives. All the times we laughed and cried and held each other when Belfast was raining screams and terror.
I felt myself floating upwards, but with my family in sight. Suddenly my own space was filled with red balloons. I thought about those times I missed too. I even missed the terrible times, because I was with them.
One by one a red balloon floated upwards into the unknown. Into a space that was not encapsulated by molecules, which are physical things. With every red balloon that was released, so were my own fears of letting go. My memories were not going to disappear, I realised. They were just going to be with me in the space that I am and wherever I go to next.
It was down to the last balloon and I held it in my hand but embracing Ma and Bambi. After a while, when we were all filled with immense love and gratefulness, Bambi whispered “Ready”, her doe eyes filled with tears that were streaming down her face.
As Ma and Bambi let their earthly balloon go, so I let my own go.
(Inspired by the Colour Red for Weekly Writing Challenge)