I remember the promise I made to you. Ellie began, only to stop, her pen hovering over the paper. Ink dribbled down it, landing first on the fine tipped point, and then crashing down onto the paper below, in a series of ugly blots. She cursed and put the pen back in the inkwell setting the paper aside.
She flipped over onto her back and stared up at ceiling. Her fan blew a light breeze over her that sent her papers flying. They scattered all over the room, and occasionally out the windows. How to write something, to someone you’ll never send it to. Would it be better or worse if someone was to receive it? Ellie pondered, pushing herself up. No matter, that wasn’t the case here anyways.
Her gaze flitted about the room for a while until it finally landed rather discontentedly upon an old music box of hers. It sat upon the dresser as pink, and pristine as the day it had been given to her. The paint still shiny, the floral decorations still obnoxiously present, well, besides the parts she’d chipped away, but that had been before. Before… her thoughts trailed off into an uncomfortable silence and she leapt up from her bed, in an attempt to distract herself.
“I wonder if it still works.” she pondered to no one in particular. Which would be worse? Her mind pondered to her. She didn’t have an answer, and so she simply walked over and retrieved it from the dresser.
For quite some time, she sat with it, in her lap, puzzling over whether or not she should open it. That’s not the real question, is it? Her mind pressed. She pondered that for sometime, before finally replying. Well then what is? She snapped. How should I know? Her mind responded. Ellie and her mind continued to bicker like this for awhile longer, before finally growing tired of all the arguing, she flipped open the latch to the music box, and lifted the lid.
Inside the ballerina stood still. Perfectly poised as always, her legs just bent enough, her arms extended the right length. It was as if there was a moment in her life in which she had been slightly more perfect than she usual, and that was the exact same moment someone turned her into a music box statue, so now she stood an ever preserved image of grace. Ellie wrinkled her nose at this thought, and the reminder of the time she herself had spent in ballet. Properly dissuaded from staring at ballerina any further, she turned the music box around and began to fiddle with the crank.
She turned it over in her hands, again and again until finally it wouldn’t turn anymore and then she let go. It turned back the other way, as music began to play, crisp, clear, dainty music, the only kind worthy of the ballerina. Ellie watched as the crank turned, and frowned. It was going rather slowly, and of course it had to go back around for the music to play, but still she felt some loss in seeing all her hard work be undone bit by bit.
Finally she got up off the bed and headed back towards her desk, and the writing she’d cast aside.
I remember the promise I made you. We sat under those wonderful maple trees, their leaves rustling as we talked. They always produced such a wonderful melody.
You had ice cream dripping down your chin, I’ll never forget that. It was chocolate, from those stupid fudge pops you used to get. You see now, just how clearly I remember it all.
In any case, the promise. There were some boys playing football, and I remember that one of them got the ball. He was quite a bit smaller than the others and they tackled him pretty quickly. I don’t know why but that got to me. They were just playing a game--and they were probably making the best move they could to win the game--still it got to me, and it brought me back to that time Billy Martin was pushed down the slide. You do remember Patty Evans don’t you? She was always so mean.
Well, anyways I remember I got to thinking about that and about all the mean things kids did to each other, and how the teachers would always just dismiss it. “Kids being kids” you know? And they’d say things like “Kids can be cruel” or “That’s just how it is” and I remember being so bitter about that all of a sudden, because it didn’t have to be like that.
And I remember looking back at the boy to find he’d scraped his knee. No one was around to help him though, so he was just sitting by the sidelines while all the other kids went back to their play. And I started thinking about the older kids and all the mean things they said about each other, and then I got to adults. And I started thinking about all the times they could’ve stepped in and done something and they didn’t.
Well, I remember that freaking me out so much that I just got myself into a panic just thinking about it. So, I made you promise me we wouldn’t be like them. That we’d care. That when we saw evil, and villiany we’d call it out, and we’d try to stop it. I don’t think you really understood what I was talking about but you promised anyways.
I’ve been thinking about that lately, and I started to wonder do you remember the day I broke that promise? I do. I remember how you pulled me aside, that afternoon, as soon as we got off the bus, and you brought me back towards the spot where we’d made that promise. You were trembling that day, which was odd, because it was so hot, and you just looked at me for a moment, and I looked right back at you. There was a newspaper article in your hand, I’d already seen it that morning I knew what it was but you just couldn’t bring yourself to show it to me. I knew why too. Finally you did. You handed to me and just shook your head.
“I understand.” You muttered, “I understand the promise,” and you gestured towards that newspaper article. I didn’t want to look at it again but I did and I just nodded as you continued on.
“What they’re doing it’s-it’s” you struggled for a moment, sputtering. You were searching for something, a word. And then you found it. “It’s evil.” You chimed.
I paused for a moment and thought, and then I did it. I broke the promise. I told you something wasn’t evil when it was.
“I wouldn’t call it that.” I remember, that’s what I said, wasn’t it? You just looked at me horrified.
“And why not?” you cried. You waved your arms a bit too. I was so afraid you’d look crazy. Which is funny, because you were one of the few sane people left at that time.
“Because there are worse things to come.” I muttered, and I handed you back that same article. You just stood there looking at me, wide eyed.
“So we shouldn’t call this what it is?” You demanded. I just shook my head. I didn’t have an answer. I still don’t.
All I could say was, “If we call this evil now, then what will we have to describe what comes next?” You didn’t answer.Well, now worse things have come. Still I fear using that word. For I worry things will get even worse and then I shall have nothing left.
It’s weird though how in the midst of all this nothing had truly changed. I mean I live in the same house, on the same street, in same town that I’ve always lived in. I go to school with the same kids--expect that they’re not the same kids they’ve changed. It’s hard to describe really, but it’s just something in the way they act. It’s in the way their eyes light up, the way they smile, the way they laugh. Something’s missing, or maybe something new is there. I don’t know, they’re just crueler.
That kid in the park, his name was Thomas Helms, you know. He’s joined the police now, and I think he’d wear his uniform everywhere if they didn’t make him change out of it occasionally.
The music stopped as did the ballerina. She stood perfectly still, her back towards Ellie. Ellie looked up from the letter her pen still hovering above it, and gently she began to turn the crank once more. The ink dripped from her pen, and splotched the paper once more, so hurriedly she placed it back in the inkwell and moved the writing over behind a couple books, to hide it from view. It wasn’t expressly forbidden to write things of the sort she wrote, but still she knew better than to leave it in plain view where anyone could see it