Kelsie doesn’t want to go to the playground today, but she does anyway. Even though her foot is slightly bruised, instead of riding her bike, she walks all the way there.
It’s a long walk, so many minutes away. But for some reason, she doesn’t mind.
She catches Cameron looking at her, and she walks faster, farther and farther from the playground. Cameron is still sitting on the bench. Hunched over. Frozen.
Why doesn’t he follow me? She thinks, but she pushes the thought down quickly.
He has to watch his little sister. Right?
She walks among the trees, the shade protecting her from the harsh sun. She can sense the strong sweet smell of pine. Mmm… if she smells deeply enough...it smells like cinnamon.
I like listening.
Yeah, to people, Mom. I don’t have to talk to them.
Pause, pause. Hesitant.
Okay, Kelsie. If that’s what you want.
What I want. Want.
Suddenly Kelsie starts running,her heart tingling. It feels so good but it feels so wrong at the same time. I want, I want...feeling vibrations shivering all over her, ready to burst.
The strong cinnamon smell is gone but she still, still,still wants it. She finally finds herself running towards the bench. The kids scream. The mothers glare.
Cameron jolts up, grabs Kelsie by the shoulders. Kelsie almost falls into his chest...her heart warms. She is drowning… drowning...her face flares heat, and she pulls away at the last second.
-What is it? What-wh-what’s wrong?
~I want you to hum.
~I mean, talk to me Cameron. About anything.
~So I can listen.
So he does.
But they don’t talk at the playground. Cameron takes her hand and leads her to the coffee shop, the one Kelsie avoided since a week ago. He says it is better that way. Less people, less pressure.
Kelsie looks at him, and her heart shivers. What did he mean? She is only going to listen, listen to him and that’s all. Maybe they should go back...
but she is cold, so she allows Cameron to hold the door open for her and allows herself to be greeted by the warmth of the cafe.
They squeeze into a booth, in the very back, the shop almost empty. Cozy. And that is when Kelsie realized that Cameron’s little sister isn’t here today.
She is on a field trip with the other kindergarteners. At least that’s what Cameron said. She thought his sister was there. Then why was he still sitting on the bench when she was walking away?
Cameron talks and talks. His different hum. An abrupt stop and almost crash hum. A violent up and down hum. But it is still a hum.
Kelsie closes her eyes, sips her coffee that he bought for her. Listens. About Cameron’s little sister. His dreams, dreams, sloshing out of him, but he remains with lots of life.
Kelsie doesn’t have to worry about finding the murderer of his voice, because he has none.
She notices something else too, different from all the other hums she had heard at school and the coffee shop and the playground. This hum is directed to her.
It isn’t bouncing over her head, the conversations aren’t meant for other people. But this is for her. Filling her up, like the warm coffee, swirling inside her.
There is sweetness of warmth and comfort. She listens and listens to Cameron’s voice hugging her senses softly.
Just when she is about to fall asleep in reverie, she sees the jump rope.
Swinging. She starts breathing fast, slowly backing away.
Now! Now... Now?
No, I can’t. I don’t know when. When to jump. Shaking, staring...
But she looks closer.
The rhythm isn’t so fast. In fact, it is getting slower...slower. One...two. One...two.
Cameron’s game...of Double Dutch...it is waiting…. for her…
If that’s what you want, Kelsie.
Let the good people in.
She opens her eyes. And she opens her mouth.
And she jumps.
She starts halting at first. Her voice, dry and ragged even. She almost feels faint, about to fall headfirst from the tangled ropes. She coughs violently, and tears spring up in her eyes.
But then she feels Cameron’s hand on hers. A touch. And she looks in his eyes and takes a deep breath and starts over.
~My name. Is Kelsie.~ She lowers her eyes, the world swirling underneath her.
-Kelsie. Cameron leans forward. Smiles. -Kelsie.
He makes her name sound like the mug wrapped by Kelsie’s warming hands. Full of care. Not seeking to make it drop. And break.
-That’s a pretty name.
Fire flashes through her, but it immediately reduces to low heat.
Kelsie is no longer shivering.
She swallows. She tries again.
Things that she only tells herself about, and God about...those very late nights and very early mornings. She doesn’t close her eyes to see. Not this time. No. Look in Cameron’s eyes.
**Look at the person you are talking to, Kelsie. Eye Contact…** his eyes are brown and big and ready to be filled. So she does.
She fills them, jumping more steadily now, the ropes slapping at the ground as Cameron slowly but surely turns them.
He finally talks back, and Kelsie, a bit dizzy and relieved, listens to him, to his feelings, laced with fears, she thinks. Her turn.
She sheds more of her heart, her heart is not pounding so hard, at least with fear. She has a hum. He has a hum. And... she knows it is a good hum.
They are jumping together, in a little messy but still clear rhythm, but that was okay. One...two...one-two one-two. One...two...one-two one-two...
bit by bit, they are going deeper and deeper until they are underwater, Kelsie scared that she might drown, but Cameron steadying her...she is swimming.
Swimming into deeper depths that she has never seen or experienced. She feels warm and cool, and refreshed and
Light...and suddenly Cameron stops talking.
She is alone in this.
Cameron takes a deep, shuddering breath, rubs his arms, averts his eyes away from her.
She starts to choke, to shake, but...but she is Strong. She has fallen, but she knows how to get back up. She breathes. She gets up. She squeezes next to him.
She puts her hand on Cameron’s left arm.
He stiffens for a moment, his face almost falling. But then he looks up at her, his brown eyes brewing with something Kelsie cannot exactly interpret.
It seems like eternity, but he pulls up his sleeve.
There are bruises.
Faded, filled with fraying colors.
He turns his head.
…he can’t go on.
Kelsie bites her lip, staring at Cameron’s arm, his ripped clothes, his face. Then his eyes.
The swelling has gone down, but pain washes through her all the same…
Shame. She had thought…
He has fallen too. Been Pushed, off his swing.
He...he needs for her to jump. Alone. For him.
So she does.
She talks about her past, the little girls’ sneering faces searing through her, the struggles. She knows what she is giving, what she is offering.
Her face is wet, and Cameron’s is too, but she keeps going. And as she keeps going she is tiptoeing surely out of that past, letting the door close softly behind her.
He sighs, a relieved sigh, and he closes his eyes, stops shaking.
She talks longer, jumping, jumping, heart surging with life, watching Cameron melt from her words. About her dreams, love, hope...
he leans his curly head against her chest and Kelsie strokes his hair softly and Kelsie talks. Her faint, but calm, hum. Soothing, and healing him with her hum.
Kelsie comes home. It is late. Very late. Cameron keeps asking her if she would like to go home. She keeps saying no, and he smiles bigger. They eat and talk and walk the streets of downtown.
His eyes shine, and that is all Kelsie needs to see through the dark. Their words, their exchanges, illuminate the darkened, wide streets.
She talks about her brother. She asks about his sister. -Don’t...don’t worry. He smiles. My-my sister is safe now. I will visit her soon.
He is quiet for a moment.
-I-I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you...the truth. Earlier.
Kelsie wraps her hand around his arm, covering his hurts, and leaves it there. Cameron lets her.
When she finally says she has to leave, he pulls her close to him. -Thank you. He whispers. He is crying again. Kelsie is crying too. ~No, no, shh, it's okay, honey. I thank you.
~ He strokes her hair. And they hug for a long moment, reveling from their conversations from the night.
They were deep and dark and even dangerous,
But it made them one.
Finally they let go, and Kelsie floats all the way home.
Her mother is blazing. She throws open the door, rages, shouts. Until Kelsie throws her arms around her. She softens like butter on a hot day. She leans against her daughter.
~To Cameron. I listened to his hum, he listened to mine. Yes, we talked. All night.~