“Why are you chasing me?” Miri yelled back at her perpetrator.
She turned around in time to see that she was nearing the edge of a cliff, but it was too late to stop and she went over the edge. Miri landed on the floor with a thud, she had fallen out of bed. Once again she dreamt that someone was chasing her, however, she couldn’t see who it was. She picked herself off the floor and was about to get back into bed when her alarm rang out. It was time to get ready for school.
“Miri yu wake yet?” her mother called from the kitchen.
“Yes mommy!” she responded.
Miri opened the windows in her room and inhaled the crisp morning air. She then made her way over to the dresser to comb her hair.
“Please cooperate today,” she pleaded as she removed her bonnet.
Miri had thick, curly hair which she adored but sometimes it felt like her hair had a mind of its own. Some mornings she struggled to get her hair just right. She wanted to get her hair relaxed but her mother insisted that she waited until she was at least sixteen. This was still a few months away. Growing up in Jamaica afforded her the opportunity to meet people with different hair types. This helped her to embrace and accept the differences and her mother also taught her to love her hair and she did. She just believed she would be able to manage her hair more if it was relaxed. She also knew she could have healthy hair either way.
Today was luckily one of the good days and she styled her hair with ease and headed to the bathroom. She made her bed, got dressed and then went to the kitchen to have breakfast. Her mother was also dressed and in the kitchen having her morning coffee. She set a plate of freshly toasted bread in front of Miri and told her to help herself to some fried plantains and sausages.
“Yu want Milo or orange juice? she asked Miri.
“Milo please” Miri replied.
Miri helped herself to the plantains and sausages as her mother made her a cup of Milo. Miri had a great relationship with her mother. Mrs Smith was strict, but she was never overbearing. For as long as Miri could remember it was just her and her mother. Miri’s father had passed away when Miri was still a baby and her mother raised her all alone. She would take Miri to school in the mornings since she passed it on her way to work. They lived relatively close to the school so Miri could walk home in the evenings.
“Remember yu don’t have any club meeting today so don’t stay too late at school,” Mrs Smith urged, “Because if yu stay late yu goin’ tek the short cut and yu know I don’t like that shortcut bizniz.” she continued.
“But mommy is not mi alone, an Jada dem always use the shortcut,” Miri explained.
“So if Jada dem jump off a bridge, yu goin’ jump wid dem?” asked Mrs Smith.
“Really mommy, yu should know that I am smarter than that but fine a won’t tek the shortcut today” Miri replied and she meant it.
The shortcut in question was an overgrown field behind the school. The field led to a small stretch of empty housing lots and then unto the main road across from where Miri lived. The shortcut didn’t always exist. It was created recently when a business complex was demolished to make space for the housing lots. The lots were abandoned because there were some issues with getting the permits to build on the available land. Children and adults alike made use of the shortcut. Although it wasn’t the safest route it was the quickest. Mrs Smith was not a fan and she tried as much as possible to discourage Miri from using it. ‘Shortcut draw blood’ is a saying that Miri heard countless times. She never went through the shortcut alone but if she had company she didn’t see an issue. She didn’t want to give her mother another reason to forbid her from using the shortcut so she didn’t mention the dream.
They finished having breakfast and Miri went back to her room to gather her things for school. A short while later she and her mother headed out. Miri loved school, she was a top student in most of her classes and she also took part in several extracurricular activities. Her best friends Jada and Ashley also made her enjoy school even more. The hours passed quickly and before she knew it she was leaving school with her friends. She realized that they were turning towards the back of the school and she stopped.
“Mi promise mommy that a wouldn’t tek the shortcut today, let’s walk the long way,” she explained to her friends.
It took a little convincing but eventually, they made they were back to the main road. As she walked she noticed a young man with a sign. He seemed to be asking for money. She remembered getting some spare change at lunchtime and she took it from her pocket and gave it to him. Instead of saying ‘thank you’, he put his fingers towards his lip and then towards her. At first, she thought he was trying to blow her a kiss and she felt a bit embarrassed but she remembered that instead of asking for help out loud he had a sign. Miri surmised that the young man was hearing impaired and was just saying ‘thanks’ using sign language. She didn’t know how to sign ‘you’re welcome’ so she just nodded and smiled.
A few days later while on their way from school Miri and her friends spotted the young man. This time he was a bit closer to the school compound, again Miri handed gave him some money.
“Miri yu shouldn’t do that, him goin’ mek it a habit to beg yu now,” Jada exclaimed noticing Miri’s action.
“Well maybe, but we mus always help people when we can,” Miri replied
“Yea, but how yu so sure him really deaf?” Jada continued.
“Yu shouldn’t say deaf Jada, the term is hearing impaired,” Ashley cut in.
“Whatever Miss know-it-all if him deaf, him won’t hear what me jus say.” Jada snapped.
Ashley and Miri rolled their eyes in response. They both knew how difficult Jada was at times. Miri looked back at the young man who stood staring at them as they walked on. She hoped he didn’t hear or understand what Jada said. She didn’t want him to feel bad.
The next day Miri had quiz club after school and since neither Jada nor Ashley was apart of that club she would be walking home by herself. She didn’t think anything of it because she did this every week. Today was a bit different because they had a competition coming up and so the meeting ran later than usual. By the time the meeting ended the sun was casting its final rays for the day. Miri didn’t want to be on the road after dark so she knew she had to take the shortcut. She quickly gathered her things and made her way through the gate. Once more she saw the young man standing with the sign. She didn’t have any change this time but she wanted to help so she went inside her bag to get her purse. For safety reasons she usually put her purse at the bottom of her bag so she had to move some stuff around to find it. She took some money from her purse and gave it to him but this time she didn’t wait for him to say thanks.
By the time she turned toward the back of the school, her mother’s words ran across her mind. Miri pushed the words to the back of her mind, she didn’t like to disobey her mother but she had no choice and in any case, how would she know. The sun was low and it created eerie shadows around her. She was happy she could still see but for some strange reason, the shortcut felt longer than normal. There were no other students going in her direction so she tried walking faster to catch up to people who might be ahead. She didn’t see anyone. Miri noticed that her shoelace was untied and she stopped to redo it. She started walking again and suddenly she had a strange feeling, she felt like she was being followed. Wanting to be discrete she kept walking but remembered she had a mirror in her bag. She took out the mirror and used it look behind her, then she saw him. The young man with the sign was walking behind her, she was still a safe distance away from him.
“A follow him a follow mi?” she wondered.
Miri stopped and whipped her head around, to her surprise he started running toward her. Without a second thought, Miri took off. In her mind, she instantly got flashbacks from her dream. This frightened her even more. She turned around again just to make sure she wasn’t imaging things and he was still running behind her, this time he was waving his arms angrily at her. At least that was what she thought. She was still some ways away from home, she hadn’t even cleared the field and it was getting darker. Miri willed herself onwards, she thought of all those movie moments where people were being chased and fell. She prayed this wasn’t one of those moments.
“Just a little further,” she thought.
She wanted to get back to the main road. Miri wished she hadn’t taken the shortcut. The thought of calling her mother crossed her mind, but she knew she didn’t have her phone. Her life flashed before her eyes, she shuddered to think of how her mother would cope if anything were to happen to her. She finally got out of the field and onto the stretch of empty lots. She still saw no one ahead of her. The one day she decided to take the shortcut by herself, it seemed no one else did. Her heart pounded in her chase as her feet pounded the asphalt.
Finally, she could see the glow of headlights in the distance. She was almost at the main road. Miri mustered all her strength and continued running, she wanted to be home not just on the main road. When she got the main road she checked to ensure it was safe to cross then sprinted across. The young man was still behind her. She was exhausted but she knew she was almost home. All she wanted was to make it home. Her mother would be home by now so she’d be safe but when she got to her gate the car wasn’t there.
“Oh no, mommy no reach home yet!” she exclaimed “Mi dead now!”
Miri started rummaging through her bag to get her key. It was nowhere to be found. She emptied the contents of her bag onto the verandah but still didn’t locate the key. The young man was now at her gate. In her haste, she forgot to lock it and he came into her yard, he reached for something in his pocket. Panicking, Miri raised her hands in a bid to shield herself.
“Please don’t kill me!” she cried.
Then she saw it, the pink Pikachu keyring. He had her key. While searching for her purse to give him money earlier, she dropped her key and he was only returning it. Not trying to hurt her. Immediately Miri burst out laughing, she couldn’t help but laugh at her antics. She laughed so hard tears fell from her eyes. The young man handed her the key smiling and she thanked him then he left. She noticed that instead of heading back the way he came, he went into the yard a few doors down. Just then Mrs Smith drove into the yard. When she got out of the car noticed Miri’s bag contents scattered and asked if Miri is she was okay. Miri responded with another bout of laughter.
“I didn’t know you knew Ms Mavis’ grandson Dalton?” she indicated pointing in the direction the young man went. “Him is such a sweet boy, helping out his grandma in her time of need even with him disability.”
That night Miri learned that Dalton was just a few months older than her. His grandmother had broken her hip and was unable to work so he would go out to get money to buy her things for the house until she was better. Miri also relayed the evening’s events to her mother and they spent dinnertime laughing and talking. Mrs Smith was not upset that her daughter took the shortcut that night and Miri never used the shortcut again.