Damaged Sundresses

She doesn’t know how to swim, but she wades through knee high muddy water carrying a gasoline canister and enough dollars to buy gas. The skirt of her dress they told her not to wear, sticks to her leg. At the gate of the house, her grandfather, his woman, and their neighbor watch her. At the first bridge, she hesitates to cross, gripping the money and canister tight in her hands. One breath in, one breath out. When she crosses to the other side, her knees almost buckle in relief. With each cautious step, the water rises above her waist, and the second bridge is nowhere to be seen. Her heart thumps slightly louder above the pouring rain as she waits, eyes darting around the barely visible road. A stranger then appears beside her, and leads her across; the first half of her journey is complete. On the journey back, the gasoline bottle is now filled and heavy, she hikes up what she can of her dress, and crosses. She walks too close to the edge, and slips. She’s under. She lets go of the canister, but her hand clutches what remains of the dollars. After she’s plucked from the trench, after she’s returned to the safety of her grandfather, after she hands over the remaining dollars, and right before she’s ushered towards the shower, she stares at the new ruined dress.

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