Fiction in a minute: Straw hat

She waved at me today. The girl in the straw hat and red skirt stood on the roof of the abandoned Tolliver lace factory. She looked like Audrey Hepburn going a garden party instead of the usual street kid looking for a place to squat. She saw me staring at her from my apartment window for the third day in a row, and she smiled and waved.

That mute invitation was all I needed. So I went, through a hole in a wire fence, down a dark path and through a door wrenched from its hinges, into the factory’s crumbling shell.

Maybe the girl was a writer like me, trying to do an investigative piece on living in a crack den. Or maybe she was a Tolliver, coming to pay her respects to the family’s ruin and dreaming of the day she could bring it back to life. Maybe she was my soulmate.

At the top of two flights of stairs was a cavernous room, sun streaming onto dirty walls from a hole in the roof. It smelled like mold and decay. Fast food wrappers, mismatched shoes, faded magazines and broken glass littered the floor. Paws and claws of invisible animals scratched at the cement, away from me, thankfully, not toward me.

She was curled up like a kitten on a dirty blanket, the straw hat on the floor beside her. I sat down next to her and her eyes fluttered open. She had delicate, pretty features and long black lashes framing brown eyes.

“You came,” she said. “Like a knight in shining armor.”

My chest puffed out with pride, just as I felt the cool blade of a knife against my neck.

“Give us your wallet and your phone,” a male voice behind me said.

Her anime eyes narrowed into calculating slits as she put her hand out. I must have looked confused, because she laughed and said, “What did you think was going to happen?”

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