The lane is quiet. High block walls on one side marking the end of back gardens. Forestry area on the other side, a bit of wild still remaining in the outskirts of Dublin – all rough tangles of bramble and holly under large ash and thorn. No way through, just catching and stumbling and pulling.
The forest had escaped along the lane too, dotted here and there against the block wall were clusters of shrubs, baby hedgerows, even some more mature trees standing proud. Broken from the observational reverie by the sound of an engine again, the car in the lane, slowly, slowly moving behind her. No lights. Were there lights before?
It wasn’t full dark, maybe he just hadn’t turned his lights on, maybe he was lost. But the lane is gloomy, the lights would be useful for the lost, surely, a lost person would have their lights turned on. Car blocking the lane behind her. No way back. In front, at the end of the lane – wide empty fields. Walls too high to climb on one side, inhospitable territory on the other. Nowhere to go. Keep moving on. There’s a house up above, somewhere off the lane. Way up at the top, a house. People. Lights.
No lights. Drifting along behind her. Looking. Searching. Hunting. Prey in sight.
Nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. Maybe he hasn’t seen me, I could hide in the trees but he’ll see me if I cross the lane, see me for sure, find me, catch me. Have to hide in the trees, behind the trees, beside the trees he’s getting closer, I can’t see his face oh god help me I have to hide in the trees… step off the laneway, huge ash tree growing by the wall. Standing alone, a single sentinel, the only cover. Car getting closer, step around the tree, into the tree, oh help me I have to hide in the tree… Stop. Still.
Wrapped and close, in the tree, hiding in the tree. Help me. Hide me.
Car glides by, looking, searching, hunting – not finding. Looking right at the tree, the tree, the tree, only the tree. Confusion on his face, annoyance, moving on, searching, searching… nothing there. Top of the lane, turning, lights glare into life, engine revs, roaring displeasure and frustration, another turn, moving back, still searching, but knowing… she is gone. Back out to the top of the lane, turning into the main flow of traffic, off, and gone.
This 14 year old girl who liked to go for evening walks alone stepped out onto the lane, and found her way home again.