Careful What You Wish For
Rosie strolled along the High Street, watching other girls parading and being whistled at or called to by the boys. They laughed and exchanged banter, some of them walking off in pairs.
Nobody whistled or called to Rosie. She was glad of this, but it would have been nice if at least one of the lads had taken notice of her. Pretending she didn’t care, she marched to the edge of town and up onto the moors following a path she often walked. She didn’t cut a glamorous figure, in her hiking boots, fleece lined trousers and anorak. Too be honest, she knew she would not appear glamorous, even in a ball gown.
She continued up onto the moors, heading for a place where a small stream ran down from the hills. It was a place she liked to stop, rest on a flat rock, to enjoy the view. But wait. ‘What’s happened?’
Someone had built a well right in the middle of her special place. It stood right where her favourite rock had been. Her lovely round rock where she loved to sit. She drew closer. The well was one of those twee touristy ones. A cute little stone wall around it, and a sloped wooden roof above. There was no winch to lower a bucket but a sign on top read ‘WISHING WELL’
‘Who would build such tourist junk up here,’ she said aloud. The town was not a holiday or even a day trip destination. The moors were pretty, but there were many better beauty spots nearby. She approached and looked into the well. It held water, as expected, and a collection of golden coins at its bottom.
She felt in her pocket and pulled out a pound coin. Worth a try, she thought, then laughed at herself, as she dropped it into the water.
‘I wish boys would find me attractive.’ She thought she heard a snigger coming from a few straggly trees on the other side of the stream. A small figure stood in the shadow of them.
That’s all I need. A kid from school. Now I’ll be noticed all right, as a laughingstock. She jumped across the stream. Perhaps she could bribe the kid to keep quiet. But it wasn’t a child at all. A small man stared back at her. He wore rough trousers and a singlet, showing off brawny arms and broad shoulders. Curly hair the colour of rich brown earth capped his head and made up a straggly beard.
She stopped, frightened now. ‘Who are you?’ She wanted to say, ‘What are you?’ but was scared to offend him. He didn’t answer, just dashed into the trees. Rosie followed, curiosity overcoming fear.
He was gone. She thoroughly searched the trees and the surrounding area. Unless he was faster than was possible, he couldn’t have reached any other cover. The trees were stunted, almost bonsai like, and could not have hidden anything bigger than a bird, but she scanned their branches anyway.
Fear crept back into her mind and suddenly, she wanted to be home. She hurried back to town. At the High Street she strode towards home. A whistle. It came from a group of lads standing by a shop doorway. One of called to her. ‘Wanna go for a walk with me, love?’ The others laughed and made suggestive gestures. She hurried away.
Similar things happened each time she passed by a group of boys.
Finally, she got to the turning that would take her home. She noticed someone was following her. She turned to shout at the boy, but it was a middle aged man. ‘
‘I’m calling the police,’ she said. That stopped him. He turned and walked away muttering.
At home, Rosie slumped on the bottom of the stairs and took deep breaths. ‘I’ll keep his photo, just in case,’ she said.
Sleep would not come that night. She got up early next morning and left the house. As she hurried along the High Street, she ignored the looks from men, heading for work.
Up on the moor, the well had disappeared. Where it had stood, her rock was back, and in its centre sat her coin. She picked it up to return it to her pocket, but something made her throw it as far as she could, across the stream.
The little man stood by the trees. He smiled. On impulse, she took another coin and placed it where the other had been. ‘I wish for everything to go back to normal,’ she said. The man’s smile grew wider and he nodded to her before disappearing into the trees. As she walked home, none of the lads or men paid any heed to her. She sighed with relief. ‘I’ll find someone,’ she said quietly. ‘Someone who doesn’t judge by appearances alone. I will find him. Some day.’