{14}

Karina is addicted to books. This is her story.

{Read it from the beginning by clicking here.}

3pm — the rain has stopped entirely. Perfect weather for a walk.

The brisk walk to class and back didn’t count, of course. She had been weighed down with textbooks, paper, and worry, and she wasn’t free to go wherever she pleased.

Today is the sort of day for a wandering walk, no particular place to be, no schedule to keep.

The clouds look like hands overfilled with marbles, threatening to spill out at any moment. Still, Karina leaves her umbrella inside. She wants to be completely unhindered. Contrary to Jane Austen’s theory, a little rain never hurt anyone.

You can’t believe everything you read.

She wanders, decisive steps implying to any watchers that she actually has a destination in mind. In truth, her destination is her mind.

It tormented her enough this morning, dragging her into halls echoing with anxious voices. Now she can choose which halls to avoid and which rooms to disappear into.

She eventually finds herself at the back of the church east of campus. There are no children on the playground, of course. She’s never seen any here on a sunny day, let alone a rain-soaked afternoon.

There’s evidence that some child was here at some point, though. She forgot her jump rope on the bench. Karina picks it up. She thinks of the first time she tried using one. It was after reading of Mary’s attempt at skipping in The Secret Garden. Well, not in the garden itself — Mary learned to skip rope right before the wind revealed the secret garden’s door. Karina had been awkward about it, especially with no one to show her, but she hadn’t felt bad; Mary hadn’t been too good at skipping right away either.

Karina doesn’t attempt any skipping today.

She runs her fingers over the back of the bench, making the water collect in droplets that slide down her fingers until they are too heavy to hang on.

Hands in pockets, Karina explores the play structure from the ground like a good adult.

She takes a seat on one of the swings and rocks her feet back and forth. Her raincoat is long enough to mostly protect her from the wet. The chains are icy in her hands. Before lifting her feet, she checks to make sure they’re sound. No need to risk a fall like the one that resulted in Mary’s aunt’s death. Not that Karina would swing high enough for her to be in any real danger. Still, even a few bruises from a small fall would be uncomfortable, and discomfort is something Karina likes to avoid.

The swing squeezes her hips. Oh for the days when she was small enough to really enjoy this sort of thing.

Why doesn’t anyone make swings out of boards anymore? That sort is much more comfortable to sit on, and if made wide enough, two could sit side-by-side. Or so she has heard; she’s never had occasion to try it herself.

The only sound is the subtle squeak of chains as she swings back and forth, letting her feet lift off of the ground ever so slightly. Her hands are growing numb on the cold metal chains. It feels good.

Maybe this is what it feels like to get high. Slightly uncomfortable at first, but euphoric once you embrace the sensations. Other-worldly. The sort of feeling you wouldn’t chase until you got a real taste of it. Or maybe it feels completely unlike this sensation. She wouldn’t know.