By: Qianhui Ma

“And when on the third day, the boy cried wolf again, the villagers answered no more.
But this time, the wolf really came. The villagers never ever saw the boy again……”
“That silly boy,” you giggled as your nanny closed the book and put us to bed.
“Silly,” I nodded along, “he must have regretted it so bad.”

I remember we were in third grade when the teacher introduced us to the infinite repeating decimals. I didn’t really understand. You explained to me that it was like the merry-go-round we rode in the parks every Saturday, the same thing just repeating and repeating and repeating. And somehow that reminded me of us. Of how things always repeated between us. Of how every time we had a quarrel, you would run off, throwing a huge fit and shouting that it’s the end of our friendship. And of how I would always end up apologizing, until we eventually made up and went back to being best friends like nothing ever happened. Except it did, over and over again. And each time, I grew a little more tired.

And then came that day after school, at the gate, when you said those words again with such determination. But that day, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t run after you as I always did. I just watched your ponytail swinging as you sharply turned away. I watched as you gave the kickstand of your bike a decisive kick, one hand steering the handlebars, the other slinging your backpack over your shoulder. I watched as you leaped onto the bike with a motion of smoothness, like a wild bird gliding across the waters, without a trace of reluctance for leaving the northern land behind.

The sun was dazzling that day, obscuring your figure as you threaded in and out of the shadows and light patches on that little road running along the northern side of our school. Maybe it was the sun, burning the pavement too hot, as my feet grew restless as I stood on the concrete ground. Something inside me wished to run after you. But I bit my lips and forced the urge away.

For once, I wanted you to stop for me.

Just once.

My heart started to pound without my permission. I could see the wheels of your bike spinning round and round, which made me dizzy. There was never so much distance between us. I clenched my fists, and the cuffs of my shirt soaked with the sweat of my palms. But my feet wouldn’t budge as if they were locked in place. I could have run, at any moment, and I knew you would have stopped for me if only I chased you. But I didn’t. And you didn’t either. I just stood there and watched, slowly, as the sight of you mingled into the patch of greenness at the far end of the road, and then you disappeared.

Later, I told myself that I accomplished something that day. That I stood up for myself. But then, I couldn’t help but feel uncertain, as I walked home for the first time with no one by my side.

“That silly boy,” you said, as your nanny turned off our light.
“He must have regretted it so bad,” I said.
But it is only now, that I begin to wonder,
Did the villagers feel regretful too?

 

Qianhui Ma is a high school junior from Beijing, China and she is 17 years old. Besides reading and writing, she also loves spending time with children and engaging in strange dialogues with herself in the shower. As someone who has to take long subway rides to school, her favorite pastime is making up stories for strangers on the subway. In the future, she plans to work in the field of education and dreams of traveling around the world by train. A version of this story was first published in The WEIGHT Journal, June 12, 2020. https://www.theweightjournal.com/post/the-girl-who-cried-wolf-flash-fiction-by-qianhui-ma.