She wore white leather sandals with flower cutouts and buckles on the outside. Her tan feet were already dirty in the sandals as she crossed the dirt lot with the boys. These same feet are even dirtier after the five boys hold her down and make her cry.
She is right when her 4 year old mind says “These boys aren’t being nice.”
They talk roughly to her. Hold her down. Hurt her body. Damage her spirit.
Years later she will remember the white shoes and the chipped bubblegum pink polish on her tiny toes. She will remember that it was hot on the little dirt mound out in the middle of the field where the Flea Market is held every Wednesday. She will remember that the boys didn’t look her in the eyes. Not even her brother.
She will remember that when they are done they turn their backs on her and begin walking back towards the houses. But the youngest boy will hang back slightly looking over his shoulder to make sure she is going to follow.
And she will remember that with a grace far beyond her years she stood up, smoothed her clothes, and lifted her chin high for the walk back to the house.
She still often stands up, smooths her clothes, and lifts her chin as she takes on a new challenge. She lifts her chin to the meanness of the world. She lifts her chin in defiance when anyone suggests she is not good enough. She lifts her chin when she fears rejections, pain, or heartbreak.
She knows she cannot be broken by even the worst that you can offer. She knows because she survived before.
Her one moment of weakness comes any time she fastens the buckle on a shoe that faces out. In that one moment she wishes for a different story. But as she straightens her legs to survey her shoes, she remembers that she bought these shoes. Her feet are clean and her pedicure is immaculate. She smiles at this life. The life she chooses. The life where she determines who is in and who is out. The life that is hers.
She remembers that even though the world is mean…she is loveable, lovely, and loved.
Then…once more…she stands up, smooths her clothes, and lifts her chin.