The first time Jamie saw the shimmer, she told her mom.
That earned her a slap for telling stories.
After that, Jamie kept quiet when she saw the shimmer, but she did wonder why her Sunday School teacher could tell stories, and Jesus could tell stories, but she couldn’t tell stories.
Asking her mom about that earned her another slap for “being a smart-mouth.”
Jamie became a quiet child, observing the world with dark brown eyes and a still face. Too much expression might earn her another slap.
In school, her teachers praised her for being a good listener.
She didn’t tell them that she had learned to listen halfway, with part of her mind wondering about the shimmer, wondering when she would see it again, shining like an iridescent soap bubble in the sun.
Every few weeks, she would see the shimmer. It appeared in the sun, the rain, the dark grey days, outside, and sometimes in a mirror, a window pane, or a glass of water. She thought sometimes that others could see it too, but she didn’t ask.
The shimmer gave her purpose, kept her wanting to live, even when her mother changed her slaps to fists, even when her mother’s boyfriend stuck his burning cigarettes on her hands.
She kept her fists closed at school, but kept them loose. She didn’t want the bullies thinking she wanted a fight.
One day, the shimmer in the mirror dimmed after she saw the collections of bruises on her torso. Her ribs ached when she breathed. Her mom had been mad that Jamie didn’t get her another beer right away when she yelled for one.
Jamie hadn’t heard her because she had been focused on the biggest shimmer she had ever seen, almost as big as her. It was in the back yard, by the patch of dandelions that survived by the fence.
As her tears fell, Jamie realized the shimmer in the mirror had nearly disappeared. She couldn’t stand losing it now and so she did something she hadn’t done since the first time.
She reached for it, felt her fingers tingle as they entered it, saw them disappear. But when she reached further, she seemed to hit a barrier at the edges of the shimmer. Scrunching her hand, she could reach in further, all the way to her elbow, where the thickness there slowed her down.
It was frightening, not knowing where her hand and arm were, but it didn’t hurt. It just looked freaky.
Slowly, she pulled her arm and hand out to inspect them. They looked normal, like always. She held up her other hand and arm to compare them, and everything was the same.
Was the shimmer a portal to another world? Her science teacher had mentioned the theory of other dimensions in class, and the geeks at the gamer’s table seemed to be taken with the idea of jumping from place to place. Of course, the gamers always mentioned that it might not be safe, even if it were possible. She had listened to their conversations several times in the library at lunch.
But, was this world safe? Could another world be any worse?
Jamie held up her shirt and inspected the bruises on her torso again, took a deeper breath and felt a sharp cry escape from her lips from the pain of it.
“Jamie Ann Withers, you get out here now! I told you a million times not to waste our water bill on long showers.”
Jamie didn’t want to go out, but if she stayed in the bathroom any longer, her mother might actually get off the couch and break down the door, like her last boyfriend had.
Jamie unlocked the door and peered down the hallway.
Her mother slouched on the couch with a reefer in one hand, and a crushed beer can in the other.
“Get out here and get me another drink, brat!”
Jamie walked to the edge of the living room. “We’re out of beer, mom.”
“Fine! Go get me some more with the money from the freezer.”
That was supposed to be their rent money, but Jamie knew she couldn’t say anything about that.
“Okay, mom.” She carefully eased through the living room and into the tiny kitchen. In the freezer, she found a wadded ball of money. Carefully, she took out a ten.
Through the doorway, she could just see her mom staring at the television.
“Bye, mom,” she whispered. She opened the back door, and slid out sideways, closing it softly behind her.
The shimmer by the dandelions seemed even bigger, maybe big enough for her. Iridescent like a butterfly’s wings and rippling with energy, the shimmer was the most beautiful thing Jamie had ever seen.
She approached it carefully, but before she dared try it, she reached down and picked a dandelion. Blowing the seeds into the shimmer, she made her wish.
Following the last seed, she stepped into the shimmer and felt it rushing all around her, like a warm wind with a chorus of angels.
No matter where she landed, the ride was worth more than all of her life in her own world.