She stepped into the dark with a smile.
The smell of jasmine lured her further into the park. Her footsteps were steady as she walked barefoot on the grass. As a child, she had never been afraid of the dark. In fact, she had enjoyed its embrace as twilight darkened the skies and nightfall beckoned her. The dark was so much kinder to her than the taunts of children at school, than the scolding of teachers when homework was left undone, than the anger of adults who were supposed to care for her.
Now, herself an adult, she felt that everyone was equal in the dark. No one could see her scars, pain or loss. No one asked her about her past or her future. The present was quiet and still in the dark. The relentless struggle every day to cope with a meaningless job to make sure there was enough to eat and to pay the bills could be put away for now.
There was no need to think about all that.
The light from the lamp posts in the car park grew dim as she walked steadily on. The darkness was almost complete. She didn’t look back.
There was no need to.
As she walked deeper into the darkness under the tall trees in the park, she felt for once that she really belonged. The grass felt cool and somehow tender beneath her bare feet. A few twigs and pebbles pricked her skin, but she didn’t mind. They reminded her that this was real. The mocking laughter at her looks, her clothes and her voice – everything that happened in the daylight – none of that mattered anymore.
Soon, the crackles of the twigs and leaves on the ground made way to the crunch of her feet on a sandy path leading to a beach. Stepping out from the treeline, Swee Lin paused for a moment.
She loved the first sight of the pale sand in the faint moonlight, the bubbles of surf crashing on the beach. Out at sea, lights from a fishing boat shone on the dark waters.
The walk towards the waves was a lovely, calm stroll. It was the kind of walk she had always imagined she would take with her lover. If she had had a lover.
But those kinds of thoughts no longer mattered. Now, she felt no sadness, grief nor regrets. And she knew there was nothing to fear.
The first touch of the water on her toes was cold. But afterwards, as her arms and legs tire, and she drifted in the dark waters, she just felt warm and safe.
For once, she felt no fear that children were laughing in the distance.