Before that spring, fields were just fields. We’d crossed the empty fields behind the civic centre countless times, a shortcut home, a shortcut to the market where we would fill our pockets with chocolate bars, licorice whips, gummy bears. Then, they were just fields.
1985, and we were innocent. Our streets were busy with kids, shouts from mothers calling us in for dinner. We played kick the can. Freeze tag. Red light, green light. Bicycles were strewn on lawns, forgotten. But then, he took the girls in that field. We knew them. They were us.
Whispers passed between mothers, assemblies were held at school, where we were warned not to go anywhere with a stranger, where we were told to always remain in groups. Now, even walking in twos was unsafe. He had changed that. Our mothers turned the TV’s on low when newscasts came on, but still we heard enough. We knew he had hurt them, but could not yet imagine how. Yellow Neighbourhood Watch stickers went up in windows. Mothers drove us to school in the morning now. Our fathers added new deadbolts to the doors. A gesture only, we knew, because those girls had been taken in daylight, the hours that were supposed to be safe.
What else did we know? Candy was crushed beneath the girl, sticky and gummy on the back of her T-shirt. The field would have been warming from early spring sun. Moments before, the girls had purchased slushies and five cent candies at the market across the street. The sting of sugar still on their tongues.
It didn’t matter how he got them there—each lie worked, worked just as well as on all those other girls. The list grew, endless, spooling out. Vancouver, Langley, Burnaby. His fingerprints across all that geography. He put a paper bag over his head. He said, Make love to me. What do little girls know about love? The girl shut her eyes. He told her friend to watch.
There were birds in the trees, trilling about spring coming early. The sound of laughter echoed from the street beyond, other kids walking home from school, their backpacks heavy with math worksheets, social studies textbooks. The girls heard them, and prayed for someone to trample the long grass, save them. They didn’t even know what being