Peter tugged on the line once more, sending the smudged green kite into a diving half circle. The kite was a diamond-shaped lime against the tombstone sky. He smiled, admiring how it stood out against the somber clouds. Jimmy was flying his red kite last week, but Peter didn't like the color; it reminded him too much of a day-old bruise.
He let it climb higher, playing out the string through his bandaged palm. Peter winced a little as the line pressed against the cut, but he refused to let go of his smile. The pain wasn't so bad now, not like during the knife's first slice. A tear formed on the left, but Peter pretended not to notice. He blinked it away, ignoring the cold track down his cheek. The kite had to fly higher if he was going to have any chance at all. The powerful winds were up in the clouds; any lower and his kite would follow Jimmy's into the tree's maw. Then it would be gone forever, destroying his chance.
Peter wasn't scared. He knew about the old guy with the skeleton key and the round glasses. But there was no lightning today, just the ocean of dark clouds that reminded him of a full cemetery. The graves were up there, and when the people rose once more to greet God, they didn't have to climb as high to get to heaven. Only the worst stayed down here in the dirt. If he could just get the kite a little higher, he could fly up and find Mama again. She was waiting for him there, he knew it.
Peter heard the backdoor slam, followed by bad words. He glanced backwards, the smile replaced by something more akin to terror. Peter started tossing the line out quicker, tugging it this way and that. Fly higher, he thought. He's coming. Peter moved forward, trying to keep the line from tangling in the bushes as he dropped behind it. Don't let him see the string. He'd heard that dogs could smell fear, and he prayed the man hadn't brought Rufus with him.
The flapping of the kite was loud now as the winds picked up. Peter could hear the man's heavy footsteps, the booted feet crunching through dead leaves in an unsteady pattern. The wind carried the stench of alcohol and sweat ahead, freezing Peter's blood. He turned to look through the leafy bush, catching a glimpse of the cracked leather hanging down. The line in Peter's hand whipped back and forth, the kite struggling to get free. His breath was coming in ragged gasps, and his ears were pounding in time with his racing heartbeat. No time now. He had to run.
Peter launched himself up and took a step, but he knew it was too late.
"Whatthessssshhelll. Boy, yur gonnna get - " The snap of leather was followed by metal hitting bone. The blow sent Peter to the ground in a heap, the string stinging one more time as it slid through his fingers. A line of red reminiscent of Jimmy's kite traced its way down the side of Peter's face. His eyes were locked on a small mound of dirt, unable to cry over the failed attempt. Released from its tether, the kite caught the wind Peter had been searching for. The smudges on its back matched the clouds that sucked it in, until it climbed into the sunshine above.