It wasn’t that I didn’t want to deal with children, or that I had anything against children. In fact, I would have pegged myself a child if I were to be a human. But, the diversity of children, and the seemingly endless ways that a child might grow up makes for every encounter to be interesting. After all, it is the child that is the rawest form of an adult, the peek into one’s character begins in how the child behaves. At least, that’s what I believe. And so, as the sunlight filtered into the room, exposing the dust in the air and landing somewhere behind Lottie, I engaged in my hobby of conversation.
“Well,” I started, trying to recover from her last berate of my interest in this abandoned home. She had answered with a pragmatic stance, saying that there could be nothing I could be interested as this home was empty.
“The very idea that this place is empty interests me,” I rebutted.
“The very idea that this place is empty?” She still had her arms to her hips, like she was looking down on me, or, like she was taking a great stance. Not that I took any pleasure in debating a child, nor did I take pleasure in anything I did.
“Let’s put it this way, are there any things you like?” She made a face like she was thinking, but, was still adamant on her stance.
“I like hopscotch.”
“Hopscotch?” She was taken aback, her stance completely shattered for a moment, and then, at a breath, she was back at it, standing strong as ever. I really didn’t know what hopscotch was. It wasn’t that I was completely disillusioned as to how the world worked, just that I learned about the world as much as anyone else. When I first started gathering shattered dreams, I didn’t even know what a human was, let alone a child or their activities.
“Yes, I like hopscotch, is there any problem with that?” She was awfully defensive, and giddy. I was tempted to ask whether something good happened to her.
“No, it’s just… What is hopscotch?” She was taken aback again, her mouth hanging wide open.
“You don’t know hopscotch!?” Her voice rang throughout the home, and I wondered if she exasperated louder if she could tumble the entire area.
“How could you not!? Weren’t you a kid too?” No, actually, I wasn’t. The idea of my conception was as strange as the idea of me being able to talk to Lottie on this odd day where I was supposed to collect shattered dreams. Out of the six odd days I was on duty, I would find a person to indulge in my hobbies. That was the strangest of notions to me.
“You really don’t know anything about hopscotch?” She continued, “This! This is hopscotch,” she pointed to the floor beneath her, to the playground constructed of chalk she had procured. She then went to the bottom of the playground, to the tile marked with the number one, and looked up while pointing at me, “Watch and learn!” She then, on one foot, skipped onto the first tile, then onto the second, and third, and, on the tiles numbered five and six, which were drawn together, she landed using both feet, and continued. There were twelve titles in total, and, upon getting to the last, she turned around and repeated herself.
“Hopscotch! Do you remember now?” She was somehow eager, almost glowing in anticipation, but, I shook my head.
“Are you really an adult!?” She retorted with one hand on her hip, “Adults should know everything!” I laughed, genuinely.
“We only know what we know. Just like you.” She pouted.
“Okay. Hopscotch. That’s good. So, what I mean is, what if you heard about hopscotch but never played it?”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s say, you never had the chalk to actually draw hopscotch, but, you hear the other boys and girls talk about it all the time. What would you think?” She pouted even more, but, this time in thought. Then, once her face started growing red, she took a puff out, and, while pointing at me as if she was the ruler of the world, replied, “I would be jealous!” She declared with all her tiny might.
“Well, you’d be interested too, right? You’d want to know what it is that everyone’s talking about, you’d want to be there, right?” She then, placed her finger over her mouth, tilted her head, and pouted. The longer she thought, the more her head lowered, until finally, she sprouted up, and said with confidence, “Yes!”
“So, do you see my point?”
“So you get why I’d be interested in an abandoned home?” I felt my logic was still flawed, and strange, and, well, maybe it would work on a child.
“Yes!” Every ‘yes’ grew more and more haughty.
“So that’s why you’re here. Well, I’m here to play hopscotch.”
“You could play hopscotch anywhere though, right?”
“I could. But, it’s more fun here.” She picked up the chalk from the floor boards and began sketching something onto the rotting floor. Every stroke she made elicited another creek.
“It’s more fun here?”
“It’s quiet,” she began, her voice slowly whisking away. I didn’t peg her to be one of solitude, especially not with her mannerisms, though, anything was possible.
“I don’t have to worry about other kids, or other adults watching,” she continued, “this place is my little home.” Then, she stopped, her drawing was incomprehensible to me, and she dropped the chalk she held.
“But you’re here now, and, as the owner of this space, I ask that you leave!” She was, unsurprisingly, trying to be mature, powerful, and, fell short on her age.
“I would leave, but this is an abandoned home, I have every right to be here as much as you do.”
“I was here first!” But, she was still a child.
“And children shouldn’t be playing in abandoned homes.” Right? That’s a thing, right?
“I’ve always been going here, not a single thing has happened to me,” she crossed her arms and gave a prideful smirk.
“You’ve never met a single person?”
“Never been hurt?”
“Never talked to a single person wondering why you were by yourself going to such a dangerous place?”
“But you did just admit this is a dangerous place,” she kissed her teeth in realization to our banter. That is to say, why was I still bantering with a child in an empty room at the back of an abandoned home? If I was a human, I was sure to question my morals.
“Seriously, did you only come here to play hopscotch? On such a day?” I was trying to siphon information out of her. It wasn’t that I was some kind of mindless dangerous information broker that just wanted to exploit a child. I wasn’t that at all. I began to wonder whether she had a dream or not. Then, I realized, everyone had a dream. Wasn’t that what being human was all about?
“Today’s Saturday. I can do anything I want on the weekends,” she said with a prideful smile on her face, “so you can’t tell me what to do.” Then she crossed her arms again, and pouted. The sunlight filtering through the window shifted. Probably blocked by some clouds, or, maybe the sun moved on its own, I couldn’t tell. The room grew into a dark afterglow.
“You’re not with my parents, are you?”
“Your parents? No, I came here because I was interested, remember? In fact, you probably wouldn’t know who I am even if you think really hard,” I laughed softly to myself. Though I didn’t see what town I was in, I was sure that it was one I hadn’t yet visited. It took my room quite a while before it started cycling me through places I’d already visited.
“I see. That’s good. Are you going to do anything today?” She asked genuinely and politely, completely out of character for the type of person she was, or at least, out of character for the type of person I thought she was. I could never tell with children.
“Probably not,” I lied. I had a plethora of things to do, like, collect shattered dreams. But for some reason, color me insane, color me a human, call it my hobby, I wanted to stay and see what was up with her. If it had been any ordinary, normal girl just out and about, strutting around outside, I would have ignored her. If it was any ordinary, normal girl just out and about, strutting around outside with a shattered dream, I would have been interested in her. So far, no shattered dream, but also, no ordinary girl, and, she was in an abandoned home, playing by herself. I guess that was all it took for me to be interested. Should I have taken upon another hobby?
“That’s good, that’s good,” she said as she twirled about in her spot, her head avoiding my eyes and she even tried to whistle. I really couldn’t figure out children.
“Why do you ask?”
“Why?” She repeated, her sense of pride bleeding into her voice.
“Well, since you came here interested in an abandoned home, I guess you’ve already seen everything that this place has to offer.” She didn’t peg it as a question, but her haughty attitude was all I needed.
“Right, I did. In fact, I didn’t hear you until I was about to leave.”
“You were about to leave?” Her energy lowered.
“About to, until I found you. I mean, I don’t have anything I need to do, but, I didn’t want to stay here forever.” She cleared her throat, her pride rising slowly again.
“In that case!” She declared, “You will accompany me!” She puffed out her chest, and held her head high.
“Even though you wanted me to leave before?” She was stumped, only for a second, but proudly regained composure.
“You mean to say, you’re lonely?”
“Ye–” She stopped. She was embarrassed now.
“That’s none of your business.” She put on a cold face.
“None of my business?”
“So, you won’t tell me?” She nodded.
“Not even if I ask nicely?” She reluctantly nodded again.
“So, if it’s none of my business–” I hung my words in the air until she looked me in the face, a pang of worry washing over her, and I tried hard not to laugh.
“Then,” I continued, “I’ll be on my way then, since you clearly won’t tell me what’s up.”
“Wait!” She pushed her hands out while walking forward, tripped on a loose floor board and planted herself onto the wood. I was surprised nothing broke. I laughed, knelt down, and picked her up. She wasn’t crying, but, she was clearly avoiding me. A queen doesn’t fall flat on her face to her subjects. I couldn’t help it, but, she was so adorable and cute that I just had to smile. Was that something a human would do?
“You want me to play with you?” She nodded without a moment’s question.