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. The endless ways that a child might grow makes for every encounter to be interesting. 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 the girl I would soon learn to be named 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, “The very idea that this place is empty interests me.”
“The very idea that this place is empty?” She still had her arms to her hips, as if she was looking down on me. I didn’t quite take pleasure in debating a child. No matter what smile I gave her, she remained steadfast in her posture.
“Let’s put it this way, are there any things you like?” She scrunched her face and raised her brows towards the ceilings. She tapped once before answering.
“I like hopscotch.” Her voice simmered and raised.
“Hopscotch huh? Not that I’ve ever played.” She was taken aback, her stance completely shattered as she lowered her arms and looked up at me with wide eyes. And then, at a breath, she was back at it, standing strong as ever with her hands to her hips. She pretend to cough.
“You’ve never played hopscotch before?” Her mouth was wide open as she inquired.
“Not at all. Is that strange?” She was taken aback again. She closed her eyes and then pointed at me with conviction.
“That’s impossible!” Her voice rang throughout the home, and I wondered that if she exasperated louder if she could tumble the entire area. I could hardly contain my laughter.
“It’s true.” I was slowly breaking down her barrier. Though as I noticed this, I began to wonder why I was spending time talking to her. I wasn’t quite sure if my hobby of conversation allowed this to pass.
“How could you not!? Weren’t you a kid too?” Actually, I wasn’t. The idea of my conception was as strange as the idea of me being able to talk to Lottie. However, I couldn’t quite tell her that.
“You really are strange.” 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!” On one foot, she skipped onto the first tile. Upon landing she stuck up a peace sign and smiled with her teeth. She continued her strides until she landed on the last tile. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what hopscotch was, just that I’ve never had the chance to play.
“And that was hopscotch!” She crossed her arms and stuck her head up as she stood as tall as she could.
“Are you really an adult who hasn’t played hopscotch?” I nodded and smiled. Then, as if a switch, she raised her hand and pointed at me. Her other hand landed on her hip.
“So what did you mean before?” I was glad she remembered.
“Let’s say you never had the chalk to actually draw hopscotch, but you hear the other children talk about it all the time. What would you think?” She pouted and turned her head. 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!”
“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 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, but hoped she didn’t catch on.
“Yes!” Every ‘yes’ grew more and more haughty. I felt she somehow grew taller with every confident breath.
“So that’s why you’re here,” She started as lowered herself to the tiles. “Well, I’m here to play hopscotch.” She began to deepen the chalk lines she made. Every stroke elicited another creak. I couldn’t help but to smile as she went about her way like nothing had happened.
“You could play hopscotch anywhere though, right?” I asked. She stopped, and then looked at me with a half frown. It seemed she was ready to pounce on me, but she opted instead to turn her attention to the remainder of the room and begun drawing on the wood tiles. I couldn’t tell what she was drawing, though it seemed to amuse her.
“I could. But it’s more fun here,” she said without peering her eyes over to me.
“It’s more fun here?”
“It’s quiet,” she began, her voice seemed to simmer down as the sound of her drawing filled the air.
“I don’t have to worry about other kids, or other adults watching,” she continued, “This place is my little home.” She stopped, her grip on the chalk tightened, and then she turned.
“But you’re here now and as the owner of this space, I ask that you leave!” She pointed her chalk towards me and almost fell over in the movement. She managed to catch herself just as she was about to tip over. She didn’t break a sweat.
“I would leave, but this is an abandoned home, I have every right to be here as much as you do.” I trilled my voice and smiled leaning forward. I saw her twitch for a moment before regaining her composure.
“I was here first!” Alas, she was a child.
“And children shouldn’t be playing in abandoned homes.” I waved my finger in jest to her experience. I had to contain my laughter as she got up and pouted.
“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?” She shook her head.
“Never been hurt?” She hesitated, but then shook her head.
“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. I laughed at her chagrin and couldn’t believe how much fun I was having teasing a child. I really wasn’t human.
“Seriously, did you only come here to play hopscotch? On such a day?” I was trying to siphon information out of her. I figured I may as well. I began to wonder whether she had a dream or not. Though, It wasn’t a thought that lasted long. She was human after all.
“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.” She crossed her arms and pouted. The sunlight filtering through the window shifted. The room grew into a dark afterglow.
“You’re not with my parents, are you?” Her voice raised as she peered into my eyes.
“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. She sighed, and then let her arms down. She began to skip on her own on the hopscotch tiles, though she was nearly dragging her feet with every other step.
“I see. That’s good.” She finished another round of hopscotch, and then turned with her hands behind her back.
“Are you going to do anything today?” She asked with a somber tone. I turned my head to her question, but her eyes didn’t waver. I saw her hands tense as she waited for my reply.
“Probably not,” It wasn’t too much of a lie. The only other obligation I had was to collect shattered dreams. If it had been any ordinary girl just out and about, I would have ignored her. If it was any ordinary, girl just out and about, with a shattered dream, I would have been interested in her. However, neither case was true and yet there I was still talking to Lottie. I wondered what it was that made me want to stay, but before I could come to a conclusion, she continued.
“That’s good, that’s good,” she said as she twirled about in her spot. Her eyes felt distant as she smiled to herself. She laughed and then ran to the door behind me.
“Why do you ask?” My words stopped her.
“Why?” She repeated. She scrunched her mouth before answering.
“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 if you aren’t offering then–” 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.
“Yes!” She stampeded off of the door and back into the hallway.
“Even though you wanted me to leave before?” She was stumped, only for a second, but proudly regained composure.
“Yes!” She marched forward.
“You mean to say, you’re lonely?” She stopped.
“That’s none of your business.” She said as she turned with a pout and crossed arms.
“None of my business?” She nodded as she puffed out her chest and marched towards the door that led to the main area.
“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.” I began walking in strides. Each of my steps equated a run from her, and as I came to stand in front of her, I smiled and attempted to pass.
“Wait!” She pushed her hands out and pressed with all her force. However, she tripped on a loose floor board and planted herself onto my stomach. I laughed, knelt down, and patted her head. Her eyes watered as they avoided my smile. A queen doesn’t fall flat on her face to her subjects.
“You want me to play with you?” She nodded without a moment’s question.