Part one of two

This is a short story I wrote, based on various childhood memories, and lots of creativity. Enjoy~

She came across the young boy at the park, scrapping at the dry dirt with a stick. If this had been years ago, when she herself was his age, she would understand why he was here, alone, and not spending his time with other children on the slides or swings across the way. Then, most of the fun areas had either been neglected or overrun with children much bigger than herself, playing basketball in the courtyard on the side. But years had passed, and the park was once again the perfect place to race around with friends, or hang from the long metal poles like monkeys. So why wasn’t he?

The young boy never looked up even as she came closer, crouching low to meet his height. For a while, they said nothing. The older child was hoping the younger would notice her and speak first, while the younger one was trying to ignore the stranger at his side. When the neither of them made a move, the older girl resigned herself to talking first.

“Are you alone here?” she asked the boy.

“Obviously,” the boy replied after a moment’s breath, nose wrinkling in distaste.

Offended by the young boy’s hostility, the older girl stood, clenching her fists. “Obviously, it’s because of that attitude. No wonder you’re alone.”

The older girl stepped away from the boy, barely catching the sudden shift in his expression. Just barely. The young boy stopped etching faces into the dirt, his shoulders stiff and raised, and he hunched over himself as if to hide the drawings. And the older girl sighed, realizing she had acted just as childish as the crouching kid before her.

“I didn’t mean that,” she said, then in afterthought, “Sorry.”

The boy shrugged his shoulders. “I’m used to it.” He dropped the stick in favor of a few small stones, and began tossing them across the barren grass. Each one skipped across the ground like it was water, landing several feet from the gazebo in the far corner of the park.

The girl had not moved from his side.

“Why are you still here?”

“You look lonely,” she answered. “And I don’t mind talking with you. Actually, I’m feeling a little lonely too.”

The boy eyed her carefully, sucking his teeth at her, but the girl could see the way his eyes watered slightly at her words. “I’m not some girl. Men don’t get lonely. We don’t need to talk like you girls do.”

The girl decided to agree with him, somewhat, to avoid conflict. “But little boys do.”

“Well, I’m not a little boy.” The last stone had been tossed, and the boy gave up looking for more.

“What’s your name?” The girl asked the boy.

“Why do you care so much?”

And the girl began to wonder, why did she care so much about this boy’s feelings? She stared at him for a moment, taking in his dusty pants and stained white t-shirt, the overgrown curls in his matted hair, and the lack of happiness on his face. She thought him to be maybe eight or nine, but he lacked all of the plumpness and baby fat of those his age. He was tall too, much taller than she thought he should be. Suddenly, she wanted to hug him.

And she did.