Photo by Michelle Weber.
She watched and waited for everyone else to leave the playground. She knew she should run and play with the other kids, she knew that she might even enjoy doing just that, but she didn’t want to risk breaking the magic. She didn’t want to risk upsetting her other friends, the ones that only came around when she was by herself.
She sat much like she had the first time they had come out for her. Having just moved to the neighborhood, she’d perched on the neglected merry-go-round and watched the other kids skip and race, slide and swing, laugh and squeal the afternoon away. She had wanted to join them but was too shy to approach any of them. She had hoped one of them might reach out to her but none of them ever did.
One by one they went their separate ways or were collected by their parents. She’d hung her head, tears welling in her eyes, lonely, confused, and angry with herself for not having the bravery to stand up and ask the other children if she could join them. After forcing the tears away, her mother would have been proud, she found the strength in her legs to push away from the apparatus. It was then she’d heard a voice behind her say hello.
In her shock she’d fallen onto her behind as she twisted around to see who had managed to sneak around her. And there had been no one there. Then the horse had spoken again, “I do hope you haven’t injured yourself young lady, are you okay?”
She could still remember how it felt when her eyes had gone wide and her heart had started racing. It was impossible. She knew it was impossible. Yet, it had happened. The horse had talked to her. She had seen its mouth move. An initial jolt fear had been immediately replaced by a sense of wonder and joy.
“I’m okay,” she’d mumbled, and then dragged herself out of the dirt, using the edge of the merry as leverage. Then the horse’s head had turned to look at her, and it had smiled. She’d nearly fallen over again at that point, and very well would have if she hadn’t still been clutching the edge.
“Would you like to play with us?”
Us? She’d thought, delirious in her excitement, as one by one the other animals around the toy swiveled to face her. The poles slid away and they were free.
“I would love to…”
And so they had. They’d frolicked, and danced around the empty playground. Playing one game after another until she’d realized how late it had gotten. She apologized profusely and told them she would come back and visit them every day, and then she’d sprinted home. Happier than she’d been since before she’d moved. Happier than she could ever remember being.
Every day after that she returned to the park and waited patiently for the other children to leave so she could play with her new friends. Every day they came back to life for her. They were free from their daily chore, free from their structured servitude.
But then she’d had school commitments to see to, and her mom had gotten sick and needed taking care of, and she hadn’t been able to join her new friends in the park. She hadn’t been able to experience that magic and she had worried that perhaps when she did return the spell would be broken. She didn’t know what she would do if that happened.
So, she didn’t want to do anything else to risk damaging the enchantment she had found. She didn’t run and play with the other children. She didn’t even make eye contact with them for fear that might entice them to come and start talking to her. She just sat there, singing a song, one of the rabbit’s favorites, and digging her toy in the sand.
It wouldn’t be much longer. The numbers had already started to dwindle and night was quickly approaching. Soon, she’d hear the rabbit’s strong voice join hers, and she feel the horse nuzzle her shoulder, and watch the frog bound over her head. She’d play tag with the tiger. She’d go for a ride on giraffe. She’d rub bears tummy the way he liked ever so much.
The playground would be theirs to do with as they pleased. They’d be the ones laughing and squealing, skipping and racing, swinging and sliding, and she’d feel whole again, complete in the company of her friends. Then when the last light of the day faded away she’d run home. But she’d be back the next day and the day after that.
She would always return to play with them. Because they had reached out to her. Because they had seen how much she needed them. And because she knew that they needed her to. They were perfect when they were together. And that’s how it supposed to be with friends.
Word Count: 836
Written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words. Do you have a story to go with this picture (fiction or otherwise)? Write it up and link to the challenge. Go on then, what are you waiting for?!