Layke found himself standing in the meadow, shivering slightly at the wind. He hoped he wasn’t waiting for something that wasn’t there.
He waited, and waited yet some more. Then he sighed. What had he thought; that his friends would still be coming back to play every afternoon? They’d be working as much as he was, now. Had he really expected them to be better off than him?
Suddenly there was a rustling in the trees near him. Layke whipped around, expecting some sort of wild animal. Instead, he found himself staring at a pair of scuffed boots and combed-back hair.
“Hello?” he asked.
The boy just stood there, staring at Layke and swaying slightly.
“Who’re you?” the boy asked.
“Layke,” Layke answered, trying to figure out who the boy was. The boy’s eyes widened at this revelation.
“Layke?” he whispered. “The one who used to play with us a long time ago?”
Layke smiled at his friend. “Percy, isn’t it? You’re hardly recognisable. I mean, look at you, all neatly groomed. And why are you here, anyway, Percy? Aren’t you busy?”
“You remember me?” Percy grinned. “My mother made me comb my hair every day now that I’m older. I’m not meant to be here, I just wanted to visit my old playing spot. Who knows what I found?” Percy shook his head. “Wow, Layke. I still can’t believe you’re here. When you were dragged off by your mother, we thought you’d gotten in trouble. But then you never came back. After a few months, we decided that you had disappeared and was probably dead.”
“The things an overactive imagination can do,” Layke said, shaking his head.
“We were little boys, no-one could blame us!” Percy protested. “Anyway, back to what I was saying. Then one by one, the rest of us started disappearing, too. We all got so scared. I was the second last one to go.”
“You were doing work, weren’t you?”
Percy nodded. “Yes we were. We were doing more work than we’d ever done before.”
Layke sighed. “I had hoped the rest of you didn’t have to work as I did. It seems I was wrong.”
“We boys must come of age some time or other. We have to start doing the same amount of work our fathers do soon. It’s just part of the cycle of life,” Percy said wisely.
“And I’ve got a proposal to make to you that involves that very problem.” A smile started spreading up Layke’s lips.