The girl intrigued the young woman. Since the first time they’d met during the random encounter on the porch the woman had begun stopping by twice a week after nannying. At first she would sit with the girl in the dusty attic as the joyful afternoon sun faded into the abysmal black of night.
There was never anyone else home with the girl. The woman would inquire about her family. She would only ever answer, “I’m alone”. In fact the girl would rarely answer any question posed to her. One day while playing with paper dolls that the woman had brought her, the thin chain of her necklace slipped out from the confines of her blouse as she lay on her stomach.
“What’s this?” asked the woman. The girl offered no reply just stared with her large dark eyes. The look imbued a sense of terror and reproach in the woman yet she dared to prod further. “Is that a necklace? I bet its pretty.” She continued reaching a hand out to reveal what might be hidden beneath the girl’s shirt. She mused it may be another clue to her mysterious past.
The woman’s arm grew heavier as she reached towards the girl’s neck. A slight irritability manifested itself behind her eyes. Why wouldn’t the girl show her the necklace? Before she could reach it however the girl gathered up her new gift of paper dolls, dressed in vibrant pinks and yellows which the woman had never seen her wear and ran off. The woman was unable to find her, hiding amongst the large confines of the manor and so she left feeling guilty, sad and as always curious.
The girl of course forgave the woman without a word. She felt grateful for every minute of time she needn’t spend alone. When the woman returned again their play proceeded just as it always had before. The woman even coaxed the girl out of the attic and they would play in the big empty room with the large bay window looking over the garden. The woman loved this room and liked to imagine how she would refurbish and redecorate it if it were her own.
The girl was reticent to speak of herself but she frequently spoke of a boy who she claimed had once been her friend. She bragged about the games they’d play and the treats he’d bring making the woman feel a twinge of competitiveness before she remembered that the boy was not here and she was. The girl often mentioned that she missed the boy terribly. “Where did he go?” inquired the woman with her ever prying questions.
“He had to go; no one can stay here for very long.”
“But you’ve been here for a long time.”
“I’ve always been here.”
“Well as long as you’re here, I’ll be here too.” confidently encouraged the woman.
“No” corrected the girl. “You’ll leave me too, when it starts to hurt you.”