A gentle breeze soared past Erin as she thrust herself into the air on the pink, rubber swing. "Wee," she shouted happily.
Erin knew that no one around here wanted to play with her…no one ever had, but she didn't care. Her real friends, the ones she made in high school, didn't even live in this state yet.
Suddenly, she felt an icy chill go up her spine as if winter had started a season earlier.
"Erin? Erin? Erin!" a male voice called to her.
She whirled around to see a young man who appeared to be about twenty-five. He had dark, wavy hair back in a ponytail, and dull gray eyes. Everything about him would have said hot guy to older Erin, and stranger to her second grade self.
"Give me a heart attack, why don't you?" Erin demanded of the stranger nearby.
"I thought you weren't supposed to talk to strangers," he teased, as she clutched the cold metal chains on the swing for protection.
The man was creepy, to say the least, but definitely handsome in a dark and morbid way. "I'm not," she breathed, remembering that she was only seven, and this guy was probably about twenty-five. "Stay away from me, how do you know my name?" she demanded, slowly stepping off of the swing.
The man laughed lightly. "But who doesn't know your name? You just stepped through time, who isn't interested in that?"
For a moment, Erin's heart seemed to stop. "Y…y…how do you know about that?" She looked around for something, someone to help her. "Ms. Patrick!" she screamed at the top of her young voice, trying to run from the swing set as her heart beat faster and faster by the second. "Ms. Patrick, I don't know this guy!" She then noticed that a few tears were streaming from her eyes. Maybe even if her mind was still fifteen, her emotions were that of a child.
The man grabbed her small wrist. "Erin, she can't hear you! She's not listening!"
With that, Erin looked around to find that everyone was frozen. A boy, halfway down the big, orange slide. A girl in midair, about to complete her jump from a swing. A teacher, holding her whistle halfway to her mouth. A ball, soaring halfway between a boy and a girl playing catch. But no one could move, save for Erin and this man.
"Let go of me!" she shouted helplessly. Fear churned her stomach. What did he want? "Let me go!"
The man smiled rather unpleasantly as he dragged her back to the swing. "Relax. I'm not here to bother you, or to take you anywhere. I just want to talk to you."
Erin squirmed in her swing, kicking her legs wildly, trying to do something to stop the man. Maybe kick, punch, smack…whatever she thought would work. But she was just too young to take on a man of his age.
"Let go!" she screamed. "I don't want to talk to you! I'm just a normal seven-year-old kid! Leave me alone!"
Why didn't I wish myself to be older? She wondered to herself. If I were older I might just have a fighting chance!
"I already told you, I'm not interested in hurting you," he explained calmly, despite Erin's state of panic. "I just want to talk to you about what you just did. You traveled back in time. And I want to know how."
I wish I were twenty-five.