It was early autumn, the air was turning crisp and the wind was picking up. I shivered and thrust my hands into my pockets as I walked, my short hair blowing into my face. I was headed for the park, to sit and think in a place where no one would bother me and I could think in peace.
Once reaching it, I sat down on a bench. With a sigh, I leaned back, my hands still in my pockets, to stare upwards into the golden and red leaves overhead. The sun shone bravely through, even though it was blocked by the leaves. Well, not blocked really, since it shone behind them and made them glow like embers of a dying fire.
I let out a sigh, not quite content but not horribly upset either. Tearing my eyes away from the leaves above my head, I watched the children run around the park, playing and laughing together. It merited a sad smile from me. I couldn't help but imagine how these happy kids would be smacked in the face by a reality that no one should have to confront.
Suddenly, I felt a small tug on my jacket sleeve. I turned and glanced down, and I saw a little girl, about six years old, standing there. She had straight, thin brown hair that hung down to her shoulders and wide brown eyes that stared out from a round, olive face. She was very cute, even in just a pair of shorts and a tee-shirt. "'Scuse me," she said in a shy voice. "Are you alone?"
I smiled at her, answering, "Yeah, I'm here alone."
"Do you want to come play with my friends?" She pointed, and I followed her thin arm with my eyes, which finally came to rest at the base of a wide oak tree. But all that I saw there was a couple of stuffed animals; a dog, a squirrel, and a monkey. "We're having a party."
All of a sudden it hit me what she meant. Those stuffed animals were her only friends; she had no human playmates. I looked down at her, and she looked frightened by the shock on my face. I forced it down and smiled again. "Sure," I told her. "I like parties."
The frightened look was erased, replaced by a shy smile. "Okay," she said, taking my hand and leading me to the base of the oak tree.
For hours we sat there, having a "party" with her toys. I had to admit, it was fun playing there like that. All of the things I'd come to think about were pushed from my mind, my only priority to keep up the happy smile I'd put on my face. It wasn't hard. All I had to think of was the reaction she'd have if she sensed the unhappy, stressed vibes coming from me. Plus, I really was having fun. It was nice to meet a pure heart such as hers.
Finally, evening came and the sun began to set. A woman started calling for the little girl, and she stood up reluctantly and gathered her stuffed animals into her arms. "Sorry, I have to go," she told me, a sad look on her face.
"It's alright," I replied. "I should be heading off as well."
Her shy smile remained on her face, although wavering. Suddenly she dropped her toys and hugged me around the waist. I was shocked, but I got over it quickly and stroked her hair. "I don't wanna go," she sniffled. "I was having fun."
"You'll have fun again, I promise." I hugged her briefly before gently untangling her from me. "You need to go, remember. Someone's still calling for you."
With a sniffle and a nod, the girl picked back up her toys and ran off, glancing briefly over her shoulder back at me. When she did, I waved, a smile on my face. Unexpectedly, a genuine smile lit up the girl's face; a smile that seemed like that of a hopeful adult, or a young teen, rather than that on a child's face. It surprised me as much as it brightened her eyes, and I saw the young woman she would become: a brave young woman, always willing to meet someone with a smile, but just as willing to fight for her friends and her happiness; someone who would fall in love with a handsome, charming childhood sweetheart and would marry him after a few years of serious dating; someone who would reach out and touch a child's heart, just as I had touched hers.
Just as quickly as the moment had come, it had passed. She turned away and ran over to the woman who'd called her. Somehow I could hear the words being exchanged between them.
"Who was that, dear?"
"Just a girl. She didn't have anyone to play with, so we played together."
"Oh...that's really sweet of you."
"Well, she looked lonely."
Lonely... I touched my cheek thoughtfully. I looked lonely? With that thought in my head, I went home. I'd forgotten what I'd come to think about, but I knew what I had to think about now: a beautiful little girl who'd grow up to be a real angel.