13

That night the moon is full, and silver light floods down on the earth, seeping between shutters and drapes and leaving little lambent puddles all over the hardwood floor. Lilly lies in bed, waiting for the gentle rhythm of her mom's snores to start coming through the wall. In her closet the troll stands stiff and restless. She hasn't seen it since before dinner, but it shuffles around every so often. On the floor between the closet and the bed there is an empty sleeping bag. Lilly had asked Christine if she wanted to sleep over for the night, but the other girl had declined at the last possible second, leading to a somewhat frustrated Mrs. Flannery showing up on their doorstep at ten P.M.

Things have grown quiet since then. It must be very nearly midnight. When Lilly slides out of her bed and creeps padfoot across the floor, every step seems to resonate through the bones of her house. And when the door to the closet slips open, at every moment she expects the hinges to wail and send her mom running to confront whatever banshee had just broken into her house.

They don't though. When Lilly steps back to let the troll out, the only sharp sound to be heard is the clap of both of her hands against her mouth. She holds in a gasp.

Out of the closet steps a grown-up, as tall as the doorframe and with long chestnut hair. It's wearing Christine's mom's old dress, and in the half-light its expression is unreadable.

Silently it walks down the hall and down the stairs and down the stairs again to the front door. Lilly creeps carefully after it. On the threshold it pauses.

"You know," says the creature-that-was-formerly-a-troll, "I think there's a reason why I've never met another of my kind."

"You can go back to the bridge if you want. I'll take the dress back to Christine for you." Lilly feels a little out of place saying this, as if she isn't supposed to be a part of the conversation.

"No. I'm not the same me that I was before. New-me doesn't want to turn back and become a living bit of myth again."

"So, where are you going?"

"Out. Around. Wherever it is that adults go."

"To work?" Lilly prompts, helpfully.

"Maybe."

"Will you come back and visit?"

"If I can. For as long as I can. Although it's starting to get uncomfortable, remembering what I was. Could you promise not to remind me?"

"Maybe," says Lilly, but what she means is I don't want to say that. The troll turns to leave. She asks "what's it like being a grown-up?"

"Different. Awkward. The clothes fit better and you know who you're expected to be. You worry about all kinds of things, and you forget how impossible you really are."

Lilly nods. It's sage advice, even if it doesn't make any sense. "Did I do this to you, by giving you the dress?"

"I don't think so. A dress is just clothing. It says what you want it to say. I wanted to know what grown-ups are like. Now I do. Maybe some day I'll get tired of it. Then who knows what I'll become."

There's not much more to say to that, so Lilly lets it go with a quiet goodbye. Then she locks the front door and climbs back upstairs to lie sleepless until the dawn.