He looks almost ethereal, as if she could take his hand and he would lead her into a land of adventures and stories and fairy-tale wonders, and she laughs and joins him in his little game. It's all just fun.
She knows, suddenly, knows that no matter what she'll always return to him. She could never just leave him alone like that, in solitude forever with nobody to play with. The little boy, for eternity.
Why should I grow up?
She thinks it's silly, but he won't play any other game, and she'll humor him for one last round. It's childish and stupid and the other kids at school would tease her mercilessly if she knew, so they swear to keep it under wraps.
She sighs, engages in another game. He'll never grow up, she thinks, shaking her head. She can't decide whether that's good or bad, and settles on proud. Pride- a sin, sometimes, and other times a virtue. That could describe him perfectly.
Really, why should I? Me, grown up? That would be ridiculous.
She grows up, eventually, realizes that he's just a figment of her imagination. She doesn't visit him anymore, she's busy with school and boys and life in general. He won't mind if she doesn't come that day, or that day. He'll be fine.
But she knows, deep down, that if she takes his hand he could lead her into a magical forest with elves and fairies and witches and enchantments and secret cottages made of gingerbread with princesses inside, dancing with satyrs.
You can't ask me to do that.
She travels the world, looking for new and exciting things to do. She has money enough. Skydiving, parasailing, rolling off a cliff in a barrel, it's all in a day for her now, and it's bliss.
She returns, eventually, to the land where she was born, and, just for fun, to the place where she used to play those silly games against herself- and gasps. There he is, sitting, leaning against a tree, playing a game of spheres and ribbons with some other little girl.
That sounds horrible.
He looks up, just for a moment, and she can see words flash across his gaze. She came back. You didn't, he says reproachfully, You left me. I worried. He looks back at the game, smiles gently at his new friend.
Looks up again, and this time she's speaking. I know. I'm sorry. But I've come back, look, you can take me with you now! She leans across, extending her hand, but he flinches like she's just tossed a slug into his face.
Grow up, faugh.
You're not her, he says, and it hurts more than anything to be rejected by the one little boy she knew she could always return to. She is, and when she looks down she can see herself in the new little girl he's playing with, she can see her old tricks and guiles and the mischief she used to make, and she can see now that she doesn't have it anymore.
And as she watches the little girl smiles shyly and extends her hand across the now-empty circle, and he takes it the way he wouldn't take hers, and they vanish into the play-world, into fairyland, into the enchanted forest, and she's left alone.