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Summary:  William meets a girl in the garden.  
Word Count: 600+
Disclaimer:  Ha-ha.
AN:  I have no idea where this came from. 



Silver Bells and Cockle Shells

 

William is nine.  He plays in the grass by the edge of the deck, where it’s long and tall in places the lawnmower can’t reach.  If he lies on his back he can pretend he is in the savannah, hunting elephants. 

 

When he first sees her, she is standing in the second flowerbed beside the pansies.  Her dress is yellow and when she walks through the marigolds towards him the stems do not bend under her weight.

 

 

 

William is adopted.  This means that his mum isn’t his mum and his dad isn’t his dad, but he calls them that anyway.  He doesn’t ask about his real parents because it never occurs to him that he has any.

 

When he starts spending all his time in the garden, his dad asks “like the bugs, eh son?” and William says “eh” and his dad goes back to reading the newspaper and it’s just another Saturday morning, only William can’t catch his breath.

 

 

 

“We should play hopscotch,” she says one day.  They have been making dandelion chains, but William’s fall apart where hers hold.  He can’t figure it out; he has not seen her tie a single knot.

 

She draws the template with chalk on the deck.  When she hands him the stone to throw it is white and cold and like nothing else in the garden.

 

William throws.  It lands on twelve.

 

He readies himself to jump, but she stops him.  “You lost,” she says.

 

“I can’t have lost,” William tells her, because she’s littler than him and maybe doesn’t know these things.  “I haven’t even taken my turn.”

 

“You landed on twelve.”  Her hands twist in her dress.  “Means you lose.”

 

William is indignant.  “That’s not how you play.”

 

“It’s how I play,” she says.  When she leaves he does not hear the back gate latch.

 

 

 

“Where do you live?” he asks her one day.

 

“Over the hill,” she says, and goes back to planting tomato seeds.

 

 

 

There is a footbath by the screen door.  You’re supposed to clean your feet off before you come into the house, especially if you’re nine and have been playing in mud puddles. 

 

“But I’m not nine,” she says, even though William didn’t say anything out loud.  “I’m fifteen.” 

 

“Are not,” William sneers.  And she isn’t – she’s too tiny, skinny wrists and big eyes.  She looks about four.

 

“Oh, that’s right, I forgot,” she looks down at herself.  “I stopped growing.”

 

 

 

It’s hot, the middle of summer, and everything feels like it’s melting sideways.  They sit in the green shade of the house.  The aluminum siding sticks to William’s back. 

 

“Come inside for lemonade,” he begs, but she says no, and so he drags the paddle pool out instead.  He fills it up with the hose and they sit side by side in the water, elbows touching.  Her yellow dress fans out around them like a nimbus.  William splashes and splashes her and she doesn’t get wet.

 

 

 

“Have we been out here all afternoon?” asks William, “Or is it still the morning?”

 

“I’m not sure,” she says, and selects another colour of chalk.

 

 

 

They draw until the deck is covered, every inch.  William has drawn dragons and Camelot and the round table, Harry Potter’s scar and half of Snoopy. 

 

She has drawn nothing but red flowers; her section of the deck is carpeted with them.  William tests the drawing with his fingertips and it's softer than wood ought to be.  He snatches his hand back.  

She signs her masterpiece in careful cursive.  Dots her "i" with a star.

 

“Emily,” William reads, “Is that your name?”  (He cannot believe he doesn’t know.)

 

“I can’t remember,” she says, and starts to cry.

 

 

 

William is nine.  His dad isn’t really his dad and his mum isn’t really his mum.  He has never asked about his real parents.

 

“I’ll take you to meet them,” she says.  When she takes his hand it is like holding air.  Her dress is yellow and the blades of grass do not bend under her weight.

 

[end]

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