She promised to be your best friend forever, till she forgot and went off to play with another, leaving you behind. You waited, patiently, calling out her name. Then you ran to her, but couldn't catch up, and soon you became tired, sat down on the wooden bench and cried.
Later that night you would complain about the sliver in your leg from that wooden bench, and you would cry again. You would bring me back to the beginning of that day, to that playground, to that spot where she broke her promise and I would be there watching but unable to fix. You would then ask,
"Why does everyone have a best friend but me?"and I would try not to pause as I worked to repaint a reality, telling you that what you saw, what you felt, what you believed to be true in that moment, was wrong.
Later, I would lay in bed with your father and ask him what I had done or what I had not done that brought you to that spot. What club I didn't force you to join or play group you didn't take part in. When we disagreed about the answer, I would turn my back to him and turn back to my book, in my bed, but I would still be standing in that playground.
As I brought you, my kaleidoscope girl, skipping to school, turning, spinning, with hands grasping at the falling light. I watched it fracture and disperse around you, before rejoining you and your ever changing form. I pointed to the colours. I pointed to the intricate designs. Your beautiful bits and pieces. But you turned away from your detail, preferring instead to count by twos and hop over cracks in the pavement. So I listened quietly and I walked quickly until we reached the school gates, where you stopped, stood silent and stared. I followed your stare and I saw her. I bent down, fixing your cardigan and pulling up your fallen sock, thinking up the magic spell I would whisper in your ear, the scaffolding to make your world right again.
And as I thought, and thought some more and as I started to talk with nothing to say, she walked to you. She took your hand, and you smiled. She had been waiting for you. You walked away with her,
whispering, giggling as best friends do.
I walked to the wooden bench and I sat. Throwing down the glove, I glided my fingers across the wood. The challenge ignored. It was not the same bench I remembered when my crossed ankles and patent leather shoes created shadows that swung across the ground.