I stared at the little girl. The girl stared at me. The longer I looked at her face, the more it became familiar. It was creepy. I began to feel like I was looking into a mirror, or a memory, instead of at another person. The girl looked at me with an expression that couldn’t decide whether to be afraid, angry, or curious.
The girl finally broke the silence, asking, “How did you get in here?”
“Through…. the….. door?” I said slowly as if questioning my own statement as I spoke it.
“But….” the girl frowned, “you couldn’t have, only I can open that door.”
“Why do you say that?”
She held up one hand and pointed to it with the other, “Because it only opens with my fingerprint. It won’t move if any other hand touches it.”
“But then….” I examined my hand, looked at the door, looked back to my hand, then at the girl, “Then how did I get in? The door opened just fine in my hand….”
The girl just shrugged. She was getting bored with the conversation, and starting to turn her attention back to the tea party.
“Wait,” I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts, “Who are you anyways? What is your name?”
The girl perked back up, “My name is April, or my full name is April Marie Freeman. I can say it really fast, see! AprilMarieFreemanAprilMarieFreemanAprilMarieFreeman!” she grinned.
I blinked, “But… you can’t be April…..”
“Why not?” April pouted.
“Because I am April,” I exclaimed, pointing to myself. Then muttered, “that could only mean…” I gasped, “I am you! Or… You are me!! We’re the same person!”
Baby April’s eyes got huge, “Really? But how? I’m not that old… you’re all big and grown up! That’s not suppose to happen.”
“Yeah, tell me about it,” I sighed, “I tried so hard not to grow up, but alas! I could not find a way.” I sighed again, “I remember thinking that I was never going to grow up…. I guess it’s too late now…. for me anyway. No more epic card games with my stuffed animals, no more playing all the time at the neighbors, no more having all the time and freedom in the world!” I paused and blew away a strand of hair that had fallen in my face, and my eyes fell to the floor, “Now I have to adult. Pay for gas and insurance, manage money, work at a job, not to mention worry about where the world and culture is headed, and defend what I believe and why. Now I’m so very very busy….. I’m still a child at heart, but I can only explore my imaginary worlds in between all the craziness.”
April had stopped listening and gone back her tea party. She was perfectly quiet, silently having the conversation between the animals going on in her head. I stood looking at her for a time, this peaceful little girl in her own little world. How I missed her sometimes.
With a plop, I sat down amongst the stuffed animals at the low table, because what else was there to do? I accepted the tea cup April gave me, and sipped the water within. The silence was nice, it was certainly the first time I felt relaxed in a while. It would be nice to stay here, in the peace, doing my own little thing, in my own little world, just like my younger self was doing. But Muse was still out there, and I couldn’t just leave him. As much as my cat could be a pain, I needed him around. And besides, I still had to get back to my house…. somehow, someway.
I didn’t want to go back into the mess. There were annoying guys out there.
“Hey, little me,” I spoke up after a while of sulking, “do you have any advice on how to survive this outbreak?”
“What outbreak?” she asked.
I explained, “The one outside. Where everyone seems to be falling madly in love – or into infatuation more like it. It’s ridiculous! And no matter what I do I can’t seem to get away from it! No matter what I try….. and the boys won’t stop trying to kiss me!”
“Ewwww!!!!” April squealed, “Kissing is GROOOOOOSSSSSSS!”
“Riiiight??” I nodded in agreement, “So what should I do about it?”
Baby April took this into great consideration. She pouted her little lips, rubbed her round cheeks, and muttered with her stuffed animals. Until, finally, she came to a decision.
“Have Dad punch them.”
I busted out laughing and smiled at the little girl, “Excellent idea! But only one problem, Dad isn’t around here.”
“Hmm… have your brother’s punch them?”
I sighed, “No…. they’re not in this world either. I’m stuck here by myself. Maybe…..” I thought for a moment, “maybe I could punch them?”
Baby April shook her head, “No. Guys are stronger than girls. You need a weapon!”
“Oh?” I raised my eyebrows, and watched as baby April reached under the table. After a moment of rummaging she popped back up and handed me a croquet mallet and a water pistol.
She placed the items in my hands and with a big grin said, “this will help you!”
I stared at the measly little weapons in my hands. However, I managed to smile at the glowing little girl, standing there looking so proud of herself. Standing from the table, I took the pistol in one hand, the mallet in the other, and to the delighted squeals of baby April, flailed around the room like I was fighting an enemy.
Baby April clapped her hands and cheered. Her praise boosted my confidence and I found my smile was no longer forced. I set my weapons down and dropped to my knees just in time to receive the hug baby April ran and tackled me with.
“You’re going to do awesome!” she squealed into my ear. Then pulled back and added, “Even if you are old.”
I laughed and ruffled her hair, “I may be ‘old’, but I’ll tell you a secret.” I leaned forward and whispered, “I may look much older on the outside, but really I’m just as young as you on the inside.
Her eyes got big and sparkled as she asked, “Really?”
I nodded, then checked myself. “Well, I’m not quite as innocent and carefree as I was. But I do still talk to imaginary things, I still love watching the stars and trees, and I’m still madly in love with stories. My heart is still like a child, even if my mind is more burdened.”
Baby April didn’t really understand, but she smiled anyway and gave me a last quick hug. I embraced her, then stood, gathered my new weapons, and headed to the door. Before I walked out, I turned and gave one last glance to the little girl, sitting happy at her little table, playing in her little world. A string pulled on my heart, and the corners of my lips tugged up with it. Who knew what madness awaited me outside those doors. But at least, for a time, I had found some rest within this room. And rediscovered a little piece of myself.