“Please! Just this once. We won’t ask ever again. Please Bobbi!”
“Yeah please Bobbi, play with us. Just this once, please!”
Bobbi stomped on stubbornly, with Lyla and Sam in tow, pleading with her.
“Go away and leave me alone. I don’t want to play a stupid game with children, it’s no fun.” Lyla and Sam looked at each other mouths hanging slightly opened and tears gathering in Lyla’s eyes.
“Oh Bobbi don’t say that! You don’t mean that…you’re a child too!”
“Oh Lyla, I’m not a child anymore. Now leave me alone.” Lyla started to cry in earnest and Sam sniffled at her side. Bobbi continued on through the forest.
“Bobbi…where ya goin’?” Sam asked tentatively.
“I’m going to the bridge, where else?” Lyla and Sam both jumped in her way, trying to prevent her from continuing, Bobbi stomped on. Lyla had tears streaming down her face, she tugged at Bobbi’s shirt and dug her feet into the muddy earth to keep Bobbi from the bridge, but alas they got closer and closer. They crept steadily closer to the long, narrow bridge, surrounded by fog and gloom, until it was at their feet. Bobbi stopped. For the first time she was afraid of the old, seemingly endless bridge that took people away never to be seen again. Lyla was now in the grass crying silently while Sam glared at the bridge that took children away; that took away care-free, fun-loving, and daring children and replaced them with ignorant adults.
Bobbi took one step, then two and she was on the bridge. She walked briskly, each step taking her farther from her childhood. She didn’t look back once upon the wonderful place that cared for her all her life. She was running now from her imagination and little did she know she would need it desperately when she wanted to escape the horrible world of grown-ups. But she left it behind with her childhood, all for the sake of growing up.
Lyla’s blond hair hung down past her waist in tangles. Her blue eyes shone with recently shed tears, and her over-large lips trembled with the scene that just took place. Sam was wiping tears away from his own dark blue eyes, anger and hurt coursing through him.
“Come on Lyla, let’s go back.” Lyla stood up and together they walked back the way they had come. As they were walking Lyla asked the question they both desperately wanted the answer to.
“Why would she leave?”
“I don’t know…maybe the bridge was calling her,” Sam replied doubtfully.
“I hope it never calls me, I never want to leave.”
“Hey Lyla, let’s me and you never grow up. Then we can stay here forever and ever!”
“Ok!” Lyla laughed, all the pain she’d felt disappeared with this new idea.
“Let’s promise we won’t grow up, Lyla.” So there in the forest surrounded by mud and grime, towering trees and the songs of thousands of birds, they swore never to grow up. Little did they know, like every child there, they must one day cross the bridge.
Content now they skipped off happily to their workshop. This workshop was on a very small peninsula with a large tree. Large rocks surrounded the peninsula which the waves would jump on, then slide away leaving small shells, colorful rocks, and occasionally seaweed for the children to find. Lyla and Sam would collect anything that washed up and decorate the tree with it. They often slept there, high in the tree. But their real home was a large opening surrounded completely with trees. This was where all the children on the island slept.
Presently they arrived at their workshop. Fresh scrapes covered their legs and feet, their cheeks were flushed but broad smiles covered their faces. The tragedy that had recently disturbed them was already forgotten.
“I won!” Lyla cried with glee.
“I gave you a head start.”
“Hey! You tricked me, that’s not fair!” They would’ve gone on for hours had they nothing to do, but eventually both the children grew tired of arguing and ended up searching their workshop for anything to collect. They crawled around on their hands and knees. Lyla had to keep pushing her hair out of her face every time she looked down in order to see anything. Sam found a slug inching slowly through the grass and blocked its path with a piece of bark. Sam laughed delightedly as the slug kept going round in circles. Lyla, satisfied with her new collection of rocks, headed over to a fallen tree and set her stones down and began sorting them. When she had finished she noticed with dismay that a rock they collected the other day was missing.
“Sam! The magic rock is missing!” Sam, who had successfully trapped the slug, looked up with guilty eyes.
“Lost? Well, it wasn’t that cool anyways…”
“But Sam! It’s the magic rock! We have to find it.” Sam shifted uncomfortably.
“Ok, let’s look.” They both got back on their hands and knees and searched for the magic rock. They looked for a while, eager to find it. But soon the task became tedious and the search stopped leaving them wandering aimlessly in circles.
“Well I guess it’s gone. We can’t find it,” Sam spoke up matter-of-factly. “Come on let’s go play.”
“Our magic rock…” Lyla sighed quietly. “It’s gone. All gone.” Lyla sat down with tears gathering in her eyes and lips trembling when Sam spoke intending to cheer her up.
“I know! If it is magic, and it belongs to us, it’s bound to come back even if we lose it!” Lyla brightened at the idea.
“You think so?”
“I darn certain do! But we must give it some time, let’s go and play…Indians! Yeah, and when we come back it’ll be back on the log.”
“Well…only if I’m chief!” Lyla squealed with delight already running away from the workshop, an Indian war cry sounding from her lips. Sam waited a moment, walked over to the log with their collection, reached into his dirty woolen pocket and extracted a very small, very beautiful rock, and placed it sadly on the log. With a last look at the magic rock he turned and ran after his chief with the same cry on his lips.
“Two eyed tiger, what say you?” The small chief, covered now from head to toes in mud, looked brightly at her mud covered companion.
“I say,” Sam boomed with the deepest voice he could muster, “The moon will be green and the sky will be orange.”
“Strange indeed,” Lyla said in an equally deep voice. “But now we must dance to the mighty tree.” They both got up and started around a tall pine tree, arms and legs flailing in a wild manner with a song on their lips. With the sun beating down on them the mud dried out and hardened on their skin, making it hard to move. They looked at each other and broke down in giggles as the mud, all dried and hard now, cracked on their skin. They hobbled over to a relatively large puddle with thick brown mud. They jumped into the mud and started rolling around in it, covering themselves anew. Lyla’s hair was unrecognizable hanging knotted down her back. They rubbed mud onto their arms and faces. Lyla picked up a glob of mud, and instead of spreading it on herself, she threw it at Sam. The surprise on Sam’s face caused Lyla to roll around laughing. Sam jumped on her, and they began a mud war. They threw mud, and tackled each other and the only distinguishable thing were two pairs of sparkling blue eyes and two mouths full of white teeth.
By and by they grew tired of the game and noticed that the sun was making its slow descent into the trees. Their stomachs growled at the sight of it and they decided they’d better get their dinner. On the way they made a stop at a stream to wash themselves. They scrubbed at their arms and legs, and dunked their heads. When they figured they were done they came out with more mud then they were able to scrub off. But Lyla’s hair now looked her natural color and Sam’s freckles, sprinkled across his nose, shone. They trudged up a small hill covered with trees. When they made it through the trees it opened up into a large open space with hundreds of children running around. A few children greeted them with large smiles but the others mostly went on with what they were doing. Lyla and Sam ran around to the back of a long line and waited, fidgeting impatiently, for their meal.
The sun had gone down and their stomachs were contented while they sighed happily as they looked at the stars from their perch in the tree in their workshop.
“Sam, ain’t this nice?” Lyla asked into the dark.
“Sure is. I’m real glad we aren’t ever gonna grow up. Then we can do this every day.”
“And we’ll never have to cross that evil old bridge that takes us away. We’ll be here—“ Lyla yawned long and hard, “Forever….”
“Yeah….” They both silently drifted into sleep where they’d be alive in their dreams having adventures they wouldn’t remember in the morning. Sam smiled slightly off in a world very like this one and Lyla clutched her hands tightly, afraid of losing the magic rock which had magically appeared on its log.
Lots of time had passed since then, however the kids bothered only to think about the present moment. It may have been months, maybe years but since their scope for the future was inaccurate we don’t know. But a day came when things could no longer be as they were. Change had come and growth with it, for no matter how solemn an oath you make, you cannot keep growth from coming. That day came none too soon for Lyla and Sam, they’ve had their fun. It was not exactly one day that it came, but a gradual realization amounting to a day when things would change. Sam had been noticing for a while now that something was wrong with him, nothing seemed fun anymore. Nothing he did really interested him, nothing brought much excitement. He noticed, also, that Lyla didn’t understand, that she wasn’t changing, wasn’t…growing up! He knew it, but he didn’t want it to be true, didn’t want to change. But he couldn’t ignore it. It had come for him and he couldn’t hide from it. The time came when all that changing and realization amounted to a day when it was time to leave. It was time to face the change.
Sam and Lyla had been playing a game in which they were animals, predators in an angry quarrel, getting ready to fight. With excited anticipation the fight started, leaving them rolling over each other with pretend anger, crawling ever so slightly closer to the bridge. They approached the entrance unaware. The fight ended, the animals in a draw. They lay breathlessly in a clump of weeds by the entrance to the long, narrow bridge. Sam looked around and took in his surroundings, staring across at the bridge. He knew it was time. He just didn’t know how to do it. He got on his feet and spoke, “Lyla, it’s time for me to go.” The smile disappeared from her face and the laughter died on her lips. She stood up and got in front of him stubbornly.
“No Sam, you don’t want to go. You must stay here.”
“I want to stay here with you, but I can’t. It’s time for me to grow up.”
“But Sam, you promised! You promised you wouldn’t.” Her eyes grew wet with tears.
“I can’t help it Lyla, it just came and I have to go.”
“Then I want to come with you, take me with you. I don’t want to be left here without you.” As she said this tears spilled over leaving trails running down her cheeks.
“You will come. Soon. But it’s not time yet.” Lyla gave up knowing very well that it was pointless. It was impossible to make anyone stay.
“You promised,” she whispered through tears. Sam hugged her and whispered in her ear, “You’re my best-buddy.” He stepped back and looked at her, then turned to go. Lyla grabbed his arm, forcing him to face her again. She extracted from her pocket a very small, very precious thing and placed it in his hand. He looked down and saw the magic rock he had once stolen for his own.
“I love you Sam.” He looked up into her eyes and a single tear slid down his dirt stained face.
“I love you, small chief Taliala.” They smiled into each others’ brilliantly blue eyes. Sam turned once more, for the first time setting foot on the bridge. After a few steps he turned around and looked upon his lovely childhood. He saw Lyla standing with her feet halfway on the bridge, tears running down her face, and waved. Not a wave saying good-bye for the last time, but a wave of temporary parting. He turned back again and saw, not the gloomy long bridge, but a beautiful place. One that reminded him very much of his childhood. He looked down into his hand and for the first time believed wholeheartedly that it truly was a magic rock, for no ordinary rock could transform this rusty old bridge into a beautiful bridge that would not lead him away from his childhood but would bring it along. Bring his imagination with the freedom to reach back at any time he needed it. Through that rock he brought his childhood with him. When he looked back up, he realized he didn’t have to go as far away as he had thought.
Lyla stood and watched till his form disappeared. When he had gone she stood there wiping away her tears. She knew, deep down, that she’d see him again very soon. She took her feet off the bridge and turned her back to the thing that had brought her so much pain.
“Whatcha doin’?” A small girl with short dirty blond hair looked up at her with a mysterious twinkle in her eyes.
“Wanna hear a secret?” Lyla eagerly nodded her head, bending down so the girl could whisper in her ear.
“I have magic eyes.” Lyla jerked her head up and stared at the girl, with delightful surprise.
“Come with me!” They started walking back towards the middle of the island.
“What’s your name?”
“Marlowe.” The girls ran off into the trees, laughter filling the air. Lyla hadn’t forgotten about what just happened but she accepted it and she would wait with patient anticipation to see him on the other side of the bridge.