“Okay, next let’s play hide and seek!” Hannah exclaimed, a puppyish grin on her face as she fingered the hem of her purple dress.
“Nuh-uh,” Gary argued with defiance as he crossed his arms over his chest. “No way. Hide and seek is a baby game.” The young boy’s left sleeve was rolled up but the other hung over his hand and flopped around when he moved his arm. “Right, Ashy?”
“I dunno…I sorta like hide and seek…” he said shyly, blushing a light red. “I-I mean, yeah. It’s a baby game.” He looked to Gary for approval who grinned smugly.
“You two are being silly. I’m going to be playing hide and seek when I’m a big kid, just wait! And Ash wants to play. I can tell just by looking at ‘im. Don’t be mean, Gary. Play with us. Please? You can even be it if you wanna!” The nine year old’s face lit up, her blonde pigtails bouncing around her face.
“Fine. But I’m only counting to ten, so you two better hide fast!” A smile snuck its way onto Gary’s face, discreetly replacing the haughty smirk as he immediately turned to face the wall. “Starting….now!”
Hannah snatched Ash’s wrist and pulled the boy through the hall and into a spacious closet, closing the door behind her. The lights were on, but the room was big enough to find a good nook to duck into. Ash followed her blindly, allowing himself to be tugged around. His cap fell off once, but he held it to his head protectively there after until Hannah released him from her vice grip.
“There. Behind those clothes over there, in the corner. C’mon, he’ll never look there.”
“O-Okay. If you’re sure…”
Hannah smiled reassuringly. “I’m sure. Now hurry, you crawl in first and then I’ll follow.” The two heard Gary in the distance. ‘Six…seven…” “Hurry!” She ushered him into the hiding spot, falling closely after him, seeming very satisfied with the place she’d picked when they were all settled in, hardly an inch away from each other in the tight space.
Ash pulled his knees up against his chest and hugged them tightly, pressing his scrawny frame against the wall as best as he could. “You sure Gary won’t find us here?” he asked, pulling his hat off of his head and revealing a mop of unkempt black hair.
“Yeah. I mean, I’m not sure as in I know he won’t, but I’m sure as in I don’t think he will.” She reconsidered her words, wondering if they made any sense. “Anyway, he won’t look here. Even if he looks in the closet, he won’t see us if he just opens the closet door, and there’s no way he’s going to actually look THROUGH the closet. We’re safe.” Finally satisfied with the answer, the girl smiled at him innocently, tucking a lock of hair that had slipped from her pigtail behind her ear.
Gary had stopped counting and his muffled footsteps could be heard echoing through the halls, becoming fainter with every step he took. Hannah was about to say something, but Ash quieted her by putting his hand over her mouth. “Shhh…Not yet. He’s going the other way, I think. Wait until we can’t hear him.” The duo waited a moment before Gary’s footsteps were no longer audible. Ash removed his hand from Hannah’s mouth and turned his attention from listening for the other to boy to the girl beside him. “Okay, what was it?”
“Nothin’. I’m just kinda bored.”
“Bored? We just hid two minutes ago.”
“Yeah, but hide and seek is boring when you’re waiting to be seeked. Wanna play a game?”
Ash tilted his head to the side. “Aren’t we already playing a game?”
“I mean another game. While we’re playing this one. Listen, it’s easy. My cousins were playing it when they were up. They’re big kids. It’s called truth or dare, but because there isn’t much room I think we should just stick to the truths. Whatcha do is one person asks another person, ‘Truth or dare?’, but I guess since we’re just doing truths we can skip that part. So, in our game, one person will ask a question, and the other person has to answer totally a hundred percent truthful. Mkay?” Hannah glanced over at Ash to make sure he understood.
He nodded once with determination. “Yeah, I got it. You can ask the first question, if you wanna.”
A broad smile flashed across the girl’s face. “Really? Okay then. Do you like anybody? Like like them, I mean.”
Ash rested his chin in his hands and looked at the ceiling, considering the question. He shifted position uneasily, repositioning himself. “I…I don’t really know. Can I just pass?”
“Nope,” the small girl giggled cheerily. “You gotta answer. Don’t worry though. I pinky swear I won’t tell.” Her expression became serious within the time it took to blink an eye and she held her right hand’s pinky finger in the air. He latched his onto hers after some silent hesitation, gaining a little more confidence in his answer.
“I think so. Maybe…I don’t really know, cuz I’ve never been in love or anything, but I think I like them. I feel all funny around them, but…” Ash paused again.
“N-Nothing,” Ash stuttered hastily, shaking his head in a brisk motion to clear the thought from his head. “I’m gonna say yeah. Is it my turn now?”
“Wait, who is it?” Technically, he didn’t have to answer. He’d already answered his question, and by the rules of the game, was free to ask a question of his own now. Of course, to Hannah’s advantage, he’d never played truth or dare before and wasn’t familiar with the rules.
“You won’t tell anyone, right? And you won’t think I’m weird?” There was uncertainty in his childlike voice as his eyes skipped from the floor to the young girl’s eyes and back.
“I already KNOW you’re weird. But that’s okay. So am I. Anyway, I pinky swore. I don’t break pinky swears. I might go to jail or somethin’ if I did.”
“I don’t really know if I like this person, cuz I don’t know what that’s supposed to feel like, but I think it means you really care about them even when they call you names and thump you on the head and stuff. They do that stuff a lot…” he added to make the point clear. “And you want to be their friend even when they’re being really stupid and really mean. Plus, you feel kinda funny when you stand next to them, and really, really funny when they grab your hand to show you something. It’s a good funny though. At least…That’s how I feel when I‘m with them…” he whispered, shyness taking the best of him near the end as his voice trailed off.
Hannah’s eyes widened. “Wow…It sounds like true love! Aw, that’s so neat, Ash! And it’s so cute, too! Please tell me her name!” She was bouncing in her seat now and making slightly too much noise in her excitement.
“Actually, well, it’s…they’re a he, and you do know him, I know that. His name-” Before the young boy could complete the thought, the door to the closet was flung open, and another boy in a purple shirt that was much too large for him entered, necklace swaying slightly from its string when he took a step forward. Gary smirked smugly as he approached their hiding spot, sliding the clothes that were blocking them aside and looking the pair square in the eye.
“Found ya, Ashy boy!” He completely ignored Hannah’s presence.