I've seen Nicole a couple of times since I walked her home a month or two ago. Last night I walked her home again, interrupting my conversation with Telnar to do so. She's always happy to see me, in that way that only kids ever are. "Are you on the phone again?" she asked.
"No, I'm listening to my iPod."
"Oh, what do you have on it?"
Nothing she was familiar with. She asked for rap, so I played an MC Frontalot song because that's the only rap I've got. And picked the wrong one by mistake; I thought I had one with no foul language in it but that's not the one I picked. *^_^* Oops. Then bits of other things: "Don't Download This Song", and some Sass Jordan and other stuff. She looked at my phone, playing with the swivel-out function. I watched her fiddle with my electronic toys, demanding that Clark come listen with her. I thought, it's nice that even today, kids still go outside to play, instead of staying in with their video games. And I feel bad for distracting her with electronics instead of enjoying the world.
But the toys that command so much of my time did not draw her in for long. "What's your shirt say?" she asked, trying to sound out the odd spelling.
"Ommmminous Hummmmm," I told her.
"Oh. Do you know how to play hide 'n seek?"
So we played hide 'n seek in her front yard. Her mother had called her in before we started, and Nicole asked for "Just a few more minutes." I expected a second call any moment, but it didn't come. After a half-dozen games, I begged off. "I have to go home."
"No!" She gave me a sad look and grabbed my hand. "Three more games."
"One." I said.
"Four." She pulled on my hand, pleading. "Come on. Just four more."
I laughed at her. "Are you going to say 'I'll be your best friend'? That's what we always used to say when I was a kid."
"Four more games and I'll be your BFFL!" she promised.
How could I resist?
We played four more games. The yard was too small to play hide 'n seek the way I did as a kid, where you hide really well and hope they don't find you. This was more like tag. Hide somewhere you can sprint out of and hope It goes the other way and you can make a break for it. We all took tumbles onto the grass, time after time, in mad dashes for home base. We half-circled dozens of times around Nicole's mother's Saturn, parked in the side driveway, as It tried to block and the other tried to fake It out and dash home. One game, both kids stood in plain sight on top of the porch, with a seven-foot drop from rail to ground that they risked cheerfully. I almost tagged Clark's foot through the rail, but he got away. Then I sang to Nicole as she paced back and forth on the porch, looking for an opening. o/~I've got all night/ And you've only got until your mother calls you in./ But I've got all night/ 'Cause I'm a grown-up/ And my mother don't call me no more.o/~
I didn't say it was a good song. She got away from me that time.
But not every time. We were surprisingly evenly matched, all three of us.
After the agreed-upon fourth additional game, I said, "That's four. I gotta go."
"No! One more."
"You're already my BFFL. Besides, your mother's gonna call you in."
"Two -- no, three more, and you can be my BFFFFFFFLLLLLL."
I laughed again. "What does that stand for?"
"Best Friends For For For For Ever Ever Ever Ever Life Life Life Life Even After We're Dead."
I am such a sucker.
Three more games. And then a fourth, where Clark was it. I zipped past him while he decided to get Nicole and so I was Safe.
Nicole ducked into the Saturn and locked the doors.
I sat in the grass and laughed as Clark tried unsuccesfully to get to her. Every few minutes she'd try to sneak out the passenger side, and he'd run around and she'd duck back in again. And lock the doors. "It's like Cujo with a small boy!" I said.
Eventually she escaped. And we did one more, with Clark it again.
Nicole once more made a break into the Saturn. "Okay, if you're going so am I," I told her, and she scooted over so I hopped in with her.
Then I unlocked the doors.
Clark dove in through the passenger door and tagged us both while Nicole tried to dive out the driver's side.
After that, Nicole's mother did call her in, and Clark and I went to our respective homes.
I don't know how many games we played. I think I missed one of Nicole's extensions of the number in recording this, actually. But I know what it's like to want to play and play and play, and not to have enough people who share that urge. It felt good to indulge someone else's wishes.
It was better exercise than the walk, anyway, and I imagine the Taylers will forgive me the giant new grass stain on the shoulder off my Schlock Mercenary shirt. It's ... sort of Schlock-colored, at least.