“Oh no, not lonely,” she’d said. “Not unwanted. No one ever sees us, and we like it that way. We’re ghosts, you know, really the loveliest ghosts…”
Twining her fingers in the rusty fence, her mermaid candy-floss hair afloat on the breeze and spinning around her like a halo–she explained to him, “no you can’t come to our side. Not just because you’re a boy, no, you see–don’t you see–we’re not afraid of you, it’s what you represent. We’re afraid of getting old, most of all.”
And beside her, her quieter shadow, with eyes like pale blue sea glass, her partner in this ghostly game–nodded. And he saw the way she was, with barrettes in her hair and lace around her neck, saddle shoes tipping from side to side on the concrete, she was balanced precariously on the line of youth. Suddenly he wished he could draw them a hopscotch board from there on his side of the fence, slip them cherry pops and cotton candy and sit and watch them toss away all the adolescent nightmares around them in favor of the pastel-chalked world that was drawn around them and held them inside like happy prisoners, happy children. He couldn’t help but dream that beneath their pleated schoolgirl skirts, tossed high as they laughed and jumped through the games, there must be a whirl of white petticoats and wonderfully soft, old-fashioned things. There was nothing about these girls that fit into the garishly brilliant world of this high school, and they knew it–and he knew it–and so he did not object to his banishing, but instead watched respectfully from his half of the universe, camera raised only when the girls nodded their consent.
He felt as if he’d captured something hidden, on film. As if the girls had opened their blouses and pressed themselves to the fence, red lips curled into mischievous smiles, white skin open and bared only for him. But they stayed back, guarded, distant. Like lions pacing beyond the fence, always with eyes trained on their observers.
Her gaze was haunting, and when she slid those red sunglasses on it was both a blessing and a curse. He hadn’t been able to shake the feeling, before, that she was seeing right through him, though the lens, right to his core. She closed off and it was strange, a marquee with all the lights down. A relief at first, a refuge from the stare–but now that her power was hidden, there was something missing–some magic lost…
His feet felt the grass as he backed away, retreating, watching their frothy silhouettes in the sun. He knew that even as they were right, even as they knew more that anyone could ever know, trapped in that stage of understanding before all is lost to age in the modern world–they were wrong about one thing.
They were not ghosts. He saw them. They all did.
They were not left for invisibility–rather, they were left because their world was perfection, beautiful and mystifying and strange. No one wanted to be the stone that shattered their fragile picture into a million ripples, daring away from the source, the spell lost somewhere in the water…