Trick of Light

The Boy who Refuses to Smile sits down on the low wall next to the girl in purple tights. He leans into her and she into him. She wears sequined high-top sneakers and sparkles like a star. The third child climbing onto the bricks is a nameless shadow, near but in a different frame, on another block, in someone else’s story. The Boy pastes on the requisite grin and stays still for one, two, three cameras. He angles towards her glitter. Their knees touch. She tilts her head and smiles like a diva.
 
“Oh, so that’s Bug,” the girl’s uncle says. He steps closer to me and introduces himself. “We hear your boy’s name around our house all the time.”
 
Tee and I grimace at the same moment. I brace for the kind-yet-careful description of our son’s latest wave of schoolyard tyranny. The aunt laughs. “Nothing like that. I think there might be a crush.”
 
Bug slides off the wall and darts ahead before turning and coming back for her. “Star, come with me!” She runs after him. They clomp up the steps, peering into an offered cauldron and digging for some just-right wrapper. When they hustle back down through the cluster of Iron Men (three of them) and princesses (countless), Star’s pumpkin swings from Bug’s forearm. Star pauses to beam up at the assembled adults.
 
“He’s carrying my candy for me because it’s so heavy.”
 
Bug races forward and doubles back yet again, calling into the little girl’s face as if from across a moor. “Star, this way!” He points to foam webs slung from the railing and plastic swords dripping like stalactites from low branches. “That house is for sure open.”
 
“Okay!” she cries, sliding the pumpkin back off his arm. He waits while she does this. They break into a run towards the orange lights flickering against dark faces, a glass door opening to greet them.
 

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