“Are you real?” the little girl asked, pushing her dark curly hair out of her eye. She leaned in closer, her wide nose nearly touching the boy’s. She examined his face so she could remember him, from his brown eyes peering at her sleepily, to his tight black hair peeping from under his red cap. She stepped back and looked him up and down, noting his denim overalls with a bit of turf still clinging to his knee.

     “Are you a real boy or an imaginary one?” She paused for breath, then continued, “My mommy doesn’t like me to talk with imaginary friends any more, says I’m too old now.” She sticks a finger in her mouth to wriggle a loose tooth. “She didn’t say I couldn’t play though.” She took his hand and dragged him to the merry-go-round. As they spun at a dizzying speed, she crawled to the center and tugged his red shirt until he was sitting beside her. He smiled and watched her while she talked.

     “My mommy does not believe in imaginary friends. She says they are make believe, not real. I told her mine were real but she got angry, so I stopped talking to them around her.  I just talk stopped having tea parties.” She bunched her loose curls up on top her head and let out a heavy sigh. “Now I play outdoors mostly, more stuff to do out here. But I never met you before.” She placed a grubby little hand on his cheek and left a smudge there when she pulled back. “You are real! The sand is sticking to your face just like it sticks to my hand.”

     Delighted, she hopped down off the merry-go-round and ran to the sand box to finish her sand castle. Her new friend plopped down beside her and started to help. They worked silently for a few seconds. A warm breeze caressed their cocoa brown skin. Then a voice tickled their ears. “Uh oh. My mommy is calling me. Time to go.” She stood up and reached to hug her friend. He hugged her back. “See you later!” she yelled as she ran off toward the sturdy silhouette of her mother. She didn’t look back. He had already disappeared.