Once, a long time ago, she had met the perfect couple. She was still a child back then, but old enough to understand that people paired off to be together. The couple fascinated her, because – as she put it in her childlike mind – they fit. He was tall and athletic, as though the sands of the beach had conspired with the water of the sea to form a human being with their colors. His partner looked as though she had been made from the surrounding trees, lending their autumn colors to form another perfect human being. The child would play outside and watch them go by, or sometimes, on very rare occasions, they’d even take time to sit on a ledge by the promenade. They were both young, had people seen the three of them together, they would have assumed she was their sibling or niece. The child loved watching them, because they gave her peace. She would sit in the grass, very close by them, and pretend to play. Occasionally, the man – it was always the man – would look up from talking to the girl, look over at where the child was playing and smile. He didn’t say a word, but she liked to think that he always stayed there just that little bit longer because he knew that it gave her peace of mind.
As far as the child was concerned, she could have remained there forever, just watching them, pretending they were somehow connected. When she sat in the grass, playing by them, the sun always felt warmer on her skin. She would always take off her hoodie and expose her arms to the elements, stretching as far as she could reach, as though she could in fact touch the sun. Those moments, with the couple nearby, were when she felt most alive. But eventually the caretakers of the orphanage always found her and brought her back to the group, preaching – in vain – that she had to remain with the pack, because it was safer.
Until one day, the couple didn’t come back, and the next day they didn’t either, or even the one after that. The child remained with the pack from then on, looking for them in vain, never to sit in the grass, or wear another T-shirt again.