“Let’s play sisters,” the girl said to me.
“Okay,” I said, crouching down on my heels so I could peer into the den. The door was very, very small. She laughed and clapped her hands.
“Better!” She said. “Let’s be TWINS. And this is our house, and oh no! The lava is coming.”
“Oh no!” I cried, checking that my shirt was tucked in tight at the back (a prerequisite for all responsible playworker clambering). She leaned in and hissed urgently.
“You have to get in here first.” I ducked in tight and crammed myself through the tiny cardboard doorway.
“So,” she continued. “The lava is coming and when it does we’ll be all eaten up.”
I look down at the floor of the den, littered with paper streamers and large squares of foam.
“If we stand on these, would we survive?” She shakes her head.
“No, we’re definitely going to die, but it’s okay. There is magic medicine, so…” She turned around quickly. “What is it?”
A boy stood behind her, his hand still raised from where he’d tapped her on the shoulder.
“This is a castle, actually. It’s a castle for puppies and it’s not for big people.” He looked at the girl, and then at me. His tone was abrupt but businesslike. Nothing personal.
He was perhaps two years younger and a foot and a half shorter than the girl I’d come in with, and they looked at each other for a long moment. In that look was a mutual assessment – of need, perhaps, or rules of prior claim. Maybe it was a contest of pure stubbornness. Finally she nodded.
“Castle,” she said.
And I popped out of the door like a cork from champagne, to land at the feet of my colleague Anna. She laughed.
“That was amazing,” she said. “Like a clown car.”
“We’re like vampires,” I said. “We fly out when uninvited.”