Girl was standing next to an old woman with white hair, wearing a black dress. Girl was facing one direction and the woman faced the opposite. The distance between them was the measure of Girl’s height. Girl waited, but nothing happened. She frowned and looked more closely. The old woman had her eyes closed and appeared to be enjoying the sun on her face! Girl relaxed a bit. She saw that the old woman perhaps was not so old after all. There was dark in her hair as well as white. And her dress—there was grey and green in her dress as well as black. Girl saw that the old woman’s boots were covered with dust but she was also carrying a pretty red handbag, adorned with white branches. Girl smiled at that. She had always liked red. Then the old woman slid open very pale eyes and looked at Girl.
“I thought I’d heard someone,” said the old woman, placing her bag down by her foot. “I think you must be young Girl,” she continued.
“Yes, ma’am,” replied Girl, fascinated by the woman’s pale eyes.
“Ma’am,” sighed the old woman. “I must be getting old.”
“Um,” said Girl, and the old woman laughed.
And Girl saw the youth in her face, and she saw that the old woman was lovely, like her mother was. And she knew she had nothing to fear. She also thought that the wrinkles would make the old woman much harder to draw than her brother.
“It’s always strange to meet someone out here,” said the old woman, patiently, half-closing her eyes. “Why are you out here, Girl?”
“Oh,” said Girl, “I’m trying to get home, but I’m afraid.”
“Afraid? Of what?” prompted the old woman.
“I’m afraid that when I get home it’ll be different than when I left it,” said Girl.
The old woman slid open one eye, sharply, and looked very serious.
“I think that’s true for everyone, Girl,” she said gently. “I’m trying to get home myself.”
Girl was amazed. Then the old woman held out her hand and Girl reached to take it. The back of her hand was very smooth and filled with strong blue veins.
“Courage,” whispered the old woman, squeezing, “And perseverance. It’s what I’d wish for my own daughter. And—Oh! I have something for you, Girl.” And she bent to rummage in her handbag with her free hand, bringing out a green pear. She passed the pear to Girl, smiling. It smelt ripe.
“Enjoy,” said the old woman. “Go on, Girl,” she encouraged, and she picked up her bag and continued on her way.