The Thing About Love
March 2003 – seven years old.
‘The thing about love,’ said the girl at the park. ‘Is that you can never really tell if you’re in it, until you are.’
‘Whats that s’posed to mean?’ Tim asked.
Ant, standing at his shoulder, tugged on his sleeve again, but Tim shrugged him off. He was the one who’d wanted to know about the book in the first place, so Tim didn’t know why he was so worried.
The girl put aside the book, laying it open on the seat next to her. On the front cover it had the words ‘Everything there is to love’, which was the source of their coming to talk to her.
Tim wished he had his detectives hat and coat that Ma had gotten him for his birthday. An investigation like this was good practice for when Tim finished school and started real detective stuff.
‘It means,’ said the girl, ‘That love is complicated.’
When she spoke, Tim caught a glimpse of something glinting in her mouth. At first he’d thought he’d imagined it, but then he spotted it again. He wanted to ask about it, but figured he should focus on one investigation at a time. That’s what a real detective would do.
The girl had come to the park halfway through their game of tag. They’d stopped to stare at her as she sat down. She had big hair with streaks of black and pink, piercings in her eyebrows and nose, and big black boots good for stomping on things. When they’d gotten closer, they’d seen the big round earrings stretching holes in her ears, and Ant had panicked, not wanting to go any closer.
‘It’s alright,’ hissed Tim. ‘Detectives have to face all sorts of scary people.’
‘But I’m not a detective,’ Ant whispered back, his voice shaking.
Tim grabbed his hand. ‘It’s alright,’ he said again. ‘I’ll be the detective. I’ll make sure you’re safe.’
Tim knew Ant wouldn’t abandon him, so he kept approaching the girl. He half expected her to cast some horrible spell on them and turn them into toads or something. Or probably snakes. The girl looked like she liked snakes.
Except when Tim asked what the book was about, and why there needed to be such a big book about love, and the girl had answered. And her voice had been nothing at all like what a voice should be from someone so…well not scary, because Tim was a detective and they weren’t scared of anything.
‘There are lots of different kinds of love,’ she said. ‘The kind you feel for family. The kind you feel for friends. And the most important kind of love, which is when you’re in love. But I suppose there lots of different kinds of in love as well.’
‘In love?’ Tim repeated.
‘You’ll get it when you’re older,’ she said, smiling at them, her voice bright and cheerful, like she was happy they’d come to talk to her—even though she was a bigger kid than them, and usually the bigger kids hated talking to little kids. ‘All you need to know, is that when someone loves you, it means that they’d do anything to make you happy.’
‘Oh,’ said Ant, his eyes going wide in surprise as he turned to look at Tim. ‘That’s like what you say about being friends.’
Tim glanced sideways at Ant, grinning. ‘That’s ’cause I’m a genius.’
The girl laughed, holding her book up to cover her face as she giggled, though Tim wasn’t sure what was so funny. Ant smiled shyly, and turned to Tim expectantly. He looked back toward the sandpit, but now that Tim had solved one mystery, he wanted to solve another.
‘What’s that in your ear?’