Mya did not come out of the bathroom until it was seven, nearly an hour after she went in.
“All better?” Nathan asked.
Mya sat on the bed. She was not ready to walk yet. It seemed like she wanted to talk and so Nathan took a seat on the bed opposite to her and prepared himself to listen.
“I know in my head that I am really only seven years old.” Mya started right in. “But I also know I am a teenager. I know this isn’t going to make any sense, but I don’t think I am just growing up on the outside.”
“No.” Nathan interrupted. “I have watched you and listened to you so I believe you, even if it doesn’t make any sense.” He smiled.
“I want pizza, and I don’t even like pizza.” She joked and tested herself, and Nathan gave her a little laugh. It was the least he could do.
“But what is wrong with that?” He asked. “You told me you did not want to stay little forever.”
Mya nodded. “I don’t. But it is all happening so fast. Shouldn’t growing up take time, I mean to learn things and explore things and all that?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Nathan turned thoughtful. “There really isn’t a whole lot to learn about being an adult, at least not much more than you knew by the time you were seven. Be good, do your best, love your neighbor and that sort of thing. When you grow up you have to take more responsibility for yourself and your own actions, decisions and choices. You know, like when the bird leaves the nest it must fly on its own, but you seemed like a very sensible and responsible girl since the first time I saw you. I can’t imagine trying to hitch a ride on a city bus at age seven. That must have taken great courage.”
Mya smiled and turned a little red. She fanned her face for a moment as she spoke. “You have no idea. I was scared out of my mind. To be honest, I just did not know what else to do.”
Nathan nodded and smiled his most reassuring smile. “Being an adult is a lot like that. Most grown-ups do things just because they don’t know what else to do. You have to be over eighty, I think, before you realize it doesn’t matter mostly what we do, as long as what we do is done in love and kindness.”
Mya smiled again and looked down into her lap where she worried her own hands.
Nathan asked because he picked up on the clue. “So what took you so long in the bathroom?”
“I think I had a period,” Mya said and did not look up at first. “Mother explained it all to me and I did not really understand what she was talking about, but now it kind of makes sense. I felt all crampy and then all fatish, though I had already taken off my clothes and I did not notice getting any fatter in the mirror. Then I felt like I had to go, you know? I sat down on the toilet and tried, but nothing happened until I noticed I was bleeding a little.” She looked up. “I didn’t know ghosts could bleed.”
“I didn’t know there were really ghosts until yesterday.” Nathan countered with a motion that suggested she should go on and finish the story.
“Well, that’s it. Then I got better and got dressed and came out.”
“But I thought such things lasted for three or four days.” Nathan sounded unsure.
“Oh, a week.” Mya responded with her eyes as big as they could be. “But that’s what I mean about everything happening so fast.”
“Still, you experienced something,” he pointed out.
Mya made a very teen age, exasperated expression come to her face and she threw her hands out to slap the bed, palm up, on either side of her. “But that is what I mean about not experiencing things. How can I really grow up without experiencing things?”
“Hmm.” Nathan tried to get serious again. “Have you experienced frustration and anger as well as accomplishment and satisfaction? Have you ever been worried and afraid sometimes and felt safe and secure at other times? Have you known sadness as well as joy, hate and love, cruelty and kindness? Have you ever felt the excitement of trying to go to sleep on Christmas eve?” Mya nodded to all of it. “Then I would say you have already experienced everything there is to experience. Grown-ups just experience these same things, though the world is full of fools these days who seem determined to cut back on the joy, love and kindness part.”
“I’ve never experienced falling in love with a boy,” Mya said a bit shyly.
“And never had your heart broken either.” Nathan raised a wise, old finger to emphasize his point.
Mya puffed a teenage puff. “I would still like to fall in love with a boy,” she insisted.
“Bah.” Nathan shrugged it off. “Boys are not so special.”
Mya rolled her eyes. She had practiced that in the mirror, but she did not need to tell him that. “Now you sound like my real grandfather,” she said.
“He must be a very wise man,” Nathan responded, stood and puffed out his chest just a little. “Now, shall we go?”
“Go where?” Mya suddenly got serious.
“To see your real grandfather?” Nathan suggested. Mya shook her head. “Well how about just your regular father?” Mya’s head shake became more pronounced.
“Dad left me and mother when I was just a baby.”
“Well, how about your mother then?” Mya’s head shook hardest of all.
“I’m not ready for that yet,” she said, and then she added something that did not surprise Nathan at all since he was feeling the same tug on his soul. “I think we need to go back to the place where the bus, you know.”
“The scene of the accident?”
“The scene of the crime.”
“Yes,” Nathan said. “I was feeling that myself but I wanted to hear it from you. I was willing to fight the feeling if you said you needed to go somewhere else.”
“No,” she said and held out her hand for him to take. It was a bigger hand by then and they were more truly holding hands now rather than Nathan enfolding her little hand in his palm. “I go where you go.” She finished her thought and Nathan simply nodded as they started to walk. They chose the stairs this time, and without Nathan thinking twice about the choice.
“But what about you?” Mya asked. She drew the thought from somewhere in her growing-up mind. “Don’t you have family?”
“I’ll tell you on the way,” he said, and they went through the sliding doors and out on to the street past the man attempting to fix the doors. Apparently, they were opening and closing at all sorts of times, and all on their own.