Le Poursuivant - Virginia Ballowe '23
“Why did you stop trying to get me,” a boy questions.
“I don’t want to chase you anymore,” a girl replies. I watch this scene unfold outside of the balcony of my room. The girl waits in the shadow of a tree, yet the boy struts around a patch of grass illuminated by the light of the waning moon. The surrounding trees sway in the breeze to create a cacophony of leaves. Overhead, a raven circles the boy and the girl until finally claiming a spot next to where I’m perched on the balcony. The boy’s and girl’s faces are flushed, and both struggle to calm their breathing. The girl’s eyes drift from the boy to her surroundings, and a look of contentment settles onto her face.
“Nothing like a little late night game of tag, right Dierdre?”
Dierdre? Ah. The girl’s name is Dierdre. It suits her. The sound of her name on the boy’s lips snaps the girl’s wandering attention back to him. The boy’s eyes light up in amusement at how easily the girl looked to him.
“I need a break. I’m tired. I don’t want to chase you anymore,” Dierdre repeats. She sits against the nearest tree just as the boy’s eyes flash with anger. The boy stills his walk and stares down at the girl. The girl holds his stare, though doesn’t know what she did to deserve it. A look of pity dances across the boy's features before he ultimately decides to take a seat across from the girl. Dierdre studies his face—the slope of his nose, the tilt of his eyes, the curve of his lips—as if to permanently etch it into her mind. The wind shakes a leaf loose from the tree that the girl rests on, and down, down, down it floats to finally rest before the boy's outstretched foot. A peace offering. Dierdre looks from the leaf to the boy and offers a smile, one to which the boy doesn’t reciprocate or bother to see. The boy lifts his foot to crush the leaf and the girl’s smile wavers. “Could I be the one to get chased this time?”
“Don’t be stupid, Dierdre. I am being chased, you are chasing me. That will never change. Have you had enough of a break yet?” The boy glances impatiently at the girl, who drags her eyes up from the crushed leaf.
“No,” she replies, her face falling ever more. The leaves on the trees still and all that can be heard are the pair’s breathing. “Just a few more moments, and I’ll play again. Wait for me.” The leaves start rustling once more.
“Okay,” the boy says. Dierdre holds onto his words like water in her hands. “Fine. I’ll wait.” She beams at the boy’s response. Her smile seems to brighten the shadows surrounding her seat against the tree. The girl enjoyed any moments she got to spend with the boy, but most of all enjoyed the moments
where there was peace, and somehow a long-awaited sense of love. She knew the boy was getting restless, and decided to tell him that she was ready to start the game again. “Finally,” he sighs. “Took you long enough.” The girl uses the tree to help her out of her sitting position. She looked down at the boy, and noticed in surprise his outstretched hand. She warily reached for it, feeling as if it’d be stripped away at any moment, and helped him up. The boy bolted as soon as he was on his feet. “Catch me if you can,” he yelled, not bothering to look back. Dierdre took two steps after him and tripped and tripped and tripped and fell.
“Wait! Stop,” she screamed. “Don’t leave me.” The boy halted mid-stride and slowly turned to look for the girl. He stalked toward her as if he was approaching his prey. Each step he took caused the girl to look more and more hopeful that he would come back to her. She straightened up and reached out to him as he neared, only to have him turn quickly and run away, away, away again.
“I know you were trying to trick your way into winning this little game. It’s not going to work,” the boy says. But she wasn’t trying to trick him, and the game wasn’t small to her. In fact, it was the most important part of her day. Regardless, the girl pushed herself off the ground and began the chase once more. It was difficult tracking the girl and the boy through the forest from my balcony. I didn’t worry, because no matter how many times I lost them, I always found them again. The leaves became quiet a few moments later, and the silence that ensued was deafening. I continued searching for the girl and the boy, but to no avail. The raven cawed next to me, cutting the silence like a sharp knife. Moments later I found the girl running around the forest, but could not seem to spot the boy. I looked and looked and looked, but he was nowhere to be found. The girl was left in the forest playing a two player game by herself. Her cheeks were flushed once more, and a newfound determination shone in her eyes. She was sure of each step, at least, until she started calling out for the boy.
“Arryn,” she yelled, her voice ricocheting off of the trees. Each echo of his name made her pace slower and slower and slower until she finally stopped. “Arryn,” she said, her voice breaking on the second syllable. She looked around her surroundings and saw she was standing in the illuminated patch of grass. Suddenly, the sun broke past the horizon and its rays lit up the girl’s hair like a bright candle in a dark room. She glanced over her shoulder to the forest behind; a look of realization dawned upon her face. She fully turned around to face the trees and picked up the pieces of the broken leaf. She said something so quiet that it was imperceptible. She turned back around, leaf bits in her hand, and looked straight up to where I was sitting. As her eyes stared into mine, she said louder, clearer, surer,“no one has been chasing me. All this time, no one has been chasing me.” I stared into her eyes, and couldn’t help but notice how closely they mirrored my own.