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“What you need is a kite.”

The Innocent, precariously climbing a tree branch, nearly fell back to earth at the unexpected sound of a girl’s voice. 

A strange girl sat in the tree next to his own. He had never seen her before. The fence between their homes was high and he was far too shy to peer beyond the barrier.

“Climbing trees isn’t exactly easy for you, is it?” she pointed out, gesturing at the scrapes across his nose from his last attempt.

“No, not really…”

“Have you ever flown a kite?” she asked, her voice softer this time.

The Innocent shook his head, keeping his eyes fixated on the ground to avoid the intensity of her eyes.

“A kite gives you freedom,” she explained. “It’s a way to fly away from all of this. Even if you can’t climb away.”

“Then why do I never see you fly a kite?” he asked. Zoe’s smile dimmed and she looked away. He immediately regretted the question.

“I have other ways to fly,” she muttered, climbing down from her tree branch. “Or, at least, I did once. You still have that chance. I don’t think I do anymore.”

Beyond the fence, the girl disappeared from view, and the Innocent’s frown deepened at the loss. Then, her head popped above the fence, brown hair half-concealing her eyes.

“I’m Zoe, by the way,” she smiled.

“Where have you been these past few days?” he stammered. It had been days since Zoe’s voice had come across the fence, her laughter a distant memory in his often-forgetful mind.

“I’ve been working on something, you see,” she laughed.

Her hand disappeared from view and re-emerged with a triangle of carefully patched paper and glue. The Innocent was too surprised to respond and she dropped the kite across the fence, watching his reactions with a bemused smile.

“It’s a beautiful kite,” he gasped in wonder.

He wished the fence between them would disappear so that he could properly thank her for the gift. The kite was blue and orange, fire and sky, and it sparkled in the early morning light. He hugged it close to his heart.

“Go on then!” she laughed. “Learn to fly. Just promise me you’ll never come back down.”

The Innocent tilted his head, confused by the words, but already Zoe was gone. She watched through a hole in the fence as he first flew the kite. At the sound of bells, she nodded to herself and moved back inside her home, granting him privacy.

“Go save him then,” she smiled. “Like you saved me.”

Only the wind rustled in response.