As a little girl I frolicked at the garden fair, riding the carousel of painted horses and guilded elephants and threw my child's joyous spirit out as the carousel turned taking glee and pride in splashing it on her on each rotation.

We shared carmel apples and cotton candy and made the boisterous sounds and messes that children make as we held hands and ran thru the throng of the world around us oblivious that it could end.

We played games of jumping and leaping and hiding and seeking and told each other the silly secrets that no one else could know. And I carried that innocent happiness with me wherever I went and it soaked into everything I did.

Until I ran laughing into the thicketed maze, pruned so beautifully that it was irrestible and I never gave a second thought as I was sure that she was behind me, playing the game along with me, her best friend.

But suddenly as I ran the music grew dim and the laughter of other children faded and I realized for the first time that something was wrong. And I tried to stop myself from turning around as I did it - but it was too late. And my eyes saw in slow painful motion what my heart refused to believe: that suddenly I was alone.

I held off the panic at first, convinced that she'd round the corner any moment that maybe I'd outrun her, though I'd never been able to do that before. So my laughter at that thought came only by force.

I hid in a niche in the walls of the plant-made maze, unable to grasp the fear or the desperation. Hoping against hope that she'd come for me.

So I bided my time; sometimes giggling at the prank I was pulling, humouring myself that I'd have the last laugh; and sometimes crying because maybe she didn't want to find me.

Years passed.

I hid in my niche. My ears tuned only to her voice and my heart tuned only to her love and all I could do was remember them because they weren't there anymore. I shrank back when I heard the other voices pass.

I searched in myself for why she didn't come and found a myriad of answers; one for each hour that passed; for each week and month and season and year.

I began to hate the carousel. Even though I couldnt see it. I loathed it and the sweet smelling treats and I spat on the laughter of children because they would know soon enough what I knew.

That the joy was a lie; for I had been happy there once and I heard my happiness laughing at me from a distance. I saw the drunk playing the pipe organ and the music that once seemed so charming was now a dirge played horribly out of key and the children's laughter seemed directed; at me.

I was better off lost in here letting my body grow older and my heart grow younger and my spirit turning from gold to grey and my emotions forgetting how to laugh and hiding how to cry - because the tears hurt too much and no one was there to kiss them away.

But even in that state I knew I'd need someone. Someday.

So while I hid in the thicket I made sure the end of the popsicle stick was visible from the outside. Sometimes more than others. And I positioned it differently: sometimes out more, sometimes hidden more, depending on the quality of the voice that I heard approaching.

Until one day as I dozed you happened by, and knelt in the corner of the maze and puzzled at the clue I'd left before reaching out to pick it up to examine it closer and to ask it the secrets it held; like to whom it belonged.

I guess your presence woke me - I realized I was no longer holding the end of that popsicle stick and in a panic I reached out for it; my small hand bursting through the bushes groping desperately. And I felt your hand gently reach out and touch mine.

My heart went to my throat when I realized you were parting the branches and I knew there was no where to run. But that touch was so gentle, so motherly, I didn't feel the need. Greatfully.

You opened them just a little and waited until I leaned to peer out at you from the darkness with hope in my eyes and a long lost innocence in my tears.

You soothed me towards you - coaxed me out slowly a moment at a time - your hand holding mine.. not pulling, just waiting your whispers comforting me and giving me safety in a world I'd forgotten and that had forgotten me too.

So I took your hand tighter and began to walk with you like it was the first time I'd taken a step but the walking became easier.

And we exited the bush maze hand in hand and there was the carousel again cold and quiet now - the painted horses and guilded elephants motionless and dulled.

I dont remember letting go of your hand, but I turned occasionally just to check that you were still there as I approached the harnessed foes.

And my woman's step made a much louder sound as I stepped up onto the platform than did the child's one so long ago and that sound echoed in my mind and mixed with the pipe organ sounds and the laughter of children.

And I threw my arms around the neck of the pretty red horse and I wept deeply and told it how I was sorry for hating it all these years. I clung to it and sobbed until I was weak and my face was streaked like the child I was then.

And having made some bit of peace I petted its nose and kissed its cheek and turned back to you not looking back at the guilded horse and not seeing the bright red paint now exposed again and shining from my tears.

You reached out to me and I took your hand again with a child's grin and a child's sadness now seen thru an adult heart and you held me and let me cry and I clung to you like I clung to that horse.

And when we began to walk again I led us back to that place in the bush where you found me and I stood there with you watching that place where I'd been alone so long.

Until - to my surprise, the child hidden inside slipped out the end of a popsicle stick.