The little girl sat down beside me. "You're not thinking hard enough," she announced. "What's happened to you? You used to be the big thinker. People used to come read you because you were thoughtful."
I tried to smile. "Maybe I've had all my thoughts."
"Hmm. Maybe. Or maybe you just got careless. Maybe you started letting other people think for you."
"Maybe I've always let other people think for me."
A piercing stare. "Maybe. But anyway, you were more fun, for a while, there. Now you're not very fun."
"I'm sorry," I said.
She shrugged. "Hell, I don't own you. You don't owe me any fun. You know what? You think too much about what you owe other people. And not enough, at the same time. That's not a paradox." She scowled at me. "I mean in different ways. You think you owe it to people to think their way while you're with them. And then you go away and you think like someone else. But what you don't do is think like yourself. How the hell does anyone know what you really think?"
"For a little girl, you swear a lot," I said.
"That's what you ought to be worrying about. The fact that you owe the truth to people."
"Oh, please," I said. "Didn't I try that a long time ago? Wasn't it idiotic misery for all concerned?"
"I don't know. I don't think you were honest then, either."
"Oh, for God's sake. How's a person to know what's honest, from one minute to the next?"
"Huh. Who's swearing now? You know what's honest."
"Look, honey, I don't know from one minute to the next what my intentions are, or what I think. I'm a mess. Why can't you just accept that? Don't try to improve me, you'll only make me worse. Believe me, this is a small plot of land, and I've built as much character here as it can stand. Build any more and it will all fall over."
"No," she said softly. "Oh no. That's not what I mean, that's not what I mean."
The shadows became stark as the light rose in her. I could not have looked at her, if I dared. "You know what I am," she said. The light began to scorch.
"Do I?" I said bitterly. "Do you know what I am, then?"
"I know enough. I know enough to have come here, in this shape, at this time. What do you want, my dear? I can't know what you won't tell."
"Why have you come, now? Now when I'm broken?" I whispered.
"Because I love you, you idiot. Why did you think? Not because you're particularly prepossessing just now, believe me."
"Mortals are ridiculous. It's not just me."
"Never said it was just you." The laugh purled up and the shadows quivered. "Listen. No, listen: it's simple, dear. Do you think we expect anything else of you? Of course you're broken. You broke so long ago even we can't remember it. But look. I brought you this." She reached up and pulled the tender three quarter moon from its place in the sky. "It's not ripe. But you aren't good at waiting, so take it, now, and keep it with you."
I held out my hand and she put the raw, trembling moon in my palm. "You're not ripe either. It's a perfect match."
The light lessened, the way it does when they're going
"It will remind you," she said. I ventured to look, but she was just barely there, hugging her knees, and then I couldn't see her. But her voice stayed a few moments longer.
"It will remind you," she repeated. "Oh, you poor foolish man, I do love you."