The child stood alone in the garden. Beyond the trees, beyond the wall, the world turned without it. ¬†People¬†interacted with members of their family and with those they met in the street. A smile, a nod, a few words and they moved on, secure in the knowledge that they had fulfilled their social obligations. In the garden, the child wondered. What did you say when you met someone for the first time? Practice, that was the key. Words were said, a hand held out. A small head peered out through green branches to see if the people in the world shook hands. There was no physical evidence, only written. For the child had discovered reading. Had found worlds to disappear into whose social customs were spelt out. A wrong word here and dragons came, a hand not offered and crowns rolled. It was simple. The world the child saw outside of the garden was not. Realising that there was a difference between the walkers in the street, the runners and drivers and the brave and fearless characters in the pages, the child grew more afraid of saying the wrong thing, offering the wrong hand. And yet… and yet… the child longed to reach out and find that it was real, that it existed, that others noticed it and still liked it. Scared to stay, fearful to step outside, the child was torn. It realised that whatever happened it would be different, other. It did not know how to interact successfully with those on the other side of the trees, the wall. One day, the child ventured out. Tentative efforts to talk ended in failure. So the child tried giving its whole self to ones who smiled. Beaten and bruised, the child retreated, to the garden, behind the trees, behind the wall. Will it ever come out to play again?

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