TW: This story alludes to the theme of child abduction.
Ade needed help being pushed on the swings.
He had been taught how to propel himself before. Chika spoke about how he needed to push his legs forwards or backwards depending on how the swing moved, but now, as he sat on the rubber seat, he only flailed his pudgy legs above the ground, to no avail.
He sighed as he surveyed the playground. Chika was far away, on the other side with a friend of hers. He knew she wouldn't be interested in humouring her younger brother when she could be playing in the sandpit. Ade would just have to find something else to do.
He hopped off the swing and stretched, his brown face kissed by the sun in the process. It was a beautiful day, and aside from this slight inconvenience, Ade was feeling quite content. He liked when the sky was blue, his favourite colour. Plus, he was turning six soon, and his mum promised to buy him a monster truck and a colouring book. Perhaps when he turned six, he'd come back to the swings and be able to move by himself.
The child ambled across the soft tarmac to the climbing frame in that carefree manner that children move around. This, he knew he could conquer. Last time he came to the playground, he climbed the climbing frame all the way to the very top with ease.
With his foot on the bottom rung, Ade turned back to call for his dad's attention, but as he viewed the bench his dad had been sitting at since they arrived, it was empty except for his dad's large, maroon cardigan that he came with.
Perplexed, Ade assessed the surroundings in case he was mistaken. But it was a quieter day at the playground, so he could clearly see that none of the parents- smiling, laughing, encouraging- were his.
He jogged over to the sandpit, where his sister seemed to be playing a complicated game with her and her friend's action figures.
"Chika! Where's dad?"
"Huh? I don't know. Isn't he at the bench?" She craned her neck to check.
"He's probably gone to the car to get something."
Ade wasn't reassured. His dad had never just left him and his sister without at least telling them. But he had no alternate explanations, and Chika spoke with the astute conviction that only a seven year old girl could have.
"Can I stay with you 'til he gets back?"
"No, you'll be in the way. Aren't any of your friends here?"
"Just- do something else. We're busy."
Ade pouted. "I'll tell on you," he huffed.
"I don't care."
He marched away from the sandpit and decided to simply sit on the bench until his dad returned.
But after a minute that felt like hours for him, Ade was still sitting on the bench, staring at his blue shoes, held by velcro. He was bored, and becoming increasingly sleepy. The sun was high in the sky, warming the bench and making him feel cosy. Just as Ade's eyes were beginning to close, he felt a presence close beside him and turned his head.
The man was tall, blocking the stream of light and warmth. He was clean shaven, with shorn hair and a comically mismatching outfit- red trousers that contrasted with his neon pink shoes and a blue Mickey Mouse shirt. He was smiling, and in his outstretched, sweaty palm lay a Chupa Chups lollipop. Cherry flavoured.
"Would you like it?"
Ade eyed the man slowly. He seemed friendly enough, and it would be someone to keep him company. Plus, he liked lollipops. So, he took the sweet and the man sat down.
The boy timidly complimented the man’s shirt, even though secretly he felt Mickey Mouse was for babies.
The grown-up introduced himself quietly as Saul. Ade felt that Saul was a little shy.
Now that he'd sat down, Saul kept fidgeting and looking around the playground. Ade checked the few other children with their parents. Everyone else seemed to be occupied. He hoped that meant Saul would stay with him and not find someone else to give more sweets to.
But Saul's attention quickly turned back to him to ask why he was alone.
"I'm not; my sister said my dad's in the car park, so I'm waiting for him."
"The car park, eh? I think I saw him, actually."
"Mmm." Saul gestured to the lollipop. Ade had a habit of chewing his hard candy, so it was virtually consumed already. The man asked if he would like another.
Ade nodded eagerly. He was beginning to like Saul.
Saul stroked his chin, as if deep in thought. A car alarm sounded in the distance.
"Tell you what, I've got way more sweets in my car. Come with me to the car park, I'll give you the sweets and then you can meet up with your dad again."
Ade hesitated. He should tell Chika, so she wouldn't worry. But he remembered how meanly she had told him to go away. He'd go, get the sweets, and come back with dad to gloat. That'd show her.
"Sure," he finally replied.
Saul looked relieved. "Great! Quick, let's go," he instructed, as he rose to his feet. Ade followed suit. Saul held out his hand, and Ade moved to take it, but stopped.
This would be a perfect chance for him to show his new friend his climbing skills first.
"Wait, Saul, watch this!" Ade exclaimed as he sprinted away from the bench to the climbing frame.
"No, come back!" Saul barked, moving to chase him, but it was too late. Ade was already halfway to the frame. He bounded over to the bottom rung he was at before, giggling.
In the place he'd just been, there was chaos. For some reason, three different grown-ups, who were in different areas before, had gathered around the bench and seemed to be yelling at Saul and flapping their arms around. Saul himself had his hands up and was talking quickly.
Then, in the distance, looking bewildered, Ade saw his dad walking briskly over to the group, three apples and crisp packets in hand.
Ade rolled his eyes in frustration.
When was someone going to watch him climb?