When I listened carefully, I could hear the faint melody carried over by the wind.
“Then let’s call it a tie then,” Satoru said, and the children came out of hiding in groups of twos and threes.
Everyone, ranging from ages eight to eleven, had spent the entire day engaged in a large-scale game of capture the flag. It’s a game like a prolonged midwinter snowball fight, where you have two teams who must invade the other’s territory and in the end whoever manages to steal the other team’s flag wins. That day, our team had made a grave mistake in our opening move and seemed really likely to lose.
“That’s not fair. We were just about to win too,” Maria pouted. She was more fair-skinned than everyone else, and had big, light-colored eyes. More than anything else, her flaming red hair made her very conspicuous.
“Hurry up and surrender already.”
“Yeah, because we’re way better,” Ryou chimed in after Maria. Even at this age, Maria had the makings of a queen.
“Why should we surrender?” I replied indignantly.
“‘Cause we’re better,” Ryou repeated the same old argument.
“But you haven’t even taken our flag yet,” I looked at Satoru.
“It’s a tie,” he declared.
“Satoru, you’re on this team, aren’t you? Why are you taking their side?” Maria snapped.
“I can’t help it, the rule says that curfew is at sundown.”
“But the sun hasn’t set yet.”
“Don’t split hairs, that’s just because we’re at the top of the hill, right?” I said, biting back my irritation. Even though we’re usually good friends, at times like these, Maria annoys me.
“Hey, we really have to go,” Reiko said worriedly.
“When we hear ‘Going Home’, we’re supposed to return right away.”