“I want to be alone.” Frankie uttered, the sound quickly picked up by Umi’s trained ears.
“Of course. We can leave right now if you-“
The shaking girl’s eyes were covered beneath her cap as she stared down at her chest, dearly missing her usual t-shirt.
“You two are fine. It’s… everyone else I want gone.”
“Why’s that, Frankie?” Umi softly spoke.
“I hate… I don’t like people. They scare me.”
“I understand. That’s a frustrating wish to have in a world like this.”
“So there’s nothing you can do.” Frankie spoke like a child, as if she fully expected this answer, yet had been hoping the woman would say anything else.
“I’m very sorry, Frankie. But this is a theme park. There’s no space for all these people anyway. This room is as alone as you’ll get. Umi finally turned her eyes to the younger woman. “But is that really so bad? The families back there, looking at some of the smaller fish… you can’t even see them, can you? And they won’t pay the smallest bit of mind to you. You’re free, Frankie. And we’re both here for you.”
“That’s not enough.”
Frankie’s words came out in a low rumble.
“I want them gone. Every last one of them.”
Umi gave the girl some space, looking away again.
“You really are afraid.”
She thought hearing this might make Frankie happy. It might make her feel safe, just to know something for certain. She was right.
“I’m terrified.” The girl uttered.
“You have every right to be. But what are you afraid of, Frankie?”
“The people, like I said. The ones I don’t know.”
“What about them exactly makes you afraid?”
With a few words no longer doing the trick, she was forced into explaining her true feelings. But in her anxiety, a short simile, crafted without thought, was as much as she could manage.
“It’s… like boxes.”
Umi let her speak.
“I don’t know what’s in them, and they clutter up everything. I’m scared of what might be- what might be in them, I’m scared of how many of them there are. I’m scared that I’m not one of them. I’m scared that I’ll somehow trip over one. I’m scared I’ll drown inside them. I’m scared I’ll open one up and get stuck inside it. I’m scared they’ll all collapse on top of me.” Frankie shivered. “I’m scared… of the boxes themselves, too. I’m scared that… I’ll never see a place without boxes in it.”
“…You’re a very smart girl, Frankie. Maybe you wouldn't be so afraid if you weren’t. But the truth is you are. And that’s why you think so much about these sorts of things. You see, people like me, we… well, we’re just too simple to worry about what’s really in a box or how many there might be. And if we aren’t annoyed by them… we can go our whole lives not caring too much. That’s why it’s up to us to help you, Frankie. Because you think for all of us.”
“I didn’t ask to do this.”
“Neither did we. But that’s just how it is. You can still get better, you know.”
“You come with me. We’ll spend a day together. And by the end, you’ll know the answer to my question.”
“But I won’t be… any happier?”
“If you still want to be happy, you’re already on your way.”
“So you’re saying I won’t…”
“I don’t put words in people’s mouths, and I can’t predict the future. I'm just a lifeguard, after all.”
Umi stood up.
“Do you two want to go now, and do something new?”