Over on the swings, there she is. That girl, tall and graceful, maybe nine or ten years old. Clare's been watching her for almost an hour. She's so pretty, Clare thinks, that they should be friends. She could go over and say hello, maybe, ask her if she wants to play. There's something about this girl that keeps Clare looking. It's gravity, the kind that Henry sometimes talks about, the kind that draws you back to something important.
"Hi there, what's your name?" Clare asks the girl on the swings.
The girl stops swinging and tucks a long strand of black hair behind her ear. "Alba DeTamble."
"Alba. That's a pretty name. I'm Clare, and I'm eight years old."
"My mother's name is Clare."
"Ooh! Cool. Alba, let's be friends. Do you want to play with me?"
"What year is it, Clare? I haven't been here very long."
Clare raises an eyebrow. "It's 1979, dummy. Do you live under a rock?"
"No, I live in a big house with my mom."
"What about your daddy? My father's not around very much."
"Neither is mine. He's gone most of the time, but sometimes I go to see him. His name is Henry."
"Oh! I know someone named Henry-" Clare stops, remembering that not everyone knows about her time-traveling best friend.
Alba stops, cocks her head to the side, and reaches over to finger a strand of Clare's reddish brown hair. "What's your last name, Clare?"
"Abshire. Let's go play on the merry-go-round, Alba."
"Abshire?" Alba stops. "Abshire?"
"Something wrong with my name?"
Alba shakes her head, mumbling to herself, "Momma said this would happen someday… But this is so weird. Maybe I was drawn to this time to meet her? I-"
"What's weird? Let's go play, Alba. You're a boring friend so far." Clare tugs on Alba's hand.
Alba stays where she is, squints a little closer at her new friend, then grins. "Okay, Clare, but only if you stop nagging me about it. You're just like my mother."