1. The First Time
I was four when I first saw her, standing in the middle of the square, all alone. She was wearing a white dress, and her long black hair was being blown to one side, even though there was no wind. In her hand was a thin string, and on the end of the string, floating high in the air, was a single blue balloon. She fixed her azure eyes on me, and mouthed one word: Believe.
Then I blinked, and she was gone.
I stood in that square for another half an hour after that moment, hoping she would reappear. But in the end, my mother stuck her head out of the window of our house, and shouted at me to come inside.
"What are you doing? It's dinner time! How long have you been standing there?" and other meaningless, motherly comments that she felt it was her duty to express. I sadly gave up the hope of seeing her and trudged inside.
"You look very solemn today! What's the matter?" asked my mother as we sat around the table, eating our fish and vegetables.
"Nothing, Mummy," I replied glumly. I had made up my mind not to tell anyone about my balloon girl. She was a secret.