The barn that sat at the top of the hill on the other side of the meadow was a dark grey colour, faded in patches, the grain of the wood showing through. It hadn't been used in many years other than somewhere for Kate and her friends to play in when they were kids. On the door of the barn a stickman had been recently painted in whitewash. His legs and arms struck outwards as if he was doing a star jump and his head was a perfect circle. Two smaller circles with dots in the middle represented eyes and his straight-line mouth had two buck teeth protruding from beneath.
It was a crude drawing which Kate took little notice of as she passed it on her way into the village. The path past the barn was longer than her usual route but it was a beautiful day and the walk over the hill was much prettier.
When she returned home that evening it was late so she took her usual route and never saw that the stickman's appearance had changed.
It was smiling.
Kate noticed the stickman for the first time the following morning. It was another bright day and so having enjoyed the previous days walk she took the trip past the barn. She saw that the stickman had his hand in the air as if waving and his straight lined mouth was now a half circle smile; those two buck teeth protruding at funny angles. Kate wondered momentarily what he might be waving at but she walked on, whistling absently to herself.
The evening sun was low in the sky when Kate returned but it illuminated the barn door just enough for her to see that the stickman had changed once again. His arms were spread wide apart as if he were about to embrace someone. Kate smiled curiously. Was he looking for a hug? Kate tried to recall how long the stickman had been there. The barn hadn't been used by anyone other than her friends in years so where had this mysterious stick figure come from.
Perhaps he was alive! Kate decided to give him a name.
'Hello Bucktooth,' she whispered feeling a little foolish. 'My name is Kate.'
Kate promised to visit her new friend Bucktooth the following day and see if he had changed again. She wasn't sure why but she was curious as to what he might do next. Even though he was just a few white lines and circles there was something very lifelike about Bucktooth and Kate felt a strange sensation each time she passed the barn as if he was watching her. Butterflies danced in her stomach and her heart seemed to quicken. It was all very odd but rather exciting.
On the next morning, sure enough Bucktooth had altered again. His smile now ran from one side of his face to the other, and in his hands were four white lines striking upwards with further daubs of white at the top which Kate suspected were meant to be flowers. She laughed out loud when she saw them and couldn't help but feel an odd pang of jealousy. Kate couldn't remember the last time anyone had bought her flowers.
'I wonder who your stick lady is Bucktooth,' Kate mused aloud. 'I shall keep an eye out for her.'
Kate laughed to herself as she went on her way. 'I'm talking to a barn door,' she said shaking her head.
The path past the barn was now Kate's usual route to and from the village. The lure of the stickman had proved too much for her curiosity. On her way home that evening she saw that the painted flowers had washed away and instead a bunch of real flowers, picked from the fields around the barn, were pushed through the gaps in the wood. Wild dandelions, buttercups and daisies were tied together with hoops of long grass and were pressed through the barn door where Bucktooth's outstretched hand was painted.
Kate smiled when she saw the flowers. Maybe Bucktooth would come to life just like the flowers? She sat for a while in front of the barn, day dreaming that the stickman was a prince who had been cursed by an evil witch and had to spend his days painted on an old barn door until true love found him. Kate smiled and left the flowers where they were. As she walked away she felt the hair on the back of her neck stand on end as if someone was watching her but when she turned around all she saw was Bucktooth and his little bouquet.
Kate was eager to see Bucktooth. She had had a sleepless night wondering who the flowers might have been for and despite her best reasoning she wished deep down that she was the luck recipient.
When she saw Bucktooth that morning she giggled. Kate wasn't the type of girl to giggle but she couldn't help herself. Yesterday's flowers now lay on the ground in front of the barn door and instead Bucktooth held a white square with a cross in the middle and two hoops at the top. It was clearly meant to be a wrapped present. At the top of the gift was a thin line with a rectangle at the end. Kate wandered closer realising that this rectangle was some kind of tag and had tiny letters painted onto it. Now she could find out who these gifts were for.
In white wiry writing there were four letters painted on the card that read: Kate.
Kate staggered backwards and stared up at Bucktooth. He smiled his toothy grin at her but his simple face revealed nothing. Kate could feel her heart pounding in her chest. Was this stickman really trying to communicate with her? Was Bucktooth really coming to life? Kate fled from the barn suddenly scared. She ran across the fields and was almost home before she stopped abruptly.
Why am I running? She thought. She turned around slowly and stared up at the barn. She wanted to go back and felt like Bucktooth was calling for her. She knew she had to listen. Bravely she marched back up the hill. When she got to the barn Kate could barely believe her eyes. On the ground lying on top of the discarded flowers was some wrapping paper and ribbon. In the short time that Kate had gone Bucktooth had unwrapped the present for her.
He cradled the gift in his hands; the gift that was meant for Kate. His arms were stretched out toward her and they held the round white outline of Bucktooth's heart.
Kate gasped and could barely find her voice. 'You're giving me your heart?' she whispered. Kate was trembling. Did this mean Bucktooth loved her? 'But you're a stickman,' she said.
This time she didn't stop at the bottom of the hill but ran all the way home before the tears could fall.
Kate knew why she was crying but was loathe to admit it. Could this stickman really be her in love with her? Somehow she knew it was true. Was it her destiny to love a stickman? How could a relationship work with a man made of paint? It was foolish even to consider such a notion yet somehow, deep down, she knew that there were feelings she couldn't explain.
Kate cried into her hands and promised never to go near the barn again.
Despite it being a beautiful day Kate took her regular route to the village the next day. She did this for several days in an attempt to avoid the barn. Her efforts could not keep Bucktooth from her mind and she longed to see him again. It had rained late one evening and she almost ran to the barn in fear that Bucktooth might have been washed away. It was this that made her face her feelings. Could she really fall in love with a stickman? She asked herself over and over and the answer was always the same: Bucktooth was her true love, but how could she possibly love a painted man.
Kate went back to the barn. She had to see him. She had to see what he had become.
Shame swept over her. Bucktooth sat on the ground with his head in his hands. His paint was faded due to the rain. Beside him, near the bottom of the barn door was two halves of a heart. Jagged lines showed Kate where his heart had once fitted together but it now lay in two pieces, broken and slowly fading away.
It broke Kate's heart too.
She turned and ran home unable to face him, unable to admit her guilt and still unable to believe that Bucktooth was her true love.
Days of tears passed.
She cursed fate for bringing love to her in the form of a magical stick figure painted on a barn door but Kate wasn't one to wallow in self-pity. Love had found her even if it wasn't quite how she had expected it. Some people never found any love at all.
That made her lucky.
As soon as dawn had risen Kate left her house stopping only for a moment to put something in her pocket. She ran up the hill and stood in front of Bucktooth breathless. The poor stickman was lying down across the bottom of the door with lines drawn across his eyes. He looked pained. There was a pool of white paint on the ground underneath Bucktooth's head; a pool of white tears.
Kate walked solemnly to the door.
'Forgive me,' she whispered as she pulled out a square of card from her pocket. On it Kate had drawn a circular head with a triangular body underneath. Two lines for legs and two for arms stuck out from a triangle body. One of the arms held a heart.
Kate folded the card in two and placed it in the gap of the wood at Bucktooth's chest just where his heart might be.
'You have my heart now,' Kate told the stickman. She left the barn and slowly walked down the hill hoping that it was not too late and the Bucktooth might forgive her.
She watched the barn from a distance. It sat there on the crest of the hill lifeless and empty. She couldn't feel Bucktooth calling out to her anymore and it made her insides feel as empty as the old barn itself.
Patiently Kate waited but she didn't know how long before she could return. Would he change immediately? Would he need time to decide whether to forgive her?
By noon she could wait no longer and she hurried back up the hill eager and anxious as to what she might find.
Bucktooth was standing up.
Bucktooth was grinning.
Kate ran to him. How could she embrace a stickman? She stopped in front of him feeling overjoyed but confused. He was standing awkwardly and his eyes were looking sideways. Both arms were pointed to his left. Was he pointing at something? Kate checked round the side of the barn but there was nothing there but the empty field.
'I don't understand,' she told him.
Bucktooth said nothing. He just stared to his left pointing at thin air. Kate followed his outstretched arms again but there was nothing beside the barn. As the day grew later Kate wondered if this was how their relationship was always going to be. Perhaps they could learn some kind of sign language.
As she gazed up at him it came to her.
Bucktooth wasn't pointing at anything beside the barn. He was pointing at the barn!
Kate's heart skipped as she ran to the door. Was there another gift inside? The door was heavy and for a moment she thought the rusted handle might snap off in her hands. With the sun behind her the light streamed inside the open door.
A boy stood in front of her.
He wore blue overalls flecked with white paint. A brush and bucket of whitewash sat at his feet. The boy grinned at Kate. His front two teeth were slightly bigger than the rest but Kate thought it was the most beautiful smile she had ever seen.
Sheepishly the boy held up a white card that had a stick girl drawn on it.
Kate grinned at him.
'Hello Bucktooth,' she said and ran into his arms.