The little boy had been the first of Anna's companions. She'd met him in the park near her house many years before. It was in the days after her mother had left, and Anna had been more or less alone, inattentively supervised by a series of long forgotten nannies, and too shy to approach the other children. But the little boy had seemed as shy and lonely as herself.
By the time her father came out of his locked study, stopped hiring private investigators to track her mother down and found Aunty Zee, Anna had met the walker too. The walker had introduced her to the birdwoman, and the birdwoman had introduced her to the reader. Gradually the empty months had filled with companions who'd shown her the secret paths, and taught her their ways. The only one she'd heard of but never met had been the lady.
After Aunty Zee came, and Anna had gone back to school, she'd lost touch with most of them. She still saw the little boy, of course, and the walker; but the others became a little vague. She exchanged a friendly word with the birdwoman once in a while, and discussed an occasional novel with the reader, but the messages soon became the only day-to-day contact she had with them.
She'd discussed it with Aunty Zee, who hadn't thought it strange at all.
"You're busier than you used to be, and I'm sure they understand that. You have new friends now. New interests. Maybe someday you'll have need of them again. Or they'll have need of you."
Now, as Anna slowly made her way homewards, wondering where she would find the lady, she remembered Aunty Zee's words.
"Which way round is it?" she asked aloud. "Do you need me, or do I need you?"
There was no answer, but as Anna came round the corner into the yellowwood grove she saw the lady seated on a fallen tree trunk, waiting for her.