I know this doesn't seem like Fantasy yet, but it will be! Trust me! The first part just isn't...
I first met Kioko is kindergarten when we were put in the same class. I thought she had to be the most annoying individual on the face of the earth with the exception of Barney. She’d jump out of her fancy car everyday with a smile on her face, wave at the car and wouldn’t stop until it disappeared from view. She's then run straight to the doors of the classroom, waiting for them to open as she rocked back and forth with that huge grin on her face. When the doors opened she was always the first one in and then she ran to her seat and sat straight up and placed her hands nicely on the desk. Sometimes she even hugged the teacher. She always raised her hand, even if she wasn’t sure of the answer, although she usually was. I never did that, I always had to be 100% sure that I was right before I raised my hand. I didn’t get called on much in Kindergarten.
We changed seats a quarter of the way through the year and this time we even had to sit next to each other. She’s always tried to talk to me and she’d tell me jokes and talk about T.V. shows which really annoyed me. I tried to ignore her, and once I even told her to shut up. Her eyebrows pressed together in a frown, and her bottom lip pouted out slightly and her eyes got moist like she was going to cry, which I really didn’t get. She turned away from me and stared straight ahead for the rest of the day and didn’t talk to me at all and at playtime she sat in the corner and played with a small raggedy Anne doll and a raggedy Andy doll and politely turned down any invitations to play with the others. I liked it that she stopped talking to me, but I thought maybe I had hurt her feelings and I didn’t like that.
The next day she was smiling again and she even smiled at me but she didn’t talk to me anymore than she needed to. By lunch I was sure she was avoiding me. At playtime again she sat alone with that stupid doll she brought every day. She sat there just making it “walk” and play in the dollhouse she had made out of wooden blocks. It had to be the sorriest excuse of a structure I have ever seen. It was just three blocks, two standing up and one laid across the top and it fell down every time she brushed against it. For a while I told myself that was why I walked over that day and asked her if I could help her built a new house.
I’ll never forget that moment. I was standing above her and she was sitting on her legs, her dress fanning out over them just showing the tops of her knees. She looked up at me, her eyes wide like Anna Marie when she had seen a butterfly while we were at recesses. She looked like for a second she didn’t believe what was going on. Then she smiled. It wasn’t a big smile like she gave on the first day of school when we had to stand up and introduce ourselves. Nor did it show off her pearl white teeth like the kids who want to show you the hole where they lost a tooth, big and wide and forced. It was a small smile, and her eyes squinted up, like they were smiling too. And she nodded.
We worked for the rest of playtime that day on that house. I showed her that it would be better if we did a layout of the house, like a blueprint or a bird’s eye view instead of trying to build an actual structure. She listened in amazement to every word I said and told me I was “really smart.” No one had every said that to me before. It made me feel all warm inside and I liked that.
I hated going home even more than usual that day. The next day I was the first one at the door. That day, after she had finished waving goodbye to the black car, she turned and ran straight for me. She grabbed my hand and flashed that dazzling smile at me. She asked me if we could play again today and I said yes.
The other boys in the class teased me for a while because I played with dolls, until of course, all the girls started being my friends. Even at the tender age of six, when everyone was supposed to think that everyone of the opposite sex had “cooties” (What exactly are those anyways?) the other boys realized that this wasn’t quite right. Before long, they swallowed their pride, picked up their dinosaurs, action figures, and hot wheels and joined us.
Surprisingly, I liked having friends, but I was also a little annoyed that I couldn’t spend more time alone with Kioko. I noticed – at least I think I noticed, I might have imagined it – that she smiled differently at me than she did at the other kids. She’d pause for a second, looking somewhat like a deer in the headlights and a little dazed, then she’d smile that small, pure smile like the one she’d given me when I had asked her to play with me for the first time. I always felt warm inside whenever I was with her, and even when I just thought about her. At the time I didn’t know those feelings had a word.
She was Kioko Oshima, Japanese on her father’s side and English on her mother’s. Her skin reminded me of a porcelain doll except for the perfect amount of pinkish blush on her cheeks. Her hair was shiny raven black, straight till a little past her chin at which point in broke off into long loose curls until it hit her mid-back. Looking into her eyes is just as good as, no better than gazing at the sky on the clearest of days. She was beautiful, she was smart, she was funny, she was the nicest person I had ever met, and I loved her.