The new sundress, the bright sunny day, the amusement park, nothing could brighten her attitude. Her favorite toy had been redistributed to her favorite cousin, Stacy. She couldn’t help hating him a little bit today. It was the ‘Fisher Price Little People Castle Play Set’ and her mother had informed her (on her birthday…) that she was too old to play with it. It had been packed up that morning to live somewhere else. Charlie was depressed.
“Charlotte, you are thirteen years old today and too old to be playing with dolls. It’s time to spend your free-time on
learning to run a brush through your hair,
paying some attention to the disgrace you call nails,”
her mother, Claudette, had scolded. Charlie had bowed her head in deference to her lecture. Thirteen in name only she thought looking down. Her sundress and long hair were the only things securing her place in the pantheon of womanhood. Otherwise, she was all flat plains and angles.
She was supposed to be more special, being a dragon child. The lady who lived up the street from her grandmother, Evelyn, had taught her that. The Chinese witch, that’s what everyone called her. Charlie, however, knew she wasn’t Chinese. While she had been born in Hong Kong and owned the local Chinese restaurant, her family was Japanese. She supposed she really was a witch.
It had been Evelyn’s granddaughter, Taura, that had told her this. Her two sisters, Momoko and Ryoko, had sat in solemn silent agreement pouring imaginary tea into little cups. They had all draped themselves in old pieces of fabric (towels, blankets, table clothes, and curtains) artfully tied up in what they imagined to be kimono’s. They were playing at being geishas having a party. “My grandmother is a witch. And, since they are always together, yours probably is as well”, Taura shared. Evelyn’s grandchildren often recruited her for their elaborate tea parties – being that they were all more-or-less the same age. “I supposed that means we might all be witches. Everyone knows it runs in families”, she continued mysteriously.
Charlie thought this was probably true as well. Her grandmother and Evelyn were always collecting herbs together and making special drinks. One time, when she was supposed to be asleep, she had actually heard Evelyn tell her grandmother to collect some of her hair and nails when she died so that she could come back and visit her from the grave.
It hadn’t bothered Charlie. The thought of her grandmother being a witch did not worry her, upset her, or concern her. Both women were larger than life to her. It made sense that they were also witches. Besides, it was Evelyne that had given her the castle play set. She had found it at a garage sale – practically new. She said she was giving it to her because she was a dragon and the playset had a dragon in it. That’s how she found out that she was born in the year of the dragon and that she was special.
It was the pink dragon that was breaking her heart to part with. She could part with the whole play set but she would rather keep the dragon. What if Stacy banished the dragon to the cave at the bottom of the toy castle? He might not know that Puff was the ruler.
The amusement park was supposed to be a special treat, but Charlie couldn’t stop sulking and being distraught over Puff. Even as she got on to ride her favorite character of the carousel, a green dragon, she was still melancholy. The carousel held no magic today, but her green dragon did. In her mind this dragon was also Puff, but grown. She always supposed her little pink dragon at home was Puff as a baby.
There was no conflict yet in her developing mind that Puff was different at this park than he was at home. She had tried to explain it to her mother once but her mother had insisted that it was not possible to be in two places at once; and, furthermore, you could not be a child and an adult at the same time.
Yet Charlie knew that what she had told her mother was true. All she had to do was look in the mirror and see that she was someplace else at the same time and an adult as well as a child – all at once. It seemed that getting older made things harder to understand. With the loss of her dear pink dragon, (on this the day of her birthday) getting older didn’t seem like such a great reward. She wondered ‘Is that all there is? Would it just be disappointment from here on out? Wasn’t she a dragon and possibly a witch? Surely her life was meant to be more special.’
She looked up just in time to see Stacy getting out of the car. She could see the parking lot from here. She decided today – she would find a moment to pinch him – hard. The thought made her smile.