They sat facing each other, the aqua formica table between them. She had her hands clasped together, index fingers pointing at him. Did she pick that up from me? he wondered. The obviousness of the power play and her serious gaze unnerved him. He would never admit to anyone that he was just a little afraid of her. Even when she leaned forward to sip she didn’t look away. Her eyes, the same deep brown and creamy white as her drink, were huge. They reminded him of that fairy tale; the one where the dog had eyes as big as saucers.
She cleared her throat and said “You wanted to talk?”
“Oh. Right. Yes, there are some things I need to tell you.”
Her mouth twisted up a little. “This sounds bad.”
“Well, not bad.” He was trying not to panic, to keep control of the situation. “No, it’s not a bad thing. We just need to clarify some things. I think there has been some disinformation spread.”
“Disinformation?” She repeated it slowly, stressing each syllable, trying on the new word.
“Sorry, I think maybe you’ve been told some things that aren’t exactly true.”
Her expression cleared. “Someone lied? Who?”
“I don’t want to say lied. We’ll just say they were…” He searched for a word. “Mistaken! They were probably mistaken.”
One eyebrow drifted up just a little. Again he thought did she get that from me?
“I know your grandmother has—”
“Gramma?” She asked, cutting him off.
“Uh. No, your other grandmother”
They sat for a moment not speaking, his words settling between them.
“Go on,” she said finally.
“It’s about school. I know she’s told you some things, made you some promises, about how school is going to be this year, what to expect. And I’m sure sure she had the best intentions. It’s just that…I mean the thing is…”
As he spoke she continued to stare at him with those enormous fathomless eyes. She had leaned all the way back in her chair and pulled knees up in front of her, resting her heels on the seat of the chair. He could see her black patent mary janes and white socks edged in lace.
“The thing is you have to go to kindergarten like everyone else. I know she told you that you could go straight to high school, but you just can’t. I’m really sorry, but I thought you should know before you got there tomorrow.” He said it all out in a rush before he lost his nerve. “And there’s more.”
“More?” She said it calmly, but she was stabbing at her melting ice cream with the long silver spoon and staring at him, eyes narrowed ever so slightly.
“Yes, she also promised you that you would have a desk, right? But they don’t have desks in kindergarten. They sit in a circle. In chairs.”
Again they sat in silence.
“Chairs like these?” She finally asked.
“Well maybe smaller.”
She dropped the spoon into the glass, stood up, went around the table, and kissed him on the cheek.
“Time to go. Mimi is waiting in the car. I’ll see you next week Daddy.”
“Oh. Okay, Baby. So you’re okay with what I said? About school I mean?”
She paused for a moment, gracing him with her sweetest smile. She was only five years old, but already a mystery to him.
“Oh, we’ll see about that.”
She disappeared with the tinkle of the shop door.
Photo by Sandra Peterson Ramirez.