The term "imaginary friend" is kind of a misnomer. Just because no one else can see them doesn't mean they're not real.
To me, Kida was real. She was the greatest. Dressed in the coolest of Samurai armor, with one sleeve longer than the other to hide the tiger-bite scar near her elbow. I didn't know that there were no tigers in Japan. I just wanted to think of an animal as tough as Kida, and I thought of a tiger. But Kida won every fight she ever had with a tiger.
I loved Kida. I knew what her voice sounded like. I drew pictures of her and talked to her, and I introduced her to my next-door neighbor Heather. The three of us would play together in my backyard, or we'd go over to Heather's house and play Littlest Pet Shop. Kida didn't play Littlest Pet Shop with us. She'd always wait in Heather's back yard, letting the wind push her in the board swing that hung from a tree branch.
Sometimes, I'd look both ways and cross our street, and play with Gloria Mendez. She had tinker toys and a pool table and board games like Mousetrap and Operation. But more often, we used our imagination. Gloria liked to pretend she was a cat. But Kida never went inside her house, either. She'd wait outside and look at the neighbor's puppies, or wander through their flowerbeds. And since Gloria didn't often come to my house, where Kida was more expressive, she didn't know her very well.
But usually, Kida was the only one I had to play with.
I did my school at home. I'd start at 8:30 on the dot, and I'd take a break at 10:00 for a snack, and I'd wrap everything up around noon, just in time for lunch. But since Heather and Gloria worked until 3:30, and then had homework, I'd usually only get to see them on weekends and over the summer. So more often than not, I had to entertain myself.
I'd normally do one of three things. I might hang out in my bedroom, watch television, or play outside. And Kida usually did all three of those things with me.
Sometimes, Kida would invite me into her own world. She had so many friends--deer and foxes and birds and all the other animals that I'd read lived in Japan, and a boyfriend who just so happened to be a character from one of my favorite TV shows. My home became the forest she lived in, surviving on her own and killing tigers and generally being the coolest person I knew.
The only thing we had in common was that we spent most of our time alone.
I had the benefit of having a family. Kida's family died when their house caught fire, and she was raised by the Samurai until the government disbanded them. I, on the other hand, had a mom and a dad who loved me, and a brother who didn't, and a wonderful set of grandparents who lived so close to us, we could see their front door from our back door. But Dad worked, and Mom kept house when she wasn't homeschooling me, and Nick had obedience issues that made him an angel in public and a parental-attention-commandeering devil at home.
So it was basically just me and Kida.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.