I followed Kida through the forest until we came to a village at the base of a mountain. It was a small village, but there was a marketplace. Kida went shopping while I explored a bit. Apparently, no one could see me, just like no one would see Kida in my world.
All of a sudden, I was back next to Kida again.
"What happened?" I asked.
"I can summon you at will, just as you can summon me in your world." Kida stood from the low table and shouldered the pack of supplies she'd bought. "Come with me."
"What do you do in my world, when you're not with me?"
"I watch over you. I learn about your family and your world. Your world is small, Mandy, but I have no doubt that it will grow."
"My world isn't small," I insisted. "There are seven continents and billions of people, and each country has their own kind of food. My family's German. We make our own coleslaw. And there's a Chinese place down the street, but I don't like it. When Mom and Dad and Nick eat Chinese food, I always eat McDonald's."
Kida smiled. "I meant your world--the places you live and spend time. You don't leave the house much."
I shook my head. "No, I'm homeschooled. But I go to church twice a week, and on Tuesdays, Mom takes me to Nana and Papa's house so she can go shopping."
"Then that is your world," Kida said. "Your house, and your church, and your Nana and Papa's house. And, in a small way, the McDonald's."
"And the library," I said. I looked up at Kida. She wasn't exactly smiling--she never really smiled--but her face was pleasant, and that was about as close as she ever got to a smile. "How big is your world?"
Kida's eyes gleamed. "I will show you. Come with me."
Kida began to walk up the mountain, and I followed her. For some reason, I didn't get tired. My feet didn't get sore, and as we climbed higher and higher, I didn't notice the air get thinner or colder. I supposed it was because I didn't really exist in Kida's world. Being an imaginary friend was a strange feeling. It was like being a ghost or having a dream.
Finally, Kida motioned towards the forest below us, and said, "This is my world."
The sun was beginning to set, but it insisted on giving one last show before it did. Its dying gleams illuminated the most beautiful view I'd ever seen. It was treetops. Hills and valleys melted into each other like a beautiful, peaceful sheet of the purest green. It was vast and uninterrupted, stretching from one horizon to the other. But at one corner the view was marred by a column of smoke.
"What's that?" I asked.
"It's the government." Kida was grim again, her face seemingly made of stone. "They're looking for me. They overturn villages in their search. They don't kill, but they destroy."
I took half a step closer to Kida. "You're not supposed to let them do that."
"I know. I'm a Samurai, a protector of the people. As long as I live, as long as I appear and disappear every few months, they know there's hope. Hope for a better government, a better tomorrow, a better future for their children. But I'm only one person. The future rests on me, and I fear I am too weak to carry that burden."
Kida was stronger than that. I knew she was. But she was afraid, and I knew how badly fear could cripple people.
"That's why I'm here," I said. "To help you."
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.