Hues of purple and pink played together in the background of the sunrise, as if they were old best friends. A spectacular view that belonged on a postcard but Kenzo’s eyes were fixed on her. A short distance away a girl danced in the sand. Twirling a hula-hoop around her body and throwing it into the air.
Waves crashed in the background. Bewitched, Kenzo stood up wiping the sand off his shorts. He had to be near the girl with a rainbow for hair. He had never been in love before. Not with anyone who had ever loved him back. But he thought maybe he could love her.
Kenzo held his breath as tingles infiltrated his body. It reminded him of when his television used to go out replaced by black and white pixels. He found her beauty even more astounding up close. Before he could say a word, she dropped her hula-hoop and grabbed his hand. Each of her fingernails were painted a different color. She lifted his arm into the air and spun herself in a circle.
He chuckled revealing a perfect smile, “You’re something else.”
She collapsed on her sunflower covered blanket exasperated. “Maybe that’s why my mother named me Pandora. Sit down and watch the sunrise with me.”
Kenzo, a nineteen-year-old college dropout from Japan complied to her demand with pleasure. Sneaking peaks of her out of the corner of his eye. Pandora had sun kissed skin, laugh lines, smelled like an incense, and acted more like an alien than a human. Her aura was otherworldly, and he had always dreamed of the stars. He fell in love with her immediately.
“Do you usually watch the sunset with strangers?” Kenzo asked.
“Oh, you’re not a stranger. I’ve been waiting for you Kenzo.”
“How’d you know my name,” he crossed his legs Indian style.
She winked, “I’m psychic, not to mention it’s on your necklace.”
“Oh,” he looked down embarrassed.
“I have a quest for you lad, accept if you dare,” she poked his chest.
His curiosity piqued, “What quest do you speak of?”
She sighed, “I’m trying to find a sea monster. I haven’t seen her in years, and I need your help.”
“I’m in,” he said without hesitation.
Pandora searched through her oversized sunflower themed bag. She pulled out one item after another: tossing each one onto the blanket. For all he knew the entire circus was hiding in her bag. Then she pulled out a polaroid camera.
She placed her head on his shoulder and snapped a picture, “To adventure.”
Kenzo sniffed her hair, it smelled of coconuts. “To adventure.”
Pandora pointed to her tie-dye painted Volkswagen van that had a peace sign on the door. “That’s my spaceship. I have been waiting for the aliens to abduct me but until then it’s home. Are you ready to find the sea monster?”
A Cheshire grin spread across his face, “Not only will we find her, but we’ll feed her until she’s our best friend. Then she’ll eat any enemies who cross us along the way.”
“You and I are one,” She said sarcastically, they both giggled.
She threw everything back into her bag while Kenzo folded the cover. He was overcome with excitement; he had not felt this giddy since he was a child. Her heart did not belong to anyone or anything. Little did she know Kenzo had a side quest. He daydreamed of calling her his girl.
The wind picked up. Pandora skipped across the sand with her bare feet leaving impressions as grains of sand flew into the air. Kenzo followed, holding the sunflower cover under his right arm and his black slides in his left hand. Once they reached the parking lot, he darted towards the van yelling, “Last one’s a loser.” The truth was the scorching Florida sun rose the temperature of the asphalt so high, rumor has it you could cook an egg on it.
They made it to the van at the same time and she hopped from one foot to the other while unlocking her spacecraft disguised as a Volkswagen. Pandora sat in the driver’s seat and leaned over to unlock the passenger side door for her new friend. Multicolored fairy lights wrapped the inside hanging above a built-in mattress. A sunflower field painting hung on the wall matching the tiny sunflower rug on the van’s floor.
The van rolled out of the parking lot with marijuana smoke emanating from the windows. Kenzo had a sudden urge to travel the country with Pandora solving mysteries.
“Where are we going?” he took a swig of water.
“I know a place, it’s a few hours away but it’s where I first saw Pinky,” she coughed.
“Pinky?” he teased.
“That’s what I call her. She is like the Loch Ness monster except her skin is a brilliant fuchsia and she’s not a monster; she’s my friend. There’s a cave system connecting them to the ocean where they meet up every year,” she redirected her eyes to the road.
They were different in every conceivable way, but life had brought them together and Kenzo was determined to make the most out of it. He mulled over endless possibilities in his head of how to make the first move as if it were a chess game. He knew love was not a game, but he did not want to mess this up.
Pandora gently eased into her breaks at the red light and slid a cd in and selected track three. Her favorite jam and unknowingly his favorite too. Each of them started bobbing their head at the same time and laughed in synchronicity.
“Fate,” they both said simultaneously gazing into each other’s eyes. A car behind them honked as the light turned green. If the universe had a hand in love, it was working overtime.
They stopped at a grocery store and picked up some staples along with a five-gallon bucket of meant chocolate chip ice cream. Kenzo eyed her curiously. She shrugged, “It’s pinky’s favorite.”
At first, he thought she was joking but with that one remark he knew she was telling the truth. Would he get to meet this Pinky creature? A combination of excitement and fear arose within him.
Pandora skipped out of the store, “To the spaceship buttercup.”
Onlookers may have called her insane but to Kenzo she was something he had always wanted to be, free. She stuck her key in the ignition and turned it but the engine refused to start.
Pandora groaned, “It’s the government man, they must have found out about our secret mission.”
He played along, “Those bastards.”
She attempted to start the car again to no avail, “We could hitchhike.”
He laughed sarcastically. “Do you want to attract a serial killer because that’s how you attract serial killers. I think it’s the battery. Do you have any jumper cables?”
She rummaged through a cabinet for a minute then held her hand out towards him, “Here they are.”
They asked three people before one of them helped jump the battery in the undercover spaceship. She sped away like she was running out of time. Kenzo became convinced she had magic powers when they arrived at lake George without a speeding ticket. The body of water was just over seventy miles wide and surrounded with wildlife. The sun was setting. He became disheartened.
“How are we ever supposed to find Pinky in a lake this huge, this late?” he yawned.
His negativity bounced off Pandora’s magical forcefield and into the abyss. “Don’t worry that’s what the ice cream is for and she only comes out at night.”
She had the spirit of a child. So full of wonder and yet she held the wisdom of someone who had lived for a thousand years. Kelso could not wait to make his move, but he would wait forever if he had to. He did not want to make a mistake. He wanted everything to play out perfectly even though he knew how unrealistic that may be. Life could be messy, but he did his best to avoid making a mistake. All he could think about was kissing her.
Pandora grabbed a spoon. “Would you like some ice cream?”
“I would love some, it’s my favorite flavor, he sat of the bed beside her”
She pulled the lid off the ice cream taking a bite, “Mine too.”
“Do you have another spoon?” he asked rearranging himself.
Her laugh echoed off the spaceship walls. Even though she thought it was loud and obnoxious, it had become his favorite sound. She looked up staring into his eyes, “No, I’m a minimalist. I only have one spoon. We can share unless. you’re scared.”
It seemed like less of a threat and more of a challenge or possibly an invitation. He took a spoonful and fed her a bite like those cheesy couples who made you sick to your stomach.
He kept his eyes locked on hers determined to win the staring contest, “I have something else to share with you.”
Pandora twirled her hair around her finger, “What’s that?”
“A kiss,” he whispered leaning into her. Their lips met somewhere in the middle. His heart did a summer salt like it was auditioning for a gymnastics team. Her presence intoxicated him. She cuddled up in his arms and they fell asleep to the sound of crickets.
Kenzo woke up first and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. He intertwined his fingers with hers admiring her. Her hair looked like it had been through a tornado. Her snore reminded him of a cat’s purr quiet but endearing. He kissed every inch of her face until she awoke giggling and pulled him in for more cuddles. He wanted to tell her he had fallen in love, but his mind went to war on his heart. Fear is like a fight and if you let it win, it will imprison your mind, soul, and heart. He swallowed the words, savoring their flavor for another time.
Kenzo stretched his feet and arms, “The ice cream melted.”
Pandora raised an eyebrow, “Perfect that’s just how she likes it.”
They walked to the lake in anticipation with the moon high. She laid down her sunflower cover and they waited. Every so often she would whistle and yell “Pinky.”
“Maybe we should try a different spot.” He asked.
She shook her head, “No, this is our spot.”
He grabbed her hand and kissed her fingers, “Will you be my girl?”
Without hesitation she replied, “I would love to.”
She pressed her lips against his. She tasted of a minty mouthwash and a promise of a better future. They heard a splash but by the time they looked all they could see was an indention in the water the size of a small car.
“She’s here,” Pandora grabbed the ice cream and walked to the water. Kenzo followed behind her. She stopped, “Stay back, she’s scared of strangers.”
Pandora bent over placing it as close to the edge as possible and removed the lid. “Pinky,” she called. “Pinky.”
Kenzo cupped his hands in front of his mouth shouting, “Be careful.”
The creature slowly rose out of the water and rested its head on land. Her skin a Fuchsia with a tan color between her scales. Pinky’s eyes held a reptilian element with vertical slits for her pupils. She looked more like a dragon than a cyprid. Pandora petted her head. Pinky snorted and smiled then grabbed the gallon on mint chocolate chip between her teeth. She threw her head back devouring the buckets contents and discarded it on land.
Kenzo pulled out his phone and snapped a photo with the flash still on. Pinky screeched rising ten feet above the water before diving down. The aftermath produced a large wave knocking Pandora into the water.
He rushed to the water in a panic and almost jumped in before he remembered he never learned to swim. The water calmed and he started hyperventilating as he waited for her to surface, but she never did. He learned a valuable lesson that day. Always tell someone you love them while you can because you never know when you will lose that chance.
Her body was never recovered. His first true love, and his first loss. He started building a time machine in hopes of bringing her back. He got close but two of the parts he needed were impossible to come by. Every night he returned and placed their favorite ice cream near the water hoping they would return.
He watched the moon’s reflection on the lake searching for an answer. He imagined Pandora and Pinky swimming together causing mischief. Not only had Pandora found a friend in Pinky but Pinky had found a friend in her too.