- Snow Angels
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At Inokashira Park, the black trunks of the cherry trees rose from the pristine snow. Not California, Wyatt West thought, and waited for the familiar pangs to subside. [End Page 140] A galaxy of snowflakes tumbled and twirled around his head. When the homesickness had run its course, he walked into the park, watching his boots mark the [End Page 141] smooth surface. And there, like a construct of his dreams, was Yoshimi Watanabe. His next-door neighbor stood in an open expanse of white, facing Wyatt but not seeing him, her arms extended to the sides. She wore the ivory button-down and short plaid skirt of her high school uniform. Red high-top basketball sneakers adorned her feet. Her navy peacoat and leather book bag had been stashed under the shelter of a distant pine.
As he watched, Yoshimi closed her eyes and dropped backward, both arms still raised, her spine ramrod straight. She landed with a thud in the deep snow, then windmilled her arms and legs, jumping-jack style. Her laughter rang across the empty park. Wyatt remembered learning to make snow angels when he was five or six, his mother laughing at his own laughter. Emboldened by the memory, he walked right up to this peculiar girl, stopping inches beyond her thrashing legs. Each time her feet swung outward, scarlet underwear flashed against the snow. Wyatt closed his eyes, wavering above his neighbor as if he might fall.
“Are you looking up my skirt?”
Wyatt opened his eyes to find the girl staring at him, head raised, snow clinging to the raven darkness of her hair. Her bare legs were blushed from the cold.
“Not intentionally. I mean, I wasn’t trying to look.”
“Why weren’t you trying to see my mysteries?”
Wyatt felt his throat tighten on cue. While it had never been easy talking with girls in the good old U. S. of A., it was almost impossible in this frantic foreign city. “You speak English very well,” he said.
“You are equally gifted with the language.” Yoshimi sat up and rose to her feet, careful not to spoil the perfect snow angel she’d made. “So did you see my underwear or not?”
“They’re bright red.”
“Like the rising sun. I’m being patriotic today: my scarlet round rump on a field of pure white, like our glorious national flag.”
“Are you headed to school?”
“Are you kidding? The day’s too fantastic for those dreary ideas. I’m skipping.”
“Me too,” Wyatt said, a partial truth. In the mornings, he was supposed to be studying online with a virtual high school in Los Angeles but hadn’t logged on since moving to Japan three weeks ago. With his [End Page 142] exhausted father teaching conversation skills to Sony executives morning, noon and night, Wyatt was pretty much on his own.
“What do you think of my tenshi?” Yoshimi pointed at the winged shape in the snow.
“We call that a snow angel,” he said.
“Yes, my angel in the snow.” Yoshimi took a big step sideways. “Well, as the old song says, ‘One is the loneliest number.’” She flung her arms outward and dropped. Wyatt winced as she plopped onto her back. Like a wound-up toy, Yoshimi started churning her arms and legs.
“Don’t look at my Japanese flag,” she shouted. “Mind your p’s and q’s.” Wyatt studied a row of pine trees dividing the park, their branches heavy with snow. In the dark pond opposite the pines, a flotilla of dazzling white swans cruised toward the distant shore. He didn’t know what to do or say next. Yoshimi was unlike anyone he’d ever met.
“There,” she said, standing beside him once again. “They are now an angel couple. Angel lovers, sleeping in the snow.” Yoshimi grabbed his hand, her fingers shockingly cold, and pulled him one pace to the right until they were clear of the pair of imprints. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s create a family. Let’s give them...