The sunlight flittered through the white, full and slightly ajar curtains framing the huge window that over looked our front garden. Outside on the windowsill the small fluttering wings of a swallow could be seen as it played with its mother in the morning air.
I stretched my weak arms above my head, a soft groan leaving my tiny mouth as I rolled over and wiggled my legs until they reach the floor all the way beneath my bed. Recently, the gates that had locked me inside had been taken down… but only after mother had caught me climbing over the top of them. My bed had been a fortress surrounded by large impenetrable walls, why was it wrong to play prince and climb to the top?
I paused once my feet had landed on the soft floor; I rushed towards the door forgetting about Mr Teddy lying in front of me. My feet tangled in his bed and I slammed to the floor. My breath left me and I froze in shock for a moment before my lips warbled and my eyes filled with tears. My nose dribbled and soon my mouth was too as I began crying, I moved my body to a sitting position as I wiped my face with my chubby hands. I heard the door opening but didn’t bother looking up as I was picked up off the floor and moved into my mother’s arms. Her familiar smell comforted me as I threw my arms around her, the barely met behind her neck as she rubbed her hands up and down my back.
“Byungjoo, it’s okay. I’m here, baby boy.”
My sobs turned to sniffles as I snuggled closer; the swaying motion of her body calming me. I had almost completely calmed down when she decided to dictate the action that would begin my confusion, hope, love and eventually- my everything.
But as a toddler, I knew none of this as a door to another adventure was opened before me.
“Today, you’re going to preschool!”
My tears dried up completely as I tilted my head to the left, she brushed the soft brown locks from my brow as she smiled and moved to place me back on the bed, where I promptly sat down.
A slight lisp was found as I mumbled most of the words I knew, “Can I bring Mr Teddy?”
My mother bent to pick said bear up before giving him to me; I spread my arms as far as they would go before wrapping them around my friend and squeezing the bear to my chest. Mum smiled down at me, her fingers moving to smooth the crease between my brows and I moved into the touch. Her fingers ran through my hair before she cupped my cheek and kissed my forehead, creases disappearing as she confirmed that Mr Teddy would be coming on the adventure.
I turned Mr Teddy around and held both of his hands as he now sat in my lap. I raised both of his fluffy and soft hands in the air as we celebrated the upcoming challenge. I squealed and shook my legs as mum moved to my closet.
As she picked out the clothes I would be wearing for the day, she began telling me what to expect. Most of it flew over my young head, except for one thing.
“Now, Byungjoo. Even though you’re bringing Mr Teddy, you need to make some friends, okay?”
“There will be lots of other kids at preschool too.” I raised my arms as she pulled my pyjama shirt over my head, soon replacing it with a bright red shirt with large white numbers on it. As I moved to stand on my feet so she could put the dark blue jeans on for me she patted my head, and my young self recognised sadness in her eyes as she played with my hair. “I don’t want you to be lonely...” She sighed, “My little boy needs to make lots of friends, okay?”
At this point my pants were firmly in place and I became nervous. I’d only gone adventuring by myself, who else would want to come with me? I pondered this until my shoes were on and tied up.
Suddenly, the door burst open and in came my father, bellowing in his loudest voice “WHERE IS BYUNGJOO!” I screamed in delight and raised my hands above my head, my knees bobbing as mum sought to keep me from falling over in excitement.
“Daddy! Byungjoo is here!”
“WHERE?” My silly daddy began stomping around my room, looking in silly places! When he bent over to look under the bed, I took pity on him and jumped onto his back, screaming for the hundredth time, “BYUNGJOO IS HERE!”
“Oh, there you are.” Daddy became totally calm and I patted his head as he picked me up and acted as though he hadn’t spent the longest time ever looking for me.
Daddy was definitely silly.
He kissed my head and we moved out of my bedroom towards the kitchen, my belly grumbled as I smelt eggs and toast! I smiled and clapped my hands at the feast in front of me. I was definitely a prince now! I sat down in my seat to eat my yummy breakfast as mum and dad rushed around me to get ready.
I had just fed my last piece of toast to the patient dog waiting beneath my table when I was scooped into the arms of my mother and buckled into my car seat. I shook my arms and legs as I realised where we were going. It was time to meet my friends!
I stood awkwardly in front of little people like me, my eyes blinked furiously as I tried to take in all the people in front of me. Mummy and Daddy had left me here. Alone.
I squeezed Mr Teddy’s hand as the teacher began searching for where I should sit. She was about to say something when a small alarm went off. The noise people became louder as the door was opened and some filtered outside.
The teacher crouched down to my level and looked into my confused face. ”it’s break time Byungjoo, go outside and play. Everyone here is really friendly.” She encouragingly smiled at me before turning and leaving. Just like mummy and daddy. Traitors.
I moved towards the door and looked around the yard. There were kids in the sandpit and kids on the jungle gym. But they were all in groups I frowned and kept looking.
My eyes swept over to a cubby house with a huge tree next to it; underneath this tree was a single dark haired boy. He was sitting at the base of the tree with his legs spread out in front of him.
As I moved towards him, the other kids looked at me as though I was doing something crazy. But that didn’t bother me. Mumma said to make friends.
As I stood near his feet, I tightened my hold on Mr Teddy again as I introduced myself. “Hello, my name is Byungjoo!” I smiled as wide as I could but the kid on the ground just glared up at me. Maybe it was because I was looking down on him.
I sat down across from him, stretching my legs out so our little shoes just barely touched. “What’s your name?”
“I’m going to beat you up.” A crease appeared as I frowned at the boy in front of me.
“That’s not a very princely name” Now he was the confused one.
I nodded at him.
“My Mum says that every little boy is a prince!”
The boy continued to look at me before tilting his chin up and crossing his arms. “Well, gangsters are better!” the battle for most confused raged on as I looked at him.
“But gangsters are mean.”
“So… Be a prince instead!” I grinned at him again and moved closer. He moved his legs so they were crossed in front of him. But this didn’t stop me from patting his knees repeatedly as I described all the adventures we could go on; I was half way through the story of when I had climbed over my fortress when he suddenly grabbed my hands in his and pulled us to our feet. He was taller than me, and if it weren’t for the shade of the tree, I’d be looking into the sun as I attempted to see his expression. He paused before grinning at me.
“I want to try being a prince.” I detangled our hands before clapping my own together.
“Let’s go!” I bent down to pick up Mr Teddy, who had been left on the floor after our sudden rise and I moved to pull the boy along with me when I realised.
“Mr Gangter, what’s your name?” I tilted my head as he smiled down at me.
The dark rocky surface opened upwards before me, reaching through the impenetrable, thick, clotting clouds. I took a struggling deep breath before moving towards the summit. A small tug at the corner of my tattered war garments halted my progress.
“Let me go first Byungjoo! I need to protect you!” Hansol put on a brave face as he took my hand and stood in front of me.
“But, Hansol! I’m the prince! I need to go first!” My young voice whined out as I stomped my foot on the rocky floor.
“Well, Byungjoo. I’m the king!” Hansol became demanding as he looked at the teddy bear still clutched in my right hand. “I’ll look after you, so you can look after Mr Teddy.” His dominating expression turned to a smile as he looked at me, his chubby cheeks stretching into a now familiar expression. It had only been a few hours, but I was 150% certain Hansol was my bestest friend ever.
I sighed at him and intertwined my miniscule fingers with his. “Okay, King Hansolie.” I paused as he ruffled my hair, “But only because you’re older!” I stuck my tongue out before forcibly turning him and pushing him forward.
We began making our way up the steep and uneven slope, our rugged shoes gradually falling apart. We shared a single water bottle as we travelled through the barren land. On either side of us was darkness, before us was a bright orange glow- the clouds making it indistinguishable from this distance. It took months and months before we reached the summit, and that was when we realised that we weren’t standing at the top of a mountain, we were standing at the edge of a volcanic wasteland that spread out before us. The once luscious grounds of our homeland were nowhere to be seen. All our people stood as stone statues amongst the flowing heat. We had to save them!
The lava was spewing forth from two points on either side of us. As we peered closer we realized the lava was coming from the mouths of two ferocious dragons! Hansol and I looked at each other before I placed Mr Teddy down beside me.
“Prince Byungjoo,” His voice came out strong as I placed my hand on the sword at my waist.
“Yes, King Hansol?” He turned to look at me as he too placed his hand on the sword belted to his pants.
“I’ll always watch your front. Because that’s a Kings job.” I nodded solemly at him as I took a step beside him.
“I guess I’ll just have to watch your back then.” I grinned at him as I turned to face the dragon on my right. Hansol mirrored me and faced his left. I could feel his little heart pitter-patter on my back as I took a deep breath.
“Since this is your first adventure, I’ll let you do the battle cry.” Part of me whined at the loss of opportunity but the greater part of me wanted to share this with my new friend.
“Okay, Byungjoo. On the count of 3. One, Five – AAHHHHH!” We sprang into action, waving our swords around.
“HANSOL AND BYUNGJOO PUT THOSE STICKS DOWN BEFORE I CALL YOUR PARENTS.”
We froze before turning to look at each other. The sticks dropped from our hands and clattered to the ground as we turned towards a very angry preschool teacher.
The wasteland disappeared as we stood at the top of the jungle gym- the large slope returning to its disguise as a dark blue slide behind us. We ducked to the floor giggling as we hid from our teacher.
Suddenly she reared up behind us, waving her arms and screaming. We squealed and Hansol pushed me down the slide and I turned as he moved to follow but not before he spotted Mr Teddy sitting innocently on the other side of the teacher.
“Don’t do it, Hansol! Mr Teddy will be okay!” He ignored me as he ran for the teacher but he didn’t make it! He was lifted into the air as the teacher began wiggling her fingers around his stomach. He began shrieking at the torture and as I reached the bottom of the slide I ran for the stairs that lead behind the teacher. I snuck up while she was being mean to Hansol and grabbed Mr Teddy in one hand while I snuck forward and did the unthinkable.
I pocked the teacher in her left butt cheek.
The monster released a shout of surprise before placing Hansol back on the floor of the equipment.
Before she could turn around and yell at me, I reached out and closed my fist before escaping with Mr Teddy in one hand and My Hansol in the other.