Gabriel was eight years old, but very quiet for a little boy. He played energetically and imaginatively like all children do, but his mind, legs, and arms did more of the playing than his tongue. He spoke very little. His wispy blonde hair and soft grey eyes portrayed his demeanor effectively.
His best friend was a wild red-headed little girl his age, who probably did more talking than anything else. Her name was Angelica but she told everyone to call her “Angela” because she thought “Angelica” was one syllable too long. She had very particular opinions, and she liked to have her way.
Angela told very good stories. She had never been trained, but somehow she knew what details were necessary and which ones weren’t, and she knew how to keep her stories moving forward. Even grown-ups found her stories entertaining and very satisfying. Angela always wanted to be the center of attention – she was lucky to have a gift that made her worthy of having her desire. Some of her stories were personal narratives and others she made up. It didn’t matter. Every one of her stories was a gem. Gabriel often tried to re-tell her stories to himself because he didn’t want to forget them, and Angela never wrote them down because she hated writing. Many of Angela’s stories were forgotten, but as they came naturally to her there was never a shortage.
The two children were very good friends. Angela was the queen of imaginative play, and she often took the liberty of directing the games.
“Gabriel, you will play the knight,” she would command. “You will have a sword and shield because you are very brave.” She would hand him a stick and the lid of a trash-can. “And I am the princess.” She twisted dandelions into a crown and set it over her red curls. “There, we are ready to go and find the dragon. He has been terrorizing the kingdom!” she would add dramatically. “Do you know where he lives?”
Gabriel would look around at the backyard. There was a tire swing hanging from the oak tree. “Yes, he lives over there.” He pointed to the tire swing.
“Oh, yes, he has set his lair in the Tree of Evil!” Angela said, understanding perfectly that Gabriel had made the tire swing into a dragon. “Only the brave go there, Knight Gabriel. You are the only one of the Knights in Shining Armor who is brave enough to face the terrible beast.” Gabriel grinned. Angela jumped up and down, overwhelmed by the excitement of her own pretend game. “You must set out tomorrow – no time to waste. And remember that I will be here waiting eagerly for your return.”
“Tomorrow” would come five minutes later. Angela handed Gabriel a broom to be his horse, and he set off.
Gabriel rode to the Tree of Evil, and dismounted. He drew his sword and faced the dragon. He whacked it with his sword, and even jumped on it. It flew wildly around, but he held fast and continued to riddle it with wounds. Finally, the dragon surrendered. Gabriel lowered his sword and returned to the princess’s castle – the back porch.
“You have saved the entire kingdom!” Angela gasped. “You are a true hero, Knight Gabriel! I am indebted to you forever for your service.” Gabriel couldn’t help but laugh in delight. The idea of being a hero was the grandest idea ever.
“Now I shall knight you,” said the Princess Angela. “Give me your sword.” Gabriel handed her his sword and knelt down. And the fair princess would knight the brave warrior, declaring him a conqueror of great evil and the hero of a great kingdom.
In their childhood, Angela knighted Gabriel with a stick sword. When they grew to be adults, Angela knighted Gabriel with a “Yes, I will,” when he asked her to be his princess. And so, Gabriel always fought for that princess: from his childhood to the end of his days.