adjective fan·ci·er, fan·ci·est
- ornamental; decorative; not plain.
- tending or intending to impress.
noun, plural fan·cies
- imagination or fantasy, especially as exercised in a capricious manner.
- the artistic ability of creating unreal or whimsical imagery, decorative detail, etc., as in poetry or drawing.
There was no time to waste, but Keisha didn't really understand why. She was just excited that she didn't have to be at first grade for the rest of the day. She didn't like first grade as much as she liked kindergarten. A year ago, she never would have let her mama take her out of Ms. Mathew's class.
But now she was a first grader, and so she let her mama, Kendra, whisk her away for a day of hooky.
It was 10:30am, and Kendra was 20 mins away from her 10:45am appointment. She berated herself on only having the idea last minute to bring Keisha to the meeting, but when she got the call from that droning assistant just an hour ago that Dr. Wexmann, CEO of WexWorld Toys, wanted her to come in and speak with her directly — “no need to bring any prototypes and can you come today at 10:45am there's been a last-minute opening in Dr. Wexmann's busy schedule you know how busy she gets thanks so much for accommodating” — well, Kendra knew she needed to give this meeting her all. And that meant grabbing Keisha from school. Her daughter was her inspiration and her muse, and it was important to Kendra that Keisha be a part of this.
Also, Keisha was pretty fricking adorable (always) and totally endearing (when she wanted to be). This was her last chance, so it couldn't hurt to have a sweet, puppy dog eyed child when meeting with the CEO of a toy company. Not just regularly meeting, but specially meeting, without the pomp and circumstance of the board and VPs and the CEO all paying attention to her carefully crafted presentation and prototype display, divided among party lines wishing for her success or failure.
The WexWorld Toys headquarters was across town from Keisha's school, but the nearest subway station was a couple long blocks away. So there they were, mother and daughter at 10:30am on a Tuesday, mother dragging daughter down the street as daughter decided to — had to, needed to — look in every window display they passed.
Kendra glanced at her watch notification and saw the train alert she set up was counting down 4 minutes till, with the next train arriving 8 minutes later. She glanced at Keisha, who trailed behind, tugging at her mama's arm.
“Child, you need to hurry up. Get your butt moving.”
“I am,” Keisha whined.
“We are going to be late, and you are not gonna make us any later,” Kendra chided, trying to pick up the pace only to be stopped at a cross walk. Only one more long block to go.
“But I want to see-”
“No, not right now you don't. You want to see Mama succeed, don't you? Want a big win for the both of us?”
“I like winning!”
As soon as there was a gap in the bumper to bumper traffic, Kendra pulled her daughter next to her to cross the street. Then, they were off again.
“That's right. And you're your Mama's good luck charm. You like Neesha, don't you?”
“Yeah! Her and MixItMaisie are friends.”
“I saw, they had a slumber party last night, didn't they?” Kendra asked.
“Yes, and they were supposed to invite MixItMadeline but she was mean so they didn't.” Keisha said matter-of-factly.
“Well if I ask you again about your MixItUp dolls, can you tell me just how much you like them, just be super excited?”
“Okay sure,” Keisha trailed off, distracted by something in the window. Something super sparkly. And pink?!
Kendra continued forward as Keisha stopped in her tracks, in awe of the sight before her.
The most beautiful, fanciful, pinkiful dress she had ever seen. It had more types of pink than Keisha had ever seen on clothes before. She looked down at her flower-adorned sandals before gazing back up at the dress. The dark pink on her sandals didn't even come close to this dress, with it's layers of colors flowing into each other and the sparkles from top to bottom.
Keisha stared open-mouthed. Had the world just shifted around her? And then she was yanked away, her mama pulling her forcefully by the hand away from the window toward the station entrance mere steps away.
“We're almost at the subway, you're not slowing on me now.”
“No, and don't make me regret taking you out of class.”
Even before Keisha could grasp what Kendra had just said, they were in the station and flying down the stairs. Kendra swiped the card she carried for Keisha in her wallet, pushed her daughter forward through the turnstile, then swiped her own card. She heard the train approaching the station.
“C'mon baby, we're almost there!” Her enthusiasm was infectious, and Keisha ran happily with her mom, momentarily forgetting the pink dress.
As the subway doors closed behind them and Kendra found them a seat, panting slightly (she'd just do more cardio at the gym, for sure she would this time), she picked her daughter up and plopped her onto her lap. Kendra gave Keisha a slobbery kiss on the cheek, the one that made Keisha squirm and laugh at the same time.
“Mama!” Keisha yelped.
“We're gonna make it,” Kendra marveled. She trailed off as Keisha hugged her. “We're gonna make it...”
They sat in the lobby. Well, not the lobby, singular. WexWorld had multiple lobbies, (apparently Kendra only saw the first, plebeian lobby when she visited before) and this one was a private lobby for the CEO's wing of the building. The CEO's wing! They were actually in the CEO's wing, waiting to speak to Dr. Wexmann in her own office. Keisha wiggled in her seat until Kendra shushed her. The assistant with the grating monotone stood in front of them.
“I'm not usually supposed to let people in late because it sets a bad precedent and you know I told you 10:45am so I made sure Dr. Wexmann knew I gave you the right time you're very lucky that she is making an exception to her policy even though you're five minutes late.” The assistant took a breath. “And brought a child.”
“Yeah,” Kendra winced. “I should have checked before bringing my daughter.” (Or not, because better to ask for forgiveness than permission, and all that.)
“Well she's ready to see you now.” The assistant said. Kendra didn't move to get up, expecting the assistant to continue their monologue.
“Now,” The assistant repeated, speaking with an ounce of inflection for the first time.
“Right, right,” Kendra muttered, shooting up from her chair, pulling Keisha with her. Before following the assistant, who had immediately started walking toward the closed door of the office, Kendra bent down to be at Keisha's level.
“This is big for Mama and big for you, too. I love you.”
“Me too!” Keisha replied happily, not taking in the stakes one bit.
Kendra smiled, and held her daughter's hand, giving it a gentle squeeze as they walked into the office of Dr. Suzy Wexmann, founder and CEO of WexWorld Toys.
“Kendra, thank you so much for coming in today. I'm so sorry this was so last minute.”
“No, not at all,” Kendra lied with a pleasant smile to mask her nerves.
“And who do we have here?” Dr. Wexmann asked, smiling toward Keisha.
“My daughter,” Kendra beamed. “Without her, I honestly wouldn't be here.”
“That's right! You framed your pitch on the impact of your daughter toward the Neesha doll, and how that impact would reach millions of other children.”
“Did I really say millions?” Kendra wondered aloud.
“Well, regardless, it certainly got my attention,” Dr. Wexmann smiled, and turned expectantly toward Keisha, who was examining the flower appliqué on her sandals. The sandals Keisha had begged and begged Kendra for until she caved. It took Kendra a second to realize Dr. Wexmann was waiting for an introduction.
Kendra tapped on her daughter's shoulder to get her attention. “Keisha, this is Dr. Wexmann.”
“Am I gonna havta get a shot? I don't like shots.”
Dr. Wexmann laughed. “No dear, I'm actually called 'Doctor Wexmann' because I have a PhD.”
“Pee-Aych-Dee,” Keisha repeated.
“Yes, it means I went to school for a very long time and studied very hard. What grade are you in in school, dear?”
“Well that sounds very fun!”
“Keisha honey, Dr. Wexmann-” Kendra started.
“Please, call me Suzy.”
(Oh my god she was on a first name basis with Dr Suzy Wexmann)
”-Suzy...created the toy company with all your favorite toys. Like your MixItUp doll? And the tasty bubbles?”
Keisha's eyes widened. “I love those!”
“Yes, honey, you do,” Kendra chuckled. Dr. Wexmann smiled pleasantly, whether in amusement or impatience Kendra couldn't tell.
She tried to get her daughter to focus. “Remember what we practiced together?”
Now Dr. Wexmann actually laughed aloud. Keisha liked her laugh. It sounded like bubbles. Keisha watched as Dr. Wexmann crouched lower, and Keisha could see her face without having to look up. She liked that. It reminded her of Ms. Mathew back in kindergarten. Not Mr. Katz, the boy teacher she got for first grade. He was too tall. She missed Ms. Mathew.
“Keisha, your Mama here told me you are an inspiration for the Neesha doll line that she's been pitching to us. That's very impressive.”
“Thank you,” Keisha replied hesitantly, checking with her Mama that she did the right thing. Kendra smiled encouragingly.
“What's your favorite thing about Neesha?”
“Maybe the books about Neesha and her friends? Or her style? What she looks like?”
Looks like? Like...clothes? Keisha knew at once. “Pink!”
Dr. Wexmann glanced up behind Keisha, where Kendra stood at full height, amused at her daughter's adamant declaration.
“You like pink?” Dr. Wexmann focused back on Keisha.
“I want her pink!” Keisha was steadfast.
For the first time in, surprisingly, decades, Dr. Suzy Wexmann, undergraduate degree in psychology, masters in business, and PhD in early childhood education, founder and CEO of a successful children's toy company, had been stumped by a child.
Befuddled and grasping at the first thing that came to mind, Dr. Wexmann directed her next statement at Kendra. “If I recall, part of your pitch is that Neesha is African American.”
“Oh, she's definitely Black,” Kendra followed up quickly.
“I want her in pink!” Keisha got louder this time because the grown ups weren't listening. She balled her hands into fists at her side for emphasis.
This meeting had just gotten very uncomfortable. Kendra, worrying that she should have just asked permission and been refused after all, jumped into her practiced schpiel.
“Our goal with Neesha is to inspire girls like Keisha that they are the protagonist in their story, not the sidekick. Neesha is Black, and her friends in the books come from many different backgrounds. I envision all children, including White children, to enjoy and relate to Neesha for her optimism in everything she does and her compassion for her friends, family, and community.”
“Yes, I do remember your eloquent pitch,” Dr. Wexmann mused. She looked right back at Keisha again, who stood there in the kind of huff that's only possible for a six-year-old who's been misunderstood.
“Keisha, your Mama was inspired to create Neesha to look like you.”
Keisha loosened up her huff just enough to nod once.
“But you 'want her in pink'?”
Keisha looked down at her feet, mumbling “want her in pink” under her breath. Dr. Wexmann followed her gaze, straight to her light brown sandals, and specifically to the flower appliqué at the front of the sandals by the little girl's toes. It was a deep magenta.
“Oh! You mean in pink clothes?”
Keisha brightened, opening back up to the doctor woman in front of her. “Yes! A pink dress!”
“Yes, that does sound very pretty,” Dr. Wexmann replied to Keisha's delight, and then to herself, under her breath: “And makes a helluva lot more sense.” Dr. Wexmann straighten up to full height to see Kendra running through a range of expressions.
“I- Sorry. She's my daughter. I should've got that,” Kendra stumbled over her words.
“Don't worry about it, you have nothing to apologize for. I was the one who didn't understand first,” Dr. Wexmann said. “And I mean, I don't really think of myself as 'pink' so I'm not sure why skin color was the first thing that came to my mind.”
Kendra skipped right over the last half of that statement. “I definitely don't know any pink women,” she eased up, attempting a laugh to gauge the atmosphere.
Keisha perked up. “There's one in a window!”
“What?” Kendra and Dr. Wexmann blurted in unison.
“A window at the store! When we walked here, there was the biggest, bestest pink dress. But Mama said we had to hurry up and get our butts moving to get here.”
“Oh did I now?” Kendra asked emphatically. Dr. Wexmann chuckled.
“Well, I'm glad we've cleared that up. And it sounds like you have a stop you need to check out on your way home. After we sign the contract of course.”
“Oh shit, I got it?” Kendra words fell out of her mouth in excitement.
Keisha gasped. “Mama!”
“I mean, shoot, I got it?” Kendra tried quickly to correct herself, but Dr. Wexmann was unfazed.
“Yes, of course. This was always meant to be a congratulatory meeting,” she smiled. “I wanted to tell you the good news in person. WexWorld Toys is delighted to have Neesha join the family. She is exactly what we didn't realize we were missing, and those books as part of the doll line really round out Neesha's world. We expect kids are going to love Neesha as much as you and your daughter do.”
“Thank you so much,” Kendra said, slack-jawed.
“Mama?” Keisha said, confused.
“We did it, baby!” Kendra picked her daughter up and swung her around while Keisha laughed in delight. “Oh honey, we did it!”
Dr. Wexmann smiled. “Alright, you know what? How about I take the three of us out to lunch. I can push back my next couple meetings. This is a time to celebrate, after all.”
“Oh, no, I wouldn't want to impose-” (The assistant said you were a stickler to keep everything on time but okay)
“Grilled cheese!” Keisha shouted, not missing a beat. She wriggled out of her Mama's arms like a wiggly worm, one of the ones from her best teacher Ms. Mathew's garden.
Dr. Wexmann held open the door from her office back into her private lobby, letting Kendra lead her daughter out.
“And then we can see the dress?” Keisha hoped.
“Yes, then we will go see this wonderful pink dress.” Kendra agreed. Nothing could take her out of this high.
Dr. Wexmann spoke up with a serious tone. “We better get our butts moving to make it before lunch rush.”
Kendra immediately tensed and froze. Now it was Keisha's turn to tug at her mom's arm, unaware of the grown ups and determined to get her grilled cheese and then show her mom the most pinkest dress ever.
Dr. Wexmann laughed, serious tone abandoned. Kendra eased up.
“You think I never said that before? Kendra, please, I have three boys.”