A Good Friend
Chapter 1 - Who Are You?
I don’t remember a lot of what happened before it all started. I was having a tough time and I guess a lot of it was to do with leaving high school. All of a sudden, everyone was suddenly treating me like I needed to be something great. Everyone expected something from me and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t cope and most of it was just a blur. Before I knew it, it was my first day at college. I felt very tired. The way mum treated it like a night out only made me feel exhausted. Mum rushed off to tend to breakfast and left me to get ready. I meandered into the bathroom and looked at the cabinet window. I looked terrible and that meant lots of work to do before I looked presentable for college. I gave a deep sigh and continued to look down and pick up my toothbrush from the cup next to the sink.
When I looked up again it took me a few minutes to realise a stranger was standing behind me. I almost jumped out of my skin. Then I fell over backwards with a great crash only to get laughed at by an unknown voice.
“Oh my God! That was fucking hilarious!”
I quickly turned around to see another creature standing on the opposite side of the room with her face still scrunched up from laughing as she looked back at me. She was the same age as me with perhaps a slightly darker shade of fur. She started to regain her composure, stood with an air of confidence and she looked at me with a sort of inquisitive stare.
“Well? Aren’t you going to say something, genius?” she said looking a little uncomfortable.
I did indeed realise I was staring at her for longer than perhaps socially acceptable but what else can you expect someone to do when they have just discovered someone had broken into their house and started talking to them like they were supposed to be there.
“YES!” I yelled in response “Who are you and what are you doing in my house?!” I screamed in panic.
“Because I want to” she said suddenly snapping at me like I was scolding her for something she didn’t do.
While I was still trying to process this, mum called from downstairs asking me if I was anywhere near ready. Suddenly I remembered that I didn’t have time for this. I chose to get ready instead and try to ignore this. Surely no-one would do something like this. I must be imagining things. So I started to rush around and pick up my stuff for college.
“Alright, suit yourself. Asshole” the stranger said.
I turned to look at her but I didn’t see her in the doorway anymore. I froze for a second. Where is she?! If I don’t know where she is and she is real then she could be doing something dangerous. So I rushed over to the bathroom to find her and again I didn’t see her. I slowly turned around to go back to my room after breathing a sigh of relief only to be taken aback with shock when I saw her casually lying on my bed.
It was then that I noticed something, a long red thing trailing from behind her. I thought it was strange as it didn’t look like any fashion I had bought as red doesn’t even suit me. And then it moved. WHAT?! I yelled in my head as I realised it was a scaly tail.
“Quit staring, I thought you needed to get ready for college. So much of a smartarse you are if you can’t even get ready in the morning” she said as she rolled over to look at me and then I noticed something else protruding from her back. Were those bat wings?!
“What ARE you?” I heard myself saying out loud.
“Well, what are you, you fucking genius? Do I need to spell everything out for you?”
“B-but you have...” Then she leaned further towards me on the bed and gave me a serious and aggressive looking stare as she said “what?”
I soon realised that perhaps she had taken offense at what I was suggesting and I was wise enough to know to shut up at that moment.
Then I could hear mum coming up the stairs. I panicked and tried to tell her not to come up but mum, being the way she was, was having none of it. When she came into the room, I froze and expected the worst but she instead yelled at me for not being ready and started rushing around my room grabbing stuff for me. I looked around but I saw nobody anywhere in the room.
“What is up with you today or any day recently for that matter?” mum muttered angrily as she gathered my things.
“Common. Put this on! Quickly!” she said as she shoved some clothes into my hands. I shook my head to try and snap out of it and started to hurriedly put the clothes on.
We were so late in getting ready mum shoved me out the door without breakfast. The college was nearby so she shut the door and left me to walk the way there. I sighed. I was tired.
“Geez, you look like shit” I heard a voice the second time running that scared the living daylights out of me.
“Can you stop doing that?!” I yelled at her.
“Doing what?” She gave me a cheeky look like she knew exactly what she had done but I wasn’t willing to argue right now so I sighed and started walking. I noticed her follow alongside me for a while before she jumped in front of me.
“So you are just gonna ignore me now?” She said sounding irritated. I gently pushed her out of the way and continued to walk. She gave me a look of complete disbelief as I went by her.
“You fucking kidding me?!” She yelled out loud and I still continued to ignore her.
She must be a figment of my imagination. She can’t be real. It made no sense for her to be real. I just needed to calm down and she would disappear. I had always had an overactive imagination anyway. My mum has said so before and I always have had vivid dreams with long stories and characters. I guess it wasn’t far from understandable to come up with something like this but still I had never had my imagination interfere with my wide awake life before. Now things had become quieter. I had a strange feeling that maybe I had been a little harsh in some way. I know I had offended her earlier and then it occurred to me that maybe apologising would make me feel better and would make her disappear.
So I turned and looked at her to see how she was feeling. She was still very much there, staring into the sky with her hands behind her head and looking very bored.
After staring back at her for a while, she looked back at me before looking irritated and saying “what are you looking at?” I quickly turned away before an argument started.
She was there the whole time but we were both quiet for a long time on the walk there. Then she started to look around and make less than desirable comments about the people passing us. No-one seemed to turn around though. As if she wasn’t there at all and they hadn’t heard her. So she can’t be real surely. But she just felt so real. She was right next to me. I could sense her presence like a real creature. I could smell her. I could hear her. I could see her tail and I wondered whether I could feel her to.
But I soon got the sense that she wasn’t pleased and I was welcomed by a not so happy face when I looked up from her tail. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” she said sounding quieter than before.
“I wonder the answer to that myself” I said in all honesty to myself as well as in response to her.
She sighed and she sounded rather upset. It made me feel rather guilty. Perhaps I had been a bit judgemental with her appearance. And then I remembered that she had broken into my house in the first place. And then I remembered that this train of thought was silly because SHE ISN’T REAL! I put my hand to head. I just couldn’t take it all in. ‘Please don’t let this happen to me’ I said to myself ‘not today of all days’.
“Look. I don’t know why I am here either, OK?” I looked at her with confusion and she just stared down at the floor looking forlorn. I decided it was best not to talk about it. Perhaps we were both having a bad day.
We eventually go to the college and by that point my companion was complaining about how tired she was. When she saw the college she asked excitedly if that was it and when I said yes she bolted towards the door, yelling for me to hurry up. Was she attending the college to? Perhaps she was trying to make friends? I didn’t see why she had to follow me if she wasn’t and what on earth did she mean by ‘I don’t know why I am here either?’ But, again, I digress and I guess I just have to wait and see whether she will disappear or not. Hopefully, she will disappear before I get to my first meeting in the college.
When I entered she continued to wander next to me and comment on the others. “Shit, she’s fat! Oh and look at her! I bet she is a right bitch with that jacket. Oh, do you seriously think you look good in THAT T-Shirt. Jesus Christ, what a retard.”
I desperately tried to ignore her but I drew the line at calling someone retarded “Can you please STOP!” I yelled and everyone turned around to look at me like some kind of cartoon sketch. It was horrible.
“Oh great move there, genius. What are you even studying anyway? Can’t be psycholestorol or whatever it is called. Eh I don’t give a fuck” I just put my head down and continued onward without a word for a while before she started making comments again.
“I just want to go to class and get this day over with. Please. I just want to go to class” I said to her.
She soon stopped grinning and she started to fidget a lot by rubbing the back of her neck with her right hand. “alright, alright” She mumbled quietly.
Everything was quiet again for a while before we reached the introduction meeting in a large room with chairs all around a stage. Not unlike a football stadium but drenched in black paint on all the surfaces and the most decrepit grey plastic chairs. Because I was late, most people had already sat down. I sat as far away from everyone as I could to avoid conversation and I slunk towards my chair like I was a government agent on a mission. I didn’t want people to notice me. Since I was so late they were bound to stare and I was right and they did. I plopped into my chair. This was turning out to be a horrible day. I felt very sorry for myself. I looked over at the stranger and she just sat quietly next to me and looked away from me when she saw me looking at her. I felt even worse.
“I’m sorry” I whimpered.
That was all I could find the power to say. She didn’t say a word but fidgeted in her chair. I was sure she was upset with me. I put my head in my hands and tried to hold back tears. The stranger stood up and left without saying a word. I stared as she slowly left me alone. Even my imaginary friend didn’t want to be with me now. I sank into myself and started to cry.
Nobody supported me or said anything about it. I hoped they wouldn’t in a way as I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Then after a while the introduction assembly started. I started to feel a little better now I had something other than my misery to focus on. However, my mind kept skipping back to that stranger. I had offended her and I felt awful. Maybe she was just trying to be friendly. It’s not her fault if she is not good at it. Then when the meeting was over and I walked out with everyone else I felt very lonely.
Then I looked for a secluded area to sit down outside for my break. I needed to think for a while. Then I heard some footsteps coming my way. I looked up and saw a group of young boys. Their stance was very boisterous and confident and a little threatening. I saw it coming. Something was wrong about this group. They were here to torment me. I know a bully when I see one. I have had my fair share of them before. I tried to ignore them but they didn’t like that at all. After a few threats one of them grabbed me by the neck. I cringed. Ready for the attack but then I stumbled backwards as I saw him take a clean hit to the face with a clenched fist.
As he stumbled to the floor I heard someone screaming “Fuck off, asshole! She’s my bitch!” I knew that voice and I can’t believe how happy I was to hear it.
She was back again. Not only that but she was defending me. I couldn’t believe it. No-one had cared about me like this before. But I was still scared. What if she just wanted to punish me as well? Well for now I didn’t care as long as I didn’t have to get hit for a while. The other guys just stared in fear at the sight of this creature glaring at them. Then I saw her hair stand on end and her wings raised high and spread wide. She let out this enormous high pitch screech and the guys ran for their life. I was behind so I didn’t see what they saw but the screech was terrifying enough for me.
She turned to me and I pulled back a little but she didn’t attack me. She let out her hand instead and said. “Get up”. I did as I was told. Then she said. “Are you alright?” I saw her eyes soften as she said it.
I felt like she meant it. I felt my eye as it was sore. “Godammit!” She said looking away quickly and clenching her fist. She seemed frustrated with herself. As if she had failed me somehow. Then the bell rang “So much for a break” she said without turning to face me.
“yeah” was all I could think of saying. I felt like an idiot.
“Fuck class” she said to my surprise as she broke the quiet moment “you better get to the nurse or something”
“n-no I’m fine” I said.
She looked at me and I got the feeling she was worried about me. I never felt so loved before and from a stranger. This was a very strange day. But somehow I felt obliged to her to. Whatever she was I didn’t even care. She was more of a friend than anyone else so far.
“I’m sorry” I muttered under my breath as we walked to class. She stopped but didn’t turn around
“for what?” she responded eventually
“I haven’t been very...” I didn’t know how to say it but it seemed I didn’t need to.
Soon she cut the awkward silence “I am the one that should be sorry” there was a short pause before she continued “I have been treating you like shit all day”. I looked down. I felt bad for her but I wasn’t going to lie and say she wasn’t being nasty to me earlier. “you wanna know why?” she said. I looked up at her as she turned around to look at me straight in the eyes. Then after a few seconds her face changed to look tired as she closed her eyes and faced the sky. She put her hand to her stomach and spoke up “I’m fucking starving!” I couldn’t help but laugh. I tried to cover my mouth so not to offend her but she soon started joining in. We laughed for a while before I quickly remembered we were supposed to be going to class.
We started having a conversation about food as we went down the hallway and I started to feel very hungry. It seemed she noticed because she turned around and stopped me in my tracks to say “We are already late to class. Let’s just go to the cafeteria instead” she suggested. I was immediately opposed to the idea until my stomach growled at me. “Well that’s that then. Come on!” The stranger said as she pulled me along by the arm towards the cafeteria. I was surprised to find I could feel her. I had never heard of an imaginary friend being able to pull you along or punch someone or anything. I was now really confused. Why did no-one react to her on the street and yet they do when the bullies were there? Nevertheless, another question entered my mind.
“But we don’t even know where the cafeteria is” I said but soon I realised I could smell the delicious smell of curry in the air.
“You have a nose don’t you?” she said like I was an idiot yet again.
Nevertheless, I started to get the feeling she meant it in a nice way. I saw her smile wide as she dragged me along behind her. Her smile was rather sweet in a strange way. Well friends are not always perfect as my mum has made sure to tell me many times. Perhaps this is what having a real friend is like.
I was so lost in thought she had to click her fingers in my face to get my attention. Well at least she tried to but she got frustrated pretty quickly as she couldn’t do it properly. “Ugh, anyway, we are here” she said as we approached a set of doors.
“Oh, we are too late. They are locked” I said sadly.
“So? We’ll break in. all the more food for us and no queues” she said as if it was obvious and no problem at all.
“oh no no no no!” I said backing away. “I am NOT going to break into the cafeteria!”
“but you’re hungry aren’t you?”
“well yes but”
“aaand we are in!” she said as she completely ignored me and used a long claw to lock pick the doors. And yes, I didn’t realise she had long claws until this moment either.
“wait!” I yelled as she wandered into the cafeteria.
I stood outside for a while panicking. I had no idea what to do but I didn’t want her to get in trouble so I ran in to try and convince her to get out before anyone noticed us. When I ran in I was suddenly lost in the smell of delicious food. I had no breakfast or lunch so it was no surprise I was taken by the smell but I couldn’t let temptation affect me. I couldn’t do something like this on my first day! I tried to explain this to her but she wasn’t listening in the slightest and had soon pulled out some curry and tuna and cucumber sandwiches. She shoved the sandwich in my mouth before handing me the whole tray of curry, which was still hot by the way.
“ow!” I yelled as she put it in my hands and I dropped it on my feet and screamed in pain.
“Oh geez sorry. Pfft!” she tried to sound sincere but she obviously found it rather funny.
“It’s not funny!” I yelled at her but she didn’t take it seriously
“just shut up and eat. You might as well now right?” she had a point. She wasn’t going to take no as an answer and we had already messed around with everything so we might as well fill up our bellies at the same time.
I started hesitantly with the sandwich but I soon ended up losing control and scoffed the curry down. I ate almost the whole tray before she actually snatched it off me.
“woah hold your horses! Fuck!” she said as she took the tray away to put it back. Then she stopped, shrugged and chucked it on the floor.
“what are you doing?! At least put it back!” I yelled at her but she just responded
“what’s the point in that?” and I kinda agreed with her. I really wish I didn’t though.
I had never done anything like this in all my life. It was amazing how she had such a way of convincing me. Nevertheless, I was terrified. “What if someone finds us here? What if they find finger prints and know it was us?” I yelled in panic but she just put her arm around me completely relaxed.
“who cares!” she cried happily. “come on! You can’t tell me you haven’t always wanted to do something like this! You live such a stupid and boring life. Just have fun once in a while. Fuck the rules!” she seemed very proud to speak of it like she had been awoken by it like some sort of religion.
“no no no! we should be in class by now!” she sighed a deep sigh.
“ok ok I guess we will go to class now. I’m bored now anyway and there is nothing else to do here” and with that she wandered out of the room. Before I could get out of my pure disbelief of the events that had transpired she called out to me “you coming?” from out the doorway so I snapped out of it and followed.
Chapter 2 - Quitting School
She followed me the whole way to class and we talked about what we might expect when we get there. She was not at all interested in going so I got the feeling she was returning the favour by doing something I wanted. She was really trying to get me to like her and I sort of felt bad for her. Perhaps her outrageous personality was just too much for most creatures and she just couldn’t make a good friend. Nevertheless, she wasn’t completely unlikable. She had saved me from the bullies and she did seem to care about me to some extent although she wasn’t the best at expressing it. I guess I should give her the benefit of the doubt and let her stay with me for now. It was nice to have company on a hard day like today anyway.
Then we finally got to class. When we got there I opened the door for her but she was no longer behind me. I was worried for a second before I then remembered she had done this before so I let it be. The teacher however was not happy with me. It was very embarrassing when the teacher not only blamed me for being late but pointed out the spilled curry on my legs. I blushed and shuffled to my seat as the class laughed at me. I wanted to curl up tight within myself as if once I had done that tight enough I might disappear altogether. Class was indeed rather boring and mostly consisted of telling us where things were and who the teachers were etc etc. I usually try to stay engaged in lessons but even I found this lesson particularly boring and pointless.
After a while I felt something prick my shoulder. I looked past my shoulder but didn’t see anyone. Then I felt a paw touch my knee and I looked down to see that girl yet again but this time under my desk!
“what are you doing there!” I whispered at her in panic that the teacher might see.
“This lesson is boring as shit!” she whispered back.
“Get back to your desk!” I yelled back at her
“Fuck off! You’re not the boss of me!” she whispered back. I kinda felt bad for upsetting her but at the same time I desperately didn’t want to get caught doing this.
I wished I could join her under the desk yes but that doesn’t mean I should! While I was contemplating what to say the teacher told me to sit up. I did as I was told immediately.
“For fuck sake! You are like a robot!” she whispered to me. I tried not to respond. If I ignored her perhaps she would get the message.
“Oh ignore me again sure” she said sounding very irritated. I didn’t want her to feel bad so I waited for my moment and bent down again to speak to her.
“Just leave me alone please. I don’t want to get in trouble. Go back to your desk” I whispered to her, trying to reason with her.
“I don’t know what you are talking about. What desk?” she asked looking rather puzzled. Now I was also puzzled.
“You mean you are not a student!” I whispered in shock.
“haha no! Of course not! What makes you think I want to learn shit!” she said a little too loudly it seemed because the teacher noticed again.
“What on earth is so interesting under there which is more important than my class” the teacher said sternly. I just looked down in shame, wondering what on earth to say but I didn’t have to respond because a classmate did do for me.
“she was talking to the gum underneath the desk!” a fellow classmate cried.
The rest of the class laughed and I just curled up tighter and tighter. I told myself in my head over and over not to take offense. Not to listen to them. Not to be upset but it didn’t work.
“Nice try” the teacher said to the other student.
“But it’s true! She was talking to herself! She’s a freak!” At that moment my heart broke.
I could feel my deepest fears and sorrow coming from deep within me and manifesting themselves as tears in my eyes. I tried to look away to the window of the classroom to find anything to take comfort in and I saw her yet again looking at me. This time she looked pretty upset and not angry in any way. She looked like she felt sorry for me.
This however, only made me more upset. “oh fuck off!” I yelled at her without thinking before crying my eyes out and running out the classroom.
It was the only thing I could think of doing and I ran and ran and ran away all the way to the other end of the school. Then I ran out to the playground and sat and cried and cried. When I had cried for some time and calmed down, I looked up to see her right there staring at me but when I looked at her she turned away.
“What?! Do you hate me to now?!” I cried in anger.
“No! of course not!” she cried back. Not sounding angry in the slightest.
“Why are you here? Why are you ruining my life?!” I screamed at her and she just stood there looking down at the floor. I don’t think she knew what to say.
Then after a while of silence she knelt down to my level and gave me a hug. Something about it felt very genuine, unlike any hug I have ever had before. I found my anger just melting away and I put my arms around her and cried some more. After a while she pulled away quickly and stood up as if desperately wanting to get out of this situation.
“What am I going to do now?” I asked her. I really had no idea. She stood looking sadly at the floor and said nothing.
Then she suddenly yelled “I got an idea!” she said out loud and sounding much happier all of a sudden.
“what?” I asked, my voice still croaky with tears.
“Let’s just go home!”
“no we can’t. as much as I would like to we can’t”
“why not?!” she cried.
“we will get in trouble”
“Oh come on! What do you think we are here for!” she cried and she did have a good point. But I tried not to let her influence me again.
“This only happened because...” I found myself getting angry again and I stopped myself before saying something I regret but she knew what I meant.
“of me. yeah” she said with a sigh as she looked out to the great outdoors beyond the school yard.
“I-I’m sorry but it’s true. I really didn’t want to get into trouble today of all days” I said.
“Well what’s done is done. What matters now is what we do next”
“why are you here” I asked again
“I told you I don’t know” she said as if she wished she did
“but how do you not know?”
“you tell me! I only know as much as you do!” she said.
“But someone can’t just appear for no reason”
“can’t they?” she said as she looked me straight in the eyes.
“No no come on now. I don’t want to offend you but you clearly can’t be real”
“oh great. I’m not real now am I?”
“I’m sorry but I can’t think of any other way to explain this”
“Well like how you disappear and then reappear all the time. How people either don’t notice you or they do. It makes no sense!”
“Well it’s not hard to slip past you without you noticing. It’s like you are barely awake half the time”
“I guess so. Are you saying you are real?”
“Do I really have to answer that?”
“What is wrong with you?” she said sounding rather concerned and confused
“I don’t know!” I yelled at myself before sitting down again and realising I didn’t have something to sit on.
I fell backwards and slammed by bottom half pretty hard on the hard concrete floor. “Woah! You OK?!” she immediately asked as she came to my aid. I started to laugh uncontrollably and she quickly realised I wasn’t ok.
She knelt down to me again and shook my shoulders to get my attention “come on. Don’t freak out on me ok?” she said with a nice degree of kindness.
“oh god” I said to myself I tried to calm down.
“Don’t worry. Everything will be fine. Creatures have survived worse” she was right yet again. I took a deep breath and collected myself before letting her help me back up.
“ow my ass” I said as I got up. “oh goodness now you have me swearing” She laughed cheerfully and I admit it made me smile. “So. If you are so full of ideas what do we do now then?” I asked her.
“Like I said. Go home!”
“mum will be furious”
“well then lets waste some time before we go home. What do you want to do?”
“I want candy” I said, perking up with the idea
“Damn right! Let’s go get some then!” she said.
“But those guys took my money”
“Did they?” she said as she pulled out my money from behind her back.
“You didn’t think I would beat the crap out of them and then just leave the cash right?”
“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
“ermmm” suddenly she looked rather guilty. I had an idea what she was thinking. She quickly changed the subject. “Let’s just go! Come on!” She said as she dragged me along with her yet again.
We went to many different shops and got way too many sweets. I had never done something like this in all my life and yet somehow the day felt rather good at the end. We saw the sun going down as we drank the last of our soda and it took us a moment to realise our mistake.
“Oh shit!” she yelled as she realised and I screamed in unison with her. We ran as fast as we could home but mum was waiting at the door looking worried sick. I had never been around the shops on my own before so it was no surprise she would be worried about me.
I looked to my side to see my friend but she was already gone. “Oh great you go now?!” I yelled at her but forgetting my mother was right there.
“You didn’t get detention did you?”
“errrr. Noooo...” I tried to avoid the truth but not lie. I couldn’t tell her what actually happened but it was true it wasn’t detention I was late for. No doubt I would get one some other time.
Mum knew I was a terrible liar so she didn’t believe me “oh my goodness, on your first day?!” she sounded more concerned than angry. I hung my head in shame. I couldn’t argue. It was a better excuse than what the real reason was. “Nevermind, it’s getting very late. Your dinner has gone cold” she said with a sigh as she went back inside. I just followed her and hung my head.
Luckily, mum avoided too much talk about school and I was able to not talk about it. I didn’t like the bad feeling though and I went to my room feeling rather down. I also had stomach ache from all the candy and I had to tell mum after all this time I didn’t want my dinner. She just sighed and told me to go to my room early so I did. When I got to my room that stranger I had got so strangely familiar with was there above me. She keeled down to see me on my side on my bed.
“Hey. At least the candy was awesome” she said, I think in an attempt to comfort me.
“Yeah. It was pretty fun actually” I said before wincing in pain from my stomach.
“Ah sorry about that. Can’t have everything I guess but it was fun while it lasted”
“umhum” I murmured in agreement.
“You look tired. Probably should just try to sleep”
“Yeah I guess so” she went and closed my window blinds and turned the light off for me as I lay in bed.
“Where are you going to sleep? Wait...why are you in my house?!” I tried turn to yell at her but moving made my stomach hurt more.
“Just shut up and sleep. I don’t have anywhere else to go so I’m gonna stay here. At least for tonight. Besides, I can’t leave you alone can I? You can barely handle yourself”
“I guess you are right” I sighed.
“I’m fucking knackered! Good thing you have a spare blanket” she said as she curled up in it.
“I admit. I like your company. Thanks for staying with me when I was upset. Even if you were partially the problem to begin with” I said as her back was turned.
She didn’t bother to turn around as she said “shut up and sleep already!” I got the feeling she liked to hear that although she didn’t respond directly. So I let my eyes close and I was surprised with how quickly I fell asleep.
Chapter 3 - Consequences
The next morning, I was rearing to go. I felt quite a lot better than yesterday. I smiled as I saw her face in the morning. I felt the need to strike conversation. “Oh I just realised! I still haven’t got a name from you yet!”
“Oh yeah” she said but carried on staring at me getting ready.
“sooooo...” I tried to encourage her to answer
“what’s your name?” I laughed, baffled she didn’t understand the question
“I don’t have one”
“You’re kidding me!”
“No really I don’t. Call me whatever you want to call me. You can call me fuckface for all I care”
“Oh no of course not” I decided that perhaps she had some sort of bad past she didn’t want to mention so I let it slide and started to think of what to call her. I looked her in the eyes and saw her beautiful red pupils glowing in the soft light of the morning sun through my window. I had never noticed it before until now but her eyes just shone so beautifully it was hard to ignore now I had seen it.
“Ruby” I said as if it came out of my mouth without really thinking about it.
“Ruby! It’s your name!”
“What? That’s not cool! Why do you want to call me that?”
“Well your eyes are a beautiful shade of red like a ruby. You have very nice eyes”
“Oh shut up!”
“Ruby it is!”
“oh alright. I guess I can get used to it” she said but I could see her smiling.
In fact, I think she was rather happy to have a name as I’m sure anyone would be if they didn’t have one. I can’t imagine why she wouldn’t give herself a name over time and that brought me back to what she said earlier ‘I don’t know why I am here either’. Maybe she was imaginary after all but even so why did it matter. I had a friend and that was all that mattered to me right now. I heard what sounded like a rather angry mum yelling for me to come downstairs.
I presumed she wanted me to get breakfast so I came down but I only saw her looking very cross with me. Before I had a chance to ask she yelled “I just rung the school and they told me you missed most of your classes yesterday and that creatures saw you eating candy outside the school instead of going to class!” I had the extreme urge to leg it and I looked at Ruby and she seemed to agree.
I looked at my watch and found the perfect excuse “OK I can’t have breakfast I am gonna be late thanks bye!” I said in quick succession as I bolted out the door as fast as possible. Ruby smiled at me when I started to slow down a ways away from the house and we both laughed at how silly we were.
A part of me really enjoyed doing these things I had never had the bravery to do for so long. I had always been so tightly locked in my safety shell, doing everything and anything anyone wanted me to just to get by. There were so many things I wanted to do in life before I died and I worried I would never do them at this rate. I could die at any time not just when I am older and I would never get my younger years back. I knew that fact well. Nevertheless, was it really worth all the struggle?
“I think we better go to class for real this time and I promise to shut my mouth” Ruby said as we walked along.
“But?” Ruby questioned, at first looking confused but then growing a cheeky smile. “Oh I get it. You liked it didn’t you? You wanna do more! Haha awesome!”
I couldn’t let her encourage me into such feats again or perhaps something even worse than last time so I had to stop that train of thought at the station. “no no of course not! You’re right! We have got to go to class! This is the first and last time I ever do that!”
“you liar! You don’t think I know a lie when I hear one? I am the KING of lying!”
“yes! Why are you ashamed of it? You are young. You have never done anything fun in your life! You loved it yesterday! It was fun!”
“but that doesn’t mean we can just do it any time we want!”
I felt like I was speaking to a toddler at this point.
“Because I need a job! A career! A future! If I just party around all the time then how am I supposed to enjoy my later years?”
“How are you supposed to enjoy your life if you are constantly working and never actually, you know, ENJOY yourself”
I couldn’t help but feel she may be right but surely she wasn’t! Everyone had told me it was important to have education but it was true. I had been nothing but miserable my whole life until now, why would education make that any different? What if I don’t get a job anyway? What if I just end up wasting my youth with nothing but work when it turns out the only opportunity for fun I had was this time right now. I didn’t know what to think anymore.
“Well yesterday was pretty crazy sooo maybe we should just go easy today”
“that’s what I said in the first place!” I was glad we finally agreed on something. It was true yesterday was pretty tiring so I better see what today would throw at me so I could choose what to do next. One day at a time as they say.
Then when I entered the school and was greeted by the teacher I suddenly remembered that I still hadn’t been punished for the stuff I did yesterday. I could just see the look on the teachers face was not a good one and before I could say anything I was sent to the principal’s office. ‘oh no’ I said to myself as I slunk across the hallway towards his office. I was bound to be in more trouble than I had ever been in before. I had always been one to play by the rules, even if it was just for the sake of not having to argue with anybody. It felt very strange to think I was actually going to be punished not just with detention but by going to the principal’s office! After a moment of silence, Ruby spoke up.
“do...do we have to go to his office?” she said sounding genuinely a little unnerved.
“yes” was the only thing I answered with. I was trying not to let it affect me by thinking about it as little as possible but that was pretty much impossible. “we are lucky if we don’t get suspended for this” I said as I realised how dire my situation was. Ruby just looked down to the floor and didn’t say another word. I don’t think she had any idea what to say. Nothing she could say would help the situation. We just had to put up with the consequences of our actions.
When I arrived, I was surprised to see the principal looking rather calm and sympathetic towards me. He explained that he knew I hadn’t done anything like this before as he checked my records from the previous school. He gave me a long talk about the pressure of a new school and giving me a second chance. I didn’t really pay much attention once I knew what he was talking about as there wasn’t any point. He just ended up repeating himself a lot anyway and when he mentioned my imaginary friend and how that represented my struggling he lost any and all interest I had left at that point.
Once I left the room and got a good distance away towards my classroom, Ruby popped up and made me jump as she started to pace with frustration in front me.
“JESUS CHRIST WHAT AN ASSHOLE!!” She yelled
“I mean, who the hell does he think he is telling you that shit! So you talk to yourself. It’s not like you need counselling!” she continued in blind rage. I tried to let her vent and kept my mouth shut so I didn’t escalate it but I couldn’t help but agree with her somewhat.
It was very presumptuous for him to talk about those things and he was being very patronising like he thought I just needed to be talked down to in order to fix the problem or something. It almost made me want to do it all again just to spite him but that wouldn’t be a smart thing to do. Besides, I couldn’t risk my mother getting any more angry with me as my mum is terrifying when she is mad.
After some time of ranting Ruby turned around and faced me, stopping me in my tracks.
“Why are you still walking to class?! Do you WANT to do what this asshole tells you?!” She enthused
“I think you are getting a little ahead of yourself, Ruby. It’s better to just keep things quiet for now. It’s never good to make decisions on impulse.” I explained.
Ruby was so angry she found it very difficult to contain her rage but she wasn’t mad at me so she tried her best to cool down by taking some deep breaths. After a while she was fine. It seemed she was able to cool down as quickly as she fired up. She was indeed a very strange creature as she seemed to go from one extreme to the other pretty easily. Nevertheless, she had passion which she put into everything which was rather nice.
“I wish I could be as brave and strong as you” I found slipping out of my mouth before I had completely decided to say it.
“What are you talking about? I’m not-” Ruby was about to say something but then looked at me and quickly back peddled
“Well yes. I am great! But... you aren’t too bad yourself” Ruby couldn’t look at me straight when she said it. I got the feeling she was feeling embarrassed or shy in some way.
“Oh come on, your just flattering me now. What could I have possibly done which could be considered brave?” I asked
“Well...errrrr...” Ruby struggled to come up with an answer
“You were scared to go to the Principals office but you did it anyway didn’t you?” Ruby smiled at me but I wasn’t buying it
“And I was sobbing my heart out yesterday because someone laughed at me” I argued
“Oh come on! That doesn’t matter! Anyone would be upset in a situation like that. That doesn’t make you a coward. Besides, who gives two shits about what those guys think anyway?”
I could tell Ruby was trying to be comforting and it left me with a warm feeling in my heart to know someone actually cared about my feelings without any indication to do so. I couldn’t help but smile as the feeling warmed my soul.
“thank you” I said quieter than I hoped. I wanted to thank her but I was also a little afraid to look too desperate too soon. It was this kind of thing that gets me thought of as such a weirdo in the first place. I felt obliged to say it at least.
“What?” Ruby asked
Oh thank goodness she didn’t hear me.
“It’s nothing, nevermind” I answered.
Ruby just accepted it without a word and turned back to see where she was walking.
Then she quickly turned around again and yelled “We are here!”
I shushed her straight away and whispered “Be quiet! They are trying to learn in there!”
Ruby quickly covered her mouth “oh fuck” she whispered which I couldn’t help but giggle a little at, although I quickly stopped myself so I wouldn’t make the same mistake.
Chapter 4 - The Fight
The rest of the day went surprisingly OK. Ruby kept quiet as she promised and I didn’t see her as I concentrated on my lessons. We chatted casually about each lesson while in the corridors in-between rooms and chatted even more walking to the cafeteria. I made sure to actually buy my food this time but I was curious as to how Ruby seemed to be just standing next to me and not attempting to buy food herself.
Then I remembered. She said she wasn’t a student but then what was she going to eat I wondered. Ruby did indeed look very hungry as she eyed up the chicken drumsticks on offer but one look at me and she turned away and tried not to look interested. I wasn’t sure why. Why would I judge her for something like that. Of course she was hungry, it’s only natural. Perhaps she felt like I would feel obliged to help her if she looked to sorry for herself. Either way I didn’t care.
“Don’t you want something?” I asked as she kept looking away from me and the food
“I can lend you some money if you want. I have enough so you can buy some to”
“No no, I’m fine” she insisted but I didn’t believe her.
I continued to grab some chicken drumsticks for my plate and offered them to her after I found an uncrowded place to sit. She seemed surprised at first that I would even care but she didn’t take much reassuring before she gobbled it all down like a ravenous wolf. After that she relaxed and slunk into the chair as if she had just reached melting point. Then before I knew it, she had fallen asleep.
I couldn’t help but smile. It was adorable. Now it felt like she was more of a pet than a person but no matter. I was happy to spend some time in peace as her energetic personality could be a bit overbearing at times. I shook her gently awake when it was time to go and she drowsily followed me to class for another set of average lessons before it was time to go home. Ruby seemed like she still hadn’t quite woken up from her dinner time nap as she was still yawning on the way home.
“You look exhausted. You should probably go to bed when we get home” I told her on the way to the bus-stop before it then occurred to me how strange that still sounded.
‘when WE get HOME?’ Was I considering her family now? Was my home her home now? This was all very strange but somehow it felt even stranger to question it at this point and I couldn’t be bothered at this point to be honest. Then I remembered mum. Oh dear.
“What do you think mum will do to us when we get home?” I asked Ruby worriedly
“Ahhh, don’t worry about it” She replied in her usual laid back and uncaring manner “I’m sure it will be fine. The headmaster didn’t really punish us after all, did he?”
“Stop being such a worry wort! What exactly is she gonna do? You’re only home for half the day anyway”
I hate to admit it but again she had a point but thinking about how she could punish me made me feel even worse. I kept quiet and tried not to talk to Ruby anymore as she was still trying to sleep on the bus and I didn’t want to disturb her anymore. When we got home we both cautiously walked in.
“How was school?” Mum called to me without coming to see me. I could hear her washing the pots in the kitchen.
“It was OK... I guess” I replied, not knowing what else to say.
“Did you talk to the headmaster?” I could hear a sternness in her voice which told me she was still irritated with me so I decided it was best to keep my distance.
“Yes” I probably should have said more than that but I didn’t want to sound pleading so I waited for her response.
“Well, go to your room then. I’m sure you already know enough not to do all that again” I hummed in a ‘yes’ type fashion before going to my room.
In doing so, I realised with the last thing she said that she must have been told by the headmaster that he would talk to me and she also thought I had had a proper grilling. Me and Ruby both silently agreed it was best not to let mum know the truth of the matter. Turned out I was only interested in going to my room anyway so me and Ruby chilled up there for a while.
I tried to read and Ruby fell asleep next to me. Seeing her so sleepy made me feel tired to though so I decided to join her in an afternoon nap.
Another day, another few lessons. The week went on about the same way so there isn’t much point in documenting all the details. Me and Ruby became more friendly over time and I learned to feel a little more comfortable about her presence in my life. I stopped questioning her existence at least for the most part. Sometimes I would stay awake at night and wonder who she was and why she was here but then the more I thought about it the more I realised it didn’t matter to me and there was no point in worrying as the answers were not likely to be easy to find.
However, as the week went on, I started to feel a bit more wary of another problem. It seemed ever since Ruby has appeared people started to give me a bit of a wider birth. At first I thought it was just my imagination or I tried to ignore it but over time it became increasingly clear people felt uncomfortable around me and the less careful I was about talking back to Ruby the more obvious it seemed.
“Don’t fucking worry about it. Who cares what they think?!” Is what Ruby kept trying to tell me but I couldn’t shake the unnerving feeling everyone disliked me.
Well not in a hating kind of way, more in a scared kind of way. It wasn’t just my fellow students either. I found the teachers, as they passed me in corridors and such, most seemed to have a look of worry in their eyes. Like they felt sorry for me. I didn’t understand what was going on and it made me feel very uncomfortable and anxious. I could tell Ruby didn’t like this as she kept desperately trying to talk to me about unrelated things and drag me into strange conversations which she clearly pulled out of the depths of her brain to distract me with.
I appreciated the effort so I tried to humour her but it was no use. There was no way to get this off my conscience. Something didn’t feel right. I also found that mums frustration and confusion about me talking to someone started to turn more and more into concern and worry. Mum tried talking to me several times about strange things she never mentioned before like stress and bullies at school. I didn’t want to bother her so I avoided telling her anything and hoped this would all pass over at some point.
That was when the incident happened. Me and Ruby were walking around minding our own business when some young girls came over in a group to talk to us, except it was more like an interrogation than a nice chat. She kept bringing up strange questions and I didn’t much like her tone. Seemed like another bully wanted a piece of me and this one was seemingly interred by the rumours going round about me. Oh boy.
Knowing what happened last time I knew this spelt trouble and I immediately turned my attention to Ruby who was already getting ready to strike at a moments notice.
“I know what you’re thinking Ruby but trust me, it isn’t worth it” I tried to tell her
“You wanna bet?” She said still in rage. She wasn’t quite there yet but she wasn’t going to listen to me so easily so I turned my attention then to the bullies.
“This has been all well and good but please can you leave us alone? We were just sitting here enjoying the sun and cool breeze” I realise this was a stupid thing to say and not at all helpful now yes I know but it was all I could think of at the time. What can I say? I am not known as a great negotiator.
“With who? All I see is a girl who is so fat and ugly the only friend she can get is in her head!” the girls then started to laugh together. It was a rather stupid insult but it hurt none the less. It touched all the wrong parts of my heart. I felt my eyes starting to water and that was when Ruby lost it.
“Alright THAT does it! You want some? Come and give me more fuel I fucking DARE you! Let’s see how well those precious words protect you from my fucking fist!” Ruby screamed in their face.
Unfortunately, the girls were unafraid and stood their ground looking very confident in themselves.
I pleaded with Ruby “Please Ruby! You are better than this!” but Ruby kept staring right into the head girls eyes as she stared right back.
The bully leaned forward and said “bring it on, bitch” and that was it
Ruby threw her whole body into a punch but they dodged it quickly and started stepping back as Ruby swung at them. I soon realised something was up but before I could warn Ruby it was too late. A bunch of boys came out from the shadows and dark corners of the school playground and flooded Ruby. She was defenceless in their attack. It was shameful. What’s worse is I wasn’t too far behind so I was also caught in the rush so we both ended up badly wounded.
After a few minutes of senseless beating, we both lay exhausted on the gravel ground as the last boys kicked our sores bodies and spit in our wounds before leaving us to bleed on the floor. Well I say it like that but it was mostly bruises and small cuts but it felt like a lot. Just the idea of being so defenceless and being attacked in such a way like it was some sort of war effort still felt surreal to me but it happened.
I tried to get up but my body didn’t want me to and it made it difficult. It felt like it took almost all my energy just to stand upright again. Every part of me ached from my head to my toes. I looked at Ruby and she was the same. I gave her a hand and helped her up and both almost fell over again doing so. Then I saw something I thought I would never see. I saw Ruby cry. She just put her hands to her face and starting bawling in front of me. I didn’t know what else to do so I put my arms around her and held her tight.
Unfortunately, that was when the P.E. teacher found us. She looked very angry with us.
I couldn’t imagine what we could have done wrong until she said “Some students told me you started a fight in the playground today. Is that true?” while she stood stiff with her arms crossed.
What could I say? I couldn’t exactly say no. It was technically Ruby who started the fight. Without thinking I tried to tell the truth and explain the situation in hopes my honestly would work but before I could barely say a word she cut me off.
“Here you are with this stupid rubbish again! What are you going to tell me? That your imaginary friend did it? You are going to the headmaster’s office right now!” I could tell she was absolutely livid. Not only that but she ranted for a good while while dragging us towards the headmaster’s office.
It seemed she had been thinking about this for quite some time and just now was letting off her steam about the matter. It made me wonder if some of the other teachers felt the same way. I felt powerless and scared as I was dragged to my fate. I had no idea what would happen now. Would I be expelled? It was a very big fight. I wouldn’t be surprised. Oh god, what will mum think?! Well there was no point in worrying about it now. There was no choice in the matter.
Chapter 5 - The Appointment
The teacher slammed me into the plastic chair next to the principal’s office and stomped down the hall murmuring to herself. Me and Ruby waited anxiously. No words needed to be spoken. It was pretty obvious how we both felt. Ruby put her tail around me as an attempt at comfort. It was a nice gesture but it looked like she needed just as much comfort as I did.
I expected the principal to be mad with me but instead I got the sinking feeling he was instead disappointed, which of course felt a million times worse. I had been bullied a million times so I knew the best thing to do was to keep my head down and stay quiet until it was over. I hoped Ruby wouldn’t try to do anything as we didn’t need this any worse than it was but considering how fearful she looked I doubt she would have actually have tried anything cheeky. She certainly wasn’t in the kind of mood for that now.
It went the best I could have hoped. He didn’t get angry and instead told me about how disappointed he was and didn’t question how quiet I was. I didn’t even look at him the whole time but he didn’t say anything about that either. Although, I did find of the things he said rather...odd.
For example, he mentioned bullying, stress and pressure a lot. From all the things he was saying it sounded like he was worried about my mental health rather than the fight I had been in. If this was what was going around it was no wonder the teachers and students were treating me weird. Who the hell said I was mental?! Great, just, great! Now there is nasty rumour going round that I am crazy and with Ruby around it won’t be easy to shake off if I even could to begin with.
I didn’t have any friends to lose and people mainly ignored me like I was invisible. That may have not been preferable but at least it’s better than this type of attention! That’s pretty much my entire school life ruined I bet, even more than it already was, which I didn’t even consider to be possible. ‘Oh what a hell of a week it’s been’ I thought to myself by the end of it all.
A few days of social torture later, trying to avoid the glaring gaze of the creeped out stares of students around every corner, I woke up to find out I had slept in. I rushed to get ready and yelled to mum asking why she didn’t wake me sooner, only to get a quiet response to come downstairs. I did as I was told, confused as to what was going on.
When I saw mum, she seemed stressed and worried about something. We both had the nervous habit of rubbing our left arm when we were nervous so it was easy to tell.
“Honey. You’re not going to school today” she said
What? I was dreadfully confused now. What could have possibly happened? Was I suspended? Surely the principal would have told me when he had the chance if that was the case.
“We...have an important appointment to go to” she continued
Double what? I was getting more and more confused by the second but considering how seriously worried mum seemed to be I thought the worst. Was I sick? How did that happen? I feel fine! Nevertheless, I didn’t want to bring out of mum because she obviously didn’t need it right now. Ruby didn’t seem to be around this morning either although it took me a while to notice that with all this going on. I didn’t much care though. I was too worried about the future.
It seemed not a moment had passed before the time came for the ‘appointment’. It was a pretty long drive. I didn’t dare look at the signs on the way in but it seemed we were somewhere medical that was for sure. At least the waiting room was comfortable. Me and mum didn’t end up speaking at all in the waiting room. Ruby appeared beside me and I was glad to see her. I felt like I needed her for this.
Then we went into a small room with a clever looking man on the end of a short table in a large chair. Me and mum also had chairs to sit in but these weren’t as big and grand as his and no doubt less comfortable. This wasn’t a doctor’s office. Where on earth were we? I saw a bookshelf covered in complex looking books on one side of the room and a box of various kids toys on the other.
“So...you are Mrs Windon I presume?” the man asked
“yes” mum said like a robot to its master
“and this must be Lily” he said as he turned to me
“does...she know why she is here today Mrs Windon?” he asked as he turned to my mum.
“no” she said she hung her head in shame. The man turned to me and I eagerly awaited the explanation I hoped for a long time now.
“How have you been feeling recently Lily? Have you been doing well?”
This question had a strange purpose I was sure so I answered as plainly as possible.
“I’m OK I guess” I answered
“and how is Ruby?”
“W-what?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“What the fuck is this; some sort of joke?! Well it isn’t fucking funny!” Ruby yelled.
“No please. Ruby, not now.” I tried to sooth her. Now was certainly not the time for this sort of reaction. I looked up at the man nervously but he didn’t seem shocked or surprised. Instead he just sat back in his chair in a sort of way I felt was a little smug, like he had somehow been proven right of something. I wondered. What on earth is this about?
“And you say she has never acted this way at home before?” The man asked as he turned his chair to face mum while still leaning back.
“No. Not at all” mum said sounding very shocked, concerned and upset
I looked at Ruby and Ruby stared back. We were both just as confused as each other here but staring at each other wasn’t giving us any answers.
“Sir, why am I here?” I asked the ultimate question on my mind. The man looked at my mum as if to get consent to speak to me and then turned to me again before answering.
“You have been in a lot of trouble at school recently, correct?” he asked me. I hung my head. I couldn’t deny that one and I wasn’t very happy about it.
“Well the school and your mother have both noticed you have been acting strangely of late and so they decided to contact me to see you”
“Well I know I have been behaving badly and I am very sorry about that but...t-there isn’t anything wrong with me I swear! I feel fine!”
“Well what about your friend?”
“Doesn’t Ruby want to talk about this? How does she feel?”
“Why the fuck do you keep asking about me?! Besides, it’s none of your fucking business how I have been!” Ruby said, turning away from the man in disgust
“Ruby!” I yelled in disgust at her rude behaviour
“When you did these things you got in trouble for at school, was Ruby there?” the man asked
“yes” I replied. Wondering what the implication of all this was
“It’s as I thought” The man said turning to my mum
“she is showing clear signs of having a split personality disorder”
“WHAT?!” Is what I thought but it seemed I must have screamed it out loud at the same time but considering the shock of the reveal it was no surprise I would do that.
“Oh you have to be fucking KIDDING ME! This is BULLSHIT! Come on Lily, let’s get the fuck outta here now!” Ruby yelled
But it was too late. My whole world seemed to spin as I thought about everything that had happened over these last few months. Surely, it wasn’t true! Ruby was a true friend! But...come to think of it. It all made no sense. The way she just appeared in my bedroom, the way I warmed to her so quickly, the way we were so close, the way she looked, the way people didn’t react to her...
“You see Mrs Winson. This Ruby character is a fiction of Lily’s imagination in order to help her cope with her stressful high school life. There were too many new things, too many pressures so she created a friend who could never let her down and would always be there when she needed it, like an imaginary friend but it’s more than that. This friend has become so real to her it has gone beyond just imagination but she actually believes this Ruby is real because she needs her and she can’t bear the thought of being without her”
“No” I said
“Sweetheart” mum tried to comfort me
“No” I said moving away from her. I couldn’t trust her. I couldn’t trust anyone!
“NO!” I screamed and ran out the room
“LILY!” Mum yelled after me but it was too late. I was already long gone. I ran as fast as my legs could carry me. I didn’t know where I was going. Anywhere but here would be fine. So many thoughts rushing through my head. I didn’t know what to believe anymore. The only thing I could think of doing was to cry and cry and I ran away.
I don’t know how long I ran for but eventually I got tired and I had to sit down on the pavement. I breathed so heavily I almost panicked as I couldn’t breathe. But Ruby was there to help as she reminded me to breathe in and out slowly as I had been taught in the past. But then something occurred to me.
“Wait...How could you know about that?! I didn’t tell you about that!” I screamed
“I thought it was common knowledge! Come on Lily, don’t do this to me!” Ruby begged
“Do you really believe that bullshit that man spewed to you?!” Ruby yelled
“I-I’m sorry Ruby. I-I didn’t mean it. I just...”
“Listen. It’s OK” Ruby said soothingly as she held me tight
“You know what? I don’t care even if it is true! I don’t want you to go!”
“and I don’t have to! Who cares what that jerk says?”
There was a pause as I calmed down a little again until Ruby broke the peace
“Let’s run away”
“What?” I said in disbelief
“I know it sounds scary but what other choice do we have? You know they are only going to force you to get rid of me and you need me. I know you do. This is all just a trick to make you think it’s OK for them to control you and your life! Well no more! Let’s go Lily! Let’s go!”
My heart was racing. It was such a rash and dangerous idea, like nothing I had ever done before. Would I even be able to? Before long me and Ruby heard the sound of police car sirens nearby.
“There isn’t much time! You have to decide now!” Ruby said in earnest as she tightly gripped both my shoulders.
I closed my eyes and nodded as Ruby pulled me away from the blaring noises of the sirens. Here we go.