Imaginary Friends – Chapter 1
Chapter One – Chuck
Ten-year-old Paige Holley opens her last birthday present from her parents as the other children at the party crowd around. Paige holds up a doll and turns to the empty chair next to her.
The children snicker as Mr. & Mrs. Holley exchange a glance.
That evening Mrs. Holley looks up from the book she’s reading in bed as Mr. Holley exits the bathroom, brushing his teeth.
“Don’t you think she’s a little old for that?” Mrs. Holley asks.
Mr. Holley swallows the toothpaste, a disgusting act that Mrs. Holley is still repulsed by, but has learned to live with. “The doll?”
“Talking to someone who isn’t there.”
“She’s got a vivid imagination.”
“The other kids laugh at her.”
“That’s what kids do. They’re assholes.”
Mrs. Holley sets her book down. “I’ve tried so hard to get her a real friend. She just won’t let Dorothy go. Parents have sent her home from play dates because her & Dorothy freak the other kids out.”
Mr. Holley smirks as he climbs into bed. “Maybe Dorothy’s real. Maybe she’s a spooky ghost like in the movies.”
Mrs. Holley rolls her eyes. “Night.”
Paige turns over in bed to Dorothy and smiles, her new doll tucked into the crook of her arm. “Night.”
“Night,” a small cricket smoking a tiny cigarette replies, leaning against the base of the lamp on her nightstand.
Paige’s eyes adjust in the dark to the microscopic lit embers as the tiny talking cricket blinks at her and she wakes the whole house with an ear-piercing scream.
Mrs. Holley tucks Paige back in as Mr. Holley shuts the lights back off, after exploring the carpet on hands and knees.
“No bugs in here.”
“It talked,” Paige insists.
“No, hon. Crickets chirp,” Mrs. Holley replies fretfully.
“It said ‘good night’.”
“And now we will, too,” Mr. Holley smiles, pulling his wife’s arm.
The couple walk back to their bedroom and Mrs. Holley rests her head on her husband’s shoulder. “That girl’s got more imaginary friends than real ones.”
“To be clear, I said ‘night’. Not ‘good night’. You’re adding implied sentiments that just aren’t there.”
“Who said that,” Paige whispers, her head secured firmly under her covers.
“Not that I want you to have a bad night, per se. It’s just that I never explicitly said ‘good night’. Just a simple ‘night’, a friendly acknowledgement that the evening has arrived.”
Paige peeks out from under her comforter at the cricket standing upright on her belly.
“Friendly?” Paige squeaks.
“Name’s Chuck. Sorry if I spooked you earlier.”
Paige sits upright in her bed, leaning against the three fluffy pillows she sleeps on. “How are you–are you real?”
“Real as cancer, kid.” Chuck strikes a minuscule match and lights another itsy bitsy cigarette, holding it up to her in a questioning manner. “You don’t mind, do you?”
Paige shakes her head. “What are you–what do you want from me?”
“Who, me?” Chuck lets out a pint-sized puff of smoke and smiles. “Why, I just wanna be your buddy.”
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