My Best Friend
Everyone said that imaginary friends aren’t real, but they were wrong.
It started when I was 8 years old. Traumatized by the death of my dog, he had always been there and I had just assumed he always would be. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around death, although the adults tried to explain.
I slipped into a confused and sad state, without my dog to talk to in the backyard, I didn’t know who to tell about the bad things that had happened to me in my short life. I just sat in the grass. The other children avoided me, they didn’t know how to deal with me either. But he never avoided me.
The first time I saw Tony was when I sat on the grass like always. My eyes were glazed over, dry and red from crying when he rounded the corner. Alarmed, he rushed to me and asked what was wrong.
“My dog died,” I wailed. “He was my only friend. Nobody else likes me."
“Shh,” he said. Holding me gently, softly. “I’ll be your friend from now on. We’ll be best friends forever, okay? My name is Tony.”
“Okay,” I agreed, eager that someone could finally deal with my pain and not think I was odd. “My name is Jessica.”
“I’ll call you Jess, best friends call each other by nicknames, right?”
“Right!” I agreed.
From then on, I spent every day with Tony. We talked and played and I had the time of my life. My parents would smile at us, a strange smile. As I grew older and entered teenage years, they stopped smiling at us together. Their smiles turned into frowns and they would often urge me to go hang out with other friends.
“Tony’s always been there for me,” I said defensively, angry that they would ever consider me hanging out with anyone else.
“It was fine when you were younger,” my mom said. “I just think it’s time for you to branch out and make other friends. Some girls your age maybe?”
I scrunched up my face. “But other girls do too many girly things. Besides, whenever I introduce them to Tony they act really weird. Anyone who isn’t a friend of Tony can’t be a friend of mine,” I said seriously and went back to eating.
I heard a sound come from the kitchen and looked up. “Did you guys hear something?”
My parents shared uneasy glances with each other. “Why, honey? Did you hear something?”
“Didn’t you?” I asked. Before they could respond, still looking uncertainly at me, a girl my age walked in. Her naturally coiled hair was perfectly in place. She was popping some bubble gum.
“How’d you get in here?” I asked her.
“You needed a friend who was a girl and your age, right? My name is Chelsea.”
“Oh hi, Chelsea. I’m Jessica, but you should probably not just walk into people’s houses.”
“Duly noted,” she said and sat down at the table, making herself a plate.