I didn’t see Tony for a week. He didn’t show up for the promised movie that night, he wasn’t in school and when I sat in the backyard there was no Tony. There was only me and my depressed thoughts. My father tried to undo the damage daily with bribes of new games or any activity I wanted to do, I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted Tony back.
They had taken him away from me.
I went through my art therapy sessions, listless and unamused. I created nothing. Art too had failed me. I looked at the sculpture I had made of Tony. No wonder Ms. Reynolds had been impressed with the detail, who could make a detailed sculpture of an imaginary friend?
Ms. Reynolds had the grace to sit quietly with me and slowly began to help me make an art collage to remember Tony by.
I mourned Tony one hundred times more than I had mourned my dog. At least with my dog I had real memories, but every memory of Tony was fake, wasn’t it? I fell behind in school, the cloud of depression took over my mind. All I wanted to do was sleep.
Tony woke me up, in the middle of the night.
His hand felt real, he sounded real. I could smell him. He smelled only as he could, wonderful and soothing. I turned over to look at the wall.
“Look, I’m sorry I missed the movie okay. I had to go… out of town suddenly. My dad had some business.”
I didn’t respond. If it was my imagination, I could make him go away, right?
“Jess,” Tony whined, shaking my shoulder. I felt my body moving in response.
Was I that crazy?
“Please don’t be mad at me, we’re supposed to be best friends forever. We promised.”
“Shut up!” I hissed, turning around then. His face was confused and hurt looking. “My parents told me the truth about you, Tony. About me. You’re just an imaginary friend. I’m a nutcase, that’s why they’re always sending me to therapy. That’s why they put me through three psychiatrists.”
“But, Jess. I’m real,” he said softly, looking down.
“Yeah, right. How come I’m the only one who can see you?”
Tony sighed, sitting on my bed. “I knew this would happen one day, but I was enjoying our time together so much. Okay, nobody but you can see me, but I’m not imaginary. I’m living too, just not on the same reality as you are.”
“Excuse me?” I asked incredulously.
“Look, look, just hear me out. You can see me and feel me, right? How does that make me imaginary? My world is just a little different from yours.”
I stared at him, not sure who to believe. Not sure if I could trust my own frazzled mind. “Everyone thinks I’m crazy, Tony. How can I prove you’re real?”
“You can’t, Jess. If people found out about us they’d try to find us, they’d want to see us too. You know how the movies go with aliens or different species. Nobody wants to coexist with anything they don’t understand.”
“But why me, why can I see you?” I asked again, still not understanding.
“Yes, Tony, why don’t you explain it to her,” Chelsea said from my doorway. Looked like it was about to be a whole bottle of crazy tonight.
I sat up in bed, looking at them both curiously. “Yeah, explain it to me.”
“My people… it’s uh…” Tony scratched his head.
“Tell her the truth,” Chelsea said again, angrily.
“Okay, Chelsea!” he shouted. I had never seen Tony angry before. “My people, it’s a tradition for the children of the leaders to come into your world. We’ve slowly made ourselves a part of your society. My job was supposed to be to connect with you and then use that connection to enter the world fully and look just like the humans.”
“What?” I asked. I wasn’t sure how this was any better than me being crazy. It went from imaginary friend to a friend who had just been using me. For the past 6 years. I sat there in disbelief.
“Look, Jess, I know how it sounds,” Tony said quickly. “But I never planned on using it for that, I love you.”
“What!” I said a little too loudly, I heard my parents stirring from their room.
“Everything okay, Jessica?” my father called down the hallway.
“Yes, I’m sorry, I was just having a nightmare,” I said, staring at Tony pointedly.
I got up and closed the door to my room and then sat back down on my bed. Holding my head in my hands. “So let me get this straight, you were using me as a passage to my world. But fell in… love with me?”
“Yes,” Tony said, reaching for my hand. I pulled away. “For the transition to be complete, we become completely visible and real in this world and the human that we are attached to… will disappear and become a part of our world. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of missing person cases, you know, when people never find the bodies.”
“That’s sick!” I said.
“I didn’t do it to you!” he shot back. “Jess, I love you. I could never do that to you. I couldn’t bear to be apart from you.”
“Aww, so lovey and sweet after almost destroying her life,” Chelsea cooed.
“Knock it off,” Tony growled at her.
“I won’t,” Chelsea said with a grin.
“Wait, how can I see Chelsea then? She didn’t connect to me too did she?”
“No,” Tony said shaking his head quickly. “Just like you were wishing for a friend that day I met you, you were wishing you had a friend who was a girl your age so your parents would get off your back.”
“I snatched up the chance!” Chelsea said brightly. “Now that we’re all caught up, I decided to come because Tony can’t seem to stay focused on the task. It was never specified which child should cross over, was it, brother?”
“What?” Tony asked, alarmed.
Chelsea pulled a green gem from her pocket. It glowed bright and strong and I felt drawn to it.
“Chelsea, put that away. Jess, stay away from her,” Tony said, standing protectively between us.
“You’re not the boss of me, Tony. I’m just trying to look at it,” I said, trying to push past.
“Jess, please, I beg you,” Tony said, looking worriedly at the gem.
“Why don’t you let her make her own choice, Tony?” Chelsea said, pacing back and forth. “You’ve lied to her all these years. Tony doesn’t want you to have this because this is the bond he’s been storing as he got closer and closer to you, without this, Tony can’t take your place in this world.”
“Jess, please,” Tony said. “I had no intention of using it.”
I was angry at all the lies and that these two were bothering me in the middle of the night. “Give it here!” I said, pushing Tony aside to grab it from Chelsea. Her laugh rang in my head as my hand went through it.
Tony and I both stared in shock, I fell back limp into his arms.
“What did you do?” Tony screamed at Chelsea.
“Dear me, I wish I could see the look on your faces,” Chelsea said. “But I can’t see you at all anymore. I suppose Tony also didn’t tell you that when these gems are activated the bond within is enough to suck the solidness right out of you. Now I’m a part of this world and you are not. I hope you have a very happy life together.”
Chelsea winced, grabbing at her side as she went out my window. She looked to be in extreme pain, but so was I.
I felt like my very life was being drained out of me and I shook, looking down at myself. I looked ghostly like I didn’t quite belong and I realized, I didn’t anymore. Tony picked me up as I fell further, unable to hold myself up. My eyes flickered before I didn’t see anything at all.