An Imaginary Friend

An Imaginary Friend

By Judy Fraher. 

Sweat ran in rivulets down her forehead. A pain shot through her body, and she moaned, her fingers convulsively grasping the once-white sheets. With great effort, she lifted her head to look at the man standing at the end of her bed, his hands cupped as if to catch a football. He stared down between her knees.

Even in her pain, his singular handsomeness struck her. Raven-colored hair, skin so white it looked like silk newly spun, and eyes as blue as a summer sky. She’d known him since she was a young child, and she was still amazed by his perfection. She’d lost everything in her life, just to have him here by her side now. Her husband, her work, her friends, all had forsaken her.

She dropped her head back on the damp pillow. Her trials hadn’t even begun. Fingers would point. A stint in the mental ward of some hospital a possibility.

She lifted her head again and a pain so intense, so magnified engulfed her. Her hands flung out, reaching blindly as her world spiraled out of control. She screamed his name, then everything went dark.

***

He’d been her friend from the age of three. She’d talked non-stop about him. As she grew into her teenage years, she’d adorned her walls with drawings of a handsome young boy. Her family had all smiled and said that would be the man she’d find to marry. She’d insisted that he was real, until the accident.

Rain poured down on the slick highway, and she stood trembling by the side of the road. The wail of the sirens did not penetrate through her horror, as she stared at the smashed car. Firemen frantically worked to extricate the woman, her mother, inside. As she was led away, she was asked how had she escaped from the car. She repeated his name over and over. No one had believed her. So she stopped believing.

She found a man to marry, a tall man with blonde hair and brown eyes, a practical man. In their world, everything was black and white; there were no shaded areas. They had no children. They had their friends, she would call her father out on the west coast, they were happy.

Until one night, he came back.

She was just settling under her favorite comforter. Her husband was away and wouldn’t be home for another three months. The day had been rough for her, and she was glad to finally crawl into bed.

She reached for the lamp. A flicker across her bedroom room stilled her hand. It was just a shadow, she thought.

A chuckle came out of the darkness. She grabbed her comforter and threw it over her head, slinking down in the security of her blankets.

The comforter slid off her head. She didn’t panic. In her heart, she knew she’d been waiting for this. The comforter fell off the bed, and she lifted her eyes to his face, the face she knew as well as her own.

He sat down beside her, and she could feel his warmth even through the blankets. She sat up to move away from his warmth. “I tried to make you go away.”

He shook his head. “I know, but you can’t.” His smile died. “You do remember the stories I told you about my world?”

She remembered, but she’d buried them deep. They hadn’t fit in her grown-up world.

His piercing blue eyes met hers. “I’ve a favor to ask.”

By the time her husband came home, gossip ran rampant. She would never forget the look of despair and betrayal on his face when she’d met him at the airport. He’d taken one look at her protruding belly and grabbed a taxi to take him to a hotel.

***

Her pain subsided and her eyelids fluttered. Her hand automatically rubbed across her stomach. It was flat. Confused, she struggled to sit up. Then she heard the cry of a baby.

She felt a nudge against her side and looked over. Swaddled in cloth was the cutest baby boy she’d ever seen, with skin as white as silk and eyes as dark as her own. She raised her eyes to look at the man standing beside her.

Her lips trembled. “Can I hold him, just once?”

He nodded. “You are his mother.”

He picked up the bundle and laid it in her arms.

She pushed the lock of dark hair off the little forehead. “So much hair,” she laughed. She rubbed a finger across his little mouth and his mouth puckered. “He is so precious.”

She tore her gaze away from the baby and looked up. “I don’t think I can do it.”

“You know how important he is to both of us. I can’t force you to give him to me. It’s your choice.”

Tears flowed down her face. His destiny was chosen a long time ago. It was a sacrifice that pulled at her heart and soul. But he was a miracle, and that made her decision easier. She stroked her fingers over his cheeks and bent her head to inhale his scent. “Be good to him.”

He gently took the bundle from her and stood up. He headed to the darkened hallway and they began to fade from her vision.

In a hoarse voice choked by tears, she called out. “Will I ever see him again? Or you?”

A sad smile slipped across his face. “I left you a book from my world on the table to read. I love you, Mary Suzanne.”

He was gone.

She swung her legs off the bed and half-stumbled over to the table. She stared down at the thick, black book. She ran her fingers over the gold lettering of the title. He’d left a bookmark. She flipped the page open and read out loud the words.

“For unto you is born this day a Saviour …..”

AUTHOR BIO

JUDY FRAHER is a writer who waits for inspiration to strike. Also proud to say an existing LSS Short Story of The Year Award winner for “The Girl with Rootbeer Hair and Aquafresh Eyes”.

Photo credit: B for Beautiful by Peggy Relmchen via Flickr CC.

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