My daughter, Mia, was softly humming to herself, invested in her drawing. The song she hummed sounded oddly familiar, yet I struggled to place my finger on it. My curiosity eventually got the best of me – I asked her where she heard the song from. Mia giggled, her shoulders bouncing slightly before replying in a cheerful tone, “Oliver sings it to me when he comes into my room every night.”
I froze. Oliver was the name of my make-believe friend when I was a child myself. He came off as so eerily … real. He would follow me everywhere, even wait for me outside my school so we could walk home together. The best thing we used to do was sneak onto the roof of my childhood home and just have the most engaging conversations, whilst gazing at the stars. Cheesy, I know. But child me was pretty lonely. Some things he talked about were, well … never mind. I eventually outgrew that phase, due to my imagination diminishing as I grew older. I never really saw him much after that.
But how did my daughter know about something which was a mere figment of my imagination? I never mentioned that part of my childhood to her before.
” … unidentified male, under suspicion of stalki– … “
I hastily grabbed the remote to turn off the news channel, the background noise of the TV only heightening my stress.
“Oh? and who’s this Oliver guy, exactly?” I turned back to face her, biting my bottom lip in anticipation. A thoughtful expression etched over her once gleeful features, as she tapped the crayon against her chin.
“I drew him, wanna see?” Mia gestured for me to come over to the coffee table, where she was sat at. Her large eyes looked at me expectantly. Others always said to me that we look almost identical, her appearance being much closer to me than her father.
I hesitantly got up from the couch I was curled up on to examine her drawing. It appeared innocent at first glance; a stick figure which resembled Mia, a large beam plastered on her face, with the familiar poorly drawn sun at the corner of the paper.
Yet what made my eyes widen was the other stick figure, holding her hand. It had rough, orange scribbles for hair, along with dots that I assumed to be freckles. The figure had a large downturned mouth, with tears flowing down their face.
My mouth went dry. It was exactly how I imagined Oliver – the orange hair, the freckles … but he was always enthusiastic and upbeat. Being sad was out of character for him.
Oliver was always nice to me – he gave me candy and would play with me when my mother didn’t have the time … sometimes he would play this game where he wouldn’t stop tickling me, even though I cried and begged him to stop. He always apologized and promised to buy me toys, which he did. That makes it okay, right?
Gosh, my imagination was hella overactive.
What was strange was how Oliver would often hide from my mother when he was with me. I never understood why.
One little favor would lead to another … eventually he asked me to go away from home with him, claiming there was a ‘special place’ he wished to take me to. I stuck to my gut feeling and lied, claiming I felt ill that day. He brushed it off and said we could go another time.
My voice piped up, still in denial as I wiped my clammy hands against my thighs, “Why does he look so sad?”
Mia broke eye contact before replying, “He told me he’s sad because you never believed he was real.”
I struggled to mask the shakiness in my voice, “I’m going to talk to grandma about something, okay?” Mia nodded and continued to hum the same tune, oblivious to the situation. I made my way to my bedroom, becoming increasingly light-headed. There must be a logical explanation, right?
I grabbed my phone with a shaky hand and called my mother.
“How are you doing, dear? Oh, and how is the little artist?”
I was unable to form proper thoughts because of how dazed I was, so I ended up blurting out broken sentences. I had to take a deep breath to scramble back to my senses. I told her about my conversation with Mia, asking if she ever mentioned anything about Oliver to her. Maybe that’s how she knew about him.
“Oliver? Ahh, Oliver Adler? was that his name? haha, sweetie, no – he was very real.”
” … What?”
“You don’t remember? well … you were pretty young. He used to come to trim the hedges for me – really nice guy. Always willing to help. He vanished without a trace soon after you left, though – still irks me to this day.”
I was about to reply, but a voice from downstairs made me stop – it was Mia. It sounded like she was conversing with someone. She spoke in a hushed tone as if she didn’t want anyone to eavesdrop on what she was saying.
“Shouldn’t we say bye to mommy first?”
There was a pause before she spoke again.
“Okay, I guess she won’t mind.”
My phone fell to the floor and I dashed down the stairs, each breath felt like a dagger being forced down my tightening throat. My eyes darted frantically as I scanned for her, only to be greeted with an empty living room. Soon enough, my attention fell on the backdoor – it was wide open, swaying slowly with the weak night breeze.
My eyes shot down to the floor and I noticed something beneath my feet – the drawing. There was something new on it this time, words which were hastily written with a red crayon as if the person was in a hurry. It wasn’t Mia’s handwriting.
“Am I imaginary now?”