Sunrise was her favourite time of day. At sunrise there still hope that, with the start of a new day, Lucy would remember she was there.
On the far side of the bedroom, a muffled sound escaped from under the duvet as Lucy rolled over in bed. A teddy bear was shoved unceremoniously onto the floor as Lucy muttered, “At least Libby didn’t take up as much space in the bed.”
Libby’s heart skipped a beat. Lucy still remembered her. She was safe for another few days. She glanced down at her hands and feet, then curled up on the rocking chair and went back to watching the sun come up.
For ten years Libby had been Lucy’s closest confidante. They had played together day after day. They had gone to school together for seven years. They had holidayed together, first in Devon and Cornwall and then, as Lucy grew older, they had visited France, Spain, Portugal and America. She had liked travelling with Lucy. Everywhere Lucy went, Libby went too.
On the last trip to America, Libby had met another girl about her own age while she had waited at the bag drop at one of the many rollercoasters in the theme park. She had been surprised by the cynicism shown by her new acquaintance.
“It won’t last much longer. Trust me. Just you watch. You’ll grow apart real fast. It’ll end and losing…what was her name? Lucy? Losing her will kill you. Literally.”
Almost five months had passed since that Easter trip to Florida. At first, Libby has dismissed the American girl’s comments as nonsense. Forget her? Why would Lucy want to forget her? They’d been inseparable since Lucy was three years old. But, as the seasons moved from Spring to Summer, Libby began to pick up on subtle changes in her beloved Lucy. Some days she would leave for school without her. Other days she would arrive home late and barely have time for her between dinner and bedtime. Once she went away for the entire weekend and left Libby behind without a wave or a backwards glance.
At Lucy’s thirteenth birthday party, Libby had kept to the shadows and was hurt that Lucy barely spared her a thought all day. She even blew out the birthday candles without Libby by her side to share a wish!
“You’ll grow apart real fast. Losing her will kill you. Literally.”
The words began to haunt Libby day and night….
As August wound its way towards to September, Libby found herself excluded more and more by Lucy. For hours on end she would wait patiently for Lucy to remember she was there and to involve her in her day.
By the middle of the month, Libby began to panic. Once morning when she awoke early to watch the sun rise, she realised she was fading away. Her hands and feet were barely visible. Just before panic took over, she heard Lucy talking in her sleep and heard her mention her name. Instantly she felt whole again. Her hands and feet were there. Her black patent ballet pumps were shining in the early morning sunlight.
Unfortunately, this had only been the beginning of Libby’s torment.
As August ended, there had been no less than half a dozen similar fading episodes. The last one had really scared Libby. Her hands and arms had disappeared all the way up to her elbows; her feet and legs had vanished right up past her knees.
Lucy was forgetting her!
Lucy was growing up!
Yet again, the American’s words tore at Libby’s faithful heart, “Losing her will kill you. Literally.”
September marked a milestone for Lucy – she started high school. From the relative safety of the rocking chair under the window, Libby had watched as Lucy packed her new school bag and laid out her new school uniform.That night Lucy had gone to bed without wishing her goodnight. In the darkness, Libby had cried herself to sleep on the rocking chair.
Now, as she watched the teddy bear, always a favoured bedtime bear of Lucy’s, lying on the floor, Libby finally resigned herself to her fate. September had been filled with gaps in the relationship with Lucy and there had been almost daily episodes of fading out. For the past week, Libby had barely seen her hands and feet. Even her long pigtails had faded at the ends!
To save herself, Libby knew she had to take action. She realised that she could no longer rely on Lucy to remember she was there. Now that she had been fully restored to her old self, Libby decided that today was the day.
The week before a new family had moved into the house next door. From Lucy’s bedroom window, Libby had watched a little girl playing alone in the garden. Hiding behind the curtains, she had watched the little girl, Wendy, play on her swing and slide down her chute. Seeing her playing on her own for hours on end had tugged at Libby’s heart strings.
After Lucy left for school, Libby waited on the rocking chair until Lucy’s mum had come in and opened the window to let some air into the room.
This was her chance!
A quick glance outside informed her that Wendy was already out playing in the garden with a bright red ball.
Carefully, Libby climbed up onto the window sill. With a last look round the bedroom, she balanced on the ledge for a moment, then carefully climbed down the trellis, trying not to damage Lucy’s dad’s Clematis.
As she crossed the garden, Libby began to panic anew. It was the first time she had been outside alone in over ten years. What if Wendy couldn’t see her? What if Wendy rejected her?
It was too late to go back now.
Slipping through a gap in the fence, Libby made her way into the garden next door. For a few minutes, she stayed in the shadow of the big, old, apple tree that dominated that corner of the garden. With a nervous smile, she watched Wendy play with the ball. The little girl was throwing it up and trying to catch it. Eventually she dropped it.
The ball rolled down the gentle slope and landed at Libby’s feet, nudging her black patent shoes.
“It’s now or never,” thought Libby, bending down to pick up the ball.
When she stood up again, Wendy was staring at her.
“I like your shiny shoes.”
“Hi. Thank you. I’m Libby,” said Libby, tossing the ball back to the little girl, who caught it safely in her arms.
“HI. I’m Wendy,” came the shy reply. “Want to play?”
“I’d love to!” declared Libby with a smile.
“Daddy’s going to build me a tree house in that tree,” explained Wendy as they walked back up the slope. “It can be our club house. Our special place. You can live up there when it’s done. It can be your fairy castle.”
“Of course you can! You can stay in my room till its builded but you’ll need to hide. Need to be a secret,” whispered Wendy seriously. “Mummy doesn’t want me to have imaginary friends. We can be secret princess friends forever though.”
“I’d like that,” said Libby as her heart turned a somersault of delight.
She was safe at last.