"You will be my new best friend forever, " Anshu said to the ethereal being smiling down at him from the jasmine tree. Her flowing red locks were entwined with the leaves and petals around her, in stark contrast with her vivid green eyes. She was wearing a floaty blue thing, and when she spoke her pale pink lips parted ever so slightly.
"Of course I will be Anshu. That is what I am here for."
Anshu was pleased. It had only been a week since they had moved to the huge new house, but he already hated it. Not because of its remote location, or the fact that the halls echoed with emptiness, but because of his parents. They were the reason they had to move in the first place. Everyone had suggested that a change in scenery would improve things, but they had only worsened. Tempers arrived at a short notice, and abuses flew like the pots and pans they threw at each other. They tried to avoid it in front of Anshu, but the vacant house made sure he heard it.
He had everything a 10-year-old could wish for, being born in the lap of luxury, but companionship was not something money could buy. He longed to speak to someone, anyone. Pets were not allowed, and servants were busy, so he decided to search for a friend. His feet had somehow led him to the jasmine tree, and his imagination had done the rest.
"So you see, I have nobody else to talk to. Now that you're here, I will tell you everything."
"And I'll be listening to everything," the being said.
"But what shall I call you?" Anshu asked.
"Anything you like, " she sweetly said.
He racked his brains, but since he had never come up with names, he thought of his first favourite thing.
"I'll call you Twinkie!"
"That's a wonderful name."
And so started a relationship founded on the need to escape from reality.
As the fights began to escalate, Anshu found himself searching for the tree again and again. He would take his homework there and, with Twinkie's help, tried to forget his troubles. He ended up spending most of his time with her. He really did tell her everything.
"I don't understand why they have to fight so much," Anshu complained.
"It's because they doubt each other. They need to remember their love for one another."
"I don't think they know what love is."
"Of course they do, they love you."
"How do you know that?"
"All parents love their children. They take care of them and keep them safe."
"That's a lie. I don't think mine love me at all."
Twinkie only smiled at him.
"There is this girl in my class that I really like."
"What is her name?" Twinkie asked in her twinkling voice.
"Neeti. She is very beautiful."
"Have you talked with her? Maybe you two could be friends."
"No, I don't talk to anybody at school."
"What's the use? We're probably going to shift again soon."
"Are you sure that is what you heard?"
"Yes, I'm completely sure. What does it mean?"
"I only know what you know. Why don't you check it in one of your books?"
Anshu picked up his dictionary and searched for the word.
"Yes, it means they don't want to stay together anymore. I guess I already knew that, didn't I?"
"Don't you worry. Everything will be fine."
There were tears in his eyes this time.
"Mother says I am to live with her," Anshu cried.
"That's exciting! You two will get to spend lots of time together."
"No, it's not! Don't you ever understand anything!? It means I'll have to go away from here, from you. From you." He cried more.
"Adult troubles are not the same as child troubles. They have a different sense of what makes them happy."
"But I am not happy! Why can't they see that?"
"Anshu, you are a grown boy now. You have to decide for yourself. And anyway, I'll be here whenever you need me."
He was not crying this time. It was late in the night and Anshu couldn't sleep, so he had done what he usually did in times of stress.
"Will you never come down from there?"
"I can't, this is my home."
"Can I come up then?"
"You do not know how to climb trees."
"I can learn."
"No, you cannot. Not now at least. What was it you came here for?"
"I thought about what you said earlier, and I understand why my parents are doing this. My mother has suffered enough, and I'll support her when she needs me."
"That is a good boy. I knew you would realize how difficult it is to be an adult. Now, why don't you go get some sleep."
He was lugging his suitcase, silent tears flowing down his cheeks.
"What is it now?"
"I don't want to leave you."
"But I am right here. And will always be, forever and ever."
"I fear I'll forget you, Twinkie "
"Anshu, I am just a figment of your imagination. If you keep that alive, then you will never forget me."
And so he did. To make sure that he never forgot his first friend, he began to draw her. He put in as many details as he could remember, and kept honing his craft until he became a master at it. His paintings became world-renowned, not just for the fine elements, but because of the presence of his Muse in each of his works. People always questioned him as to who this mysterious lady was, but he could never explain to them who she really was.
Years later, when Anshu returned to his home to perform his father's last rites, he knew his feet would betray him. And so they did. He went again towards the same jasmine tree and stood there. Closing his eyes for a second, he opened them to see the same face smiling down at him.