All my friends aren’t real.
“Oh Daphne, I’m going to miss you most of all,” said Sarah. The crowd of fairy tale creatures appeared entirely content with this preferential sentiment because, well, it was Daphne, and Daphne and Sarah had become close friends, inseparable, were it not for the sanctimony of Grown-ups. It had taken Daphne a long time to become accustomed to Sarah’s coexistence in The Garden. Two weeks it took, which in fairy tale time signifies a lifetime. Daphne’s paper thin wings flittered behind the leaf of an overhanging fern. She had long ago gotten used to Sarah's patient and persistent presence in The Garden. Daphne was no longer afraid, but she was angry that Sarah had to leave. Not angry at Sarah herself, because she loved Sarah. Daphne was angry at the circumstances that would be taking her best friend away and she had no other place to put that anger.
“Please don’t be angry at me, I’ll be back as soon as I can. Come out from behind there.” But Daphne remained hidden, playful and petulant, fluttering and frowning. Harmless as the eraser at the end of a pencil, the ground beneath Daphne moved and through the tiny mound of dirt appeared a fairy tale creature called Ben, a wise and kind worm. With contented grumbles he shook his head and the sand from behind his spectacles disintegrated onto the ground. The gritty sand in his mouth he spat out. After a brief apologetic contemplation at the scene around him he assured Daphne, “Go to your friend Daph. If you don’t say a proper goodbye you’ll feel awful. There's not much time.”
Her anger instantly forgotten, Daphne whirred over to Sarah. By way of showing her regret and affection she fluttered lightly over Sarah’s cheeks, down her throat and onto her forearms, tickling the scars she wore there; tiny slices, indiscernible, but for the lighter shades of pink against her natural complexion. “Fairy Tale Kisses,” Sarah called the thin breeze from Daphne’s whispering wings. The sensation had helped those scars heal, as well as the pain that caused them.
Ben, being a worm, had no arms or hands and yet, unfailingly, he carried a book with him whenever he popped his head out. With his invisible hands he shook the book free of the dirt between the pages and as if reading from a sacred text he ceremoniously declared:
Be brave and always remember us. We will all be here when you return.”
Tears rolled down Sarah’s cheek and with wind, light as dandelion breath, Daph fluttered about her face drying the remaining tears pooled inside Sarah's burning eyelids.
“My dear and wise Ben, I could never forget any of you.” A harsh retort cut the air when Robert scoffed, “What rubbish!”
Calmingly from Ben, “Easy there, Robert,”
“No!” Shouted Robert. “It’s true! She’ll come back all grown-up and she will have un-learned The Gift. All children start with it and then they forget. Always do!”
“The Gift started early with me, much earlier than Mother. You said so yourself, remember Ben? I’ll come back with grand stories to entertain you all just like first day of school. Remember you thought I would loose The Gift then too Robert?” A mumble of agreement hushed the cramped motley gathering of fairy tale creatures.
Curtains parted at the window of the house. Mother could barely discern the silhouette of her daughter through the ferns.
Talking to herself again.
Mother hung her head forlornly. “Sarah!” Came Mother’s trumpeted cry. “It’s time to leave.” Daphne zipped behind her fern.
"Don't be scared Daph. Mother doesn't come down to The Garden anymore," assured Ben. “I won’t forget you Robert. How could I forget the person who taught me to pull the meanest mean face at my school.” And Sarah growled heartedly and bared her teeth fully. Robert, instantly regretful of his ungracious behavior replied, “that’s my girl!” He responded with his own ferocious growl, an advantageously practiced roar! Daphne, after attempting to reemerge from her hiding place, zipped behind her fern once again.
As is the habit of hummingbirds, Rainbow Humming Bird magically appeared, above them and by way of her vibrating wings oscillated the words, “Quiet. Someone's coming.” Sure enough there appeared a man hurrying down the steps that led from the back of the house to The Garden.
“Look Ben!” Declared Robert excitedly "It's Freddie all grown up", nudging Ben with his sharp elbow, hard enough for the glasses in front of Ben's eyes to fall to the ground. Instantly embarrassed, Robert retrieved the glasses, blew the dirt off as best as his little lungs could afford and subsequently, rather hastily, shoved them back onto Ben’s face. By way of added amends he picked up Ben’s book, dusted it off with his sleeve and replaced it into Ben’s invisible hands. Optimistically Ben replied, “My word! Indeed it is!”
“He was one of my best students,” Robert claimed proudly. “Though, not as fierce as you Sarah.” “Didn’t they call him Fierce Freddy?” inquired Ben encouragingly. “Yes!” Shouted Robert. “Thanks to my training!” Rainbow buzzed her wings, “He’s nearly here.”
Ben’s bespectacled face softly submerged itself into the earth and his hole filled with dirt.
“Hi Sarah,” Freddy friendly as ever, announced when he arrived into the clearing. “Do you remember me?” After nearly replying, “Hi Fierce Freddy,” Sarah said, “Hi Freddy.” Comically, Freddy appeared more nervous than Sarah did. Apprehensively Freddy tells her, “They are having amazing success with the new treatments for depression at the hospital.” Hanging at his side in his large fist, Freddy held a white belt with fur lined handcuffs.
“Don’t worry Freddy. Mom is making sure I take my meds on time. I won’t be giving you any trouble today. Freddy exhaled a heavy gust of relief and gratitude. He was a large man and frightfully strong, but he was not fast and had poor endurance. Sarah followed him through the overhanging willows and before they closed behind her she took a last look at her friends there. Her own grief suspended, Daphne was hugging a sobbing Lilly. Ben had poked his tiny head through his hole in time for Sarah to return a shining wink of the eye and, never again did Sarah return to that sacred place with a child’s mind.