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Imagination of the Imagined
She searched every corner of her nose with her pinky, scratching at the sides until she found the treasure she was after. She pulled her pinky out and admired her findings, but only briefly before she wiped it carelessly on the flowered wallpaper, right on the wing of an orange and black butterfly. Outside her bedroom door, she could hear footsteps ascending the staircase. She jumped on her bed and threw the covers over her head. She heard the door open and she giggled.
“Tammy, not now, Mommy has to go to work, and, you have to go to school.” Mommy threw the covers off the bed and bent towards the girl. “Put on your shirt, Sweetie, and come downstairs and eat your cereal.”
When Mommy closed the bedroom door behind her, the girl threw her arms through the sleeves of her shirt and bolted down the stairs. She ran into the kitchen, taking her seat at the breakfast table. A man sat on the opposite end, sipping from a mug that read “Number 1 Dad!” on the side. He smacked his lips and flipped open the morning’s News paper.
The girl admired her cereal, chasing the star shaped marshmallows around the bowl with her spoon. From across the table, the man watched the girl from over his paper. “Tammy, don’t play with your cereal,” he said in a very bored, monotone voice. In the kitchen, the girl could hear Mommy doing the dishes. She scooped up a spoonful of marshmallows and milk and shoved it into her mouth. She chewed the soft marshmallows carefully; her tongue danced around the tiny cereal pieces, swimming in the milk. She swallowed and took another spoonful.
Mommy came into the dining room and collected a dirty plate from the man. The man sighed, folded the paper, and got up. He pushed his chair in and walked over to the girl. He bent down and kissed her lightly on the head.
“You have a good day at school, Tammy-Tam,” the man said. “Daddy will see you when he gets home.” Daddy swung his jacket around him, sliding his arms in each of the sleeves, and grabbed his keys off the nearby counter, the girl listened as Daddy walked through the house, opened the front door, and closed it behind him.
“Are you done eating your cereal?” Mommy asked. She took the bowl away and brought it into the kitchen. She returned with a jacket and a small backpack. She helped the girl put her arms through the sleeves of the jacket, and then helped her arms through the backpack until it was safely on her back. “Go wait in the car,” Mommy said. “Mommy will be right out.”
The girl followed Daddy’s earlier path through the house and outside. She stood on the porch, the cool autumn wind playing with her dark hair. She watched as kids from across the street also entered the world she was in. They watched her as intently as she watched them. She watched as the wind blew their hair the way it blew hers. She watched as their Mommys and Daddys came out of their houses behind their kids and push them along towards their cars. She watched as the children complained and whined, while others laughed and ran. The girl turned and walked off the front porch, following the man made path that led to the driveway.
She opened the back door to Mommy’s silver convertible and threw herself in the backseat. Beside her, Melinda was already waiting. “Hi, Melinda,” the girl said. “Do you think we’ll see The Dragon today?” Melinda shrugged.
“I hope we do,” the girl said, but Melinda wasn’t paying attention.
Mommy walked down the path the girl took towards the driveway and got into the front seat of the car. She turned the key in the ignition and the car roared to life.
“Dragon!” the girl shouted. Mommy watched the road behind them as she backed out of the driveway, then turned around as The Dragon lurched forward.
“Mommy’s going to pick you up right after school, okay Sweetie?” The girl rested her head against the window.
“Yes, dear,” Mommy replied. She rolled her eyes to herself.
“Melinda said not to put your stuff back here next time. She has nowhere to sit.”
“Yes, dear.” Mommy checked the empty seat behind her daughter which was clearly only occupied by her briefcase.
Dragon pulled in front of the castle, waiting for the girl to get out. Mommy turned back to kiss her goodbye and wish her a good day at school. The girl waved to The Dragon as he flew away with Mommy inside.
“I am going to draw him a picture,” the girl said. “You should draw one, too, Melinda.”
As the girl walked toward the entrance of the large, familiar building, people began to shout. The girl watched as people began to run past her. She turned around just as she heard a sharp noise pierce her ears. She cried out in surprise; it was a noise she had not heard before. She watched the people run around her and tried to find where the noise came from. But this noise was followed by another noise; a loud crashing noise. It sounded like the noises in the cartoons she watched at home when two things hit each other.
Through the chain link fence she could see The Dragon. It looked like there was another dragon, one she hadn’t seen before.
“Look, Melinda, Dragon is fighting another dragon,” the girl said. An older lady rushed up to the girl.
“Come on, Tammy, let’s go inside.”
“But, Dragon is fighting. He might need my help,” the girl said. She began to walk towards The Dragon. The old lady grabbed her wrist. Why was she so impatient? Did the King wish to see her? She had never met the King before.
“You know what? I think the dragon will be just fine.”
“Can Melinda stay out here and help?” the girl asked. The old lady looked around but saw no other girl.
“Melinda? Sure, dear, if she would like to. We just need you inside today.”
The girl nodded and let the old lady lead her into the castle. She turned back to wave to Melinda, but Melinda was not there.
She followed the old lady down the long, never ending corridors of the castle. They passed door after door, each one entering into a world of unknown. The girl imagined what could be behind each door; a land of lollipops, a world of talking unicorns, maybe the Dragon came from behind one of these doors. She approached the next door she saw and reached for the door knob.
“Come on, Young Lady,” the old lady said, not missing a beat. “You know that’s not where you belong.” The girl sighed and continued to follow the old lady.
Finally, the old lady stopped at a door, one the girl had not been to befores. She opened the door and the girl walked inside. A man sat at a desk in front of her; he seemed to be very important. Was he the King of the castle? The Old Lady whispered something to him; did she do something wrong? Was she going to be locked in the dungeon?
The King turned to the girl and smiled. “Why don’t you sit down?” he said. The girl climbed onto one of the chairs in front of the King’s desk. The King picked up the phone and began to dial a number. The girl looked around the room, curiously. It wasn’t at all how she pictured a King’s room to look. What kind of King was he?
“Tammy,” the King said, clearing his throat. “your dad is coming to pick you up.”
“Why?” the girl asked. “I don’t want to leave.”
The King played with a pencil on his desk. “Your mommy is hurt,” he said as gently as possible.
“Dragon is hurt,” the girl said. “But Dragon will be okay.”
“Tammy, your dad is going to bring you home,” the King said again.
“No!” she shouted. “I don’t want to go home!”
“Why don’t you sit here for a little bit until your dad comes.” The King got up and left the room.
The girl remained in her char, swinging her legs. She eyed the throne behind the King’s desk; it wasn’t a very royal looking throne. In fact, it almost looked like the one the girl sat in. There were no golden frames with paintings hung on the wall or guards guarding the door. The rug was not red; there wasn’t even a rug at all. The floor was a dark wood; not very royal in her opinion. And the desk; it almost looked like her desk at home. It wasn’t gold or fancy or royal in anyway. It was simply brown and old and beat. She wondered if it was as old as Dragon.
The door opened and the King walked in with Daddy. Daddy sat in the chair next to the girl and the King sat in his unroyal throne.
“I don’t want to go home,” the girl said.
“Tammy, you should come home with me. Then we can go see Mommy,” Daddy said.
“No! I want to stay here!” She threw her arms in the air in a fit. Daddy sighed.
“It might be best if she goes about her day like normally,” the King said. “I don’t think she realizes what happened, and you need to be with your wife.”
Daddy nodded. He bent towards the girl and kissed her on the head. “Be good, okay Tammy-Tam?” The girl nodded. “If you want to come home at all, you tell someone and I will come right over to bring you home.” Daddy shook hands with the King and left. The Old Lady came back in and took the girl by the hand. They walked together down the endless hallways, past the mysterious doors that no longer mystified the girl. They approached one door, one the girl had been through many times, and walked in.
“Hi, Tammy,” a boy called. Across the room stood a little red headed boy. Freckles dotted his face like a connect-the-dot puzzle. The girl often wondered what picture could be hidden amongst his freckles. He wore tiny glasses and a green shirt that clashed with his fiery orange hair.
“Hi, Kyle,” the girl said. She sat next to him on the carpeted floor, legs crossed Indian styled. Around them, children talked and laughed, read books, drew, and played with the house set up. Miss Kara helped one little girl put on a pretty princess dress. The girl knew that the dress did not belong to the real princess. No one had ever met the real princess. She wished Miss Kara was the princess, but she was only one of the many servants in the castle.
“Dragon got in a fight today,” the girl said to Kyle.
“With another dragon?” he asked. The girl nodded.
“Melinda is outside helping him.”
“Where’s George?” the girl asked. Kyle shrugged and looked at his feet.
“George is always here,” she said.
“George isn’t real.”
The girl stared at her friend. “What do you mean?”
“My mom told me that George isn’t real. That I made him up and we can’t be friends anymore.”
“Did he get in trouble?”
“No. He’s just not real. Melinda isn’t real either. You made her up. She’s imaginary.”
“Melinda is not imaginary! She’s outside right now!” the girl shouted. How could Kyle say such a thing? She knew Melinda was real; Melinda was her best friend.
Kyle stood on his tip toes and peered out the window. On the street, he saw two cars all crushed up like in the movies his older brother used to watch. Around the cars, red and blue lights flashed everywhere.
“Where?” he asked. The girl joined the boy at the window. Outside, she saw the two dragons lying motionless.
“Dragon’s hurt!” she yelled. She turned and ran across the room.
“Tammy!” Miss Kara called. She chased the girl out of the room, catching her by the wrist.
“Dragon is hurt!” the girl cried. Tears began to pour down her face. “He needs me!”
Miss Kara pulled the girl into a hug. “I’m sure the dragon will be just fine. Come inside and play with Kyle.”
“Kyle said Melinda is imaginary,” the girl sobbed. Miss Kara sat on the floor and took the girl’s hands in hers.
“Tammy, Melinda is not a real child. She is from your imagination, just like the dragon is. Dragon isn’t real, so he isn’t hurt. You have nothing to worry about.”
“You’re wrong!” the girl shouted. She struggled to get free, but Miss Kara held on tight.
“Tammy, come back inside the class room,” Miss Kara said. She stood up, picking the girl up with her.
“The King should send his knights to help,” the girl mumbled. “Tell the King to help.”
“Tammy, there is no king here,” Miss Kara said, frustrated. “This is a school, not a castle.”
“Tell the King,” the girl sobbed. Miss Kara put the girl down inside the class room.
“Okay, Tammy,” Miss Kara said with a sigh. “I will.”
The girl walked back towards her spot next to Kyle.
“Why are you crying?” he asked her.
“Miss Kara doesn’t believe me.”
“I told you.”
“You’re all wrong,” the girl said.
When Miss Kara began a game of musical chairs, the girl refused to join the fun. She watched from a corner as other kids walked around the chairs, and when the music stopped, she watched as they all pushed and shoved to get to a chair. The only girl left standing was Sarah, and when she realized she had lost, she sat down and cried, demanding a re-do.
After the game, Kyle sat next to the girl in the corner.
“Want to play house?” he asked. “You can be the mom and I will be the dad.”
“I don’t want to be a mom,” the girl said.
“Do you want to be my pet dog?”
“I’m not a dog!” the girl shouted.
“But you like to pretend you’re a dog,” Kyle said, confused.
“But I’m not a dog,” the girl demanded.
“Do you want to be a cat?”
“I’m not a cat, either! Leave me alone!”
Kyle shrugged and went over to play with some other kids. They were lying in a circle drawing with crayons. The girl could see them drawing purple cows and green suns. The girl snorted; everyone knew cows weren’t purple and the sun was obviously yellow.
The girl watched as another girl played with herself from across the room. She sat at a pink, frilly table with teapots and teacups on top. She poured imaginary tea into two cups. She sipped elegantly from one of the cups and giggled.
“Oh, Marsha! You’re so funny!” she said to the empty chair on the other side of the table. She took another sip of her imaginary tea. The girl walked over to the table and sat in the empty chair.
“Hi,” she said.
“You’re sitting on Marsha!” the girl shouted. “Get up!”
“Who’s Marsha?” the girl said.
“Tammy, get up! You’re squishing her!”
“There is no one here.”
“Miss Kara!” the girl shrieked. “Tammy won’t get up!”
Miss Kara walked over to the two girls at the table. “Tammy, leave Shelly alone,” she said. “If you can’t play nice, don’t play at all.”
The girl got up and stuck her tongue out at Shelly. Shelly stuck her’s back before the girl walked back into her corner.
Before she knew it, the day was over and it was time for everyone to leave. Kids gathered their back packs and put on their jackets.
“See you tomorrow, Tammy,” Kyle said. The girl said nothing. She put on her jacket slowly and grabbed her backpack. She followed the crowd of kids through the school hall and through the large doorway that led outside. She waited against the outside walls of the building with the other kids, waiting for their Mommys and Daddys to pick them up. One by one, the children piled into cars and left the parking lot. The girl searched the world around her, watching, waiting for Dragon. She saw Melinda against the corner of the school.
“Hey, Melinda!” the girl called. Melinda looked over but did not move. “Did you help Dragon?”
A car drove up in front of the castle. Melinda stared at the girl another minute longer before rushing to the car. Melinda jumped into the backseat and watched the girl as the car drove away. The girl was alone now.
“Melinda?” she called, but Melinda was already gone. The wind blew the girl’s dark hair around her face. Red and yellow leaves blew across the parking lot, making scratching noises against the pavement. The sun sank slowly behind the trees, casting shadows on the ground. The girl’s shadow grew longer and longer before starting to fade away.