Author's Warning: Like everything else, this takes place in my series, set up by the events in my first story "More Than My Friend" where the big event is that Frankie adopts Mac as her "little brother". If you haven't read that story yet, I strongly suggest you do so now, or else you might get terribly confused.
"Mmmph…c'mon…c'mon…" The lanky redhead muttered through tightly gritted teeth as she doggedly twisted the wrench in an attempt to tighten up a slightly leaky pipe.
In all honesty, the plumbing problem itself was hardly a momentous task; what was a major hassle though was the fact the resident caretaker had to worm her way into the uncomfortably cramped are beneath the kitchen sink to tend to the matter. Thus there she lay on her back, struggling furiously to try and find a position that would give her the leverage she needed.
"Did you get it yet?" a little boy asked as he shined a flashlight underneath so at least the young woman could see what she was doing.
As she took a quick five-second break, Frances "Frankie" Foster answered, "Almost, I think…I dunno, maybe if I wiggle a little more to the…yeah, there we go. Okay, now let's see if I can…yeah, that's it! Just gotta turn…a…little…bit…m-"
Ding dong! Ding dong! Ding dong!
As the chime of the doorbell rang out thrice in speedy succession, Frankie elicited an exasperated groan.
"Oh for the love of…" she grumbled exasperatedly from deep inside the bowels of the cupboard under the sink. "Pal, could you get that for me?"
"Are you sure you're all set here?" Mac inquired for good measure.
"Yeah, I'm basically all done here, it's just…argh, just having a bit of trouble trying to…mph… cripes, it's just going to take a little while to squirm out of here. Could you just go answer the door? I'll try and be there in just a sec!"
"Okay!" the boy replied, and in a flash he was obediently off like a shot, as the peal of the doorbell continued to resound loudly.
Ding dong! Ding dong! Ding dong! Ding dong!
"Hold on, I'm coming!" Mac called out as he scampered into the foyer. "Just a moment, I'll-"
Apparently though, his cries seemed to fall on deaf ears, for an instant later, the startled child began hearing the distinct clamor of someone banging upon the door with their fists.
"Hello?" an unmistakably frantic, high-pitched voice cried out shrilly. "Hello? Is anyone there? Hello? Please, anyone?"
THUD! THUD! THUD!
Ding dong! Ding dong! Ding dong!
"Please!" whoever was outside begged shamelessly. "I-I think it's an emergency! Is anyone in there? Hello? Hello?"
Now feeling incredibly alarmed, Mac picked up the pace, skidded to an ungraceful stop, and hastily wrenched the door open just before it was battered clean off its hinges.
"Oh, thank heavens!" the middle-aged blonde gasped in relief as she stumbled in, clad in a vibrant purple sweater and sweatpants combo. "Oh my, for a moment I didn't think anyone would-"
"W-what's wrong?" Mac asked as the stranger bent over to gulp in a few heavy breaths, as if she had nearly run an Olympic sprint. "Is everything okay? What-"
"This is the right place, isn't it?" the woman gasped to the little one. "Isn't it?"
"Uh…...I-I hope so." The puzzled boy answered with a mystified stare. "What are you looking for exactly-"
"Please, this is serious!" the panicked jogger snapped as in one swift movement, she thrust her arm out, nabbed him tightly by the shirt. "Is this or is this not that home that cares for imaginary friends?"
"Yes! Yes! Yes!" Mac immediately started yelping as he instinctively tried to squirm free. "What's wrong? What's-"
"Hey!" Frankie demanded as she finally sprinted in. "What's all the yelling about? Why do I-whoa!"
Once Mac wrenched himself loose and stumbled back a few paces, the redhead wasted not an instant, and protectively placed herself before the boy and the strange woman as she demanded, "Hey, what on earth do you think you're do-"
However, before she could finish so much as one sentence, the extraordinarily panicked woman grabbed the startled girl by her emerald jacket and yanked her close.
"Do you work here?" she cried hoarsely, her eyes almost bugging out of her skull with horror. "Please, I need some help, fast! You don't understand, this is-"
"Hey, hey!" Frankie cried as she gestured frantically for the hysterical jogger to settle herself. "Hold on, just calm down a-"
"Miss, do you work here?" the hysterical woman demanded sharply. "Please, I need someone who can help me! Anyone, it doesn't matter! I-"
"Calm down! Just calm down! Yes, I do work here!" the redhead answered. "Now just what are you doing just barging in and-"
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" the blonde sputtered out a few apologies as she released her tenacious grasp. "I-I'm sorry, I just…I think h-he might really be in serious trouble, and…and I just didn't know where else to go, a-and-"
"Trouble?" Frankie repeated in alarm. "Wait, wait, who's in trouble? Ma'am, what're you-"
"I-I was only out for my daily run," she tried to explain, looking so unbearably distressed by this point she appeared to be only moments away from bursting into tears. "When suddenly, about half a block away from here, I…I-I found this imaginary friend wandering around, and-"
"An imaginary friend needs some help?" the caretaker cried. "What's wrong with it? Does it look lost, or hurt, or-"
"He's…h-he's just so sick, that's what he is!" the stranger practically sobbed in dismay. "I-I've never seen anything like it! All alone, sicker than anyone can possibly imagine, and...a-and I didn't have my cell phone on me, s-so at first I d-didn't know w-w-what to do, but…but then I saw your house at the far end of the block, and I r-remembered how I once saw a c-commercial on TV about-"
"Wait, how did you know this imaginary friend was sick?" Mac inquired curiously as he peeked around Frankie's legs.
"He told me as s-soon as I saw him!" the shaken woman answered. "Not only that, b-but the poor thing looked delirious! Just stumbling about dazedly, almost as pale as a corpse, just wailing about how ill he is…I mean, I didn't even know an imaginary friend could have so many dreadful ailments, b-but he just went on and on about how…oh, the poor thing, he's out of his mind with-"
"Where is he?" Frankie demanded frantically as her panic rapidly equaled the other woman's hysteria. "Where? Where'd you see-"
"Not very far from here at all!" the jogger cried as she pointed. "Just a little under half a block, by the-"
As she glanced outside, her eyes suddenly nearly exploded clear from their sockets as she suddenly erupted shrieking, "There! There he is! H-he must've followed me when I…oh, please, you have to do something for him, he's so sick, and…and he's just right there! Please, h-help him! You have to help-"
"Right here?" Frankie gasped as she looked outside. "Where? You mean on the sidewalk? On the…"
The words promptly died upon her lips the instant she laid eyes upon the creature ambling aimlessly about the front lawn. Although the imaginary friend did indeed seem to lack any clue what he is up to, despite what had been seen, he hardly seemed to be in any torment.
In all honestly, he actually appeared as gleeful and carefree as could possibly be as he wandered around the yard, squeaking joyously, "…I have gingivitis! I have head lice! I have the gout! I have black lung! I have cholera…"
As Cheese babbled on and on, happy as a clam, Frankie's alarm automatically vanished without a trace, as did Mac's panic. After the dumbfounded two watched the happy-go-lucky creature for a few moments, in almost perfect synchronization they craned their necks and glanced disbelievingly at the still-hysterical woman standing in the foyer, who implored as she wrung her hands furiously, "Well? Aren't you going to do anything?"
Wordlessly, Frankie gazed down at the little boy at her side. With a curt nod, Mac immediately made a beeline towards the threshold as a certain imaginary friend started ambling up the front walk.
"…I have cowpox! I have periodontitis! I have Spanish flu! I have mange! I have corneal dystrophy! I have-"
Once Mac had unceremoniously slammed the door shut, Frankie couldn't help but smile weakly as she sauntered over to give him an approving pat on the head.
"Good job, pal." The redhead commended her charge, while a few feet away, the nameless blonde's jaw nearly hit the floor in her shock.
'You're…y-you're just g-g-going to turn your back on that poor thing?" she barely managed to whisper hoarsely.
As she struggled to get the words out, meanwhile they all could still hear Cheese quite clearly from outside on the front porch, still squealing gleefully as he ambled about. "…I have rabies! I have ear mites! I have influenza…"
Frankie just ruffled Mac's hair, groaned in exasperation, then leaned over to wistfully sigh to the child, "If only…"