I looked up from my latest sketch when the teacher called my name.
"The answer?" I hated the way she looked at me, in the way that adults believe that they are superior to everyone. Especially people like me. People who have no self respect or morals or people who have the ability to do great but not the drive. She looked at me like I was stupid.
"Um, can you repeat the question?" I asked, not really caring either way.
"If you were paying attention to my lecture instead of going off into your own little world," she snatched the paper from off my desk. Her eyes kind of popped out a little at the surprise of my drawing. It was the picture of a lake. Nothing special but it was a pretty good sketch if I do say so myself. I always drew scenery. I liked to picture myself in the places that I drew. Always calm, always peaceful, and always far far away.
"You should focus more on studying, you could actually go somewhere with your talents." She had called me after class that day. Her tone of voice wasn't very encouraging. It was more scolding, like I should know better, or like I should care either way. She still had my sketch from earlier in her hand. I snatched it away from her and walked away.
I went to my locker and gathered my things for my next class. I shut the door only to find Diego Leaning against the lockers.
"Hey Kai-ly!" He greeted putting his arm around me.
"I told you to not call me that!"
"Nah I kind of like it!" I rolled my eyes. Diego was one of the few people who could make me smile now, he and his cousin Dora. They were my best friends. We all went to the same high school. Me and Dora were sophomores, and Diego was a Jr.
"So you wanna come to my house and study later on?" I looked at him like he was crazy.
"Or," he quickly changed the plan, "I could study and you could just draw in that sketch book of yours like you'd be doing at home anyways." I sighed. He knew me too well.
"Ok yeah I guess that'd be good."
"Alright!" The bell rang then, "Ok well I'll see you after school!" He said as he ran down the hall.
When I got out of my last class I found Dora and Diego outside the front of the school waiting for me. We all walked together and parted ways once we got to Dora's street. It wasn't a surprise to her that I was going home with her cousin, it was nothing unusual. She probably would have tagged along but she said that she had a project due. That girl was going places. She wanted to be an archeologist and travel the world. I sometimes envied her, but I encouraged her every step of the way.
We went into Diego's room and sat on the bed, he reading his text book and I drawing. We went through awhile with just comfortable silence. The only sound being him flipping a page or my pencil.
"Let me see what you've got here," he said after he was done studying, reaching for my sketchbook. I normally would have snatched it away but I trusted Diego. He was my best friend.
` He flipped through a few pages and then looked at a sketch I did of a tiger.
"Hey I remember him! Rintoo!" He said pointing to the image. He turned the page, this one falling on one of a pale gorilla.
"Haha its Hoho!" This time he flipped to one of a koala.
"I'm surprised that you still remember all of their names much less their faces" I said to him.
"Of course! They're the imaginary friends that you created when you went away that one summer!" I noticed that he didn't use his name, probably so he wouldn't upset me, not that I would show I was upset. His efforts didn't matter much after he flipped to the next page. A portrait I had done not too long ago.
"Yeye…" He whispered.
That summer I had spent with him was probably the happiest time of my life. My parents had sent me there while they were sorting out their divorce. My grandfather was such a wonderful person. Together we had created my imaginary friends Rintoo, Tolee, and Hoho. He said that they would always be with me and I'd never be alone as long as I had them.
When I was sent home I still carried them with me. I would talk to them and really believe they were there. I even got Dora to create one, a monkey named Boots. Diego had claimed he was too old for the imaginary friend game but still acted as though our friends were very real.
Yeye died a month later.
At the funeral I didn't cry. I didn't feel the need to because Rintoo, Tolee, and Hoho were right there beside me. I was talking to them about Yeye and how much I loved them and all sorts of things I don't really remember. I don't know why but my mother came to me, kneeled down and slapped me in the face. You are being a disgrace she said Stop believing in things that aren't real. That's when I started to cry. I know she was in a dark place then. My father had left us for another woman and took everything with him. But my heart was still heavy.
I stopped believing after that. Dora had come up to me a week later saying Boots and I are going to the park to play! Do Rintoo, Tolee, Hoho, and Kailan want to join us!
I shattered her too.
They aren't real. Don't be so stupid and stop playing these childish games. Grow up and face it. They aren't real and they never were so just stop.
I ran away then. When I apologized later she had already forgiven me. She never mentioned our imaginary friends again and neither did I. Our childhood was over then, before it even began.
I hadn't noticed I was crying until Diego brushed a tear away with his fingertips. It took me a minute to come back to reality. Oh yeah. We were still sitting on his bed, his books scattered around and Yeyes picture still out.
"I'm sorry, I really am fine,"
"No you're not," He stared at me. "You're broken."
"I have to go" I suddenly got up but he grabbed my hand.
"No you don't. Don't go. Stop running. You know you don't want to go back to your mom." An image of my mother lying on our hardwood floor passed out drunk ran through my mind. "You don't have to be alone anymore."
I sat back down and broke down crying. Diego was the only person I would ever let this happen around. Not even Dora. Diego was my rock in this world. The only thing I held onto and the only thing that kept me going.
But what was I to him?
The sudden realization that I was also the only person in the world he was truly himself around. And all of the past hints and suggestions came flooding onto me. And I finally realized that I was hurting him. And that was the most unbearable thought I could think of.
I knew I had to set things right. I had to grow up and face the world. Not run. It was scary to think about but not as scary as being alone without Diego around.
He was still holding me tight. I felt so safe and secure in his arms but I still wiggled my way out slightly. He looked at me confused, concerned, and a little disappointed but loosened his grip. I caught him completely off guard by closing the previous space with our lips. Just a small kiss that would eventually lead to something more.
Maybe growing up wouldn't be so bad.