As some of you might remember, I posted a short story a while back based on a writing prompt I had seen on reddit. I decided to revise it and share it once again for those who are new. I will post the prompt at the end of the story so it won’t ruin the ending. I hope you all enjoy it!
Your fairy guide,
Image by Richard Leeming
“Beth, Dr. Morris will see you now,” the receptionist says.
Beth stands and looks down at me with her face filled with worry. I give her an assuring smile and squeeze her hand gently. She smiles back, lets out a deep sigh, and slowly makes her way towards the psychiatrist’s office. I follow closely behind her and as she takes a seat, I take one in the chair next to her. Dr. Morris’s room is pretty much what I had expected. There are several book cases on either side filled with different psychological texts, board games, and strange looking knickknacks that are hard to identify.
“Hello again Beth, it’s good to see you.” Dr. Morris says warmly.
“Hello, sir.” Beth manages to mumble out.
Dr. Morris glances over to me and thinks for a moment. It makes me feel a bit uneasy, as though I maybe shouldn’t be here now. Before I can offer to step out he finally speaks up, “It’s good to see you as well Gary.”
“Likewise, Doctor,” I say as I look over at Beth.
She looks over at me and relaxes a bit. She hates when people judge her and, because of me, she is constantly being judged. That’s why I convinced her to come here. It took a few months, but she had been suffering for a long time. We’ve been together ever since we were kids, and I hated seeing her hurt like that. All I want is to see her smile.
“How about we start with the two of you. When did you first meet?”
He grabs a pen and begins taking notes. Beth looks down at the floor, but another sweet smile spreads across her face. Unlike the doctor, I can also see the pain hidden behind that beautiful smile that rarely peeks from behind her usual blank stare. Beth is a bit of a recluse, so it’s difficult for her to make any friends. It’s always just been the two of us. Even as kids she didn’t trust anyone other than me.
Beth takes another deep breath and begins, “Well… I was five, and I remember sitting in the sandbox of the trailer park’s playground area. Mommy was sleeping off a cocktail of vodka and painkillers. She had just finished throwing me against the wall for spilling cereal on the floor. Everything I did seemed to offend her, and now I know it’s because she blamed me for daddy leaving.” Beth looks over at me and I give her a look of encouragement.
“I see, but you know that what your father did was wrong, right Beth?” The doctor looks at her intently. “He was the one to blame, not you.”
Her father had sexually abused her, and when she told her teacher at school they reported it to the police. It was decided that her mother could keep her because she claimed to have no knowledge of it taking place, but she had known. She was just too stupid and selfish to admit it to herself. Still, she had blamed Beth up until she died from an overdose. It was something that they had discussed in past sessions, and she had only recently stopped blaming herself for it.
Beth nods, “I know… and my mom was wrong for allowing it to happen, too.”
Dr. Morris gives her a warm smile, “That’s right.”
As Beth continued talking I thought back to that day. Like Beth said, she was sitting in the sandbox crying. I noticed her from afar, and right away I knew she was in trouble. I didn’t know if I could even help, but I knew that I could try.
“What’s wrong?” I asked as I kneeled to sit next to her.
“I made another mistake, and mommy punished me,” she said through sobs.
“I’m sorry…” I looked down at our feet, not knowing what to say.
We sat there for a few hours, and I offered my company, knowing that was all I could offer to her. I talked to her about my ideas of making a fort in the middle of the woods nearby. She said she liked the idea of a castle better than a fort, so I told her it could be our castle. That she could be a princess while I could be a knight. I told her she could go there any time the dragon tried to get her, and I would always protect her.
The next couple of days we spent gathering materials to build our castle. Her mother barely noticed because all she ever did was sleep off the alcohol. When she wasn’t, she would leave Beth alone while she went out to bars. We preferred it that way and for the longest time, it was just the two of us and our castle in the woods.
The months flew by, and Beth made great progress with Dr. Morris. He convinced her to get her GED and even to enroll in community college. She had even made a few friends and suddenly started spending less time at her aunt’s house. She didn’t have as much time to spend with me either, but I didn’t mind. For the first time in our lives, she was truly happy. Today was her last weekly session as she was going to start monthly treatment with him only to ensure she is making progress.
“It’s time Beth.” Dr. Morris says warmly.
Panic swept over Beth. “But doctor… I still don’t understand why.”
Dr. Morris places a hand on her shoulder and turns her to face me. “Because you don’t need him anymore. You’ve made amazing progress over the last year, and Gary is all that is keeping you tied to the pains of your past.”
I look over at the doctor, a bit confused. I admit, Beth was doing better than anyone ever imagined she could, but I didn’t understand what the two of them were talking about. Sure, she hadn’t had much time for me in a couple of months, but anytime she needed me I would sit there and listen just as I always did.
Tears swell up in her eyes, “But I love him…”
Dr. Morris gives her an empathetic look. “He’s not real Beth.”
I laugh out of disbelief. “What the hell are you talking about, I’m standing right here!”
I look over to Beth who looks down at her feet. The sadness and the shame across her face causes Dr. Morris’s words to burn through me like a forest set ablaze. What did he mean that I wasn’t real?! I had been there for her for over a decade! I still sat with her every night to make sure she slept okay. I was there first thing in the morning to make sure she was ready for the day. When she had doubts, and fears, I would comfort her and assure her that she was strong enough to get through it. I was her knight and she was my princess!
Dr. Morris continues, “You must let go, Beth. He will only keep you from progressing.”
I had enough. Certainly, breaking off our friendship was not something she wanted, and I needed him to understand that. As I reach out to grab him by his shoulder my hand passes through him as though he isn’t even there. I look down at my hands and notice that they are slowly becoming transparent, and the realization finally hits me. It’s not him, it’s me. I’m not real.
“I’m so sorry Gary…” Beth says through sobs.
I look to her and all I see is the little girl I met all those years ago. Scared, overcome with grief, and so unsure of life. I don’t like it and it hurts to see her like that. Because of me, she is regressing backward, and all of that progress was slowly slipping away. I need her to be okay, and if that meant I had to leave then so be it. After all, a knight would do anything to protect his princess.
I shake my head and smile brightly though the tears were building up in my own eyes. “Don’t be sad Beth.” I make my way over and wrap my arms around her. “You know I hate it when you cry.”
“I can’t help it. I love you so much…”
I sigh a bit and close my eyes. “I love you too, and I always will.”
She sobs heavily and attempts to wrap her arms around me. Instead, they go through me as she wraps them around herself. “I need you, Gary.”
I let out a cry, but I attempt to keep my composure, “Even if you can’t see me, I’m always going to be in your heart. I’ll be there when you’re laughing and having fun with your friends. I’ll be there when you meet that special guy and you feel your heart fluttering about like a butterfly. I’ll be there on those days when you’re filled with uncertainty and you just don’t know how you’ll manage to get through it. I know you will though because I will always protect my princess.”
The two of us stand there and allow ourselves to appreciate all we’ve done for one another. I may have been the one who helped her through her darkest times but because of her, I could walk beside her. She gave me life and purpose. I admit, I’m scared of what’s going to happen, but there is a sureness about what I said to her that helps to soothe me. As I lean in to kiss her on her cheek I suddenly feel myself slip away from existence.
The Prompt: After years of gentle persuasion your best friend since childhood finally agrees to seek professional help for serious mental problems. Much to your dismay, as she begins to improve you slowly start to realize that you are her imaginary friend.