I thought I was imagining things when I went into my room and saw a giant version of my old doll lying on my bed. I backed out of my room, closed the door, counted to three and opened it again.
He was still there.
“So, you want to try out these chess things? I mean, I know you play. I think I may have read more than you, though.”
Hastily I shut my door again. This time I stayed in the room and leaned against it. Shutting my eyes even tighter, I counted to ten.
“One this isn’t happening, two this isn’t real, three I am going crazy, four…five..six…seveneightnineten!”
“You’re strange, you know that?” He’d set the book on my night stand and was looking at me.
“Wh—who are you?” I stammered.
“What do you mean, who am I? You know already.”
“But you can’t be!”
“Ta-da!” He leaped up from the bed and struck a pose like he had just finished the greatest magic act.
He nodded his huge round head. The little ball on the top that I used to love playing with bobbled and I noticed that it was glowing.
“Is this a trick?” I asked.
“Buy you’re my doll…?”
“Why? How? I mean, what are you doing here and how did you get…like this?” I waved my arm indicating how big he’d gotten.
“Long story. Boring. Let’s play chess.”
He absolutely refused to tell me anything unless we went downstairs and played at least one round of chess.
“If you win, I will tell you everything.”
“This is ridiculous,” I said. “You’re a doll. I’m a genius. Just tell me.”
I gave in. Unfortunately, we were evenly matched and it came out to a draw. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get him to checkmate, only check. We played three times. The outcome of the second game was the same, except he got me to check. And the third time we both realized that it would be another draw.
“I was afraid of that,” he muttered.
“What? Afraid of what?”
“We’re too much alike.”
Sensing I was getting somewhere with him, I pressed the issue. “Ha! We’re nothing alike. You’re a toy. I’m a crazy teen who is overworked and overstressed. I’m having delusions. I’m really asleep upstairs and this is a psychotic dream.”
“You wish! Actually, I meant that since I’m your toy, I know all that you know. We haven’t had enough time to grow apart.”
“I haven’t played with you in years!”
“So? What does that have to do with anything? I’m still your toy!”
“I don’t believe any of this. I’m going to go to bed. Maybe then I will wake up and this will have all been a nasty dream.”
The next day I didn’t see D’Arcy when I woke up. I sighed with relief and got ready for school. Throughout the day I convinced myself that I had just been stressed out like I had said. I had imagined the whole thing. There was no way that my old doll had come to life. No way. I might believe in things like vampires and werewolves, but I didn’t believe for a second that inanimate objects could come to life. That was just silly.
After school, I came home and sat down at the table to do my physics homework. It was challenging work, but I loved it.
“You’re doing that wrong.”
I whipped my head up and jerked my pencil, causing it to wipe out the equation I was just finishing up.
Seeing D’Arcy sitting there, I closed my eyes and shook my head. “Stress. This is a stress-related delusion.”
“You are so dim-witted. If I wasn’t your toy, I’d give up on you forever. Open your eyes, you silly girl!”
“I’m not a silly girl. I’m the smartest girl in the whole school. That’s why I know you aren’t real.”
“That must make you feel really good to think so, doesn’t it? I mean, to admit to yourself that maybe, just maybe you don’t know everything, that must be so hard for you.”
Perhaps it was his mocking tone that got me to look at him, really look at him. I reached out and touched the soft fabric of his face. It felt real. I ran my hand down his skinny little arm. Felt solid. I counted the buttons on his shirt like I used to do as a toddler. Four. Just like I remembered.
“If you are my old doll, then why does your bobble glow?”
“Duh! I’m partially alive now!” Oh yes, I thought, looking at the glowing orb above his head. He was partially alive. That explained it. I shoved my physics up and turned to him.
“Ok, let’s say I believe that you are real. Let’s say that I admit that there might be something I don’t know or can’t explain. Can you tell me how it happened? Why are you alive now? Why are you here?”
He shrugged and looked embarrassed. “I don’t know. It is something you always wanted. I just thought you made it happen.”
“I didn’t really do anything,” I said. “I mean, when I was a kid I thought of ways to bring you to life, but eventually I gave up on it. I only brought you here with me when I moved because I didn’t want my brother’s kids playing with you.”
“Well you must have done something. All I know is that I was here and I’m big now. I like being big, by the way. It’s fun.”
“Great. I’m glad you like it.”
“Can I help you with your homework?” He pointed at my abandoned physics. I shrugged and pushed it toward him. Sure. Knock yourself out.”
Eventually, we were both working on the homework together. I admit that I was still skeptical, but each time I snuck out my hand to touch him, he was solid. I could hear his voice. I could see him. Little by little, his presence became more real to me.
So when Delia came in to make macaroni and cheese for supper, I was afraid of what I’d say when she saw him. How could I explain that I was being followed by a big, life-like doll?
“You like macaroni and cheese right?” she asked me as she began preparing the ingredients. “Your sister is having a cheese craving.”
“Sure,” I said. “Mac and cheese is awesome.”
“That’s good. Does your friend like it, too?”
“Um…” I said, stumbling. I looked over at D’Arcy who nodded. “Yeah. He says he does.”
Delia was focused on her work. I wasn’t sure if she had really noticed D’Arcy as much as she thought. Had she just seen me with someone or had she seen the real him?
I never did figure it out. D’Arcy disappeared before we ate. When Sarah and Shayla got home, he was just gone. Delia didn’t say anything about him, so I thought she must have thought my friend had gone home.
The mystery of Delia continued as D’Arcy started following me everywhere I went. No one was able to see him except me. We went to school and no one noticed him. We went out to the coffee shop after school and the clerk looked at me funny when I ordered two cheesecakes.
“You must be hungry she said,” taking in the fact that I wasn’t horribly overweight. I just nodded and took both plates.
“What do people see when they watch us together?” I asked D’Arcy. “Do they see that piece of cheesecake being eaten by itself?”
“No,” D’Arcy shrugged. “I think they perceive it as if you were eating it by yourself. I know when we work on homework together, they only see you doing it. And your boss at work gave you that raise because you seem to be able to do work twice as fast as everyone else.”
“Yeah, thanks for that. I think he believes in ghosts. I think he thinks that ghosts do the work.”
“But there are no ghosts,” D’Arcy said, causing me to laugh.
“Sure. ‘I don’t believe in ghosts’…said the talking doll.”
I sort of forgot that Delia had seen D’Arcy since no one else seemed to be able to. But then one night she asked about him when we were in the kitchen together.
“Where’s your friend?” she asked. I’d been outside working at my chemistry set. D’Arcy thought that chemistry was boring. He refused to help me with it.
“D’Arcy?” I asked, stupidly. “Um…he’s around.”
Delia laughed. “The babies will be able to see him, too,” she said cryptically as I tried to escape. That statement stopped me.
“Well, he is an imaginary friend. And children do tend to see them more than adults do.”
Again Delia laughed. “Surely you’ve had him since you were a child?” she asked. “No one else can see him. No one else can hear him. He is your imaginary friend.”
“How did you know that I had him as a child? I mean, he’s so different now. Bigger.”
“You don’t know?” Delia took her plate to the sink. “I’m a witch,” she said.
Now it was my turn to laugh. “A witch? Are you kidding?”
“Of course not. I know you’ve seen my brewing station.” I nodded. I’d known about it and her strange garden, but I had never thought she might be a witch.
“So you’re saying witches are real? And you aren’t talking about Wicca the religion, right? You mean spells and potions and magic?”
“Yes, that’s right. And we can see your imaginary friend. We see all of the supernatural creatures. The ones that have revealed themselves and those who have not.”
I asked her if my sister and Shayla knew about her. She said they didn’t. I was told that I couldn’t tell them, either.
“They are not ready for that information,” she said. “They are both having babies and focused on their family. They wouldn’t believe you if you said the truth. That is why they don’t see your friend.”
“So, if they were ready, they could see him?”
“If the conditions were right, yes.”
“You know,” I said, “I wouldn’t have believed this even a few months ago. I used to believe that D’Arcy, that’s my friend, would come to life one day. I tried to figure out how to make it happen. But when it never did, I gave it up.”
“You must not have truly given up. He is here.”
“But he’s only partly alive, he said. Will I be followed by an invisible doll for the rest of my life?”
“Well that’s up to you,” Delia answered. Then she started cleaning up the kitchen and I was dismissed.
I went to the Elixir shop to see if they had any books or scrolls or anything that I could read about toys becoming real. I felt stupid asking the clerk about my “imaginary friend”.
“Oh,” she said, “I think I have something here that might help. Imaginary friends don’t come alive for just anyone! In fact, most people never see beyond the dolls.”
“You know about them?” I asked the girl. She was new; I’d never seen her there before.
“Oh I know of them,” she said. “But I’ve never seen one. We rarely are gifted with one,” she said as she searched for a book up on the top shelf.
“Are you a w…I mean…I recently met someone who called herself a w-witch. Do you mean you’re a…?” I pantomimed a pointed witch hat, unable to call the girl a witch to her face.
“A witch?” the girl smiled at me and laughed. “It’s hard to tell with witches,” she answered cryptically. I figured that was tantamount to a yes. Witches, I was quickly figuring out, liked to make cryptic statements.
“Here it is. You can’t check it out, but you can read it here. The page you want is near the middle. Fae Toys, they are called in the book, sometimes they’re also referred to as Pukhas”
“Fae Toys, like fairies?”
“Only sometimes,” she said and then found something at the counter she needed to do. I was left alone with my book.
Later, I was in hanging out at this new establishment that was reportedly owned by gypsies. It was just a juice bar, but it had a mysterious air about it and some strange things inside. One thing was a crystal ball that was supposed to tell your future.
“I don’t think this will work,” D’Arcy said as we both looked at it skeptically.
“It’s worth a try,” I said. “It might be one of those electric science balls that make your hair stand up. But it might also be a real crystal ball.”
“Why are we doing this again?”
“Well, the witch at the Elixir shop gave me that book to read.”
“But you said it didn’t have much information in it.”
“It didn’t. It said that Fae Toys could be brought to life, though. It said something about belief and love and future. I really couldn’t make sense of it. I felt like I was reading Peter Pan and I needed to clap my hands and promise that I did believe in fairies.”
“Sounds stupid. I don’t think I’m a Fae Toy. Sounds like fiction.”
“Talking toys are fiction, and yet here you are. And witches. And vampires and werewolves, too, but we know they exist.”
“Fine. So what do we have to do?”
What we had to do was pay money (figures) and touch it. But the dumb thing was just as cryptic as the witches. “You will remember when you can’t forget,” it told me. D’Arcy got, “You will gain when you lose.”
We both agreed it was lame.
My sister and her partner, Shayla, went into labor on the same day. I figured it served them right for wanting to have children at the same time and getting the IVF treatment at the same time, too.
Bringing home boys, I thought, was sort of ironic, too, though both of them said they were thrilled to have had boys.
“It would have been nice to have one each,” Shayla commented, “but I just love my Neville so much! And little Austin looks just like Sarah! We couldn’t be more blessed.”
The two of them were totally clueless how much having what amounted to twins would change their lives. I couldn’t wait until I graduated and got out of there. I was done being a babysitter!
In the meantime, I decided to resume my efforts of finding a way to bring D’Arcy back to life. I started with science, just like I had as a kid. It didn’t go so well.
“This is why I won’t help you with the chemistry experiments,” D’Arcy laughed at me when one of my attempts went horribly wrong. He’d just finished using a fire extinguisher to put out the flames caused by my mini-explosion.
“I don’t think you’ll be able to brew something up chemically that will do the trick,” he said.
That’s when I decided to give alchemy a try. If Delia could do it, I figured I could learn. I asked her if I could use her brewing station.
“Lord and Lady, no! I don’t want to have to cleanse it after one of your failed attempts. I saw your singed clothing in the wash. I threw them out!”
“But I really want to learn,” I begged.
“Here,” she handed me a book. “Read this first and then maybe, just maybe I will let you try making something.”
The book was huge. I took one look at it and knew that I’d be reading a long time before I ever got to brew anything!
“What are your plans now that you’re an adult,” Sarah asked me one morning during breakfast. She hadn’t asked me to leave yet, which I figured was due to the fact that both of the boys were just now starting to walk and getting into everything.
“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “I applied for those scholarships at the University. The term starts in a few weeks.”
“Do you know what you are going to study?”
“Not really. I’m not sure what I want to do now that the decisions is upon me.”
“You could do anything, Nat. You were valedictorian. Dad always said you were a genius.”
“I think that’s the problem. There are just so many choices!”
“What do you love?”
I didn’t know. I could pursue science, I guessed. I’d won awards for both chemistry and physics. But science wasn’t really my passion. I did it for D’Arcy. If he wasn’t around, I wouldn’t have gotten as involved in experimenting with chemicals.
And so far all of my experimentation hadn’t panned out. I was no closer than solving the problem of bringing life to even an inanimate object that had been brought to partial life.
Eventually the day I was beginning to dread arrived. I had to leave for University and I hadn’t a clue was I was going to do there. I’d tentatively registered for the medical and science degree, but I wasn’t enthused about it.
I think Delia sensed this as she gave me a hug and wished me good luck. “Find your passion, Natasha,” she said to me. “Passion is what bring you your fondest desire.”
It was typical witchy cryptic-speech, but I couldn’t get the phrase out of my head.
As I had known he would, D’Arcy followed me to college. “I like school,” he said. “I’m a genius just like you. Together we’re going to totally ace college.”
And we did. It helps having two people studying together to pass one class. But I wasn’t happy with my choice of major. Unfortunately, when I talked to my counselor, I wasn’t that enthused about any of the other majors, either. I knew that I could never be an athlete, like my sister Sarah, but I could do art like my brother. I just couldn’t see myself painting all the time, so I quickly rejected that idea. I wasn’t that into technology and I wasn’t really into any sort of business field either. Communications might be ok, but even that really didn’t peak my interest. Eventually, I left my counselor’s office agreeing that my first choice was probably the right one.
“A lot of first year students question themselves,” the counselor said. “but usually they go back to the career they wanted to pursue in the first place.”
Disappointed that I wasn’t more assured with my choices, I tried to settle my mixed feelings about college by making friends. Matt Simmons and Trey Dixon were two guys who lived in my dorm. I liked both of them as soon as I got to know them.
D’Arcy, however, questioned my taste in friends. “What do you see in them?” he asked me. “Matt thinks he’s some tough guy, but really he’s just pretending to be tough. And Trey is really immature. Have you seen how childishly he acts?”
“I like them,” I insisted. “They’re nice. And you can’t tell me who I can and cannot be friends with!”
D’Arcy may not have been able to tell me who to hang out with, but he did have the ability to make me regret hanging out with anyone at all. Since Matt and Trey (and most others) couldn’t see him, he took to messing with them.
Once, I was eating lunch in the common room with Matt and D’Arcy kept steeling things off of Matt’s plate.
“Hey!” Matt exclaimed, “I could have sworn I had another half of a sandwich.”
“I saw you eat it,” I told him, but I glared at D’Arcy who was wiping peanut butter off of his face.
Trey and I liked to study together in the library. D’Arcy followed and frequently managed to get in Trey’s way, causing him to trip or stumble.
“I’m not usually this clumsy,” Trey assured me. “I guess I tripped over my own feet.”
“It’s ok,” I said. “I’m not that graceful, either. We can just sit over there and work on our assignments.”
The more D’Arcy interfered, the angrier I got with him. I began to ignore him or at least keep my distance (even though that was hard because he was ALWAYS there). Eventually, D’Arcy stopped bugging me. He was still around, but he let me alone when I was hanging out with one of the guys.
If I didn’t know better, I would have called D’Arcy’s behavior jealousy, but I knew I was wrong. My relationship with both Trey and Matt was platonic. We hung out. That was all.
The distance between D’Arcy and I became uncomfortable, however. I hated what was happening. I had gotten used to having him in my life as a person…or almost a person. He was my best friend. I just wasn’t sure how to make things better between us. I could give up my other friends, but that wasn’t fair. D’Arcy had to see that, didn’t he?
What brought us back together was an unfortunately incident in the kitchen of our dorm. Someone had left some waffles cooking in the oven and it had caught on fire. I was taking my plate to the sink when the blaze started. Of course, I grabbed the fire extinguisher and started to try to put it out.
“You’ll never get it!” D’Arcy shouted, suddenly appearing by my side. “Let me help.”
D’Arcy had another fire extinguisher and the two of us turned them toward the fire.
“Thanks,” I said when we had managed to put out the last flame. I wiped my forehead leaving a trail of soot.
“It was brave of you to try and help,” I added. “Aren’t toys flammable?”
“No more flammable than humans.”
“Oh. Well it was still brave.”
“You were brave, too.”
“No. I was scared, but I knew it had to be done.”
After the fire, we hung out again a bit more. D’Arcy convinced me to learn fishing. “I’ve always wanted to try it,” he said.
I didn’t care much for the sport, but I had a pretty good afternoon. The best part was getting ice cream afterwards. The driver was a fairy, so he didn’t blink an eye when D’Arcy ordered a chocolate dipped bunny cone.
Fairies, we discovered, could see imaginary friends, too. A girl in our lecture class pulled me aside once and told me I was really lucky. “Fae toys,” she said, “are very rare. It’s extremely unusual to see one so advanced. Most of us have forgotten the art of making them.”
I found the girl disconcerting. I hadn’t seen her wings until we were privately speaking. She told me that she had the ability to hide them.
D’Arcy was intrigued by the girl. He invited her to hang out on more than one occasion. I found myself feeling a bit left out when they got together. I imagined he must have felt similarly when I spent time with Matt and Trey. I felt guilty for being mad at him before. I was determined not to be mean to the girl.
“Freeha says that Fae toys were made by the Fairies to soothe lost children. She says that only special ones can come to life.”
“Did she tell you how to do it?” I asked. We were studying for our final exams.
“No. She said that the lore has been lost.”
“Well that sucks,” I said.
“Yeah, but she explained to me that magic just sometimes happens. She said that it’s like a feeling or like willpower. If you want something to happen badly enough, it does.”
“Sounds like wishful thinking.”
“Yeah,” D’Arcy agreed.
“Besides,Delia seemed to think there was more to bringing you to life than clapping my hands and believing. She seemed to think I’d need a potion or elixir and maybe a spell or ritual.”
“I don’t know,” regretted D’Arcy. “I just wish we’d figure it out. I’m so tired of no one seeing me. I wish I was human.”
“That would be pretty cool,” I agreed.
Unfortunately, D’Arcy and I finished the term no closer to finding a way to bring him to life. We studied really had and got an A in all of our classes. We read as much as we could find on Fae toys and fairy magic, but nothing gave us a clue as to what to do.
I was afraid that neither science nor magic would hold the answer to D’arcy’s becoming more than an imaginary friend.