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Goodbye

Today I wanted to share a short story that I wrote a little while ago and is one of my favorites I've written. I submitted this to the National Council of Teachers of English awards and received recognition for Superior Performance in Writing, but since they don't publish an anthology, I never got to share the story with an audience. I thought that this would be a great first short story of mine to post on the blog for the writing section (I don't post more since many contests publish your work which prohibits me from sharing it myself). I really hope you enjoy it, and please leave me a comment with your thoughts. (And just to restate, everything I post on my blog I have worked hard to  create. These are all protected under copyright and reproduction for any reason without my written consent is both unacceptable and illegal.)

            Goodbye
            Come on Sadie!” called a little girl as she ran through a field of spring green grass as tall as she was. A crown of daisies hung through her amber curls, and there was a gleeful sparkle behind the bright eyes that matched the open skies. She turned and looked behind her to check on her friend and to any onlooker- there wasn't anyone there. But I was. I always am. I just happen to be invisible to the pesky nonbelievers, but I was the very important very best friend of one Maggie M. Mason.
            My feet floated effortlessly through the field after the little girl. “I know! I’m coming!” I called back.
            We have to make it to the fortress before the pirates get us.” Maggie made it out of the grass and onto the soft wood chips that surrounded the play set.
            The princess is coming,” shouted a rowdy little boy hiding in the brush.
            Princesses,” Maggie replied panting as she ran for the brush.
            Well if you have Sadie with you then I get to bring Jack to make it a fair fight,” the boy said. Evidently, the six year old didn't grasp the idea of a covert hiding spot well.
            You should invite him. He’s always so much fun to play with,” Maggie giggled.
            The boy straightened and pushed a thick mop of black hair out of his eyes before cupping his hands around his mouth and yelling, “Jack! Come play with us.”
            I watched as a thin boy with sandy hair appeared next to me. “I thought you’d never ask,” he joked. “I’ll give you a ten second head start Sadie, but that’s it. Get ready, Toby.”
            I took off in a run for the safety of the jungle gym that Maggie sat on dangling her feet down tauntingly at Toby who was just too short to reach one of her patent leather encased feet. Jumping with all the energy I had left, I reached out my hand for the rusty bar with chipping blue paint above me. Clutching it with one hand, I tried to swing my momentum forward so I could catch the other bar. Luckily, Maggie grabbed my hand and pulled me up through the gaps in the bars just before Jack tagged me.
            We win,” Maggie said in her best sing-songy voice before dissolving into giggles. Toby threw his cardboard sword to the ground in mock disgust, and Johnny demanded a rematch.
            We get to chase this time,” Maggie said with a smug smile.
            And I want your sword,” I added looking at Toby.

            I didn't realize how much I would end up clinging to those memories. Racing through fields and parks, making sandcastles on the beach, swinging on the tire swing. I had been there all along. Through every turn, disaster, and misstep, I was there for Maggie more than anyone you could see, but of course, she didn't remember that. The same thing happened to Jack. “If only kids weren't so forgetful,” Jack and I would say to each other when we would meet between the two neighbor’s houses. We were starting to fade, and yet we couldn't accept it and let go.
            Hey, Maggie,” I asked the girl as she walked into the room, “how was school?” What I got instead of an answer was an eye roll and a glare. She threw her bag onto her desk. I watched her walk around the room in her combat boots and short skirt. She took out the diamond earring from her ear- the compromise with her parents when she asked for a diamond nose stud. Her sweet amber curls had been flattened out, and she covered her sweet smile and cherubic cheeks with layers of makeup. Finding herself had been a hard road.
            I told you to call me Margret,” she said with gritted teeth. That’s why I’m still here. She hasn't forgotten me yet.
            Until high school, Maggie had stayed sweet and quiet. She had clung to her childhood so hard she couldn't part with her dolls, pigtails, or her favorite white sweater she wore with all her dresses. And I guess she got tired of always getting picked on, and she changed. I can’t blame her. Life with only friends that only exist in your mind is tough, but I never thought it would drive her to become the person in front of me. I could tell that she would forget me soon, but I had one last mission before I went.
            That night I snuck out to meet up with Jack. It’s not like Maggie missed me. “She just needs a little reminder of what life was like when she was happy and young. I can’t go knowing she’s spiraling head first into every mistake in the book,” I said to Jack as I paced in the alley between the two houses.
            She needs to see Toby. They haven't talked in years, and seeing that you’re still here, she still believes enough to keep you around. That should count for something. Toby can remind her of what it’s like,” Jack volunteered.
            I spent the rest of the next day making flower crowns and cardboard swords to carry into battle. When Maggie walked into her room that afternoon, I nearly pounced on her. “Put this on. We’re going somewhere important.”
            Why should I listen to you… or wear that?” she asked feigning a disgusted look at the pink dress, Mary Jane’s, and white sweater that lay on the bed.
            Just do it,” I said in my most authoritative voice. Remarkably, I got her in the outfit and to the edge of the field just on time. At the last second, I remembered to weave the flowers into her hair. “Now run through the field and make it to the jungle gym before the pirates catch you!” I said with a smile.
            She gave me an annoyed look and craned her neck to make sure no one she knew was near. After a deep breath, she took off running, obviously lulled by nostalgia. The grass only brushed past her hips now, and she was much faster, but I got what I wanted. She laughed and smiled back at me. “Come on, Sadie. Let’s do this together.”
            I matched her pace across the field and gave a thankful smile to Toby who crouched in the bushes, now much taller and with a better haircut. “Game on!” he called dashing out of the hedge as soon as we crossed the threshold of the playground. “Go get Sadie, Jack.”
            Jack appeared at my side a millimeter away from tagging me. “Not today,” I giggled. Maggie swung onto the bars ahead of me, but Toby was taller now and triumphantly held onto her shoe.
            Maggie slid to the ground to stand next to Toby. “I’m glad you came,” he said to her. She looked around at all of us.
            I’m happy I did, too.”
            That was when Jack grabbed my hand in his and looked me in the eye. “You know we have to go now,” he said. They were words I knew were coming when I did this, but I wasn't ready to hear them especially after all this. “You know it’s true, Sadie.”
            He moved to take my hand. I could only bring myself to nod my head. With a mournful look over my shoulder, I let Jack lead me toward the smoldering sun that fell from the sky to make room for the moon.
            My last glance before the park disappeared from view made me smile. Maggie and Toby were standing together giggling and smiling. Suddenly, he lunged toward her starting a game of tag- something that had been long forgotten. But the subtle reminder was enough to spark her interest and remind her of her skill. They were going to be okay, and that is why Jack was making me leave them. The funny thing about imaginary friends is that even though they’re often forgotten, sometimes they have to go themselves when they know that they’re not needed anymore. Learning to let go when you know the job is done is sometimes the hardest thing, but the sense of accomplishment is enough to get through the initial pain.
            She’ll remember me, Jack, won’t she?”

            Of course, how could she forget?”

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