Always - Prologue
It was a bitterly cold December afternoon. The cold bit away at whatever it could touch, and snow was looking more likely every second. Crowds were rushing through the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street trying to get last minute items for Christmas. You could see panic starting to kick in, as shops were closing and people were battling to get the last minute bargains. Commuters were stuck as they tried to get on buses and into Oxford Circus tube station. It was utter mayhem. I was in the midst of this battle, clutching terrifyingly to my mother, Penelope’s hand. I hated coming out into the busyness of London. We lived on the outskirts of the city, away from all the flocks of commuters, tourists, city workers and inhabitants that flocked there each and every day. For an eight year old girl it was rather petrifying being amongst huge mobs of people that probably wouldn’t even notice you were there. On this particular day I just wanted to get back to the safety of my warm, spacious home. Mother, on the other hand had other ideas.
“Come on Cassandra, I still need to find presents for your father and grandmother, shops are closing soon, so we need to hurry”
“I don’t like it, I just want to get home” I moaned, tugging at her.
“We won’t be long! Stop whinging and come along” She grabbed me by the hand and pulled me close beside her. I was getting bumped into left, right and centre and I wasn’t being noticed at all.
We carried on walking, me being pulled along, mother marching through the crowds with no problem at all. We were just walking by Hamleys, when I saw him. A young boy of around my age was standing right outside of the famous toy store, no one had noticed him, and I started to wonder if it was because of how small he was, just like me. No one noticed me half the time. There was something rather odd about this boy however. He wasn’t dressed like anyone I knew. He was wearing ripped dark trousers, a white button up shirt and a flat cap was placed on top of his cropped brown hair. It was certainly different to what I’d been put in; a pair of blue jeans, a white frilly top, black boots and a pink puffer jacket. As a child though, I didn’t really care about this, and thought I’d say hello, just in case he was lost or looking for his family.
“Hi, my name’s Cassie! What’s yours?” I asked, looking at him and putting out my hand. I’d always seen grownups shake hands, so assumed this was the normal thing to do. The boy looked at me with confusion. Did he not understand what I’d said? Was he from a different country (it might have explained the way he was dressed)? Was he deaf? All these things could’ve explained it. I thought I’d try again, but this time speaking slowly.
“Hi, I’m Cassie. What’s your name?” I repeated, slowly, making sure he would be able to understand. In spite of this, he still gave me the same look of complete and utter confusion. I didn’t know what else I could do.
“Cassie, come on, we better get going” My mother’s voice brought me back to earth with a bump. She’d bumped into an old friend and had been talking.
“But mother I’m making friends with this boy” I explained.
“Cassie, there is no boy. I can’t see one” She gave me a look of bewilderment; it reminded me of the look on the boy’s face.
“There is, I know there is” I pleaded.
I turned round and true enough, he wasn’t there anymore. Where had he gone? I looked up and down the street to see if I could see him, but I couldn’t. He wouldn’t have been able to get away that fast. Where had he gone? And what was he? And why couldn’t mother see him?
“Cassandra, I think you have what we call an Imaginary Friend. It’s perfectly common for children your age to have them. You’ll grow out of it though” Mother explained, smiling at me.
I knew I didn’t have an imaginary friend. I knew I’d seen the boy, so why didn’t she believe me?