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Being sick, Vyra never missed anything more than she missed Tommie's stories. But when she was awake enough, and he was around, she'd whisper, "Tommie...tell me one of your stories. Tommie, please. For a sick girl?"
And he'd whisper, "For my sick hero, an adventure story. Once, when I was trying out my badger skin..." but she never made it much further in the stories before she was swept away in feverish nightmares. Those were the worst days for Tommie, watching her thrash in her fever, sweat and then get chills and then sweat again. Her heat fluctuated so much, so often, that he found himself testing how quickly he could change from mammal to bug.
"Oh, my little hero, get better!" He'd murmur, brushing her greasy, sweaty hair from her face, before stepping out into the cold of night. It was so hard to walk away knowing that she may not make it to another morning, but his adventures called.
Little did anyone know that adventure was soon to call for them both.
There came a time when Tommie couldn't come around for several years. Though he was gone, he still kept Vyra near to his heart, and he was never too far from the girl's memories. But she soon began to wonder if he'd ever really existed. I mean, a boy who could transform into any kind of creature he wanted? There was no way, she thought, no way he wasn't just an imaginary friend.
"Mom?" She'd sometimes ask. "Did I used to play with a little orphan boy?" But her mother was always too busy to remember who Vyra's friends were, so I f course she didn't know.
In this time, Vyra grew older and took an interest in her tutor for the first time. He was young and handsome, maybe a little too old for her but he'd been around for almost as long as she could remember. He, too, was an orphan, taken in by her parents to help school her when she became ill. He was a bright, charming fellow, maybe a bit of a suck up, but could you blame him? His whole existence depended on winning over Vyra's parents. He was as easily frustrated as he was pleased, for Vyra was not often the best student. Her mind would wander, chasing dreams of a rabbit who could turn into a fox, a boy who lurked in the gutters when it rained and saved the world when the weather was clear. But was he real? What if she waited for him all her life and he never came back? Surely someone so grand and trustworthy found someone more desirable than a poor sick girl who could hardly solve word problems...
"Vyra, are you even listening?" her tutor cried for the umpteenth time that day. "Sometimes I swear you've lost that pretty head of yours. Well, do you know how to solve it?"
"Michael?" she asked, flushing she wasn't sure with fever or nervousness. His pale blue eyes lifted to her, startled, because she never called him anything but "tutor." "Michael, do you remember a little urchin boy I used to play with? M-Mom says she isn't sure, but I...I don't remember if he's real or not, and I thought, maybe..."
"Oh Vyra," he sighed, tucking part of her hair from her face. "Sometimes our greatest friend lies in our imagination. Now, back to Math, shall we?" But for the life of him, he couldn't draw Vyra out to solve anything, not even something as simple as multiplication. He could see it was no use, and he gave up, huffing to his room without even giving her homework.
She didn't mind, not really. If someone as attentive as her tutor--had she really said his name?--had never seen him, he couldn't be real. He was just a figment of her sickened imagination. He wasn't coming back, not ever, not even if she believed it. "Oh Tommie!" She cried, and with that, she fainted into a spell that she didn't wake from for three days.
When she finally did rustle in her sheets, she was surprised to find that she felt incredibly better.
And the first order of business was finding what to say to Michael.
"Michael, I'm sorry...for what happened earlier. I've just been so caught up in thinking about that boy and, well...when you said he wasn't real I thought my whole world was crashing down." No, Vyra thought, no I can't say that. What about, "Michael, can I tell you something?" No, she thought, too mysterious and weird and--
"Vyra?" She nearly jumped out of her skin.
"Michael!" She cried, startled. "I--"
"Vyra, you looked so lost there for a minute."
"Michael, I...I'm really sorry, for the other day. I..." she couldn't find the words. What was she going to say? That she has spent her whole life waiting for an imaginary boy? "I...I..."
"Vyra, it's okay. You don't have to explain anything to me. I know we all have childish fantasies and sometimes we get lost in our minds." He sighed. "I'm really just happy that you're well again."
"Really?" she said, startled, realizing just then how blue his eyes were.
"Yes you stubborn girl." He answered, grinning. "Now forget about that apology and we'll move on to math, yes?"
She smiled. "Yeah, sure. I'd like that."
Originally published on medium.com/@gillianannie