Outline of an Invisible Girl

Prologue: The memories

There were memories. 

Vague ones, but memories nonetheless.

Memories of playing with a girl when I was a younger. A girl with brown, curly hair. A girl that I had sleepovers with almost every night. A girl who would make funny faces before bed, then guard me, sitting at my bedpost.

I remembered her name, even. Emma. No last name, no parents. She told me that her parents were gone a lot—business trips, she said.

And me, being at a younger age, believed her. 

The most chilling thing, though, is that I remember the day. The day when Emma was supposed to come over to play but didn’t show.

I remembered my parents’ sympathetic look when I ran, crying, into their arms, saying that my best friend had left me. It seemed like they understood. But I didn’t understand. Why had this girl, this girl I had known all my life, left without warning?

I couldn’t comprehend it. Until my parents explained it to me that night at the dinner table.

Emma wasn’t real. She was “an imaginary friend,” explained my parents.

But she wasn’t.

Over the years that had come later, I had many imaginary friends, but none like Emma. None of them had that realness Emma had.

But I let go of my suspicions after a few years, though I still kept a tight fist around my reality.

Everything made sense for a while. Until ten years later, when someone knocked at the door.


Chapter 1: The Friend


Knock knock!

My head peeked up from the book I was reading.

The Beginning of the End, by Clara Caldwell, a book so entirely real that it challenges reality itself.

“Who's there?” I hollered as Bumble, my gray tabby, jumped down from her perch on the windowsill and ran into my bedroom in a skittish fashion, partly slamming into the wall.

“You silly cat,” I mumbled, getting up from my seat to open the door, with my coffee in hand. Across the shaggy rug, down the stairs, around the chairs and side tables, all the way to the door.

I grabbed the loose knob and slowly opened the door, which stuck on the hinges, unprepared for what would be staring back at me. And what happened next, I couldn’t even describe in full context if I wanted to.

There was no way to describe my face, the shock I felt.

There was no way to describe the way my coffee cup crashed when I dropped it.

There was no way to describe how familiar this face had been to me after all these years.

But there was a way to describe the name of what was in front of me, or in this case: who was in front of me.

“Emma?” I trembled.

Emma smiled a wide grin and pulled me in for a suffocating bear hug.

“Hi, Paisley!” she screamed, acting like we had been friends for the past ten years. But I let her hug me anyway, because a part of me hoped that she was real.

“Emma, what are you doing here?” I asked, my body trembling ever so slightly.

"I've missed you so much!" Emma exclaimed, squeezing my hands. I squinted. She was so real, but I knew she couldn't be. But truth be told, I never saw her leave. It could have been a lie created by my parents for some mystic reason. But for now I let myself believe.

“Yeah...I've missed you too!” I hugged her. “But why did you leave? Where have you been all this time?”

Emma's bright smile faded as I pulled away. 

“What's wrong, Emma?” I asked closing the front door behind me.

“You can't tell your parents that I found you, Paisley.”

“Why, Emma?” I asked, looking into her faded eyes, looking for an answer.

“Because they’ll send me away again!” Emma cried.

I froze. My parents sent Emma away? My only childhood friend?

I felt anger rushing through my veins. What right did they have to do that?

“Emma, what do you mean, ‘they sent you away’?” 

Emma looked up from wiping her tears away. “I can’t tell you Paisley. They said that if I told you then my family would pay. I still can’t believe that they would threaten a little seven year old like that.”

I didn’t either. All my life, I thought my parents were these great people. They never did anything wrong. In daylight, at least, under the watchful eye of the town. 

They helped at the farmers market, food drives. My mother was a teacher at the preschool. She taught kids all the simple things they’d need to know when they went out into the world. My dad worked for the mayor. Both of them worked hard to provide for their family.

So how could they betray me like that?

“I’m so sorry, Emma. Do you want to come inside?” I asked, opening the door to her. 

Emma looked like she was considering it, but she shook her head instead.

“I have to get going. My parents are expecting me.”

“But you just came!” I whined, pulling her hands. Then I accidentally pushed one of her sleeves up and saw the little charm bracelet. I had the same one, from a little boutique, so long ago.

“You kept it?” I asked in a soft voice, fidgeting with it on her wrist.

“Of course, Pais! I haven’t taken it off since.”

I felt my heart melt. For ten years Emma had kept on this cheap plastic bracelet that we had bought together.

“Do you have to go, Em?”

Emma sighed. “Yes. But I promise I’ll be back tomorrow.”

I nodded. “Okay.”

Only minutes after Emma left, I heard the door creak open.

“Paisley, we’re home!”

I cringed as I flipped the last page of The Beginning of the End.

The perpetrators were home.


Chapter 2: The Traitor

I slowly walked down the stairs to greet my parents, step by step, stair by stair. When I got to the bottom, I took the long way to the kitchen, so I had time to think about what I was going to say to them.

I walked into the kitchen and looked my mother in the eye as she asked, “How was your day, honey?”

“It was fine,” I replied, sitting down at the kitchen table. “Just sat and read a book, ate lunch, read more, got a visit.”

Mom froze and looked at me, still unpacking the groceries. 

“From who?”

Suddenly Dad walked into the room slightly limping as he usually did from a car accident a few years ago while driving to pick me up from school.

“Oh, an old friend.”

“What old friend?” Dad asked wrapping his arms around Mom’s waist.

I took a bite of an apple. “A friend. Someone I haven’t seen in a while.”

Who, Paisley?” Dad said a little more seriously.

He and Mom walked over and sat down at the table next to me.

“Emma. Remember her?”

My parents exchanged a concerned glance.

“Emma?” Mom asked in a silent voice. “Honey, I thought you were over your imaginary friend phase—.”

“She hugged me, you know. She’s very real.”

“Paisley,” Dad started, straightening himself up in his chair. “Emma isn’t real. I thought we’d discussed this.”

I rolled my eyes. “We discussed it when I was five! I didn’t even know enough words to imagine!”

“Paisley, don’t you trust us?” Mom asked.

I had. I had believed them until this morning. I had believed them until Emma showed up at my doorstep, hugged me then told me that my parents had sent her away. 

To be honest, I was confused. I had had a normal life. I went to school, I had friends, I did extracurriculars, but all of that changed.

All of that vanished.

“I trusted you. But I’m not sure now.” And with that I walked away and locked myself in my room for the rest of the night.

That night I had a dream—a nightmare, more like it—about what would have happened if Emma stayed, I mean, hadn’t been sent away.

My life would have been a lot better. I would have had someone to lean on when times were tough, someone to defend me against bullies. 

Or maybe not. Maybe she was imaginary. We would see tomorrow.

She wasn’t. 

The next day, while I was walking to school, I heard a rustling in a bush. I scanned the street, nothing. I ran to the bush.

“Emma?” Suddenly, a small dog popped out of the bush and scratched my cheek before running around the house it was hiding next to.

I heard laughing behind me as the person came into view.

“You came,” I said, wiping dirt off of my palms.

“Of course, Pais, why wouldn’t I? I promised, didn’t I?” Emma replied, her hands on her hips.

“I don’t know. My parents think you are an imaginary friend.”

When I said that, Emma froze.

“But you aren’t, right?” I asked cautiously.

“Of course not! Imaginary? That is really weird that your parents think that.”

“I guess so,” I mumbled picking my bag up off of the ground. “I have to go to school now, Em.”

“Oh,” Emma sighed. “I’ll wait for you at the park. We can walk around town a bit.”

“Okay,” I smiled. “Sounds good.”


Chapter 3: The Truth

After school, I went straight to the park without any detours.

Emma didn’t show up.

Moments later though, I found her hiding behind a tree.

“Emma? Why are you hiding?”

“Shh!” Emma cried, pointing to the bench where my Mom was eating a sandwich.

“Oh my god!” I quickly hid behind the tree.

“Is she gone?” Emma whispered, pressing herself against the tree.

I shook my head. “It looks like she’ll be there for a while.”

“C’mon, Pais, let’s go to the back of the school.”

“The back of the school?” That seemed like an odd place, seeing as the teachers had meetings after school for at least another hour.

“Maybe we can go to my house?”

Emma shrunk away. “But aren’t your parents going to be home?”

I looked at my watch. “Not for another four hours, I think.”

Emma grabbed my hand. “Let’s go!”

We were silent as we crept across the park to the sidewalk, across the road, and all the way to my neighborhood. 

“We should probably go to my room just in case,” I said as the front door opened with a creak.

“Okay. Do you still have your cat?” Emma asked, looking around my house. Almost on cue, Bumble appeared from the kitchen and walked to the other side of the room without even noticing Emma.

“Hmm, that’s weird. She’s usually more friendly,” I apologized walking into the kitchen.

Emma crossed her arms and followed me into the kitchen. “It’s fine. She’s probably tired today.”

“Do you want water?” I asked awkwardly, filling up the water glasses.

“Sure…Pais? I have a question.” Emma sat down at the counter. When I turned around, I found her fidgeting with a pen.

“What is it?” What could she possibly want to talk about. I mean, it’s not like she hadn’t seen me for ten years. Because that would be absurd.

“I’m not who you think I am, Pais,” Emma started to cry.

“What do you mean?” I asked, putting an arm around her shoulder.

Emma pushed away. “You’re parents were right. I’m not real.”

“Why would you think that?” I was so confused. How could Emma be fake. She was so real.

“I’m just a figment of your imagination! I don’t have a family or a house, or anything! You created me!”

I was angry now. I wouldn’t believe that my friend was make-believe—not again. Then I heard myself speak words I never thought I would think.

“Emma, listen, imaginary or not, you are my friend. We have fun and I don’t care if anyone doesn’t believe it.” I hugged my friend tightly. “I believe it.”

And at that moment, my parents came crashing through the front door and froze right in front of me. 

“Who are you hugging, Pais?” I stared my mother down. She did this. Her and Dad had made Emma believe that she wasn’t real.

“Em—.” Suddenly, mid-sentence, I noticed that Emma had disappeared from her seat.

“No one. You must have seen wrong.”

“Okay. Anyways, your dad and I thought it would be nice if we went out for dinner tonight,” Mom explained, taking off her shoes.

I contemplated this. I did want to have some time with my family, but that was before this whole thing with Emma. How could I go to dinner with traitors?

“Um, actually I have a lot of homework, but how about the two of you go out? I can just have leftovers.”

“You sure Pais?” My Dad asked. I nodded. Then they both left.

Minutes after I was sure they were gone, I whispered Emma’s name.

“She appeared in front of me and I screamed.

“Pais, calm down!”

“How can I calm down, Emma? You just appeared out of nowhere like a ghost!” I answered, stumbling into the counter.

Emma shrunk away to that. 

I sighed, shaking my head. “That’s what you meant isn’t it? You’re a ghost?”

Emma nodded her head—probably against her own will.

“Well this is great, just great!” I grumbled. “First you’re imaginary, then you’re a ghost?”

Emma reached out to comfort me but I pulled away and shook my head.

“Emma don’t touch me. I need time to think.”

“Pais, please. I need you. You are my only friend. Even if I am a ghost.” Emma stood up and poured herself water.

“See? I can still touch things and smell and sense things—but you are the only one that can see me. Pais, I’m like you but invisible. Please give me another chance.”

All my life I had believed in reality. No unicorns, no mermaids, no flat earth. Just the world that I read about in non-fiction books. But maybe life wasn’t like that. Maybe there were unicorns and mermaids and myths that could be proven true in time. But to do that, I had to trust.

“Okay, Emma. Let’s give this another try.”


Chapter 4: The Reconstructed Friendship


It had been months since the reveal. Nothing had changed, except I knew the truth now. Mom and Dad were still traitors and Emma was still my friend.

It was the day after school had ended for the summer. I remember it vividly. The day the End started. 

We were eating ice cream. At the best little shop in the best part of town on the best day. The day I finished my freshmen year of high school.

“Pais, isn’t this great?” Emma said sarcastically as we sat down next to a dumpster to avoid suspicion.

“Emma this was your idea, you know. I was content with looking like a crazy person because I was talking to the air!”

Emma laughed. “I’m glad we can joke about that now.”

Then out of nowhere, Emma glitched.

“P-pa-ais? Wh-at-at i-s goi-ing on?”

“Oh my god Emma! Hold tight, I’ll do something!” Just as I was stupidly about to get help for my invisible friend, she glitched back to life.

“Emma, are you okay?” I asked, lowering my voice as Emma shivered.

“I think so,” Emma whispered, lowering her head. Then I knew. There was something she wasn’t telling me. Something important. But I wouldn’t push it.

“Emma, do you want to go home?” I asked, helping my friend up on her feet. She nodded and we made our way home.

That night I tucked Emma under my covers and gave her tea.

“Pais, as much as you think it will, tea will not help!” Emma laughed, holding the mug in between her hands.

“Emma, let me treat you like a human, please,” I said, sitting on the bed as Bumble hopped up on my lap. “That explains why Bumble wouldn’t acknowledge you,” I added, stroking Bumble’s furry flank.

“Yeah,” Emma nodded, sipping the tea lightly. “Whoa, that’s really cold!”

“I can make your tea hotter—it’ll only take a minute,” I said. After Bumble jumped off, leaving fur all over me, I stepped down the stairs, peering into the kitchen to see if my parents were home. They were.

“Hi, Mom.” I plopped myself down next to her.

“Hi, Pais, did you have dinner yet?” Mom asked annoyingly, crunching down on a carrot.

I cringed. “Yes,” I lied. Dad walked in then carrying a box. He dropped it down on the table.

“That’s the last of the tools to move out of the garage, Sarah,” he said, obviously satisfied with his work. Annoyed, Mom looked down at Dad’s feet.

“You tracked in mud,” she said in a monotone, getting up to grab the vacuum cleaner. Dad tripped over his feet to get away as Mom sucked up all of the dirt.

“Now you can sit down, honey.” With Mom’s permission, Dad sat down at the table and I noticed that it was the first time we had all been together in a long time. Probably since Emma showed up so long ago.

“How’s it going, Paisley?” Dad asked, taking a carrot from the bowl. I could see how my parents were so compatible.

“Nothing much. Schools over. I guess that’s good.” Mom coughed like she remembered something.

“By the way, Pais, Gramma wants you to go see her in August, for some ‘summer cleaning’.” I nodded and, like my parents before me, grabbed a carrot. Even though I was mad at them about driving Emma away, I was more lenient now. I had realized that they weren’t bad people. They just made a mistake. But I could never forgive them. Though I was thankful for them betraying me, in a way, because it brought me and Emma and closer together.

“Mom, Dad, I’m going to get some sleep. See you in the morning!” I kissed both of my parents on the cheek and headed upstairs. I stopped at my door. I raised my hand to knock, but the I remembered that this was my room. I had automatic permission to enter.

But as I started to open the door, I heard something that quickly made me close it. 

“Yes,” Emma said. “I have done as you asked. She will be ours in no time and we’ll be free of this once and for all.”

“Does she suspect something?” I heard a voice say.

No, she doesn’t suspect a thing. She thinks I’m her friend,” Emma snickered.

“When will it be done?” The mysterious voice asked again.

Emma smiled. “As soon as she walks through that door.”


Chapter 5: The End

I rushed into the room, only stopping for a moment to put the tea on my desk.

“What’s going on, Emma?” I asked as I played eyes on a beautiful woman with dark chestnut hair and freckles across her face.

Emma searched for the words before coming to a halt. She laughed. A dark, demonic laugh. “I knew we couldn’t get away with it, Violet. She’s too smart.”

“I guess, seeing as these are her last moments, we should tell her the truth,” decided the woman, whom I assumed was Violet.

Then, the most grotesque creature I had ever seen appeared as the women shed off their human forms like Bumble shed her fur.

I screamed and fell backwards into my desk.

“What are you?!” 

“Demons,” Emma said in her normal voice. “Couldn’t you tell?” she added, switching to a demonic voice.

I screamed some more. 

“Paisley, Paisley. Did you think that your long lost friend would come back to you after all these years?” Emma taunted.

“What did you do with Emma?” I screamed in the demon’s face.

“Nothing. You can’t hurt what doesn’t exist. That’s right, Paisley! Your parents were telling the truth, but you let me poison you against them!” I was panicking. I was so gullible. I had let my guard down and this impersonator had slipped past my defenses.

“And now, you’ll die and cease to exist, just like Emma!” Violet cackled. I thought that was the end. I saw my life flash before my eyes as “Emma” reached to claw my face off. But at the last moment, my parents raced through the door and threw the demons to the ground.

“Get away from her!” My mom screeched while punching “Emma” as Dad did the same to Violet.

After a moment, Mom and Dad stood up. They thought they had won. But as their backs were turned, “Emma” and Violet creeped up behind them and held knives to their throats.

“Emma” gave me a malicious grin. 

“Paisley, here’s the deal. A life for a life. You switch bodies with me, so I’m free, while you’re stuck with an old rotting vessel and your parents live! How’s that sound to you?” I looked into “Emma”’s eyes. There was nothing there. Nothing at all. There was no Emma anymore. Just an enemy, who would spend another thousand years as a demon.

But I didn’t have a plan. Or at least, not until Mom mouthed the word tea. I looked down to my left where I had placed the tea. And then, in what seemed to be slow motion, I grabbed the tea and flung it onto the demons. They wailed and let go of the knives, which clattered to the floor.

Mom and Dad ran from their clutches as the demons, like the knives, fell to the floor.

I ran to “Emma” and Violet. Violet did not move. But “Emma” was writhing around on the ground still.

“I guess there is a weakness to demons,” I said triumphantly.

“Emma”’s eyes were milky. “There’s no way to defeat us. We’ll rise again!” Then she murmured something as the light was drained from her face.

“She’s gone, Pais,” Mom said, placing her hand on my shoulder.

“I know,” I admitted.

I stood up and hugged my parents.

“I’m so sorry I didn’t believe you when you said that Emma wasn’t real. I should’ve believed you, I—.”

Mom shushed me. “Pais, you didn’t know. You trusted her, didn’t you?”

I nodded.

“Well trust is good,” Dad piped in.

I shrunk away from their warm embrace. “But I shouldn’t have trusted her. Look where it led us.” I gestured to the bodies on the floor of bedroom.

“Yeah, but a little trust is good sometimes. Because you learn from your mistakes,” Mom explained, pulling me into her arms.

“And we’ll always love you, Pais,” Dad added.

And that? That was all I needed. All I could have ever asked for. Love. That was the unspoken emotion in the back of my mind. So I embraced it.

And as I hugged my parents tighter than ever before, I said, “I love you guys too.”


Epilogue: The Aftermath 

It was many years after The Incident, as my parents and I liked to call it. Life had gone back to normal. My parents continued their jobs and good deeds and I continued school. I went to college and became a therapist. Life was good. I eventually married and had three children. 

Once I saw my eldest child, Kristina talking to herself and sharing her food with the air. I walked over to her and asked, “What are you doing, Kristina?” And she replied, “I’m playing with my friend Stella!” I had frozen until she added, “She’s imaginary, so I know she can’t really eat the sandwich!” 

I always remembered that moment in the back of my mind. The moment when my daughter did the one thing I couldn’t. Admit the truth. I later realized that I had known that Emma was imaginary all along, I just didn’t want to believe it. But I did. To learn from my mistakes and gain from my successes. So life went on as planned. Normal. 

But sometimes, when I’m sitting on a park bench watching my children play or at work helping people, I see something, hear something. I see a child. With brown hair and a big smile and hidden secrets. But perhaps it was only an outline of an invisible girl.


Posted in response to the challenge Imaginary.



12 years old

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