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My First Friend

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Leaving Yerevan...

I lived in San Antonio when I was little. I remember running around in the yard behind a white picket fence. There may’ve been burglar bars on many of the windows in the neighborhood I lived in, but at the time, that was the least of my concerns. I cared far more about the next My Little Pony doll or unicorn plush I could get next, as my parents pampered and spoiled me. I still remember my favorite outfit, too.

I had these little black tie-up dress shoes, white leggings, a pink tutu and a giant pink parka (it never really got cold enough for me to need it) that I wore whenever I got the chance to. My parents let me wear almost anything I wanted to, so long as I was covered up well enough to be decent. I was four or so, so my dad always tied my shoes for me, but quite often, they’d come untied. I really did get sick of running up to him and pointing to my shoes and putting on the pout. But I remember one night, when it got pretty late and I kept waking up out of my little twin-sized bed, I looked out the window.

Out in my yard, I saw a little girl in a yellow dress jumping rope. Why was she dressed for Easter in August? She appeared to be about six. Her hair was a very dark brown. She looked like she could’ve been half Hispanic. She looked very happy, but I just had to stare. What was she doing in our yard? I knew my dad had closed and locked the gate. Without thinking, I went outside. The doorknob was a little hard to reach, but I had a stool for that. Stepping out in my footy pajamas, I just approached the girl.

“Why are you up so late?” She stared at me and giggled.

“I don’t have to go to sleep.”

“Why not?”

“You don’t have to sleep when you’re like me.”

At the time, I had no concept of ghosts. I didn’t ask any questions, so I just smiled.

“Well, can I be like you, too?”

“I don’t think your mom and dad would be happy.” I still didn’t understand, but I just nodded.

“What’s your name?”

“Oh, my name is Emily.”

At that point, I heard my parents call for me. I knew my rear end would be beaten red. I swiftly waved and ran back into the open door.

“Who were you talking to, sweetie?” my mother asked me. I was just glad it wasn’t my dad. He would’ve spanked the heck out of me.

“Oh. I was talking to Emily.”

“Okay, sweetie,” Mom was always nice about things like that. “Good night, Emily, it’s time for my little girl to go to bed!”

When I looked out the window, I didn’t see her any more. Did my mom calling for me scare her away? I hoped not. I wanted to see her again. After I went to bed, it wasn’t hard for me to fall asleep. I had a dream where Emily and I were running through a field of Black-eyed Susans playing tag. I slept very soundly. When I woke up, I could smell breakfast cooking.

“I heard you made a friend last night. Could you try to make friends a little earlier?” My dad gave a jovial smile. I just smiled back. I couldn’t help how late she showed up.

“Okay, daddy,” I said agreeably. I had two tiny pancakes and a few of those tiny sausages. I loved those. My father went off to work and at about eleven, after my little tea party (even though I just had juice) with stuffed animals, I went outside to play. I was wearing my favorite little tie up shoes, and my mom was busy and my dad was at work.

Surprisingly, I turned around and Emily was right there. I was happy to see her. I smiled widely. She did notice I was staring at my shoes, though. Hers weren’t much different. She leaned downward and untied hers and tied them again slowly so I could do it step by step. After that, we just chased each other around the yard. Soon, I saw my mom staring out the window, seeming a little confused. When it was time for dinner, she called me in.

My shoe came untied when I got inside, and I bent down and tied it myself. My mom lifted a confused eyebrow. “Where did you learn to do that?” she asked, seeming baffled.

“Emily taught me.”

“Your imaginary friend?”

I didn’t know what to say at that point. I just shrugged.

When my dad got home, my mom talked to him. My father had a staunch disbelief in spirits.

“She probably just learned it on TV while you were cleaning up the bedroom. Don’t be silly.”

I heard them fussing at each other. I hated times like this. I just huffed and puffed fussily and walked back outside to look at the setting sun.

Emily just appeared again. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“It’s okay, they’ll stop soon. I think I can play again tomorrow.”

She only smiled, but then her smile faded quickly.

“Do you want to know something?” I was confused that she asked that.

“Know what? Is it a secret?” I giddily smiled.

“It’s a big secret. Go to Eastview Cemetery.”

“Why?” At the time, I didn’t know what a cemetery was.

“That’s why. Look at the family plot that says ‘Gonzales’.”

“Okay, Emily. I’m getting sleepy, I think I’ll go to bed.”

When I spoke, she was already gone.

The next morning, I asked my dad what a cemetery was. He gave me a strange look. “Well, why do you want to know that?”

“Emily told me to go there. I’m supposed to find something.”

The color drained from his face. My mother was just standing by the refrigerator with one of her ever-so-common “I told you so” looks on her face, clearly directed at my dad. It was Sunday, so he had no work.

“I… Guess we can go find what she wants you to look for.” I nodded. He was losing faith in the idea that Emily was imaginary.

When we arrived there, I found a fairly new-looking family plot labeled “Gonzales”. I was just looking around, and though I was young, I already could read very well. I saw an Alfonso Gonzales, born in 1956, and a Rachel Gonzales, born in 1967. Alfonso died in 1987, but it seemed like Rachel, who I guessed was his wife, was still alive. My father had a strange look on his face. His lips flattened and he kept sweeping what hair he had left over his widening bald spot.

“I found your friend.”

Emily Gonzales was born on April 3, 1981, and apparently lost her life in July of 1987. She was my first friend, and I will never forget her. Every time I tie my shoes, I remember her smiling brown eyes.

After that day, I didn’t see her very much anymore.

“Do you know?” she asked.

I tried so hard to smile. I tried so very hard to smile, but all I could do was cry.

She couldn’t grow up with me; she would be trapped there until her spirit could rest.

In 1987, there was a fire in the same yard we lived in. Alfonso ran into the house to rescue Emily, and both of them perished in the fire. I asked my dad if I could go meet Rachel, but he only told me that wouldn’t be very nice.

The next spring, though my sightings of Emily became more and more sparse, I never forgot her. I still had dreams of what it would be like to grow up with her, what it would be like to go to school with her, and even what kind of mother she would’ve been. Every time I woke from those dreams, I would cry.

She could never have that. Death was so mean.

Around that time, my father decided it was time to move. He wanted me to go to school in a better neighborhood, as gang activity in that part of San Antonio was on the rise.

“Daddy?” I asked after most of our things were packed.

“What is it, honey?”

“Can I go out to that big field of flowers you showed me and Mommy?”

He only smiled. It was a good time of year for flowers.

“Of course.”

I just nodded to him and grabbed one of the pink ribbons that I wanted for my hair. It was really short at the time, so I don’t know why I even grabbed it.

“And can we do something else, too?”

He only listened to me.

“I want to say goodbye to Emily.”

He bit his lip and walked away. I heard him talk to my mom for a minute, not angrily, though. She walked out of the room and hugged me. Dad always did this when he cried. He never wanted anyone else to be around when he did that.

That afternoon, I went to the field. He just watched me play in the flowers and tie my shoes whenever they’d come undone. I could tell he still felt sad, but I didn’t want to talk about it. My mom used to tell me it would “hurt his pride,” not that I knew what that meant. Upon seeing a group of black-eyed Susans, I paused to pick a few and tie them up in the ribbon. They reminded me of Emily. The dark centers made me think of her eyes and the yellow made me think of her dress.

I walked up to my dad and he nodded. We quietly went to the cemetery. He still bit his lip. I think I was growing up too fast for him.

Finding Emily’s grave, I set the flowers on it. This time, I cried. It wasn’t because she was dead so much as because I probably wouldn’t see her again.

Goodbye, Emily.

Written by Shinigami.Eyes.

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