Marcus poked his head into the room, “You about ready, Leah? Breakfast is ready!”
“Yeah, I’m coming.” I grabbed my backpack and followed Marcus down the hall.
“Phillip with you?” Marcus glanced around as we started on the steps. He was the nicest about my imaginary friend.
“He always is.” I smiled at Marcus, then back at Phillip who was right behind us.
“Should we set a plate for him too?” He waggled his eyebrows at me.
“You know Phillip never eats, but if you want me to pretend – just this once – so that you can have two platefuls, then I’m game.”
He sighed dramatically, “It would probably freak Mom out. Why can’t you have a normal imaginary friend, you know, one who pretends to eat and talks to you and does whatever you want? I could at least get food out of it.” He sighed dramatically as we entered the kitchen. “So, is Phillip excited about school today?” He asked just to see Mom spit out her coffee. We usually didn’t mention him in front of Mom. She thought I was too old for an imaginary friend – It was cute during my toddler Sleeping Beauty phase, but now she had me see a shrink for it.
“Yeah, he seems so.” I glanced at Phillip, who shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes. I laughed, “Okay, maybe not. I’m excited though! The first day of High School is like a blank slate, right?”
“It can be whatever you make of it, little sis. C’mon, we’re going to miss the bus.”
We ran for the bus as it was pulling to a stop at the corner. There was only one completely empty seat. Marcus turned around and winked at me as he passed it, leaving room for me and Phillip in the same seat. As the bus filled, I never noticed that no one tried to sit with me until someone did.
He was tall and skinny with curly black hair, a lopsided smile, and eyelashes I would kill for that framed eyes that were an indeterminate grey. I quickly glanced up and down the bus - there were no more seats left. I swallowed and scooted as close to the window as I possibly could to make room for one more.
“Hi. I’m Jasper.” His voice was melodic and raspy at the same time.
I realized my mouth was hanging open only when Phillip glared at me and tapped his hand on his chin. I snapped my mouth shut, “Leah. Hi.” I tried to smile, but it may have come out otherwise.
I looked down and noticed that Phillip and I were touching. In the past twelve years I couldn’t remember it happening before. I liked to avoid reminders that he wasn’t really there. This time, however, I thought I could almost feel him.
“We moved in last week. What grade are you?” I looked back up at his question. It was odd looking through Phillip, my eyes kept focusing on Jasper then Phillip and back again.
“Freshman.” I whispered. Phillip crossed his arms and glared. “What!?” I noticed Jasper pinch his eyebrows together. I cleared my throat, “…um…are you?” I tried to smile again.
Jasper blinked several times before answering, “Freshman. Are you okay?”
“Um, yeah. I’m good. I’m fine.” I was shaking my head up and down too fast.
“I don’t bite, you know.” He looked down at…I don’t know. My hands? My hips? Just down. At me. I felt goosebumps on my arms. He waved his hand in my general direction, which just happened to be inside of Phillip – that looked strange. “You don’t have to squish yourself up against the window like that.”
Oh. I felt the heat rise in my cheeks. Phillip was trying to talk. It was distracting because I couldn’t read his lips when he was talking so quickly. I tried to look at Jasper to respond to him, but I kept looking at Phillip who was waving his hands in front of my face.
Jasper turned to look over his shoulder and back, “What are you looking at?”
“Nothing.” I said quickly and bit my lip. That got a reaction. Phillip froze.
I could read his lips now, “Nothing?” He put his hands against his chest, “I’m nothing?”
“I didn’t mean that.” My heartbeat quickened.
“What did you mean then?” Jasper still thought I was talking to him. Phillip started yelling at me and for the first time in my life I was kind of glad I couldn’t hear him. He sped up and I couldn’t follow it anymore, but it had to be bad because he stood up.
“Don’t go.” He’d never tried to leave before, but it seemed like he might be threatening it.
He threw his hands up and moved into the aisle. “Phillip, wait!” I scooted past Jasper – who had one of the best shocked faces I had ever seen, it would’ve been funny at another time – and held my hand out to Phillip.
He reached out and placed his palm against mine. I felt a shock of electricity pass through me. That had never happened before. What was going on?
Phillip then moved so close to me that my entire body tingled. I closed my eyes to appreciate the new sensation and my lips exploded with warmth that ran down my entire body and turned me into a puddle of bubbly sparkles. I think I just got my first kiss…Do imaginary kisses count?
The bus stopped. My eyes flew open. Everyone was looking. Marcus walked slowly down the aisle, “Leah?”
No one had gotten up. They were still looking. My hand went to my mouth, my toes remembering the warmth from that kiss. Tears started to fall. I hung my head. “I’m sorry,” I whispered. High school was officially ruined.
“No. I am. I never believed you.” I looked back up at Marcus, confused, “I saw him, Leah. Phillip. Just now, I saw him too.”
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