Sophie's Special Friend Fred This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

April 22, 2010
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I stood at the kitchen sink, my hands submerged in the soapy water groping for a dish to clean. Outside my little Sophie was playing happily on the swing set, her blonde curls waving sweetly in the spring breeze. As she slowed the swing to a stop she spotted my in the window and waved to my before running over to the slide. I lifted a hand from the dish I was cleaning and waved back. But I knew my baby girl’s happiness would only last until her older brother Chris came down stairs to talk to her. With a sigh I went back to work, Sophie loved her big brother so much; it would break her heart to see him leave to go to war. A loud pounding on the stairs snapped me back into reality as my 20-year-old son entered the room. Crossing the room he stared out the window at his sister.
“I think I put of telling her for too long.” He said taking a plate from the drying rack and wiping it with a towel. “I only have two days left before I have to go. I’m worried the change will be to fast for her.”

“Chris, she is six, not sixteen. Her concept of time and weeks is far from ours. She’ll be fine. Sad…but fine.” I explained to him. My daughter was in her own little world of make-believe most of the day, time didn’t concern her.

“You think she’ll be upset?” he asked me looking down a bit. He wanted to go to war, it was important to him but leaving us was tough for him. I looked over at my son, so brave, so handsome. Looking out at Sophie I nodded.
“She’ll be upset for a while, but she’ll adjust. She’s a smart girl your sister. I think she will be ok after a few days.” Looking over at Chris I felt a few tears well up in my eyes. He noticed and quickly pulled me close to him. “I wish you wouldn’t go sweetie!” I whispered. I loved my children; if anything should happen to them I wouldn’t know what to do.

“I’ll be fine Mom I promise. Heck I’m the son of the one and only Linda Marks, being safe runs in the family! I’ll be home before you know it, safe and sound.” He comforted me and I smiled. Glancing out into the fenced in yard he watched Sophie hang from the monkey bars then looked back at Chris.

“Go on.” I said as we released and motioned to the living room. “I’ll send Sophie into come see you.” Chris nodded and exited the kitchen. The living room was always where major discussions occurred. Looking out the window I wiped the water off the rim of the sink. Finally I reached over and cranked the kitchen window open. “Sophie. Come inside sweetie.” I called out, a pang of sadness twisting into my heart. Sophie looked over from her spot on the top of the slide and nodded before running into the house and throwing her arms around my waist.
“I’m here Mommy!” She chirped. I smiled and gave her a good squeeze.
“I can see that silly.” I said then knelt down to her level. “Sophie, Chris wants to talk to you in the living room ok?”
“Am I in trouble?”
“Oh no nonono sweetheart. He just needs to talk to you about something very important.” I explained to her. I watched at she nodded and then ran off into the living room. I waited in the kitchen, so tempted to stand near the doorway and listen in. But this was Chris’s thing and he was old enough to do it on his own. I watched time tick by on the clock and after about an hour I heard Sophie run upstairs and her door slam shut. I stood up as my son entered the room.
“She’s mad at me.” He stated plainly. I looked down and shook my head.
“I’ll go talk to her. Wait here ok.” I said walking from to room. Pausing at the stairs I looked back and sighed as Chris sank into a kitchen chair and rested his head in his hands. As I climbed the stairs there was only silence and as I knocked on Sophie’s door a soft, muffled, cry sounded from behind the door. Upon entering I saw my sweet daughter burying her face in her pink pillow. Crossing the room I sat next to her on the bed and pulled her into my arms. Her big blue eyes were filled with tears and I reached up and wiped them away.
“Chris is leaving.” She mumbled into my shoulder. I rubbed her back soothingly.
“Oh Sophie I know. But He’ll come back! I know it’s sad to think about but Chris is a big boy, he can take care of himself.” She sat back in my lap and looked up at me with a pout on her face.
“Why won’t he stay?”
“Well, he wants to go on an adventure and it is really important to him.”
“How long will he be gone fore?”
“We don’t know exactly but he will come back. And I’m sure if you ask him he’ll send you letters and call when he can.” I offered. She thought about it for a bit and then sighed.
“Why can’t I go with him?” I smiled and tucked some hair behind her ear.
“Because sweetie, this is Chris’s adventure not yours. When you grow up you will get to go on your own adventure.”
“Will it be the same one as him?” she asked. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit.
“Oh Sophie, you can have any adventure you want to have!” She smiled then looked down at her hands.
“I’m sorry I was mad at Chris for leaving.” She admitted. I sighed thinking about how we all had mixed feelings about Chris’s decision to go off to war.
“Honey we are all a bit sad that Chris is leaving. It’s ok to feel mad at him. How about you go talk to him and we’ll work this all out.” I suggested, Sophie agreed and headed down stairs to talk to Chris again. I sat on her bed and looked around. It seemed like just yesterday this was Chris’s room, before Sophie was born. The walls were covered in planets and stars with a race car bed where Sophie’s was now. It was a little girls room now, Chris had moved into the home office (which was moved to the basement) once Sophie was born. The walls were painted a bubble gum pink color and all the boyish charm was turned into a girl’s fantasy suit. After a few moments of reminiscing I joined my children downstairs
Two days later Mitch, my husband, Sophie and I stood at the bottom of the stairs waiting for Chris. As he appeared at the top of the stairs I felt tears start to build up in my eyes. He descended the stairs in his army uniform, bags in hand. Mitch was the first to say something.
“Be safe son! We are proud of you.” he said before pulling Chris into a hug. Sophie and I watched and I knew my husband was fighting back tears, trying to be strong for all of us. I step forward next, buttoning up the last button on his jacket.
“You’re so handsome, please come home safe.” I asked him. He nodded and I sniffed back tears. Dropping his bags he hugged me tight and I savored the moment, not knowing when I would hug him again.
“I love you Mom.” I said softly.
“I’m so proud of you Christopher, so so proud.”I told him. He gave me a squeeze before letting go and giving me a kiss on the cheek. Looking down he knelt down to Sophie’s level and smile tousling her hair.
“Hey Soph, I am going to have to leave soon. Promise me you’ll take care of Mom and Dad ok?”
“Ok.” She promised a tone of sadness in her voice. “I’m going to miss you.”
“I’m going to miss you too Sis. But I’ll be back before you know it. I promise!” he explained. After a moment he held out his arms to her. “Can I have a hug?” She nodded a few tears rolling down her pink cheeks and rushed into his arms. Mitch put his arm around me and I rested my head on his shoulder and we watched our two children embrace. There was the sound of a horn outside and looking out the window we saw the army bus outside waiting for Chris. “Well, that’s my queue.” He said standing up. After our final hugs and kisses we watched him go. The rest of the day went by in silence. None of us knew what to do.
A few days later I found myself at the sink again doing dishes. Sophie was running around outside in the back yard. She had been adjusting pretty well to Chris’s absence. After about a half an hour of Sophie playing outside I suddenly heard her voice.
“You’re funny!” She said before laughing. “Let’s play tag!” she squealed. My head shot up as I searched the back yard for some one else. Cranking open the window I called out to her.
“Sophie who are you talking to?”I asked. She stopped in her place and turned towards me.
“Fred.” She stated plainly.
“Where is Fred?” I asked looking around the yard. Sophie motioned to the empty space next to her.
“Right here. Can’t you see him?” she said. It was then that I realized that she had an imaginary friend.
“Oh of course, how could I miss him? Sorry sweetie.” I said playing along then going back to the dishes. It was sweet that Sophie had created an imaginary friend. Later that day when Mitch came home from work I told him about Sophie and Fred. She had been pretending with Fred all day and it was nice to see her out of her “Chris is gone slump”.
“She has a what?” Mitch questioned sitting next to me on the couch and flipping through the channels.
“An imaginary friend. It is totally normal and shows that they have creativity.” I explained to him. He nodded.
After a few days Fred became a new member in our house hold. He ate breakfast lunch and dinner with us and Sophie was constantly playing with him. One afternoon I sat at the kitchen table paying bills while Sophie colored in the other room. Suddenly her little giggled faded and she whispered.
“Fred we might get in trouble for this!” I instantly stood up and paused at the doorway listening. “Mommy won’t like it though……..But I don’t want to get in trouble!” She said a little louder. Finally I stepped to the room.
“Honey what are you…..” I started but trailed off and stood in shock. All over the cream colored wall was crayon. It was everywhere and looking at my daughter I could only stare as she was looking at me, her hand in mid air, about to draw more on the wall. “…..Sophie! What……why are you drawing on the walls?” I demanded kneeling and picking up the crayons inspecting the damage.
“Fred said the wall looked too plain and that we should make it pretty.” She explained to me. I looked at her and then back at the wall.
“ know better than to draw on the walls. Fred told you to do this?” she just nodded. I sighed. “Well you know what breaking the rules means. Go sit in the naughty chair and I’ll let you know when you can come out of time out.” I said rising to get the cleaner.
“See? Now we are in trouble!” she said Fred. It took me 15 minutes to scrub the crayon off the walls and after I let Sophie out of her time out she apologized quickly then skipped off to her next game. I watched as she ran off, a confused look painted on my face.
“What’s with the look?” Mitch asked coming in the door a few moments later.
“Sophie….she just colored all over the wall over there. She has never done that before.”
“What do you think made her do it?”
“She said Fred told her to.” I said. Mitch just shook his head.
“I’m starting to get tired of Fred. He is all she ever talks about! Now she is saying he told her to do something bad? This has to stop now!” he demanded. I took his hand.
“But Mitch. She is happy! She has been sleeping soundly now and before, when Chris had just left, she barely slept. She is Sophie again. I don’t want her to be unhappy. If Fred makes her happy…maybe this was just some weird thing. Lets let it go for now.” I said. I couldn’t bare to see her sad anymore. Mitch agreed but said that he still didn’t like Fred anymore.
A week later Sophie and I took a trip to the park. She had been begging to go and I finally gave in and took her. Sitting on the bench I watched as she climbed the ladder to the slide. As she ran over to the see-saw two other kids got there before her and began to play. As I waited for her to walk away and play somewhere else she suddenly lurched forward and pushed the girl off the seat onto the ground. I instantly ran over.
“Sophie!” I yelled as I neared her. “What has gotten into you? You know you share things and wait your turn! Why did you push her?” said firmly as I pulled her away and sat her on a bench.
“Fred said I shouldn’t have to wait my turn. He said that I should get what I want so I did what he told me to do.” She said as if nothing was wrong. I stood and hoisted her up onto my hip.
“That’s it we are going home.” I said and suddenly Sophie began to throw a fit, wriggling and squirming in my arms. It was the first time she had ever thrown a fit. After struggling to strap her into her car seat and enduring an extremely loud ride home I sent her to her room and called Mitch. The moment he picked up I rambled on and on about what had happened.
“She isn’t herself Mitch! This whole Fred thing has gotten way out of hand. You were right!” I said into the phone.
“Ok I’ll be home in ten minutes. I’m sure she is just going through a phase.” He comforted. Suddenly a loud crash echoed from upstairs. Mitch heard in through the phone. “Or maybe this Fred thing has gotten out of hand. I’ll be home soon.” He said then hung up. I flew up the stairs and into the master bedroom only to find Sophie knocking everything over and a shattered vase on the floor.
“SOPHIE STOP THIS MINUTE!” I yelled. She just continued on yelling back.
“Fred says you are MEAN AND UNFAIR!” She said. I crossed the room and snatched her up into my arms. She began to kick and scream as I carried her down the stairs.
“LET ME GO! LET ME GO!” she screamed. I sat her down in the chair in the living room and practically had to hold her down.
“Sophie!” I said trying to get her attention but she wouldn’t stop screaming. “SOPHIE LOOK AT ME!” I said firmly and she looked at me with a pout on her face, her eyes read and wet. “Fred isn’t real! He is all in your head!” I managed to get out before she started up again.
“You’re lying!” she stated. Just then Mitch walked into the door and we began to explain to Sophie what was happening. Finally after a three hour talk, four screaming fits, two broken vases and a lot of convincing she believed us. She understood that she had made Fred up and that she couldn’t listen to him any more. Although he showed up a few more times, Sophie always came running to me when he did and she learned to block him out. Chris came back a year later and it was then we found the Fred was gone for good.

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