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“Arielle Lipian, get inside now! I said you couldn’t play in the snow today. It’s too cold, you can play tomorrow.” A thin, angry-looking woman called from the door, “Get back in here now!”
Six-year-old Arielle, looked up from the pile of snow she was making and said, “But Mom, Sarah wanted to play in the snow.”
“Sarah?” her mother asked, “Who’s Sarah?”
Arielle rolled her eyes, “Mom that’s so rude, can’t you see your making Sarah feel uncomfortable?”
“Where is Sarah?” Mrs. Lipian asked looking around for another girl but couldn’t see one.
“She’s next to me!” Arielle hissed, sounding more like a teenager than an embarrassed six-year-old.
Mrs. Lipian stared at Arielle for a moment, trying to figure out if this was a joke, but when Arielle looked at her there was no sign of a smile. “I’m sorry Arielle and Sarah, my eyes aren’t working right. Sarah what do you look like?”
“She can’t” Arielle said immediately.
“Can’t what?” Mrs. Lipian asked.
“Sarah can only talk to me. Her voice is very quiet and only I can hear it.” The young girl said.
“Well can you tell me what she looks like?”
“She has long purple hair, and purple eyes.” Arielle said.
Mrs. Lipian nodded, Arielle loved purple; she wore it every day, her room was painted purple, and she only wrote in purple crayons. “She sounds pretty. Now come inside, dinner will be ready soon.”
Arielle nodded “She is pretty.” She paused then said, “Sarah says that she wants purple cookies or we won’t come inside.”
“Purple cookies?” Mrs. Lipian asked, “How do you make purple cookies?”
Arielle shrugged, “I don’t know, but Sarah wants them, and the only way we are coming inside is if you make us purple cookies.”
“Arielle no cookies before dinner. You know that.” Mrs. Lipian said, “Now you and Sarah better come inside right now or there will be no cookies for a long time.” When Arielle didn’t move, she started to count, “One…Two…Three…”
“Okay, jeez Mom you don’t have to be so mean.” Arielle said, then she said, “Sarah lets go play in my room.” Arielle pushed past her mom chattering away with her new friend.
About twenty minutes later Mr. Lipian walked through the door. Mrs. Lipian told him about Sarah and he laughed, “She’s six, its perfectly normal for her to have imaginary friends.”
“Are you sure?” Mrs. Lipian asked, “Should we just play along with it?”
“You’re overreacting. She has an imaginary friend, there’s no big deal with that. Arielle has a very active imagination, she’s just inventing a friend to talk to.”
Mrs. Lipian sighed, “Fine, but I don’t like it.”
“You don’t have to, but don’t get all wigged out when she talks about her friend okay? “ Mr. Lipian put a reassuring hand on his wife’s shoulder, “Have you made an appointment with Dr. Johnson? Maybe you can talk to him about this.”
“Maybe, I have an appointment with him in two days.” Mrs. Lipian said, “But I don’t need to talk to him about this.”
“If it’s bothering you than yes you do.” Mr. Lipian said, “You always feel better after talking to her, and maybe she’ll convince you that Arielle’s imaginary friend isn’t such a bad thing after all.”
Mrs. Lipian sighed then said, “Okay I’ll think about it, could you go get Arielle please? It’s almost time for dinner.”
“Sure.” Mr. Lipian said, he walked over to Arielle’s room, “Arielle! C’mon its time for dinner.”
“No I wanna play with Sarah for a little longer.” Arielle said, dressing up a Barbie and placing it in a dollhouse.
“Sarah can join us for dinner, but you have to eat.” Mr. Lipian said patiently.
“No! Sarah and I are busy, I’ll eat when I’m finished.” Arielle said. She grabbed another Barbie from the pile and began to brush its hair.
“Arielle if you don’t put that doll down and-”
“This is Sarah’s sister! She’s not a doll.”
He restarted, “If you don’t put Sarah’s sister down and go in the kitchen right now, you won’t go to the carnival tomorrow.” Arielle had been looking forward to her school carnival for weeks; she jumped up and ran to the table.
She sat down and said, “Where’s Sarah’s chair?”
Mrs. Lipian took a deep breath and set up an extra place setting closest to Arielle and farthest from her. “Arielle, you have to eat at least three green beans before you have and strawberries.” She said as the girl reached for the fruit bowl.
“I’ll eat the green beans after I eat some strawberries.” Arielle said, she grabbed the bowl, but her father pulled it away before she got any strawberries.
“Listen to your mother.” He said.
“No!” Arielle screamed, “I want strawberries right now!” She grabbed her empty plate and threw it at the wall; it smashed into pieces, and silence followed.
Mrs. Lipian stared at her plate and Mr. Lipian took Sarah’s extra plate, “Don’t say a word,” he said to his daughter, “Now eat three green beans and a piece of chicken, the you will be excused to go to your room for the rest of the night.” His voice was cold and Arielle stared at the plate he put in front of her, “You will not go to the carnival tomorrow.” Arielle did as she was told and after she finished eating she went into her room.
Mr. Lipian cleaned up the broken glass and cleared the dishes. Mrs. Lipian still sat at the table looking at her hands, her husband sat down next to her “Well, maybe she’ll be good at softball.” He said, trying to cheer her up.
“I told you that imaginary friend of hers was no good.” Mrs. Lipian said, “What am I going to do with her tomorrow? You’re going to be gone and she’s gonna be mad all day unless she goes to that carnival.”
“You’ll be fine.” Mr. Lipian said, “Arielle won’t be too hard to handle.”
“Arielle wont but Sarah will.” Mrs. Lipian’s voice verged on hysteria, “I don’t like Arielle talking too a person who doesn’t exist!” her voice rose.
“Like I said, its normal. Arielle just had a temper tantrum, she’ll be fine tomorrow.” Mr. Lipian said.
“Mom? Dad? Are you awake yet?” Arielle whispered.
“What? Arielle why are you awake? Its four in the morning!” Mr. Lipian said, rubbed his eyes, “And what did you do to your hair?”
Arielle’s light blonde hair had turned partially purple, “Sarah and I colored it.” She said, “Do you like it?”
Mr. Lipian stared at her hair; there were streaks of purple that were colored in with a marker. “Honey, you shouldn’t have done that.”
“Why not? Now I look like Sarah!” Arielle grinned.
Mr. Lipian sighed and changed the subject, “Why are you awake this early?”
“Sarah woke me up early. She wants me to ask if we can go to the carnival today.” Arielle said, she looked up at her dad with a forced innocence in her eyes.
“Arielle I already told you, you can’t go.” Mr. Lipian said bracing himself for a temper tantrum.
Arielle tried again, “Please?” she begged, “I’ll be good, I promise.”
“No Arielle, now go back to bed.” Mr. Lipian said. She pouted and then left the room.
Two hours later Mr. Lipian had left for work, Mrs. Lipian was up making breakfast, and Arielle was sound asleep. Mrs. Lipian hummed as she fried eggs. The tune was short and repetitive. Every other minute she would stop humming and look over her shoulder, then she would resume cooking and humming.
After she had fried two eggs, Mrs. Lipian went into Arielle’s room and said, “Arielle breakfast time!”, when Arielle didn’t respond, her mother pulled back the covers on the bed and screamed.
“I’m sorry, it was really early and I didn’t want to wake you up.” Mr. Lipian said over the phone, “But don’t you think that you’re overreacting just a little bit?”
“She scared me half to death! That purple in her hair made me think that...” Mrs. Lipian stopped.
“That what? That she was Sarah?” Mr. Lipian’s voice rose, “Do you really think that Arielle’s imaginary friend could have magically become real?”
“I don’t like Arielle’s behavior at the moment and I think that Sarah is the cause.” Mrs. Lipian said.
Mr. Lipian sighed, “I gotta go, we will talk about this tomorrow, my meeting is late and I’m going to stay at a hotel tonight. Bye.”
“Bye.” Mrs. Lipian hung up the phone. She started to hum the tune that she hummed while making breakfast. Arielle’s purple hair had shocked her.
“Mom?” Arielle walked into the living room cautiously, “Can we go to the carnival?”
Mrs. Lipian sighed, she didn’t want to deal with Arielle’s temper, and she felt bad for scaring her, “Yes go get dressed and we will go.”
“Mom! Hurry up!” Arielle called, “Sarah wants to get cotton candy!”
Mrs. Lipian slowly got out of the car, and pulled on her heavy coat.Her head hurt from Arielle’s constant chatter all related to Sarah. Either she was talking to Sarah or telling her mother about Sarah. It was exhausting for Mrs. Lipian to smile and nod.
Mrs. Lipian tried to catch up to Arielle, who made a beeline for the food stand. She eventually gave up, but kept a close eye on Arielle, not letting her daughter of her sight. When Arielle reached the food stand, Mrs. Lipian allowed herself to relax a little, and glanced at a booth selling a knife sharpener. When she looked back she saw Arielle talking to a girl with identical purple streaks in her hair.
“Arielle!” she said, Arielle turned to her and the girl she was talking to disappeared.
“Mom, c’mon Sarah and I are hungry!” Arielle pulled her mother in line.
“Who were you talking to?” Mrs. Lipian tried to sound calm, but her heart pounded and her head swirled, she had a feeling that she already knew the answer.
“Sarah,” Arielle looked at her mom, “Can you see her?”
“Can I help you?” the woman selling food asked, she smiled at Arielle, “What would you like?”
“Two cotton candies, please.” Arielle’s chin barley reached the counter.
“Arielle only one cotton candy, you’ll get a stomach ache.” Mrs. Lipian said.
“Sarah wants a cotton candy too.”
“Not today, I only have enough money to pay for your cotton candy. Why don’t you share with Sarah?”
“Please?” a quiet voice said.
Mrs. Lipian looked around for the owner of the voice but no one was close for her to have heard it. “Did you say something?” she asked Arielle.
“No.” Arielle looked at her mother cautiously.
“I did.” The voice said, a little louder this time.
“Did you hear that?” Mrs. Lipian looked at Arielle and the woman. They both shook their heads.
“Please buy me some cotton candy, I’ll be your best friend!” The voice said.
“Who are you? “ Mrs. Lipian asked.
“Mom who are you talking to?” Arielle asked.
“Ma’am, are you okay?” the woman said, “Do you need me to call security?”
“You know who I am.” The voice giggled, “I scare you, why do I scare you?”
“Stop! Leave me alone. Leave my daughter alone! Please Sarah go away!” Mrs. Lipian screamed.
“Ma’am I’m gonna call security now. Please try to calm down” The woman pulled out a walkie-talkie and said “Can I have someone get down here right away?”
Mrs. Lipian was still screaming at Sarah, and Arielle began to cry. The security guards jogged over and tried to talk to Mrs. Lipian but she was beyond reasoning.
“Mom? Is Sarah being mean? Can you see her?” Arielle was asking questions at a lightning speed.
“What’s wrong? Stop yelling, look at your daughter, look how scared she is.” The voice kept on taunting her, teasing her.
“Ma’am, calm down, we are going to call your husband. Just come with us.” One of the security guards said.
Six years later
“Ari hurry up!” A tall man called out. The girl he was talking too rolled her eyes. Her blonde hair fell down her shoulders and had a bright purple streak, her clothes were all black; black tank, black mini-skirt, and black shoes.
“Why are we here?” the girl, Ari, asked. “She’s crazy. She doesn’t care if we visit or not.”
“Arielle, she is your mother, we can’t leave her in a mental hospital and not visit her.” The man said.
Ari rolled her eyes and followed her father into the hospital. She hated hearing the patients screaming at invisible people, it reminded her of the day at the carnival. “Dad, how much longer will mom stay here? It’s been six years.”
“I don’t know honey.” The man said sadly, “When she understands the difference between real life and what’s in her head.” They reached room 402. Ari paused, and then opened the door.
“Hi mom.” She said shyly, after her mom’s breakdown at the carnival she was always nervous around her.
“Arielle! You’re here! Come say hi to Sarah.” Mrs. Lipian was sitting in a chair, “I was just telling her that you would stop by soon.”