Ashling Moody was a lonely little girl in a new school in a new town. Since she was new the other children didn’t talk to her. She was very sad.
She sat by herself on a swing in the school park during recess and tried not to cry. All of the kids around her were playing with each other and having fun, and she was all alone. She just wanted someone to talk to.
“My name is Conrad,” said the boy on the swing next to her. She jumped in surprise–she didn’t realize he was there.
She kept her composure and said, “My name is Ash.”
“Do you want to be friends?” asked Conrad, kicking his legs and tucking them in and swinging back and forth beside her.
“Okay,” said Ash, and she smiled.
Conrad was like her–he said he had no friends because all the kids thought he was weird. Ashling didn’t think so. She thought he was kind, and wonderful, and that all the other kids ought to be jealous that he was Ash’s friend and not theirs. They spoke to no one but each other.
“Do you think it’s strange to only have one friend?” Conrad asked one day during a sleepover.
“It’s about quality, not quantity,” Ash parroted from a TV show.
Conrad didn’t seem convinced. Ash was worried he’d want other friends and stop talking to her. She didn’t want to be alone again.
When it was just the two of them, Conrad seemed happy to be Ash’s friend. But when they were around other kids, it was like Conrad disappeared from her life. It was like he was hiding from her. Ashling’s mind was in a constant flux, bouncing between happiness that she had Conrad at all and fear that he’d go away forever.
Finally, the long weekend. They could hang out and forget all about those other kids, about the pressure of having to have more than one friend.
But during a game of Sonic 2, Conrad put down his controller and said, “We shouldn’t be friends any more.”
It broke Ashling’s little heart. She cried and asked him why, and he said, “My parents don’t think we should talk to each other. They say I need new friends.”
“Why can’t I be your friend?” Ashling asked.
“Because you’re just pretend,” said Conrad.
Ashling knew what he would say before he said it. She could do nothing but nod and wipe away her imaginary tears.
Conrad’s mother came into his room and tucked him into bed and paid no attention to the teary-eyed little girl in the corner of the bedroom.
“We only want you to be happy,” said Conrad’s mother. “When you have some real friends, you won’t want to play with Ashling any more.”
“I know, Mom,” said Conrad. He turned to the side, away from his best friend.
His mother kissed him on the ear and turned off the lights without saying goodnight to Ash.
Alone once more, Ashling Moody sat down inside Conrad’s closet and wept until her voice faded away.
Today’s three prompt categories were, “Imaginary,” “New kid,” and, “Quality vs quantity.”
Poor imaginary kiddo. 😦