Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ode to Libby, and how I love thee

Everyone knows I adore Libby, my partner-in-crime and buddy o'pal. So when Libby came up with a very Libby-esque story idea, I told her I'd write it for her since she "doesn't do" writing. So don't worry Invisible Friends, I haven't gone dark. Tales of butterflies and the animals in the Land of the Flowered Bed are coming soon. But for today, the Pond is all about Libby.

Ode to Libby

Most little girls have many friends. They have friends in ballet class, friends at school and girls in the neighborhood to chase fireflies and whisper secrets too on summer nights. However, one little girl didn't have any friends at all. She was not a mean child--in fact, she was quite sweet and kind. She just never seemed to be able to interest another girl into talking to her. She was also a very sickly child, the color of white china with pale blond hair and watery blue eyes. She was always in and out of the nurse's office, and her mother had given up working to care for her. No one knew what was wrong, and the doctors said it wasn't serious. She was simply a sickly child.

While other girls spent their recesses braiding hair and swinging to the clouds, she sat quietly at the table with the teacher and watched.

When she would get home from school everyday, her mother would eagerly ask how her day was and check her for a fever. The little girl would always say fine, and tell her some tidbit she had decided upon on her trip home. Her mother was worried about her daughter, but said nothing. She would only smile and kiss her daughter on the head, and her daughter would smile back, relieved her mother was happy again.

One day, the little girl was sitting quietly at the table during recess when another girl with dark brown hair approached her.

"Hello," the dark-haired girl smiled and held out her hand. "My name is Elizabeth. Everyone calls me Lizzie. What's your name?"

"Joy," the little girl said quietly. "How do you do?"

Lizzie turned to the teacher. "Why is she sitting over here with you? Is she in trouble?"

"Why don't you ask her?" the teacher replied, trying not to smile. Lizzie repeated her question to Joy and waited expectantly.

"I don't have any friends," Joy replied honestly. "I'm sick. I like to sit here. I like to watch the caterpillars and butterflies."

"Why don't you have any friends?" Lizzies asked bluntly. She addressed the same question to the teacher, who again directed the answer to Joy.

"I'm not quite sure," Joy said slowly. "All the girls are very kind to me. They just don't want to be friends with a sick girl."

"But you're not mean and hateful?" Lizzie pursed her lips and inspected Joy up and down. Joy felt strange, like a toy in a shop display.

"No," Joy answered. "Well, at least I don't think so." Lizzie frowned and thought for a moment. Then she beamed and took Joy's hand. "Come on then," she said. "I'm your friend now. Let's go swing."

Joy shrunk back, looking at the teacher fearfully. "Can I?" she asked timidly. "I mean, may I swing? Will it make me ill?"

The teacher smiled and shook her head. "A bit of fresh air will be good for you. Just take it easy," she smiled. "That's very kind of you, Lizzie."

"I'm not doing it to be kind," Lizzie huffed. "I'm doing it because I want to swing."

From that day on, the two girls were inseparable. They swung together every day, played together after school and spent weekend nights eating popcorn and watching movies at sleepovers. The color sprung to Joy's pale face, and her hair began to thicken and deepen into a rich gold. Her eyes sparkled, and she now chattered happily to her mother when she got on the bus from school. Her mother began to pick up part-time work, amazed her daughter hadn't been ill in three whole months.

And then, the most amazing thing happened. The most popular girl in school, Matilda, decided to be Joy's friend. Joy beamed with delight, and their duo turned into a trio.

Another little girl wanted to be Joy's friend. Then another. And then two more. With every friend, Joy's smile grew brighter and brighter and her color grew deeper and deeper. She was excelling in school and hit a growth spurt. Her doctors and family were delighted. Her parents discussed taking a vacation, now that they could risk travel without infecting her.

The school year ended, and summer began. Just like in most schools, the children scattered. Some went to camp, some went to their grandparent's, some went to daycare. Lizzie was to spend the summer with her father.

"Don't worry, Joy," she told her friend earnestly. "You'll be all right. It's only a few months, after all. I'll be back before you know it."

"Ok,"Joy agreed, smiling bravely. Her friend wasn't gone yet, and she already missed her.

As more and more of Joy's new friends went on vacation, the color began to fade from her cheeks and the sparkle from her eyes. She developed a stuffy nose, then a fever. Her family had to cancel their vacation for fear she was developing pneumonia. Once again, Joy reverted back to the sickly child she had been. Her mother quit her job to care for her. As soon as she was back in town, Lizzie flew to Joy's house. She burst through her bedroom to see her lying on the bed.

"What is the matter with you?" Lizzie demanded.

"I'm so glad you're back!" Joy exclaimed brightly, her eyes looking like two watery skies. "I've missed you terribly!"

"I know why you're sick!" Lizzie proclaimed, sitting down on the bed.

"Don't get too close," Joy cautioned. "I don't want you to get sick."

"Oh, shut up," Lizzie said dismissively. "You made yourself sick."

Joy stared at her. "I what?"

"You heard me," Lizzie said, smacking her with a pillow. "You made yourself sick."

"How?" Joy asked.

"Did you talk to any of our friends at all?"

"No," Joy admitted.

"Did you go meet any new people?"

"No," Joy admitted.

"Did you do anything but wallow in self pity?"

Joy thought for a moment. "No," she admitted.

"Well get up," Lizzie demanded. "We're going to make you well again." Joy just grinned. After re-connecting with all her old friends, Joy's health shot up back to normal. She continued to blast through a growth spurt, growing a foot and a half. After a few weeks of being back with her friends, she noticed her color was starting to fade slightly.

"I wonder what it would be like to join the Art Club," she thought to herself. So she joined the after-school program, making even more friends. Her cheeks became a permanent shade of rose, and she couldn't walk down the hall without people remarking how beautiful she looked.

From that day on, Joy made a new friend every day. She spent her days talking to people, laughing with people, helping with people and just being a friend. The more friends she made, the stronger she got.

"I was right," Lizzie said out of the blue one day as they swung on the swings.

"About what?" Joy asked, sticking her tongue between her teeth. She was trying to kick the clouds.

"That's the key," Lizzie said. Joy looked at her questioningly. "As long as you keep making new friends, you'll be fine," Lizzie said. "I told you so."

Joy just grinned and jumped off the swing. She had spotted a new girl on the edge of the playground. With Lizzie by her side, they skipped up to the girl. The girl was sitting under a tree, holding a Kleenex to her nose. Her eyes were watery, and her nose was red with irritation.

"Hi," Joy said, holding out her hand. "My name is Joy. Would you like to be my friend?"