So, that thing I was writing is going to end up a lot longer than I originally planned. A LOT longer, as in "Too friggin' long to keep posting 1,500 words at a time". So instead, here's a self-contained short story, to apologize for the loss of the other one.
Claire walked through the door, slamming it behind her. Sam was there, waiting for her, legs hanging off of her sink. The dorm room was small, like all dorm rooms, and covered in old carpet remnants. To the left of the door was Claire’s roommate’s futon, and she sat down heavily with an angsty sigh. Just as quickly, she hopped back up, and began to walk around the room. From window back to the door, she paced. Luckily, her roommate was out, so they had the room to themselves. Sam watched her pace with a growing look of frustration on his face. Finally, he rolled his eyes and slid off of the sink.
“You’re going to say something, so say it already,” he said, crossing his arms.
“It’s not fair!” Claire yelled immediately after he finished, almost cutting off his last word. She threw her hands in the air and continued to pace. “It’s- they can’t- who…”
Sam smiled his wry smile, saying “I agree completely.”
She glared at him, her overly mad face that she only put on when she needed to make a point. After a beat, her features softened, and her eyes welled up. “I don’t want them to take you away,” she said.
Immediately, his smile disappeared, and he wrapped her up in a massive hug. She didn’t cry, but still buried her face into his neck. She felt his arms squeeze tight, two or three times. She didn’t pull away, and Sam began running a hand up and down her back, like she had always liked.
“But I need to go,” Sam said, finally pulling away far enough to look into her eyes. Claire just shook her head, without saying anything. “It’s past time, and you know it.”
“Why do you need to leave at all? You’re my best friend, you always have been.”
“Claire,” Sam said, softly, gently, “That’s the problem. You need to find other friends, someone that’s further from you.”
She pulled away fully, and resumed pacing back and forth. Her mouth open and shut as she began to say a comment, but no sentences made their way out. Finally, she sat down on the futon again, and stayed this time. She looked at her best friend, blurry through the tears.
“Why? Why do I need that? You’re all I need.”
Sam sat next to her, and took a hand in hers. He looked her square in the eyes, and those green emeralds were so sad and so sincere that Claire finally began to cry. He took his thumb and wiped away each drop as they appeared on her cheeks. When she could bear to look at him again, he spoke quietly.
“Because I’m not real. We’ve been over this. You need to go tomorrow, pick up your prescription, and-”
Claire cut him off. “I don’t want to take any pills!” She pulled her hand harshly from his, and wiped at her eyes with the heels of her hands. “I don’t want to be some medicated robot, I want to be me, and you’re a part of me.”
“And I always will be,” Sam said, putting a hand on her back. “Even if you won’t see me, I’ll still always be with you.”
“How do you know?” she said, sliding closer to him so that he could wrap an arm around her shoulders.
“I know,” was all he said, and they sat in silence.
Sam had appeared one morning when Claire was four years old, the day her mother had gotten into a car accident. Her mother survived, but Sam stuck around, and quickly became Claire’s best friend. They played games in the woods behind her house, drew pictures together, stayed up past Claire’s bedtime with a flashlight, and everything else children did. As Claire got older, so did Sam. Claire never grew tall, but her long brown hair and pale skin had made her very pretty, now that she was 19 years old. Middle school had been a different story, as it is for almost every adolescent girl, but Sam never had an awkward phase. He shot up to an even six feet, and his blond hair always stayed perfectly sculpted, no matter what.
In high school, Sam followed Claire from class to class, although he never answered many questions. He sat next to her every lunch, and they discussed everything, never running out of things to talk about. He was her best friend, her twin, her everything. But even from the first day he appeared, she knew that he, above all else, was a piece of her. And now they were trying to take him away from her.
“Everything we’ve been through would be ripped from us,” she said, breaking the silence, staring off into space. “I’ve been with you every day for a decade and a half, I can’t live without you.”
Sam slid away from her, then laid her head in his lap. She laid on her side, looking into the room but seeing nothing. Her knees were bunched up to her chest.
“I know,” he said quietly and sadly, running his fingers through her hair. “I know we’ve been through a lot- hell, we’ve been through everything. And no one can take that from you. Not doctors, not pharmacists, not psychologists.”
She rolled onto her back, and looked up at him, up into his green eyes that saw everything about her. Every smile she cracked and every tear she shed had been in front of him.
“But I love you,” she said, chin quivering, ready to cry again.
“I love you too,” he said, quiet enough to be almost a whisper. Bending down, he kissed her on the forehead. She could feel his lips as real as the futon beneath her. The stubble on his face rubbed above and below his kiss, and his fingers were still intertwined with her hair.
“You’re real to me,” she said, bursting into tears. Tears escaped his eyes as well as he bent again, this time placing a softer kiss on her lips.
“It-” Sam began, before he had to take a large, shuddering breath, the tears coming quicker. “It has to happen. It’s an unhealthy life.”
“I’m not sick!” she cried out, and sat up. “I’m not sick. There’s nothing wrong with me!”
“Claire, you can’t- people need friends. You can’t spend your whole life alone.”
“I’m not alone, I have you,” she said, touching her forehead to his, both of them crying through closed eyes.
“You need real friends. Real ones that you can introduce at a bar, that you can talk to in public without everyone staring at you. You need to be able to find a man that can stand on an altar someday.”
She kissed him again, shaking her head, but not saying anything. Her hands cupped his cheeks, rubbing the stubble and scar that he had gotten in third grade.
They stayed like that, crying with their foreheads together, for some time. Occasionally, Claire would shake her head, as if to deny the situation.
“If you’re not real, how come I need you so much?” she asked, more to the heavens above than to Sam, who didn’t respond.
Abruptly, he stood up, and spoke with a new resolve. “Stand up,” he said, taking Claire by the hands. “We’re doing something productive. I’m leaving, tomorrow, we all know, so this makes it our last night together.”
She stood up, and followed him to her desk. He pulled out a piece of thin, off-white artist’s paper, and a small, thin pencil. With a sad smile, he turned to her and said, “At the risk of sounding pretentious, you should draw me. You’ve been drawing your whole life, and I’ve seen how good you are. So draw me, and have a Sam souvenir.”
Claire sniffed. “Samvenir,” she said, and they both laughed desperately. The sound made her want to cry again. But she held it in, and took a seat at her desk.
Taking a lot of glances towards Sam, who was once again sitting on the sink, she began sketching. It took a long time, and she had to tell Sam to sit still more than a few times. But eventually, she looked down at the paper and saw that it was done. She wanted to keep going, to get every pore and hair in its right place, just to keep him around.
With that done, she took his hand and they both climbed into her loft in the dark. She laid her head on his chest, and began silently crying. His hands combed through her hair until she fell asleep.
“Where the hell is it?” Claire thought to herself, pushing through the clutter she called her attic. Mariah had better appreciate getting her mother’s old art supplies, or else she’d be the one to put them back up here. Dust covered everything, and the work light, as bright as it was, didn’t light up nearly as much as she’d like.
She just about tripped over it before she finally found it. The old cardboard box that had come from her apartment when she and Dan had moved in together held her art supplies. All the pencils that she had never used and the brushes that were still caked with paint were inside, despite the years.
The flaps of the box were covered in dust, and as she slid them apart, puffs floated in the air, lit by the work light. There was everything she hoped that Mariah might get some use out of- lord knows the girl was better than she was at her age. Since the house was empty, with Dan and Mariah out grabbing dinner, Claire hoped to surprise her daughter with the whole box, all at once. But a corner stuck up out of the rolls of paper, the oaken elbow of a picture frame.
Claire’s brow furrowed as she tried to think what it could be, and she reached to grab it. It slid easily out of the box, and she used a sweater sleeve to clean the dust from the glass front. She held it aloft to the light and almost dropped it.
It was the picture she drew on the last night with Sam, fifteen years ago. She hadn’t thought of him in years. Luckily, there was another box behind her, and she collapsed onto it, holding the picture in front of her. She stroked the frame of the glass, over his sketched cheek. Tears welled up in her eyes.
It had been a silly business, really. A sophomore in college had no business having an imaginary friend. She hadn’t even taken any medication in a decade. But still, she stared at the picture. The scar on his cheek seemed as real as ever, and his eyes hadn’t lost their life. Even in black and white pencil, Claire still remembered their green glow.
“Hi Claire,” a voice said behind her.