The Green Elephant From Tanganyika. Excerpt 2

November 20, 2013 § 9 Comments

Another excerpt from a novel in progress. I thought it was dead, but it seems I may be wrong. A first draft. Freya is in hospital after her accident. This is her first encounter with Daisy, her imaginary friend.

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            Freya lay on her back waiting for the dark. ‘Daisy?’ she whispered, like she had a secret to tell. ‘Speak to me.’

            ‘Nice name. That’s what I shall call myself,’ she said. ‘And can I smell bones?’ Daisy breathed in deep through her nose.

            ‘That’s because I’m in a place called an infirmary,’ answered Freya. ‘It’s where children come when they break them. Sometimes they come here to die too.’

            ‘Thought so.’

‘Will you be my friend?’

‘I will. But first go back to sleep.’

            So she did. Daisy became her sleeping draught and her cuddle after prayers.

She came when Freya called her, and sometimes when she didn’t. If she kept her eyes tight shut Daisy came and breathed warm breath on Freya’s face, but if she opened them a chink, Daisy disappeared.

            Freya woke again after a few minutes. She felt the heaviness of Daisy’s hand on her head. Her toes tingled. ‘Where do you come from?’

            No answer.

            ‘Do you live on my street?’

            No answer.

            ‘Do you live in a hotel then?’

            Still no answer.

            ‘I know. You live in the sky, don’t you?’

            Freya opened her eyes, but she’d gone.

            She liked to come best when it was dark. No one ever saw her but Freya – not even the night nurse who sat under the yellow light reading a book. Daisy was much too smart for that.

            That first night they met she kept coming back. ‘You busy?’ she whispered.

            ‘Do I look like I’m busy?’ asked Freya.

            ‘You want to play?’

            Freya tried to nod but the bandages got in the way. She kept her eyes firmly shut.

            ‘Let’s do make believe,’ suggested Daisy. ‘What would you like me to look like today?’

            ‘Don’t mind. What do you think?’

            ‘I think I’ll have long, yellow hair and talk to you like I’m an angel.’

            ‘What shall we talk about then?’

            ‘That’s easy,’ she said. ‘We’ll talk about nice things like getting better soon and not hurting.

            But sometimes they had quiet, cloudy days when Freya felt she was floating over her bed. Daisy kept quiet then, and hovered about looking like a fairy. ‘What are you doing?’ asked Freya.

‘Not a lot,’ she said. ‘Except maybe making some magic.’

            For many days Freya drifted in and out of sleep. Sometimes she didn’t know if she was real any more. ‘I keep having a funny dream.’

            ‘About what?’

            ‘I jump off a high bridge and someone I can’t see is holding my hand.’

            ‘Were you scared?’ Daisy asked.

            ‘Very. And then I wasn’t because I stopped falling and just swung there like I was a pendulum in the grandfather clock.’

‘Don’t be scared,’ she said. ‘It was me. I was holding your hand.’

            Freya dozed off. Wings grew out of her shoulders. Big and dangerous like a swan’s. She flapped hard, trying to soar up to heaven, but she wobbled and fell out of the sky. She opened her wings just before she hit the ground. She forgot about heaven and fluttered about in her garden instead. She practised swooping about like a bat hunting for flies. Freya was enjoying herself. She closed her wings like an arrow and shot through the doorway into the house, and glided up the banisters without clipping the grandfather clock. Then she remembered she wasn’t breathing, slithered down the stairs and woke up.

            ‘What on earth are you doing?’ asked Daisy with a pout.

            ‘Just practicing.’

            ‘Just stop it right now, and listen.’

            ‘You remember that pendant your Auntie Bea gave you?’

It was Freya’s favourite thing. ‘You mean the green one that looks like an elephant?’

            ‘That’s the one. Do you still have it?’

            ‘Course. It’s got good luck inside and came all the way from Africa.’

            ‘I want you to throw it away.’

            ‘Won’t. It takes care of me.’

‘How do you know?’ asked Daisy, turning her lips into an even bigger pout.

‘Auntie Bea said.’

Daisy screwed up her face. ‘I don’t think that’s right. It’s bought you nothing but trouble.’

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