Word Count: 980
Genre: Family drama
Warnings: None, unless you hate children.
Summary: Aiden has all the friends in the world. Problem is, they're all imaginary.
Author's Notes: I just recently unearthed this from a file of ancient ficlets. Hope it's enjoyable.
"Mommy! Mommy!" he calls, running across the asphalt. Aiden's grin is wide and innocent; it makes her heart swell. "I made a new friend," he tells her, his exuberance tangible. She returns his grin and wants to know everything. His name is Joey and he is in first grade. He is a big boy. And, Aiden tells her, "he likes to build cities out of blocks, 'specially the red ones, red like fire engines, because those are the best."
"Just like you," she says, marvelling at the coincidence. Do all little boys like red? she wonders. His tiny hand is pawing at hers, trying to lace fingers with fingers. "C'mon, lt's walk home," she says, and he nods rapidly in consent.
"I'll tell you all about Joey!"
"And how did you meet Joey?"
"Woody and Joey are brothers."
"What? Oh, Aiden. You mean... oh, Aid. What have I told you about playing with Woody?"
"But I like playing with him! He's my friend!"
"No, he's not, honey."
"Yes, he is!"
"Sweetie, Woody isn't real."
He is sniffling, and she can't watch him cry, not again. So she lifts him up, grateful that at four he is still light enough to hoist onto one hip without straining anything. She kisses him on the head, the cheek, the nose. Then she changes the subject.
"How about an ice cream cone, Aid?"
"Oh, ice cream! Yesyesyesyes!"
Resorting to bribery. She is definitely out of the running for the Mom of the Year award. She tries, she really does. But having a little boy like Aiden is hard. She loves him--God, she loves him so much. He's wonderful. So smart, and playful, and alert, and beautiful. He's her son, and nothing will ever change that. Some nights, though, as she lies in bed, tossing and turning, trying to drift off into some semblance of a deep sleep, she wishes her son had a couple real friends. It's not that he's mean to the other children, or repells them in some way. He just isn't interested in any of the other boys and girls. "But Mommy, Woody's my friend. I don't need others," Aiden explained to her once.
The next day, she asks his teacher if she can sit with him for the first half hour of so of the day. Ms. Rolands says it's alright, so soon she is down on the floor, legs crossed, surrounded by eighteen kindergarteners. Aiden is huddled behind her, busily playing with a stuffed dog named Cheese and a plastic robot called Peter.
Crawling on her hands and knees, sacrificing any remnants of dignity, she approaches a friendly looking boy with neatly combed red hair and huge brown eyes. His exposed flesh is covered entirely in freckles, and he is cute as a button. Magazine ad, clothing model, child star cute. He seems like a good enough candidate for Aiden's first (real) friend.
"Hello," she says, smiling her friendliest smile. Oh God, she's trying to charm some strange five year-old. This can't possibly be happening.
"Hi," he says. He seems friendly enough.
"I'm Sara, what your name?"
"Tyson." He goes back to coloring on a sheet of cheap manila paper. He has one of those big crayon boxes with a thousand different colors, from metallics to neons to a politcally correct spectrum of flesh tones. The sort of crayons every kid in Ms. Rolands kindergarten is probably envying right now. Aiden would love to get his hands on these crayons.
"Nice to meet you, Tyson. What are you drawing there?" She cranes her neck to look at the paper, but can't quite discern any kind of subject.
"A forest. A great, big, green forest," Tyson allows, and then clams up again. Squinting, she can sort of see it. It's certainly great, big, and green. It's just the whole "wooded area" part that throws her a little.
"That's a very nice picture. Do you like to draw a lot?" She is coaxing him, warming him up to her.
"Yes." He pauses, staring at her, his gigantic chocolate doe's eyes focused on her face. "How come you're here? Are you a teacher?"
"Oh, no. I'm here with Aiden. Do you know Aiden? I'm his mommy." Has she divulged too much information? Has she blown it?
"No. Who's Aiden?"
She points out her son, who is now wheeling two small toy cars together at top speed and making crashing noises with his mouth.
"Would you like to play with Aiden?"
Touchdown! Score one for the active mother! Maybe she is in the running for that award, after all. She crawls alongside Tyson as he moves cautiously towards her son.
"Hi, Aiden!" she says cheerily.
"I have a friend for you."
"Honey, no." She gives Tyson an ever-so-gentle-definitely-could-not-be-c
Aiden doesn't say anything, he simply stares at his prospective playmate, apparently thinking the offer over. Please God, make him say yes. Give Aid a friend. He needs one so much. He doesn't know he does but... oh, he does. She doesn't realize, but she is holding her breath as slowly, grudgingly, Aiden hands Tyson one of the cars.
"Okay," Aid says. She laughs suddenly, out of relief, she supposes.
Tyson accepts the car with an easy smile. "Wanna race?"
"No," Aiden says. He shakes his head. "Let's crash them!"
"Crash?" Tyson's eyes go wide(r) and his lips pucker into a tiny O at the idea. By some bizarre chance, this basic boyish game seems to be an alien concept to him.
"Yeah! Like this." Aiden grips his car and runs it toward Tyson's. As the two little plastic and metal vehicles collide, he lets out a string of exploding noises.
"Cool!" With obvious glee, Tyson pulls his little car back and then swings it at Aiden's. Together, the two boys make a chorus of loud sounds.
Slowly, she gets to her feet and slips away, leaving the boys to their fun. As she walks down the street, she beams as if she has just won the lottery.