Gullible

Maddie always had such a wonderful imagination. When we first met, she told me that her mum collected dolls. She had plenty of dolls, but she wanted a daughter more than anything, and so she prayed to God for a daughter, and the next morning, her favourite doll had come to life. She told me that she was that doll.
She even looked a little bit like a doll. She was small and delicate, with long eyelashes and red lips and long, golden hair. It was our first day of school, we were six years old.
We became best friends. I remember the first time I went over to her house. Her mother was very much like her. Taller, but delicate and beautiful. There was a porcelain doll high up on a shelf, although not as beautiful as Maddie. Obviously, Maddie would have been the best, most beautiful doll.
‘I wish I had a doll that was actually alive,’ I said. Maddie’s mother just smiled at me.
Maddie showed me to her room and closed the door.
‘It was supposed to be a secret about how mum got me. I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone. If mum finds out I told you, then I’d get in trouble, so from now on, just pretend you don’t know.’
‘Why aren’t you supposed to tell anyone?’
‘If too many people find out, I could turn back into a doll.’
‘Why?’
‘That’s just the way it is. I can tell one or two people, but that’s it.’
I was always good at keeping secrets. I crossed my heart and hoped to die that I would never tell anyone, and that I would pretend that I didn’t know to her mother.
‘She probably already suspects because of what you said before, but she doesn’t know for certain. Just pretend from now on that you don’t know.’

The next day, she told me that she wasn’t really a doll. She was just pretending, and I found out later that that doll I saw on the shelf was the only doll her mother had. Once, I wondered if she had just told me that it wasn’t true because her mother made her.

When we were seven years old, she told me that she used to be a princess on the sun, and that she came down to earth on one of the sun’s rays and then was adopted by her mother. She explained to me how the sun sent rays down to earth to make it sunny and warm, and she got here by riding on one of them.

One day, it was very hot. I never used to handle the heat very well, and I was complaining about how hot it was.
‘It’s hot like this every day on the sun,’ she said.
‘I guess it would be,’ I said.
‘Actually, it’s even hotter,’ she said. ‘But just a little bit.’

When I went home to my parents, I said,
‘Did you know that on the sun, it’s hot like this every day? And actually, it’s a little bit hotter?’
My parents laughed. My dad said,
‘Not just a little bit hotter, it’s a lot hotter.’
‘No,’ I told them. ‘It’s just a little bit hotter. But it’s hot every day. The people who live there must need a lot of sunscreen.’
‘No one lives on the sun,’ dad said. ‘No one can live on the sun. It’s too hot. If you even go near the sun you’ll burn up.’

The next day I told Maddie what dad told me.
‘Well of course most of the sun is like that, but I lived on the coolest part of the sun. It’s only a small part of the sun, but that’s where all the people live.’

When we were nine years old, I slept over at her house and we told scary stories in the dark. I told a couple of urban legends and she made up her own stories. One of her stories was about a vampire, and afterwards, she confided in me that just before I came over, she had been bitten by a vampire and was now one herself. I asked her not to bite me.
‘Well, I guess not, since you’re my friend,’ she said. ‘I’m not that hungry, anyway.’

The next day it was sunny and she was there.
‘I thought vampires couldn’t go out in the sun,’ I said.
‘You are so gullible,’ she said.

When we were eleven years old, she told me that she wasn’t Maddie, that her name was Moonflower. She said that she was Maddie’s counterpart from a parallel dimension, that she had swapped with Maddie for a little while through a portal, and that Maddie was now in her dimension.
‘Can I go through the portal?’ I asked.
‘It doesn’t work for everyone,’ Moonflower said. ‘It probably won’t work for you.’
‘Can I try anyway?’ I asked.
Moonflower took me to a seemingly random spot on the school oval.
‘This is the portal, but it’s invisible. You just have to stand there,’ she said, pointing to the ground. I went to stand where she pointed.
‘I told you it probably wouldn’t work on you,’ she said. I was disappointed, but not surprised.
‘What’s the other dimension like?’ I asked Moonflower, and then Maddie after they had swapped back.
‘It’s a bit like this dimension,’ they both said, ‘but prettier and more dangerous.’

When I was thirteen years old, my parents told me I was adopted. I wasn’t sure what I felt about that. I kind of wish they had told me sooner. I told Maddie, and I told her about how I wondered who my real parents were.
‘Nice try,’ she said. ‘I’m not gullible like you.’

When we were fourteen years old, Maddie told me that she was dating a Prince.
‘He’s from a far-away Kingdom,’ she said. ‘It’s nothing like here. They live like in the olden times. They don’t have technology like us,’ she said, ‘but Prince Jasper says that some of the people live there are magical! Jasper has the strongest magic of them all.’
‘What’s the name of this place?’ I asked.
‘Oh, you wouldn’t have heard of it,’ she said. ‘They’re not even on a map. They keep their Kingdom hidden from the rest of the world in case people get jealous of their magic. But Jasper left it to explore the rest of the world, and that’s when he met me, and when we’re old enough, he’s going to take me back there and marry me.’
‘When can I meet Prince Jasper?’ I asked.
‘I’m sure you’ll meet him eventually.’
I never did.

That same year, I dreamt of beautiful white dragons, and they were flying and dancing through the sky.

When we were sixteen years old, Maddie got pregnant. It was a big scandal at the school. She told me that an angel came to her in the middle of the night, and that her baby was half-angel.

When I was seventeen years old, I dreamed of the white dragons again. One of them looked at me and said,
We’re coming to take you home.

Two nights before my eighteenth birthday, I dreamed of the dragons again. They left me instructions. I told Maddie about them, and I asked her if she and her daughter wanted to come with me. I knew she longed for something otherworldly as much as I did.
‘God, Jessica,’ she said. ‘You’re almost eighteen years old. It’s about time you stopped believing in these fantasies.’

On my eighteenth birthday, I got up before the sun. I left a letter for my parents. I walked to my old primary school, climbed the fence, and walked to the spot on the oval where the dragons told me to go. It was still dark when I got there. I felt the moon giving me energy, preparing me for my journey. I waited until the sun came up, and with the sun, the light-dragons. The dragons drew me out of my body, leaving only the shell behind; nothing more than an inanimate object.

I was one of them, and I danced through the air with them. I visited Maddie, who had just woken up from her bed and was feeding her daughter, but she couldn’t see me.

As I left her home to fly away with the other Light-Dragons, way up in the sky where their Kingdom is, her phone rang. I knew it was my parents, asking her if she knew where I was, and I knew she remembered what I had told her the day before. I often wonder if she ever looked back and wondered…

Gullible

itsnoteasy

Mulgrave, Australia

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Artist's Description

Maddie tells Jessica many fantastic stories. They always turn out to be lies, but Jessica is a slow learner.

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