[Short Story] Mr Lion, the imaginary friend

My wet clothes cling stubbornly to my skin as the sky rumbles menacingly for the dozenth time. We may be imaginary, but how the world works affect us the same way like our creators. Gives us depth, I remember someone saying.

Not that I care, anyway. At least no longer. I stare at the sentence in front of me, engraved neatly unto the stone. Marcus J. Smith. 2007-2017. The bright colours of the flowers below the headstone seem so out of place. Mrs Smith was howling when she placed the flowers there, and I've never seen her so sad before.

She was hugging the headstone so tightly, and several of the men had to pull her away. I wanted to put my hands on her shoulder and tell her that I felt sad too, that I cried for days too, beside her in the hospital, but she couldn't hear me. I hope she's doing okay. Mr Smith should have been here as well.

With nowhere to go, I position myself next to Marcus, leaning against the stone that bore his name. There are so many other of them in this place, each with different names and different stories, and I wonder if any of them left so much earlier than Marcus.

I can still remember the day when he first created me. Squiggly lines along an A4 paper, drawn by his first set of crayons. Mrs Smith bought them for his birthday.

Mr Lion, that was what he called me, holding out his paper to Mrs Smith. He gave me a mane like all lions do, though they were coloured in purple instead of brown. Marcus' favourite colour. Jimmy, his friend from kindergarten, called him silly. But I didn't mind one bit. Purple makes me unique and I could, I would have bitten off Jimmy's head right there and then for making Marcus cry.

Mrs Smith brought us to visit so many places together, and we made so many other friends too. There was Alex, this other lion in this place they called a theme park. Marcus and I laughed at him for not having a purple mane. And unlike me, Alex couldn't talk. All he did was wave his hands around and pose for pictures.

Marcus took a picture with Alex too, together with Mrs Smith. He giggled when he saw me sitting on Alex's head making funny faces, just to show my dominance. I thought I would spend my entire life with Marcus. I thought I would go through the ups and downs with him. It was my life's purpose. To be there for Marcus.

But somehow, wherever he is now, I am not there with him.

My hands reach out to wipe the tears streaming down my face, when the another sound catches my attention. I turn around to see another person standing in front of Marcus. A face that I recognize.

"Jeanie?" I call out. Marcus loved to tease her in kindergarten, and she to him. They were close like peanut butter and toast, and the teachers often speculated that they would make a very good couple.

"Mr Lion?" Her eyes catches mine. And like mine, they are red and moist. Her umbrella drops clumsily on the wet dirt as she scampers towards me, kneeling by my side.

Her tiny hands brushes softly against my mane, soaked and heavy from the rain. "Are you here alone?"

I nod.

She pulls me closer, her arms wrapping around me. To my ear, she whispers, "It's okay Mr Lion, you don't have to be anymore."


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