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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

Angela's Adventure
by Dan Leydon

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Angela was fuming mad. Henrietta had just refused to play. After all the times they had played - oh, this was just like something she would do. Well Angela wasn't going to let her win. Not this time. She glanced out the window. It was a nice day. The sun was shining; there was no breeze. It was the type of summer's day that laid out everything in front of you to look like some kind of fun adventure you hadn't embarked on yet. It was full of possibility.

Angela was currently in her bedroom sitting on the ground amongst her toys with her arms folded angrily across her chest. She was sporting a large pout. The wrath of a young girl is something to stay away from. She was currently seething about Henrietta, who had marched off somewhere. Somewhere stupid thought Angela. She tried playing with her toys on her own. That didn't work. She tried playing with the dollhouse. No fun without Henrietta. She got up and left her room. She was in the hallway. The carpet was light pink. Angela liked the hallway, but not as much as her room. Loud music was coming from her brother's room. His room was the last on the left by the window. She walked up to the window and pressed her face and hands against it. There was that summer day, beckoning to her to come out and sample in the carefree joys of summer. Angela was still mad with Henrietta however. The music was still coming from her brother's room. She listened for a moment; she knew the song. It was Renegade by Styx. Her brother was sixteen. He was nice to her, when it suited him; she liked him. She thought about going into his room, but she didn't want to because she knew he wouldn't want to play. So she turned and went down the stairs and into the kitchen, holding her hand out to touch the wall as she did so. The wall was smooth and shiny.

Mother was standing at the sink. Scrubbing something as usual thought Angela. She walked over to the table and sat on one of the chairs.

'What's wrong honey?' asked Mother, without turning around. She continued to scrub something. Angela could see the smooth portion of skin between her pink rubber gloves and her sleeves. It was very brown, from their last holiday to Spain or somewhere too hot thought Angela

'Honey?' prompted Mother. Angela realised she hadn't spoken yet.

'Have you seen Henrietta?' she said. Mother ceased scrubbing, she continued to stare out the window, but her back had straightened. She exhaled slowly.

'Honey, Listen to me; you know Henrietta is not real. You're too old to hang around with an imaginary friend. You're a big girl now. Remember? You start school in two weeks.' Angela pursed her lips and crossed her arms. She looked at Mother's arm again. There were fluffy white suds on it now. They looked like snow. Why couldn't they go on holiday somewhere with snow?

'I just wanna play with someone. Me and Henrietta had a fight and she walked off on me. Have you seen her?' Mother seemed to give in. She went back to scrubbing.

'It's "Henrietta and I", and no Angela, I have not seen your imaginary friend. Not today. Not yesterday. In fact I have never seen Henrietta. Ever.' At this point Angela got up quietly and left the kitchen. She could still hear her mother giving out as she took her favourite jacket from its peg in the hall. 'To hell with that' muttered Angela, which she realised, was not the type of thing she should be saying, but to hell with being good for today at least. She had heard that saying from her older brother. He was always going on about something. Angela found him funny. However there was still the matter of Henrietta to deal with. Quietly opening the front door Angela made sure that Mother didn't hear her, and then she stepped from the confines of her house into the warm summer day. She was going to find Henrietta.

Angela's house was a two story Landlord demesne with a large garden on all sides. It was situated on a small unused road that ended outside their gates. They lived on the outskirts of a small town and had neighbours on one side, The Knotleys. They were an older couple than Angela's parents and lived in a smaller house. Her brother thought they were funny. He did loads of impressions of them. He said they were like hillbillies. Once when Angela's dad had mentioned them her brother had burst out laughing and said, 'Oh my God they're such freaks! They walk so weird with their hands straight down at their sides and they only look straight ahead of them and never turn their heads. And they say everything like eighty million times. I asked Mr. Knotley what it was like when he was younger and he goes like, "that's the way it was, yup, just like that, the way it was, sure enough, like that, sure was, just like that." They're so weird!' Angela and her dad had laughed, but Mother had a stern face and scolded Angela for laughing at her brother's stupid remarks. Mother didn't like to laugh.

Angela skipped to the end of the gravel driveway. She slowed to a halt and glanced out of the gateway. She lived on an unused road. The only traffic that frequented it was her parent's cars and the Knotley's when they were reversing. But since she was a good, sensible young girl she looked up the road, then down the road; she listened for traffic. She looked up then down again and then she crossed to the old footpath on the other side. She preferred that side of the road because it was beside a steep ditch that was home to a great many large old trees. She could see these trees from her bedroom window and they looked very sandy today because the sun was shining on them. She remembered the sand from her holidays and she hated it. Mother had made her go in the water because 'That's what normal kids do.' To hell with the water, thought Angela, but quickly scolded herself. When she had splashed about for a bit, Angela trudged back to shore. Sand had been plastered to every bit of her. It itched and it scratched and it annoyed her. It had gotten in her swimsuit and when she said this Mother quickly hushed her up and said that, 'Proper ladies don't say that sort of thing.' Angela wasn't a proper lady and she never would be. She had decided that with Henrietta, and Henrietta had always told her to stand up to Mother, but Angela was scared. Mother was a bit mean sometimes.

She walked along the footpath enjoying the warm sunlight that was making its way through the large trees. She held out her left hand and lightly dragged it along the ditch. It was mossy and rough but Angela didn't mind. She was happy to be out of the house, on her own. She had never done this before and it was exciting to know she was disobeying Mother. Maybe she could use this to persuade Henrietta that she had stood up to Mother, kind of. She reached the end of the road. After her short walk she found herself to be about forty metres from her bedroom window. From where she was standing she could see the sun reflecting off her window. If she were in her room looking out, Angela would be about the size of one of her doll's babies. However, she had reached a problem; where to look for Henrietta. There were three options; a) the road that sloped upwards and wrapped itself around the hill, b) the road that was level and joined onto the main road, which looked busy, which meant dangerous, or c) the final option, straight ahead into the field. Angela tried to put herself into the head of Henrietta. This was something she had seen on a police show on television. The detectives on that show pretended to be criminals to see what they would have done, and if it worked for policemen it might work for Angela.

Ok, thought Angela, I'm a four year old girl, I like dolls, and I like playing with Angela. So where is the most likely place I would go? Angela's, I mean my, house. Of course! Angela realised that she was a bit silly thinking Henrietta had run off in the first place. This was called 'jumping to conclusions'. She had heard Mother saying that when Angela said that the Knotleys were probably responsible for dint in their front gate. Mother had been annoyed when they owned up to it the next day. 'I just revved too much, yup, too much revving, that's what it was, revved too much, sure was, too much revving, sure was, yup. Real sorry.' Angela's brother had laughed.

Angela turned and carefully walked back to her house along the footpath. This time she held out her right hand and trailed a finger along its rough mossy exterior. In no time she was back at her gates. The gable end of her house was bathed in warm sunlight. She liked the bright colours that it cast over the shadowy areas. And so with a smile Angela skipped through the two cast iron gates and down her gravel driveway. Just before she reached her house she spotted Henrietta in the garden. She had been right!

'Hey Henrietta! Why'd you run off?' Henrietta turned away from Angela and crossed her arms. Her brown hair was catching the sunlight. Angela was annoyed with her again.

'Henrietta! Why are you being so mean? And why'd you go and run off like that?'

Henrietta faced her. 'Aw heck Angela! I ran off because my Ma said I can't be friends with you anymore. I'm real sorry.'

'Can't be friends? Well shucks, why not Hen?'

'I'm starting school next week ya see. And Ma says it can't be good for me to have an imaginary friend. She says I won't be able to have my proper chance at life if I keep "consorting with imaginary types like you".'

'Imaginary friend? But you're MY imaginary friend!' said a shocked Angela.

'Nuh-uh. You're MY imaginary friend. You just haven't realised it.' And with that statement Angela faded from Henrietta's vision. She was gradually phased out from the warm summer's day to embark upon her journey into the life-changing world of primary education. Angela became nothing but a collection of hazy ink spots on the fabric of reality. Henrietta waved.

'Bye Angela! Have a good time in school!' She then ran inside Angela's house and quietly closed the front door behind her.

'Honey, is that you?' shouted Mother from the kitchen. Henrietta smiled.

'Yes! Mother.' She made her way to the kitchen. Mother was at the sink with her back to Henrietta. She was scrubbing something. Scrubbing, I like it, thought Henrietta.

'Have you dealt with... her?' asked Mother without turning around.

'Yes, we won't have any more sun holidays damned to ruination by her constant complaining. Don't you fret on that side of affairs. Mother.' Henrietta smiled.

'Mother?' she asked.

'Yes honey?'

'I'm going upstairs to play.'

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