My most vivid memories about M are from around 12-15 years ago. We all loved hanging out with her. She was like the leader of our group, always picking the games we had to play and assigning tasks to us. We had compulsory Library sessions in those days, when we were forced to read books and spend time at the school Library. But we girls liked to gather around M and listen to her stories instead. I always looked upon her life with awe. I wanted to trade lives with her. She was such a happy kid, with an amazing family, who lived in an awesome home with a beautiful garden.
I was the only friend she told about her mother. Her step-mom to be more accurate. She told me how sometimes her step-mom wasn't too kind to her. I've met her mother a few times and she did appear strict. But apparently, she wasn't that strict with M's little sister. A few years later, M moved to another city and we lost touch. It was only last year that I discovered her on Facebook. And I was ecstatic about finding her after all these years! We got to talking and I felt that I was engaging with a completely different person. Someone who never mentioned her sister, or her step-mom. Something seemed off and with a little bit of stalking and through casual conversations with M, I realized that there hadn't been a sister all along. M was an only child. But my confused brain refused to accept that. I could vividly remember walking over to the Kindergarten with M, and playing with her little sister. She would pick her up, share her lunch, help feed her, take her out for a stroll and introduce her to everyone as her little sister. One of the things I immediately remember when I think about M as a child, is what an amazing big sister she was to her younger sibling.
Things slowly began to fall into place. I may have been a child at the time, but everything suddenly makes sense now. The area where M lived didn't have big homes with gardens. It still doesn't have them. It only had many, many flats. I'm sure she lived in one of those flats but the picture of her home with a garden is still fresh in my mind. Not because I ever visited her place, but because she described every feature of her house in detail. She even talked about a greenhouse! Although, none of us knew what a greenhouse was back then. She kept referring to it as a "garden-house". It had green potted plants and was made of glass! She told us how it was her sister's hiding place and how M was the only one who knew where to find her every time she went missing.
Today, after a gap of 15 years, I look at the same M. A completely different person with the same smile. A smile that made me believe her stories for years. The same name, the same smile, the same colourful conversations, but a different person altogether. A person who probably doesn't even remember the parallel universe she created in the minds of all her friends. And the best thing is, I still get drawn into her conversations. When she starts talking, I can't help but pay attention to her colourful stories and experiences. I don't know if that's the case with everyone. But embellished as they may be, I still listen to every single one of them.
~M's first friend.