My family and their friends played along with me in their adult wisdom. I was teased about her and asked all kinds of questions. “I’ll bet she looks just like you doesn’t she Jessie?” my mom would say. “No!” I would cry in frustration, “I’m me, not her! Her hairs are red and she’s big.” I was a very small child for my age with golden brown hair, nothing like her at all.
I tried to ignore her but she was strong.
I’m sure it was considered quite cute and sweet by the adults in my family to set an extra place at the dinner table for my friend. How come I couldn’t see her, could they? But how was it possible to feel something that you couldn’t see? It confused me.
I didn’t want her beside me, I made them put her next to my father. Maybe he could control her because I sure couldn’t. Naturally, she did as she pleased anyway, and I would get blamed for the beets on the floor or the finger prints in the cake icing. No one ever saw her when she was bad, not even me.
But I paid for it every time and I knew she was there.
My grandmother stopped over for a visit one day and found my mother in tears. I was, at the time, standing in the corner because I had been a “very, very bad girl”. My mom had seen a nasty, mean drawing in my book of a kitty with blood all over it and had caught me breaking all of my crayons. I was crying because I had snapped all of my crayons on purpose and it broke my heart to do it. I was crying because I didn’t do that drawing or any of the rest of those nasty ones in my book! She had!
I was crying because my mom was mad at me and I had made her cry again.
When I tried to explain that day, my mom yanked me to the corner and said “You stay right there until I tell you that you can move you bad girl! Don’t lie to me! You did this and I will not put up with this kind of behavior!” I was scared. I couldn’t make her go away and she was getting stronger.
“Maybe this invisible friend thing has gone too far, Jill.” my grandmother said that day to my mother. “Jessie is such a good girl. I don’t understand this willfulness and temper all of a sudden. It just isn’t like her.” My heart soared! My grandmother knew! She knew it wasn’t me!
“She’s just being a mean, nasty brat!” my mother cried angrily, “She’s not your daughter to coddle, and she needs to stop this! Don’t you go making excuses for her again!”
My shoulders sagged. Even Gramma couldn’t help me now. I was alone with her.
The years passed, my brother arrived and family focus was on the new baby. He was cute, happy and always had a smile for everyone. I loved him with all my heart but I would not stay alone in any room with him. My parents consulted Dr. Spock who said that jealousy of a new sibling was perfectly normal and that the older child would come to terms with it on their own if given time.
I wasn’t jealous of the baby, I was protecting him from her. She didn’t like him being there. I knew… I knew she wanted him gone! She wanted to hurt him and make him cry! I had found the drawings in my sketch book that told me how she felt about him. I shuddered as I remembered what she had done to that cute little face. He was safe though, because I had figured it out.
You see, as the years had passed, I had come to realize that the horrible drawings that appeared on the table in my room during the night weren’t what had happened, but what she wanted to happen, what she wanted to do. I had also discovered quite by accident, that if I erased some of what she had drawn or changed it, things didn’t happen at all. I had to check though, every day to make sure I didn’t miss one.
Sometimes I did.
One time she put my cat in the dryer and just as I opened the door to get him out, my dad caught me and smacked me hard on the butt. “I thought you loved Frisky!” my dad yelled at me. “Don’t you know you could kill him doing this? What is wrong with you sometimes?” I found the drawing of a cat strangled by my blue and green striped knee-sock under my bed later that afternoon.
So I learned to be vigilant. I learned to be quiet, to listen for her, to feel her coming. Already a contemplative child, I became more so. I locked myself in my room when I felt her coming and fought her as best I could. I found that reading kept her occupied and kept me out of trouble, so we read. We read constantly, because she was always so hungry.
When reading began to bore her, I made up stories and wrote them down in the set of bound blank journals my grandmother had given me. “Perhaps if you write down your bad dreams and do some drawings of what you remember from them,” she had said, “maybe they will go away.” They didn’t go away, but I did figure out a way to keep some sense of control. She would read the stories I came up with, draw wonderful images to go along with them if she was feeling kind and if she liked them.
When she didn’t, well, that was another matter.
My sketch pads and journals are numerous and kept hidden away from prying eyes. I rarely share “my” drawings with anyone. I don’t think I would be able to explain or even be believed if I tried to say why some of the drawings are signed like they are. In what looks remarkably like blood, they are signed simply