“He is just there.” Is what I used to say to my friend. “Always.”
“He watches over me when I sleep, just by standing there, in the corner of my room.”
He did. It was true, yet, I was the only one who saw him. And so it was harder for me to convince my friends it was true. My mom told me I had a lively imagination and that nobody had a hairy ogre friend, whatever Ogre meant, it meant big and furry, I guess. Still, there he was, right now, standing in the corner of the dining room, staring down to the floor, right behind mom’s right shoulder.
“Mom, do you know what Tito told me today?”
“No, I don’t, sweetheart.” Mom either did not care I talked about him or she thought it was that some boy from school. I was excited to tell her anyway.
“He said he will protect me, whatever.”
“Whatever happens, so I don’t need a new daddy anymore.” She was stirring the soup pot, but looked around surprised, twitching a little, twisting her ring between two fingers. The ring that she told me, daddy had bought using all of our savings. Daddy had one as well: Copper circle, with a big red stone on top of it. Ruby they both called it, like it was a person. “Aren’t you wearing Ruby tonight?” I whispered, in the tone that daddy used when talking to mom. Daddy left us a couple of weeks ago now. Mom was stirring the soup once again. “I finally might have some great news tonight, Maddie. You might visit someone you haven’t seen in a long-long time and stay there for a couple of nights.” She rediscovered her smile. “Why don’t you go out and play for a little, so mommy can work on diner?”
Tito followed quietly, mum could not see or hear him, but he was there, my best friend in the whole wide world. His big lumps of hair quietly shivered in the wind, even I couldn’t hear him most of the time. He didn’t talk much. He is shy most of the time. He once told me that he comes from a distant plane, -is that like a planet?- where more creatures like him live. They call themselves the Dreamo’s or something.
The garden was a small friendly looking place, with a few terraces and a few bushes, but mostly high Christmas-trees, indicating the paths down to the fence. She was out here a lot, with Tito, who replaced daddy when he left a couple of weeks ago. Mum did only seem to bother for a week, even less about not being able to see Tito. She was worried about the police, when they stopped coming here. Called them the same as what she called daddy before. Mum and daddy were fighting a lot before he left, sometimes about me and about leaving this house and I figured that he went to Spain, a faraway magical country he was always talking about.
The tingling smell of mum’s food was hanging all the way in the back of the garden. His purple-grey hair waved exactly as the branches and leafs did. I could lose sight of him easily back here. Never completely lose him of course. I blinked or turned around and he was there. He has not been out of sight since I met him. I tried explaining that too mum. It sometimes felt as if other people don’t want to see Tito. Like the boys do with me at school…
Our garden was really long down from the kitchen door. It felt like a maze sometimes and I imagined the ivy crawling on the mud, grabbing my feet as if it had come alive. Tito then swore it actually could. But today it hadn’t. I hopped from muddy patch to muddy patch, between the high hedges, to a quiet spot in the garden. Tito followed me, scooping the leaves with his big paws, which waggled down to the exact same spot. She didn’t have to look, Tito was always right there. Mum ignored him though, my dear Tito.
I sat down in the grass, where it was nice and cosy and not at all that wet or muddy, with me leaning against the hedge. Vrrst. Vrrst. Was the kind of sound Tito made when moving to the garden, much like the wind, little heavier… and stop. Always within a few yards with his dark blue, almost purple fur, long lumps of hair down to his feet, with his large toes he doesn’t mind me tickling. I once found the colour in a magazine, put my finger on it and showed it to mum. Moohve… or something, she said. Mauve, it was…maybe.
He is my best friend, not Lindsey, not Kaleigh. He is. He did not talk, or nearly never. He only said two things, maybe three, basically only one. His name. A while ago he -he has to be a he- talked. I couldn’t sleep and he was looking at princes and princesses on my wallpaper. From my bed, I asked him: “Hey, what’s your name?” He was shy and he was scratching in his fur and was shaking a little. “Hello mister, what’s your name?”
“Ti….to. Ti….to.” He was shaking. I kept asking: “And where are you from, Mister?”
It took a while, he shook a little, quite cutely and he pointed towards the window. Later that night, he told me where he came from.
It was actually not all that cosy against the hedge. It was grey and cold out. My yellow shovel was sticking out of the mud a few meters in front of me, next to the fence that marked the end of the huge garden. I must have been at it, for weeks now, only daddy used to come in the garden, so Mum didn’t care. I shovelled and shovelled, ‘til I heard the squeaky sound of the gate opening.
“Excuse me, little miss. Is your mother at home? I need to talk to her. My name is Officer Jameson.” He was wearing a police uniform. He wasn’t the first. A while ago, another policeman came and he disappeared in the house. I think he just went on a holiday. Just like my dad, even though that was not in the house… I think. So, this one is probably looking for him. I pointed to the house. “In the kitchen. And I did not find your friend. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, little one. Keep digging and play on.”
Tito stepped to the side so that officer could walk to the house in a straight line. “Do you know where the officer’s friend is, Tito?” He did not want to talk. I shovelled and shovelled, ‘til my shovel hit something hard. It rang like a bell. I dropped the shovel and was digging with my hands and fingers at exactly that spot. I tried to dig as fast as I could when I touched a cold hand. I dug up a hand and an arm, with a ring on the fourth finger, holding a large red stone, not shiny, because of the dirt on it. Ruby. “Tito?” For the first time in a while, I couldn’t see Tito.