Her name was Ivy.
I met her one afternoon while I was playing at the wooded back area of the compound. She was at the other side of the gates, just watching me swing on the gigantic wheel my uncle set up as a swing set. My yaya (nanny) was not far from me and she was reading one of her romantic pocket books as she sat on the cool grass.
I remember seeing her eyes first, just peeking through the vine covered gate. They were not like the usual colour that I was used to seeing. Hers was bright and light in colour – hazel and unblinking. I remember staring at it until she blinked at me. I remember being taken aback but unafraid as many children were at that age – we don’t scare easily but we do feel curiousity.
I smiled at the eyes and it just stared back.
‘Oy, what are you looking at, ha?’ my yaya asked, looking at where I was staring. I shook my head and looked back at where the eyes was and it was gone.
‘YOU are going to get sick again,’ she tells me as she sweeps me off the tire swing. ‘We better go back in, the hour is not so good for you to be out now,’ she said as she looked around, cautiously.
I had a fever that night which went away after a few days. I wasn’t allowed to go out in the afternoons after that.
One morning, I woke up almost as early as my lolo (grandfather). He wakes up at 4am on the dot. I sneaked out of my bed and left behind my yaya who was sleeping next to me. I wanted to go with my lolo to buy pandesal (salt bread) and mornings in Philippines are cold. I took my yaya’s shawl and quietly went out of the back door. The sky was still dark but bright enough to see the path going towards my grandparents’ house which was just right next door.
‘Where are you going?’ someone said behind me. I froze and didn’t look behind me. I didn’t recognize the voice.
‘It’s too early for you to be out at this hour.’ The voice came from a little girl. I spun around to look at her but no one was around.
‘Here.’ I look up and there was a girl looking over the wall. She had bright hair and had a big smile. ‘Do you remember me?’
I shushed her, and looked behind me to check on my mother’s opened windows. ‘Whisper! I don’t want to get caught.’
She smiled excitedly and said, ‘I’ll whisper if you promise to be my friend.’
‘Okay, I will! Shhhhh….’
‘My name is Ivy, I’ll be your best friend until the end of time.’ she whispers as she drops down from the wall. I just thought she was strange, wakes up really early and went on my way. For a moment, I wondered how she got up to that high wall but I quickly forgot about it.
But she did keep her word.
After a few weeks, I was allowed to go back to play in my spot. As I ran to my tire swing, I hear a whistle. It was Ivy. I ran towards her.
‘Hey, you know how to whistle! Can you teach me how to whistle, my uncle makes fun of me all the time coz he says I don’t have enough teeth to whistle. You have really light hair – lighter than mine!’
She laughs. ‘I can teach you how to whistle if you like. I like your hair more, it’s like princess hair,’ she says as she reached out to touch my curly hair. I notice now that her eyes are like hazel with blue and I remember seeing foreigners on TV with similar characteristics.
‘Are you an American?’
‘No, I’m just me.’
‘Then something else?’
‘Yes. Something else.’ She smiles at me and said, ‘I have something for you.’ she reaches behind her and it’s a crown of wildflowers.
I gasp. ‘You made it yourself?!’
‘Yes, for you.’ she says as she puts it on my head.
‘I want to make one for you!’ I tell her as I feel the wild flowers on my hair.
‘I can teach you.’
‘How do you know how to make….
‘HOY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!’
‘Yaya, I was talking to my friend,’ I tell her as she removes me from where I was sitting.
I look back at Ivy but she was gone. She may have been scared off by my yaya.
‘Where did you get that?’ she points at the crown of flowers on my head.
‘My friend gave it to me, she made it.’ My yaya gave me a concerned look.
‘How old is your friend?’
‘Same as me.’
‘You’re going back in the house.’
After that, I never told anyone about meeting Ivy. She gets scared off by them easily. Sometimes I bring toys with me so she will go over the wall to sit with me. Sometimes she wants to brush my hair with her fingers and I wouldn’t like it coz her hands were cold. She taught me to whistle but I couldn’t whistle to birds like she does.
When we migrated, I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to her. My parents were in a rush to leave and I remember I thought we were just going on a vacation.
I didn’t think about her until recently. I asked my aunt if she remembers my friend, Ivy.
She said she did – she remembered my imaginary friend.
‘What do you mean, imaginary? She was real.’
‘She wasn’t, dear. You introduced us several times to your imaginary friend.’
‘I took pictures with her? She was there on my birthday party?’
‘Yes you took pictures. Solo pictures.’
I was baffled. I checked if I had photos with her in the old family albums. I found nothing. Not even on that birthday party I invited her to. No light haired girl with the hazel blue eyes.
To this day, I wonder if I actually made her up or if she was indeed – something else.