“I forgot the cookies!” the young, red-headed girl dashed out of her pink room. Elena heard her small feet patter down a flight of stairs. She sighed in relief now that she had a moment alone. Bubblegum pink walls were decorated with posters of horses and unicorns. The bed was wearing a thick comforter dotted with princess wands and crowns. The cozy room reminded her of her own when she was a child; when she was alive. Elena could not remember how it happened, but she knew she was dead. She woke up to see a tiny pair of violet eyes looking down at her, after several minutes she was drafted into a tea party.
“Just checking in,” a woman said behind Elisa while she was admiring the room. “Any questions?” she asked. Elisa recognized the voice and turned to see an olive-skinned woman smiling at her from a corner of the room. A bright blue star with the number 35 was tattooed on her left cheek. Long sea-green curls flowed down her shoulders and onto the navy-blue business jacket. She wore a navy sarong instead of slacks. Elena recognized her case-worker.
“Hey, Isla. Imaginary friend duty?” Elena asked. Isla nodded. “How long?” Isla shrugged.
“When she outgrows you, or you’re ready to try again. Whichever happens first.”
“I’m still kind of foggy. Did I choose this?” Elisa asked. Isla shook her head but grinned broadly.
“I’m trying something new,” she said. Elena did not know why, she never did, but the thought sent a worried, amused shiver down her spine. Somehow she felt like Isla ‘trying something new’ happened a lot, and tended to go badly. The smiling woman noticed Elena’s concern and immediately raised her hands to protest. “Don’t worry! I got Ezey’s permission this time, it’s all on the up and up,” she said. That made Elena feel better.
“Okay,” she asked. “What am I doing here?”
“You don’t remember it, but it was your idea,” Isla said. She crossed her arms and shifted her weight to one leg. “That’s probably why Ezey okayed it; it didn’t come from me,” she said. She clicked her tongue in annoyance at the thought. It never occurred to her before. “Anyway, congratulations! You created a new perk, so that means you get it for free.” Elena’s eyes widened as the memory of her last visit with Isla flooded her mind.
“I got Imaginary Mentor!?” she hopped out of the tiny plastic chair at the girl’s tea table and dashed across the room to hug Isla. She put her hands out to stop Elena.
“Tentatively,” she said. “This is the first time we’re trying something like this. Consider it a test run. If the results are too beneficial…,” she sighed. “Ezey made me promise to wipe the results, then you can try again with better guidelines.”
“Oh, this is so awesome!” Elena gave up on trying to hug the woman and dropped her arms. “So she’s my-,”
“I hope you like cake!” the little girl walked back into the room holding a dad-sized piece of chocolate cake. “We didn’t have any more cookies. Who’s that?” she asked without missing a beat. Isla smiled.
“I’m her boss. I had a lot of people fighting to be your…,” Isla pointed at the girl. “…imaginary friend. Elena here is the best one we have and she’s going to take great care of you.” The girl’s violet eyes sparkled.
“Elena? That’s my name too!” the girl said. Isla put her hand to her chest and gasped in mock surprise. “What a coincidence!” Isla looked at the cake with exaggerated hunger, then she looked at the girl. “Elena, I have to go have a meeting with some other friends but that cake looks so good. Can you bring me a piece I can take with me?” Little Elena nodded eagerly then dashed out the door. Isla turned back to the dead woman.
“You can’t tell her you’re her Zero. You can’t tell her which perks to choose, or anything about points or the afterlife. All you can do is try to guide her and give her advice.” Elena nodded.