Mandi curled over in her bed, waiting for the sound of footsteps to slow down. Being part imaginary friend was not all it was cracked out to be. She didn’t know how Owen dealt with it so much nonchalance. Sometimes he even seemed proud to be one of…them. To her, she would always be human. Looking out into the vast colorful land of Imaginationland- she felt empty. She didn’t belong here and it didn’t matter what help Puzzle needed. She was sure she wasn’t the girl for the job. “Hey, get your lazy ass up and help out here!” A voice called from the other side of the door. She didn’t have to see him to know it was Owen rudely banging on the door to her quarters.
“Heck no!” She cried, placing a pillow over her head. “I don’t want to help. Let me sleep. I’m not feeling well.”
“You’re not feeling well? You’re never feeling well. Damn it Mandi, I miss home as much as you do but this isn’t the way to be acting. We do what we came here to do and then we can go home. You can find out about yourself and about your dad. Don’t you want that?” Owen asked. He pushed the door open slowly, awaiting her angered yell. But, when it didn’t come he approached her bed and sat beside her.
“Leave, please!” She cried, sitting up and glaring at him. “You’re just going to yell at me for being tired all the time but you don’t understand. You never listen.”
“I’m right here listening,” Owen said. “Make me understand. Show me what it is you’re feeling. Because if you don’t, I’m always going to be on the other end of your barrier and that’s not going to help anyone.”
“Then have some patience, will you?” She asked, crawling over to sit beside him. She leaned her head on his shoulder, relenting to the warmth of the man she had found comfort in the past few months. “Remember how Puzzle said she sent letters out to our dimension? Why haven’t we heard anything back?”
“Maybe they’re busy fighting the darkness?” Owen asked. “We don’t really know what the others were doing in the underworld when we left.”
“The whole dimension? I don’t think Puzzle has even heard from Audric yet,” Mandi complained. “That doesn’t worry you? How long has it been?” Mandi held up her hand, counting down the years on her fingers. Time ran differently in Imaginationland. Back home, who knew how much time had passed?
“It does,” Owen agreed. “I’m extremely worried but if I don’t look ahead then I’m going to keep thinking about my family and friends. We need to get out of here but if Audric isn’t communicating with Puzzle then chances are we probably can’t get back there. This is all we have right now.”
“No,” Mandi said quietly, looking down at her hands. “It can’t be. Why wouldn’t she be able to communicate with our home? Are communications blocked? Are we going to have to stay here forever? I don’t want to stay here forever.”
“I…I don’t know,” Owen mumbled truthfully. “But Puzzle means us no harm. Let’s help her like we promised until we know for sure what’s happening.”
Mandie wiped away a tear from her eyes and nodded. “Okay.” She thought about everything that had happened leading up to this point. Back in Moonlight Falls she had felt like she belonged, but here? Something wasn’t right…somewhere along the line, something had to have happened.
Tommy fixed his tie in the mirror, smiling at Graciela as she twirled around in her gown. “It looks good on you,” He replied to the teen vampire.
“Thank you!” She cried happily, enjoying the way the gown moved with her as she danced about. The sun shone through the window of the wedding hall’s dressing room area, warming her skin.
“Your mother was very nice to include us in her wedding,” Mandi said, standing next to Tommy by the full length mirror. “She really didn’t have to. We could have just been part of the guest list.”
“She loves you guys,” Pax assured the girl. “You’ve wormed your way into our hearts in the two years you’ve been with us. She’s happy to have you here. Dad is too.”
“You’re family,” Graciela said with a small nod. “You’re like another sister to me.”
“Us too?” Winter asked, striking a model pose in her bridesmaids gown next to Adriana who only smiled shyly.
“Duh,” Pax said, rolling his eyes at Winter’s boisterous outburst. “Jared and grumpy Owen too.”
Mandi had excused herself from the group, deciding a walk out in the fresh air would do her some good. She hadn’t wanted to be a negative nancy on the day of Charlotte and Jeff’s remarriage ceremony, but she felt empty watching the pair. That could have been her mom and dad if her father hadn’t just walked out of her life like nothing had happened. Two years living with Charlotte and her kids, yet she had nothing to show for it in terms of finding out who she was. She shut her eyes, taking in the fresh breeze against her skin. It felt lovely. “Penny for your thoughts?” Owen asked, leaning against a nearby building. “You look pretty bugged about something.”
“Nothing of your concern,” She assured him, waving the male off. “Trust me.”
“Nothing?” Owen asked. “Oh, I think it is my concern considering you’re my travel buddy into Imaginationland.” He stepped towards her. “Talk to me.”
“No,” She replied firmly, shaking her head. “There is nothing to talk about.”
“Of course there is. Everyone is smiling and you’re here with that look of disdain plastered on your face. It’s a happy day,” Owen said, crossing his arms over his chest. “You’re not very happy.”
“Does true love exist?” Mandi challenged the man. “Love that penetrates deeper than anything the world can throw at you?”
“I think so,” Owen said. “In fact, I know so. Look at Charlotte and Jeff. This is their third marriage. I don’t think there’s a better example than that. Then there’s my parents who would do anything for each other.”
“Yet, my dad still left my mom,” Mandi mumbled. “Walked right out on the human girl.”
“Did you ever consider that there might have been a good reason for it?” Owen asked. “Like protecting your mother from the truth about supernaturals? Protecting you?”
“If he loved her so much why couldn’t he take her with him? She could have learned about this place like I am. She wouldn’t have been scared of vampires and werewolves.”
“You don’t understand what it’s like to be an imaginary friend in love with a human.”
“Are you in love with a human?” Mandi asked, letting the words float into the air. it would certainly show her another side of the male standing in front of her.
“Not me, my dad. He’s an Imaginary Friend who married a human, same as yours. I grew up in a home where I saw everything they had to overcome together. I’m not saying that I know what it was like to be your dad, having to hide who he was. We grew up in a place similar to this one where it was okay to be a supernatural. But…” Owen let out a heavy sigh. “I don’t know what I’m saying anymore. But, it must not have been easy on your father.”
Mandi reached up and touched her pointed ears. “You know, I had to explain to people all the time why I had these pointed ears. There was one moment when I remember a doctor coming to the house. He was saying that he could surgically fix my ears. You know, make them more rounded. But my mom didn’t let me go through with it. She said it was what connected me to my father. The one feature we both had.”
Owen winked at Mandi, reaching out to poke the tip of her ear. “I dunno. I think that your ears are pretty cute.”
“Stop that!” She cried, shooing his hand away. “Don’t tease me. I still don’t love these pointy things.”
“You’re not different here,” Owen explained. “Everyone in the Gray household cares about you. The teens see you as an older sister. Tommy and I consider you a good friend.”
“Yes well…I suppose I should be looking to the present and enjoying what I have but I can’t help but think about my dad all the time. I want to be sharing my experiences with him. Watching him walk down the aisle. Venting to him. You know?”
“One day,” Owen assured her. “You’ll get there. But for now, don’t you think he’d want you to live in the moment? Enjoy these experiences so you can tell him about it later.”
“Look at you being all sentimental,” Mandi teased. “I didn’t take you for that kind of guy.”
“Why not?” Owen asked. “One day, I want this too. A love that nothing can stop. A family of my own to raise. A beautiful, strong, and intelligent woman by my side.”
“Back then you wanted a whole lot,” Mandi told Owen softly. “At Charlotte and Jeff’s wedding you told me about this life you wanted. Is this it? Do you see yourself here forever?”
“I don’t care where I am,” Owen replied, truthfully. “Of course I want to see my family again. I want to see everyone I love, but I’m going to be where I’m needed. Saving the dimension so people can have the lives they want to live. I just want to help people.”
“Can’t we be both happy and help people?” Mandi asked. “Can’t I help people with my family by my side?”
“I’ve found that for the Van Winkles and Grays that’s not an easy feat, but it’s feasible.” Owen squeezed her hand. “Besides, you might be shocked who you have right in front of you.”
“Yeah, a loud mouthed jerk with some good advice sometimes.”
“Sometimes?” Owen cried. “Try, all the time. My advice is solid.”
“Debatable, but alright.” She hopped off of the bed and winked. “Guess it’s time to get back to work until Audric calls Puzzle with the good news that we’re going home?” Owen followed close behind, placing a hand on her shoulder. He didn’t have to say anything, it was comfort enough to know she wasn’t alone when things didn’t look so good.