‘We don’t talk anymore.’ I heard Annabel’s voice in the room but couldn’t see her.
‘We don’t need to.’ I spoke into the ether. Sometimes I think this is unhealthy.
‘How can we stay together if I’m not part of your life?’ With the illusion of a body absent this tete-a-tete felt like a phone conversation, without the knowledge of a physical form existing somewhere.
‘I don’t know.’ I agreed.
‘Do you need me?’
‘I don’t know.’ This was true.
Since moving to the city and beginning work I had not thought much of Annabel. My imaginary friend fell away as society filled the former void. Gatherings were being attended with people, or at least inquired about by someone later. Annabel was restricted to the idle hours, and these where slipping in number. I welcomed that, yet Annabel tugged at me late at night and in the mornings.
‘I need you for,’ I searched for some answer that was out of sight. ‘I need you for hope.’
I couldn’t see her, but like knowing the reactions of a close friend I could tell Annabel had winkled her nose in a blend of dislike and curiosity.
‘If I don’t want you, my fake girlfriend, then what hope is there for wanting someone more,’ I thought of the right word and said, ‘Substantial?’
‘Substantial? What am I a sack of spuds?’
‘No, I mean.’ I wanted to avoid the reality verses fiction divide that Annabel often resents. ‘I mean, I need to keep you alive so I keep remembering to want more, and to write new things, and get better at writing.’
‘Honestly?’ She materialised in an armchair opposite me. Her brown eyes drilling into me. Her hands holding the chair. It looked like she could either let go and vanish or stay clinging on.
‘Honest. All we need, to keep us together, is a narrative. You know, some story element that we have to resolve and keep progressing to a solution.’
‘You know,’ she poked her fictional tongue into her fictional cheek and rolled her fictional eyes to mark casual fictional thought. ‘Most people’s relationships progress. They have mutual goals to drive them forward.’
That sounded odd. ‘You mean you want to get married and have kids?’
‘No.’ She looked at me, fingers still dug into the padding of the chair. ‘That lacks practically. And it avoids the inevitable.’
‘Fiction is not as good as reality.’
‘You can’t stay single.’ She let go of the chair. Her illusion presence remained.
‘Do you think so?’
‘Dean,’ she leant forward. ‘I know so. Something will have to give way. One of us will have to disappear.’
I watched her in the chair. Solid like a very well made hologram. A layperson, seeing Annabel though my eyes, would think she was real. Her dark hair tied back, her brown dress smoothed on her thighs, her posture forward, white blouse ruffled, elbows on her knees as she clasp her hands and held my eyeline.
‘You’re going to that wedding with a date Dean. Let’s call it a dead line.’
She lent back.
‘Team work?’ I asked.
‘No. As always you’re going to have to do all the work. I’ll sit right here. It’s a mutual goal.’
‘You’ll lose out of it.’
‘Not as much as you will, if you keep like this.’
I sat in the lounge at looked at her. I left my dinner on the cushion and it cooled. The wedding is in six months. I had to think of somewhere to start.