Christine Riggs was—is—the most amazing person I have ever known. And probably ever will know. I used to be Will Cunningham, high school senior and punk outcast. Now I am Will Cunningham, college senior and brooding musician.
Christine was my best friend. She drew beautiful pictures of demons and fairies, angels and werewolves. There was always a touch of realism to her pictures. What most people didn't know was that at one point, they had been real. Real as in live, tangible beings.
I remember one of my first conversations with Christine, just before we became good friends.
"My pictures cane come to life," she whispered to me. "All I have to do is write 'live' on the paper and there they are, as real as you and I. They're all at home right now, except for Fern. Fern is outside on your porch waiting for me."
"Oh, really? Can I meet her?" I had asked. She had nodded gleefully and called out, beckoning Fern.
"Fern is a water fairy," Christine said confidentially.
The front door was open, but no one came through the door. I looked expectantly at the doorway.
"What are you looking at? She's right here!'
Of course, I hadn't seen a thing. I didn't believe her and I admit, I thought she was crazy.
Now, I've come to realize that Christine had been perfectly sane during that conversation. Even saner, I think, than most of the students at our private high school had been.
I became Christine's only friend at our school. At first, Christine often talked to her characters more than me. At the time, I basically thought she was talking to herself.
The more we hung out, the more open she became. Soon, she wasn't shy with me at all. One day, we stripped down to our underwear to go swimming in the lake. Another, we snuggled up on my couch together. She fell asleep in my arms and I kissed her forehead. We went to the arcade, played games and bought pizza. Neither of us really had any other friends but each other, but it didn't matter. We didn't need anyone else.
One night especially stands out in my mind. We had driven to a meadow just outside of town in the middle of the night, just to stargaze. We laid a blanket out and lay down, with her head resting on my shoulder.
"What would you do," she asked me, "if it was all gone tomorrow?" You were the only one left and everyone you care about was gone."
I stroked her hair. "It wouldn't be a world in which I could live. If you were there, nothing else would matter."
We were still "just friends" technically, but we both understood that we had a much deeper bond.
In January, just after Christmas, things began to go bad. Christine spent increasingly more time along and she wouldn't return my calls for four days straight.
When I finally did see her again, she was distant and slipping back into her old ways. She constantly whispered to people that I thought weren't really there, and every other moment, she glanced over her shoulder, as if fearful we were being followed.
I put my hands on her shoulders and forced her to stop. "What is wrong with you?"
"Will, I didn't write 'live'! I didn't write it, they don't need it anymore!"
"Your characters?" I asked.
Tears began streaming down her face. "The demon, the real Hell demon! He's alive! And he's trying to make me do things, horrible things!"
I tried to understand. "They're just drawings, Christine! It's all in your head! They are two-dimensional!"
She sobbed and her shoulders heaved. "That's just it. They're not in the other realm anymore, they're in this one!"
She shook her head and pushed away from me, running towards the empty warehouse across the street.
I ran after her. She stood in the middle of the warehouse turning in circles.
"Can't you see them? Why can't you see them?" she cried.
She was walking around the room, pausing every time she reached the middle. "If I end it all, they all go back to being simple drawings and your life can go back to normal!"
It was hard to see her in the bright sunshine coming from the windows, but I knew she was planning on doing something brash. "If normal means without you, then I don't want a normal life!"
She stopped moving and lifted her hand with something in it. A gun. Suddenly a white light filled the room and I shielded my eyes. Once the light dissipated, I saw dozens of colorful drawings floating down to the floor. I caught one and looked around the room.
Neither Christine's body, clothes nor the gun were amid the white papers anywhere. I looked at the picture in my hand. The realism of it shocked me.
Christine's face stared back at me from the paper, smiling softly with one tear running down her cheek. The words I love you, Will were handwritten at the bottom.
I gathered all of the pictures and had them bound in a book, in loving memory of Christine Riggs. Even now, I find myself crying over nothing but the fact that I miss her. Four years have passed and I know that there had only been one choice for her: suicide. No body, clothes or weapon were ever found. But I was really the only one that cared anyway.
The picture of her has remained my only way to keep a piece of her. It hangs in a frame on my wall of my house that I have bought for after my college graduation.
I walk, poring over my memories, until I almost run over a girl in a white skirt and cowboy boots. I bend over to help her pick up her books and straight up to give them back to her, when I finally see her face. Is it just my imagination?
No, this girl really does look exactly like Christine.
"I'm so sorry," I say. "I don't think we've met. I'm Will Cunningham."
She gratefully takes the books back. "I'm Tristine Biggs."
My mind is boggled. "Would you like to have a cup of coffee?"
She smiles. "I'd love to." We walk off together, and suddenly I realize that Christine has come back to me. In fact, she never left.