Most kids had imaginary friends, but most weren’t like Megan’s friend Niall. There were rules: only at night and only by the sea. She could’ve sworn he was real, but when someone vanishes without a trace, what else can you believe? All that was seven years ago, buried in the past until Niall shows up in town with his tight swimmer’s body and easy smile. For Megan, just the sight of him is enough to tear open a scar that never fully healed. However, their reunion only elicits more questions. Niall’s keeping secrets, unbelievable ones, and as Megan delves into the supernatural depths of who he really is, she’s sure he’ll vanish again. Megan’s not stupid—she knows how bad it’ll hurt if she gets involved. The first time Niall disappeared, she never thought she’d recover. But the moment they lock eyes, it’s too late—because Megan will go to any length to see that boy smile.
Most kids had imaginary friends growing up, but not like mine.
I slowed down near the cypress docks because, like always, they made me think of him. The ocean crashed along the pier and glittered under the dying sun like shattered glass. Since I’d lived my whole life in Weymouth, an ocean-view walk home was a common thing. My “friend” Niall hadn’t been. Years after most kids abandoned their imaginary friends, mine had tagged along right through middle school. I wasn’t stupid—I’d known what the other kids would think, so I’d kept him quiet. And there’d been rules.
He’d only meet me by the sea. I’d come by myself at night, making some excuse to my folks or telling them I wanted to go find shells at the beach.
I’d lied. Covering my tracks the best I could, I’d always brought home a shell he’d helped me find, anything from pieces of clams to slipper’s shells. I fingered the conch around my neck—the last shell Niall had given me before he’d left.
The salty breeze picked up strands of my hair and rippled them like pennants as I made my way down the boardwalk. So, yeah, most invisible friends don’t swim with you. You can’t stroke their wet hair or see the smile in their eyes. Most don’t smell like brine and the breeze. But he’d vanished, same as all invisible friends do, once I’d reached a certain age.