Emily Jane had two great gifts: an imagination and a best friend.
Emily Jane’s imagination thought up spectacular things: rhinoceros hunting on the African plains, tea parties in the halls of the woodland elves, a scientific endeavor to capture the essence of rainbows in a bottle. There was no end to the things it could dream up, and each day held wonder, for you never knew what adventure was waiting.
Emily Jane’s best friend lived right next door. Her name was Holly. She was small and dark-haired and sweet and always willing to set out on any quest that Emily Jane’s imagination invented. In fact, though Emily Jane scarcely noticed, Holly brought a little magic of her own to every adventure.
The pursuit of scientific progress was almost halted by determined clouds that even Emily Jane could not imagine away, and only when Holly found an old lamp in the attic was Emily Jane’s imagination able to create a suitable rainbow laboratory. An elvish kingdom of eternal autumn in which fall leaves sprinkled down constantly would have lived only in Emily Jane’s imagination if it weren’t for Holly tying a rope to the branches above their tea table and learning just the right way to shake the leaves free as she drank her elvish nectar. And though only Emily Jane could have imagined it possible to trap a rhinoceros using only tree branches and twine, it was Holly who found a way to weave the branches tightly together. Once Candy, the neighbor’s fluffy white dog, got hopelessly tangled in them, it was no trouble at all to imagine a wild beast doing the same.
Things continued in this happy way for several years, which felt like always to two little girls, until one day when Emily Jane went to Holly’s front door, busily dreaming of giants in the clouds, Holly’s mother said she was too sick to come out and play. Emily Jane was sorry to hear it, but she was preoccupied with her giants, so her disappointment wasn’t too severe. The next day, she needed Holly for a space adventure she was planning, but Holly was still too ill. Space adventures wait for no one, and this one went off anyway, but Emily Jane found it very difficult to imagine herself defeating the evil Zargod alone. The next day, Emily Jane brought over her tea set for a nice quiet tea with the owls who lived in Holly’s back yard, but Holly could not even sit up for tea. At last Emily Jane was truly worried. No one should ever be too sick for tea.
For several weeks, Holly stayed in her bed, and Emily Jane was left alone with her imagination. She found that though her imagination did not stop supplying her with adventures, each one was flat and dull without a best friend to supply the extra magic. Emily Jane struggled on alone for a while, but at last, she knew that something must be done. She knew that Holly had seen a doctor, and she knew that she was taking medicine, but none of that seemed to be working. Emily Jane knew of only one thing that was strong enough for a problem like this.
Emily Jane and her imagination knocked on Holly’s front door and asked to see the patient. Holly’s mother sadly nodded, and with only one caution to be quiet and still, led Emily Jane upstairs. Emily Jane was shocked to see how pale and thin her best friend looked lying in the big bed, but holding her imagination tight, she bravely sat next to Holly and took her hand. Emily Jane looked at her friend’s white face and summoned all the power of her imagination. She imagined Holly’s cheeks were rosy and her eyes bright and her mouth smiling. She imagined Holly sitting up, full of energy, asking what they should do today. She imagined the two of them skipping down the stairs and out into the sunshine. Emily Jane held this picture in her imagination and waited. Always before, when Emily Jane saw something in her imagination, Holly made it come alive. Emily Jane squeezed her best friend’s hand, and whispered her imaginings over and over. Was that a tinge of pink she saw?
Emily Jane sat there for a long time, long after it became impossible even for her imagination to convince her that anything had changed. She did not know what to think or what to do. After what seemed like hours, a noise in the kitchen startled her, and she slipped down the stairs and out the door before anyone could see her and the tears on her face. Emily Jane went home and crept into her own room where she curled up on her own bed quietly. For the first time in her life, Emily Jane’s imagination had let her down. That it happened on the same day that her best friend also let her down was nearly unbearable.
The next day, Emily Jane did not imagine anything, or the day after that, or the day after that. In fact, a whole week went by without a single adventure. True, on the fifth day she found a whole tree laced up in cobwebs and her imagination began to whisper to her, but Emily Jane silenced it immediately. What good would defending silk fairies against giant spiders be without a best friend by your side? Refusing to listen to her imagination gave Emily Jane a grim satisfaction, but life was very grey when you only saw what was actually there. The week dragged to a close, and Emily Jane felt old and tired and sad as she thought of another lifeless week to come.
But Emily Jane’s imagination had had enough. One week of moping was all it could take, and since she wasn’t listening to it in the day time, it broke into her dreams and left a trail of wonderful ideas in her sleeping brain.
When Emily Jane woke up, she knew exactly what she was going to do. She pictured all the fun adventures that she and Holly had been on together and remembered all the things that made Holly smile. Then she got to work. Emily Jane baked cookies and she wrote stories and she cut out paper flowers and she built a fairy house out of bark and twigs. Each day, she carried one of Holly’s favorite things over to her house.
It didn’t work instantly, as magic is said to do. In fact, for the first several days, Emily Jane did not think it was working at all. But helping was so much better than moping. In fact, it was almost as good as imagining things. So she kept on day after day, until the day that one of her stories made Holly smile again. The next day, Emily Jane’s special blend of tea brought a slight pink tinge to Holly’s cheeks. One day soon after, Holly even sat up to put on the crown of leaves that Emily Jane had brought.
On the day that Holly could finally come outside again, Emily Jane decided to wake up her imagination. She knew she would need a very special adventure, and she hoped her imagination hadn’t gotten too rusty. Of course, it hadn’t. Though Emily Jane didn’t recognize it, her imagination had been working all this time, thinking up ways to make Holly feel better, and now that what was required to help Holly was an adventure, Emily Jane’s imagination had a spectacular one all prepared. A wagon pulled by wolf hounds (represented by one grumpy beagle), a picnic lunch in an Alpine meadow (or a tree house decorated with rocks and flowers), and a musical show put on by shooting stars (supplied by an old record player and leftover Christmas tinsel).
Emily Jane thought it was the best adventure yet, and Holly quite agreed. As they walked home at the end hand in hand, each girl felt filled up with love for her best friend, and even Emily Jane’s imagination could not think of anything better.