The world peaks at 25, everybody under the age says so. Nobody is prettier than they are at 25, and nobody is better loved or learnt by others. That is why I imagined her that way, why she had no life before or after it. 

I like to think I built her myself in a lucid dream, but she approached me ready-made. We met on some dry public road when the sky was cloudy and all appeared the colour of limescale. She was tall and thin, brown and long-haired, standing over me with the face that young adults reserve for children. Enthusiasm had washed away her pity so that only traces remained. For a while after that first encounter, I wondered why she hadn’t worried for me. I was young and my curiosity was overt, it was always in my eyes. My parents were nowhere around. The place where we had stood looked like a road that saw a cluster of terrors each week, not a place for an eager child. But she didn’t want to know, and hardly ever wanted to know about those things.

She wore jeans like the actresses in teen rom-coms, and fitted black t-shirts like they do in action films about women. She had shiny lips and long fingers, and surely wore high heels, though I only ever heard them. She had no voice, but I imagined it pink and Californian. I saw her in my nightmares.There was the one at a baseball game where I was being hunted down by a man with a funny face. He stood up to cross the field, and there she suddenly was, her knowing face and perfect looks. We were still running when I awoke, though I knew we’d gotten away, I knew that’s how it’d ended. And of course, there were the dreams where being with her was the only pursuit. 

I told my parents, and they told me she was real and always watching. But I knew she had her own life, though there was no need to consider it. It only mattered that her spare time and my times of need were perfectly aligned. When I was eight or nine, she evaporated. Like the last time you crossed the road hand in hand with your mother was the last ever dream of her. The end was indistinct, and if either of us minded, the mourning wafted in on rare reminiscence. I never did see her again. At 24, I’m yet to find her on any reflective surface. Things remain hidden before their time.

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