twisted a lock of hair between her hands. She braided it with
compulsive fingers as she took a cab back to her old childhood home.
Nerves ran through her like a live wire and she couldn’t help but jump
with every pothole and bump in the road the car hit. Rolling hills and
fancy houses flashed by the windows. A familiar estate she had left
behind a long time ago come into view over the driver’s side. Lucy’s
head dropped against her seat. In just moments, she would suffer through
the dreary reminder of what awaited her.
Lonely hallways and even lonelier memories.
thought when she moved away from home, her life would have gotten
better. But it was clear she could never fully escape the Heartfilia
name which haunted her. No matter where she went, Lucy was greeted with
stares or whispers.
Lady Heartfilia was too rich to be friends with, or have a normal
childhood growing up. Private tutors on the estate were the only people
to ever keep Lucy company after her mother died. Despite the fact she
had escaped the luxurious life of an heiress, there had never been any
room for fun. Only work and steadfast focus on achieving her goals.
It was lonely.
was why this whole excursion back home was both odd and uncomfortable.
She didn’t know why, but the image of her nightly visitor branded itself
into her eyelids. Whenever she closed them, she could see the ghostly
image of his face, for a flickering moment before he faded away.
thought she imagined wild hair that hung in a curtain around his face.
Bangs shadowed the strange eyes that gleamed so bright in the darkness.
His skin was a bronze, but there had been something strange with it.
Not forgetting the curved horns that stabbed at the air.
The man was handsome, but not classically so. That was all Lucy managed to gather before the image faded away like morning dew.
his voice was something she could remember more than any image of his
face. She had heard it more than once after all. The strength of his
voice varied on a day to day basis. Sometimes he would speak loud enough
she could mistake him for being in the room with her. And other days he
would be nothing more than breezing whisper. It seemed the times he was
the louder came when she was feeling most upset from the grind of her
‘Why did you forget me Lucy?’
voice was rough and low. It invited her to remember. At the same time
it was tinged with such bitter sadness, Lucy’s heart went out for him.
She had to know who this fantasy man was. Whether he was a phantom or a
product of her own vivid imagination; Lucy felt like she owed herself
Thus the reason for her visit to her childhood home.
she approached her father, he was buried neck deep in work as usual.
Over the years he had become more accommodating to his daughter’s
interests, no doubt fearing their relationship would become forever
estranged if things didn’t change. They still weren’t on terms Lucy
could call ‘good’ – there were too many bitter feelings for them to
completely ignore their past.
Still, there was progress.
Enough that Lucy had something to ask him. Something she would feel too silly saying over the phone.
he was surprised by her sudden appearance back home, he said nothing.
Jude Heartfilia was a shrewd man, knowledgeable enough to know his
daughter would not come home unless there was something of importance
fueling that desire.
So he waited, if a tad impatiently for Lucy to spit it out.
Lucy swallowed, hating the feeling of foolishness that ran up her spine when she stood in front of her father’s imposing desk.
I have any friends with pink hair when I was little?” Lucy blurted, the
question sounding silly the moment it left her mouth.
the way Jude’s eyebrows rose into his hairline, she imagined he shared
her sentiment. But a shadow ghosted over his face, making her father
look both sad and guilty. Before she could question why such a look came
across him, Jude stood up from his large desk and shook his head.
“You didn’t have any friends growing up Lucy,” The man said, looking quite ashamed of this fact.
tutored you at home and with a private selection of educators,” He
continued, “There was no room for you to go out and play with other
spirits fell as she remembered her bitter and lonely childhood, walled
off from others her age. So there was no one? No one to bring a face or
name to the strange man that visited her at night?
She guessed that was for the best. Maybe it was best to forget about him instead of chasing after a fantasy.
suppose it’s no surprise that you created friends of your own though,”
Jude walked over to a distant corner of his office. Attention
reinvigorated by his odd comment, Lucy watched him rummage through old
dusty boxes. He pushed and pulled several aside, muttering as he checked
Within them, she noticed he pulled out a heavy looking folder of children’s illustrations.
here it is,” Jude straightened and returned to his desk. He looked at
the images within with a quiet air of fondness Lucy had never before
seen in his eyes. So surprised, Lucy barely noticed the folder being
shoved into her hands until she dropped it.
Papers spilled out on the floor, fluttering around her and falling through the air in tumbling sheets.
they bent down and began to collect the fallen papers, Lucy collecting
all the folded sheets that were stained from a child’s sticky hands. She
couldn’t help but hide a smile as she looked at the lovingly labeled
It was her mother’s handwriting, neat and cursive. It figured her mother would have been the one to collect all her drawings.
“Ah, this one here,” Jude snagged a sheet of paper from the floor and passed it over to his daughter’s waiting hands.
was a drawing of her family. Jude at the top, and in ascending heights
like children often drew, she had her mother, herself, and…
A peculiar, pink haired blob.
that?” Lucy breathed. Her heart suddenly seized, crawling up to her
throat. As foolish as the idea was when she looked at a child’s
scribbles, something about the drawing seemed like an anchor.
Like she was on the verge of something important.
held the paper between trembling hands, blood pounding in her head.
Adrenaline followed excitement and she looked at her father with flushed
He didn’t share her enthusiasm and just scratched his head.
She needed to know his name.
“I dunno, he was your imaginary friend,” Jude shrugged, “Nasty or something.”
Something tickled at her brain, telling her that was close, but not right. Not Nasty but…
was like a bolt of lightening struck her at once. Memories flooded back
to her as she remembered him. The small, strange pink haired boy that
one day crawled out from under her bed with a bright, cheery smile. He
radiated warmth and sunshine, with a pretty grin and an even happier
Lucy had accepted him with a laugh of her own, taking his excited declaration of ‘Wanna play?’ with as much grace as a four year old could have.
was so lonely, but then one day Natsu had come. He was a strange boy,
claiming to be a dragon from another world, but bearing no resemblance
He was her imaginary friend.
And it was his job to make her happy.
used to have so much fun together, playing in a strange castle conjured
by Lucy’s imagination. Sometimes they even played with Layla even
though she could never see Natsu.
Natsu didn’t seem to mind that Layla couldn’t see him, but he appreciated the effort she made to keep up with their games.
For a while they were happy. Natsu was Lucy’s best friend, a dragon and a princess going on adventures together.
Lucy realized those whispered stories she was told at night, were not just fables, but memories of a happier time.
What happened to Natsu?
man who visited her at night was so tinged with sadness, he looked
nothing like the happy boy she remembered playing with into the night.
Long after she was supposed to go to sleep to wake up early for her
by the sudden emergence of her memories, and what it could mean, Lucy
walked away from her questioning father in a daze. She walked through
the empty corridors, occasionally passing the sparse staff member that
paid her a polite greeting.
As if possessed, Lucy made her way through the well remembered steps to her old room.
was just as she remembered, with tall white walls, pink striping on
curtains and gleaming crown molding. Her throat went dry as she
remembered the time Natsu accidentally set those curtains on fire, but
of course she had been the one to get in trouble for it.
had been so mad at Natsu, but eventually forgave him for it when he
brought her a doll from the mysterious place he lived. He thought she
would like it.
A child’s forgiveness was easily bought, Lucy thought with a wry smile.
and more memories returned to her. Each one fueled the fear and worries
she held deep in her heart. A reminder of who she had forgotten.
Had her childhood really been as lonely as she remembered?
sank on the small bed she slept on as a young girl. The bed sheets were
changed, but her father was sentimental enough to keep everything
looking the same. When Lucy was older, she had simply moved away from
this wing of the manor. At the time she thought the noises which plagued
her at night would simply fall away.
But no matter which room she escaped to, the scratching in the walls would follow.
She suddenly understood why that was.
He was trying to talk to her.
He was trying to get her attention.
and more memories returned, all of them pouring through her mind as
Lucy sat still for hours, letting herself travel back. She remembered
the odd boy screaming at her from a tree, claiming it was a mighty beast
and she should climb aboard. Or how he would steal her ice cream when
she wasn’t looking, but it would melt all over both of them and make a
How could she have forgotten all of that?
suddenly gripped her heart as the room began to darken. Shadows
stretched in long, inky stripes through her curtains. Each one signaled
the heavy approach of nighttime.
in the covers, for the first time since she was a young child, Lucy
felt afraid for what would happen when the light completely faded.
even back then, what did she have to fear from the dark? Natsu was
always there watching over her, protecting her from the things that went
bump in the night.
He was one of those things.
Scritch. Scritch. Scritch.
moment the scraping started up, soft and slow this time, Lucy nearly
jumped out of her skin. The room was dark now, the last minutes of
sunlight draining away in the encroaching darkness.
Scritch. Scritch. Scritch.
could feel his eyes on her. The quiet, intensity he was looking at her.
For a second, Lucy thought she could ignore the scratches like she
usually did. It wasn’t as if he would ever even notice right?
She was afraid to face him.
Not out of fear he would hurt her, no – but shame she had even forgotten him. What would he say? Would he hate her?
Natsu hadn’t given up on getting her attention for years.
bit her lip and looked back at the narrow closet doors. Summoning her
bravery, she walked over and grabbed a hold of the doorknob. She tugged
it open, her heart in her chest as her words climbed up her throat.