They say that the third time is always the charm. That was certainly the case with me seeing how I was the last try after two miscarriages. My parents never mentioned this to me of course, it was the miscarriages themselves who told me. Claire and Paul arrived in my memory around the same time as my mother’s smile. A time before I was taught me to fear creatures with sunken eyes and hairless heads like my two playmates. We did everything together. I would share my toys with them in exchange for the simple pleasure of their company. I would tell my parents about them, but they paid it no heed. To them, Claire and Paul were just the delusions of an only child’s longing for company. Although I used to think of my companions as a normal part of my life, it slowly became clear to me that I was privileged to be able to communicate with them. They were definitely a greater joy to be around then my solemn parents. Although they loved me as all parents do, I was never quite able to fill the hole left by the two losses which came before me. At least not as a simple youth. As my childhood began to disintegrate at the grand presence of my adolescence, I became a strong and powerful athlete. Each trophy I won and each school team I led in points was instantly taken by my parents and stuffed into that great black hole. They gave to me affection that I didn’t even know they were capable of. All of this made Claire and Peter extremely jealous. The first time they made their feelings clear to me was rather unexpected, I was packing my school things on a Tuesday morning when my closet doors nudged themselves open. Two pairs of glowing blue eyes shone from within. “Something isn’t right,” they said in their shared voice, “Something isn’t fair.” At this point, I was fourteen years old and beginning to grow out of my friendship towards these two beings. I thought of them more as annoyances than companions. “What are you two fools talking about?” “You are taking too much of that which we do not have!” they cried as their eyes grew brighter. “If we three are to exist in peace, there must be balance!” I kicked the closet door shut and went on with my day. From that day on, they seemed to grow weaker. My attention must have given them some sort of strength, for the less mind, I paid them, the less frequent their appearances became. Even when they did pop-up, they never succeeded in giving me a scare. It reached a point where they appeared inches before my face while my girlfriend was on top of me and I didn’t even flinch. By the time I’d become an accomplished student-athlete at the local college, I’d completely forgotten their existence. It was around that time when my mother began to lose it. I wasn’t around for many of her early episodes, but my dad provided the terrifying accounts. He described how he’d wake in the middle of the night to see her sitting up, straight as a rod muttering incoherent ramblings about her “lost children”. From there, it got only worse, at least three times a day, she would lock herself in the washroom and weep hysterically. Whenever my dad tried to open the door, she would demand that it be kept shut as if her very life depended on it. In a matter of a month, she’d lost her job and was committed to Vancouver generals psych ward. Her official diagnosis was an advanced form of schizophrenia, but upon hearing my dad’s descriptions of what she’d said, I began to suspect otherwise. My fears were confirmed when I went to visit her. “Who are the lost children?” I asked her. “Dad was telling me that you saw them in your dreams.” She tearfully confessed to me what I already knew. I was meant to have an older brother and a sister, but they both wound up in the toilet bowl. Their lifeless bodies marinating in my mother’s blood. She told me that they haunted her, that she saw them wherever she went. “Can you see them right now?” She nodded, eyes wide. I looked behind and saw nothing, but I felt their presence. I kissed my mother on the forehead and left her to rest. I got in my car and drove. I didn’t know where Claire and Peter were, but I felt that the further from civilization I got, the more chance I had of finding them. Or rather of them finding me. After an hour, they appeared Their small, glowing bodies hung above the pavement as if they were hung by invisible nooses. I turned off the engine and got out of the car. “Listen to you two!” I yelled, pointing an accusing finger at them both. “You leave my mother alone! You understand?!” One thing I don’t think I’ve mentioned in this tale of mine is that Claire and Paul always had blank expressions. Regardless of the intensity or joy of any activity, we partook in, they always bore the same look of bored solemness. But when I cut loose on them, something incredible happened. They began to weep. As they wept they descended. As they got closer to the frozen concrete, there glow began to fade and their bodies shrunk. In under a minute, they were both small, gray, alien-like forms writhing upon the road and whimpering. Paul looked up at me and groveled at my feet like a sinner praying for forgiveness. “She’s our mother too you know,” he sniffled, “we never meant her any harm! Really we didn’t!” “All we wanted was a bit of love” whimpered Claire I began to take pity on these poor creatures. Although they weren’t beings of flesh or life, they still required love and affection as all creatures with souls do. “What do you say we strike a deal,” I said, “I’ll take you two back to my apartment to live with me. It’s nice and warm, it’s got cable TV, and maybe one day, if you’re both on your best behavior, I can introduce you to our mom properly. But only on the condition that you leave her alone for awhile. Have we got an agreement?” I shook both of their tiny hands and it was done. The three of us all went back to my apartment where we’ve lived together ever since. Things got better from then on. My mother was released from the psych ward thanks to the decline in her nightmares and anxiety attacks. My father was able to leave my mother’s side and return to work. And that spring, I graduated with my bachelors in business. I have to admit that Claire and Paul aren’t perfect roommates. They like to keep themselves invisible as to hide their mischievous activities. There are some days when I’m tempted to boot them from the premises based on their behavior, but I always remind myself that the alternative of having them in the house is having them haunt my mother’s dreams. I try to be a good son.