The story begins with Jane Margaux, a lonely eight-year-old girl. She receives little attention from her mother, the head of a New York theater company. Her parents are divorced, and she sees little of her father who has recently remarried. The only time during the week that Jane's mother gives her the time of day is on Sundays when she takes her to look at the beautiful jewelry at Tiffany's.
Despite the fact that Jane seems to be rather lonely, a good friend keeps her company. Her friend's name is Michael. Michael is always there for Jane. He walks her to school each morning. He meets her after school. He takes her for ice cream at the St. Regis Hotel on Sundays, right before her mother takes her to look at jewelry. Anytime Jane has a problem or a feeling of insecurity, Michael is there to comfort her. Jane says, "You're a good listener..." (Patterson 33). Michael seems like the perfect companion for any person, however, Jane is the only one that can see him. As Jane's mother comes to get her for jewelry shopping one Sunday afternoon, Jane shouts at Michael, "Here she comes Michael...Look invisible" (Patterson 14). This remark is ironic, because Michael is invisible; he is Jane's imaginary friend.
Jane loves Michael like brother, even though he is only visible to her. He explains to her that this is his job, that his purpose is to help children like herself until they are able to manage on their own. Unfortunately, he explains, a time comes when he must leave her. This happens on her ninth birthday. As a nine-year-old child, she is considered old enough to manage on her own. She is devestated with Michael's departure from her life, but he promises that once he leaves, she will not even remember the time they spent together.
Many years later, as Jane reaches her thirties, she still finds herself rather lonely. She works for her mother, and even though she is a famous playwrite herself, she is not happy. Her mother now seems to pay too much attention to Jane, nearly trying to control every aspect of her life. Jane has a boyfriend who works in the theater industry, but he acts too much like Jane's snobbish and conceited mother that she decides she can no longer handle him. And worst of all, Jane still remembers her best friend Michael that she had as a child. For some reason she cannot forget him, as he said she would. She thinks of him constantly, and she even writes what becomes a famous play about an eight-year-old girl with an imaginary friend named Michael.
As Jane finds her life spiraling downward, she needs something to lift her spirits. One day, as she is having lunch with a friend, a very handsome young man approaches her. Jane recognizes him immediately as being Michael. Even though this is the grown up Michael, she knows it is him. They begin talking, and Jane is estatic when she learns that this truly is the Michael from her childhood. She explains to him how she had never forgotten him as he said she would, which he finds to be strange. He explains to Jane that his immortal life is in a transitional stage right now; he is inbetween assignments, so he has a chance to live a normal life for some time.
Jane and Michael spend more and more time together each day, and they begin to fall in love. Unfortunately, Jane encounters constant problems with her ex-boyfriend, and Jane's mother is unaccepting of Michael since he cannot seem to give her significant background information about his life. Jane and Michael decide to get away for awhile, however, while they are gone, Jane seems to be falling ill. She constantly thinks about what her mother had recently told her, about Jane's grandmother who had died in her thirties from a heart failure. Michael, on the other hand, knows that he did not simply run into Jane coincidentally, that there must be a reason behind their recent reunion. He was there for Jane in her childhood to bring her into life, and he worries that he has found his next assignment, which would be to bring Jane out of life. He cannot even imagine permanently losing her, so he decides to leave her once they return home, feeling that if he is no longer with her, then there would be no chance of her dying.
Shortly after they return home from their vacation, Michael feels this sensation that he must go to the hospital. Is Jane the victim in the hospital bed, or is it someone else that he has come to assist?
1. Michael explains that an imaginary friend helps children feel less alone and helps them find a place in the world. Do you feel that children have imaginary friends to help them cope with things in their life? How else do we use our imagination to help us deal with life or hide from it?
2. By the end of the story, Jane becomes rather rebellious towards her controlling mother by running away with Michael. Do you think this was the right thing for her to do? If you had a mother that constantly made you feel as though you were not living up to her expectations, would you have done the same thing?