Hi, I’m Bubbles. That’s what you straightbacks call me, anyway. I’ve no idea what my real name is – I was only a baby when my mum was killed. It happened because she didn’t have any paper. I remember those who took me from her being given lots of paper. It seemed the straightbacks who wanted paper could sometimes do very bad things to get it. And those who already had it could do make others do anything they wanted.

For the next five years, I lived with a straightback who had lots of paper. I could tell by the size of his nest and how the others around him acted – always so happy when he was there, doing everything he asked of them. They would all bear their teeth to him, smiling, nodding, laughing.

It was obvious this straightback was special – he looked and acted like no other one I’d ever seen. His name was Michael. And everyone loved him.

Monkey business

IN the beginning, Michael and I were so happy together. He told me he loved me, cuddled me, tickled me, kissed me and taught me to eat at the dinner table. He even dressed me in little clothes just like his. I felt so special. Michael would tell me of a place called Neverland he was building, somewhere all our dreams would come true, where we could be alone and hide away from the cruel, ignorant world outside.

He told me he’d look after me forever, that all we needed was each other. It was like only Michael and I existed. I slept with him in his bed, ate candy when I wanted and learned to use his personal toilet. The housekeepers even said I had a better aim than Michael.

One day though, another chimp just like me turned up. We looked the same but he was a little smaller. Michael called him Max and started to spend a lot of time with him. I had to find ways to have fun by myself, sometimes breaking things and throwing my poo at the walls when I was really sad at being alone. I just wanted Michael to play with me like he used to. I didn’t know why he had suddenly decided to spend so much time with Max.

Max didn’t stay around for long, though. I heard one of the housekeepers say he had ripped off his diaper and jumped into bed with Michael, then dirtied everywhere because he was so young and excited. Michael hadn’t been happy about that and we never saw Max again. Michael started to spend time with me again and soon everything was great again. I was so happy he’d realised it was me who loved him most, who would do anything to please him and make him happy.

The lost boys

WHEN we eventually moved to Neverland, lots of little straightbacks soon arrived to play with us. We’d all have so much fun together – we’d eat popcorn and watch movies all night. I’d do backflips and everyone would laugh so hard.

The first one to stay around a lot was Applehead – that’s what Michael called little Jimmy Safechuck. He was nice to me and we had fun, but Jimmy was happiest when Michael was around.

The three of us even left Neverland a few times, flying inside Michael’s huge metal bird, landing when he needed paper. I had realised how Michael got all his paper – acting out mating rituals in front of lots of other straightbacks, who all screamed his name night after night. James and I would listen to them shout for Michael, so happy he was our special friend and not theirs. Once we went to a place called Japan where I drank tea with a straightback called Prime Minister – who must have had a lot of paper too, because his nest was almost as big as Michael’s.

When we eventually got back to Neverland, another little straightback became our friend – and it turned out he could do mating rituals just like Michael. His name was Wade Robson. We all had special names Michael called us and Wade was ‘Little One’. There were always lots of new names to remember at Neverland with all the little straightbacks arriving to play – probably because it was so much fun, full of hiding places, like a maze, with bells, ladders and secret doors – as if it was built just for hide and seek.

I did notice how all the little straightbacks acted differently when Michael wasn’t there, though. They got angry, sometimes at each other, if he was spending a lot of his time with just one of them. Like me, they didn’t really like sharing Michael. He could make you feel so special when it was just you and him. I remember wondering if Michael thought we all stayed happy and smiling when he left the room.

One little straightback I remember was called Jordy Chandler – who started going everywhere with Michael, even to the bathroom according to Wade. That made him and Jimmy sad. But because of what had happened with Max, I already knew Michael might spend less time with us when someone new was around – but that we just had to wait a while until it was our time to have fun with him again.

Just Disney get it

AS time went by and I got bigger and hairier, Michael started to treat me differently. I’d wonder what I’d done to make him so unhappy with me that he didn’t want to play with me anymore.

One day, a straightback who called herself a ‘primatologist’, Jane Goodall, visited Neverland because I wasn’t feeling well. She asked Michael if I was being beaten. He lost his temper the way he sometimes did with me. It made me angry that Jane had come into our nest and made him mad. I was glad when she left – adult straightbacks sometimes made Michael so angry. He didn’t like them around much and neither did I.

I remember when Michael’s sister LaToya visited and it made him so angry because she had brought her mate, a straightback called Jack Gordon. He said he saw Michael punch and kick me. It made Michael so mad and after that I never got any hugs and cuddles from him again. I used to always be grateful when Michael forgave me for making him angry, but now I didn’t even get the chance.

It was all my fault, though, not Michael’s. I had started to get frustrated sometimes, because I was growing bigger and hairier, having feelings I hadn’t felt before. I guess I just wasn’t as fun to be around any more.

I knew Michael was angry at me, but it was still a shock when a van turned up and took me away. I never saw him again. I never saw my old friends Wade or Jimmy again either. I sometimes wonder if they still have fun with Michael or have new friends now. It was all so long ago - I'm sure they’ve probably both forgotten everything about Neverland.

And finally ...

I DON’T blame Michael for not coming to visit me here at the sanctuary. I’m glad he doesn’t have to see me like this – big and grey and ugly and grumpy. I don’t look or feel anything like I used to and I know you can’t expect someone as special and fun as Michael to not get bored being with the same person all the time.

It’s been so long since I saw him. I sometimes wish he’d turn up and give me a big hug like he did when I was small. But I know I’ve only got myself to blame for Michael not coming to see me – I just couldn’t make him happy anymore.

I don’t really like thinking about the times I made Michael angry or sad, as he really was the best straightback I ever knew. When it was only us together, it was like a secret between us that life could be so much fun.

I really hope he’s happy wherever he is now – if he’s still in Neverland or moved to an even bigger Neverland. The truth is, I was only ever happy when Michael was happy. That’s why I like to think that wherever he is right now, he’s getting everything he deserves for making us all feel so special.