Part 1

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"That bad, huh?" The slim blonde behind the desk who had been rapidly typing turned around and smiled at her ragged friend in the doorway. "You don't look like you've slept much."

"Oh, Casey, you don't know how awful I feel." The tall, green-eyes girl slumped in the chair behind her desk and stared at her computer.

"Now, Cricket." Casey offered her friend a cup of coffee. "Don't go feeling sorry for yourself."

Cricket took the warm cup and brushed back her long, dark brown hair. "Casey, you have no idea what I'm going through. You always turn your stuff in way ahead of deadline. I haven't written a page in four months!" She turned the IBM on. "If I don't come up with something soon, the electric company is going to turn the lights out. Then we'll have to eat weenies and marshmallows and chestnuts that have been roasting over an open fire. We'll have to write by candlelight. But we'll run out of candles, and our clothes will smell like wax for practically forever, and..."

Casey laughed.

"What is so funny?"

Casey got a look of utterseriousness on her face. "Your hair is in your coffee."

Cricket muttered a few obscene words and threw the cup in the trash. She dried her hair on her Princeton sweatshirt and glared at her friend. "Okay, Blondie, you got any bright ideas?"

Casey put her head in her hands and drew her mouth into a pout. "How about another one of those medieval stories of a knight and a princess and an evil dragon? I love those, and you're good at them. Except this time, make it end happily ever after."

"Casey, no one lives happily ever after. How about if the princess gets turned into an old hag, and the knight falls off his horse while he's fighting the dragon. He dies soon after from third-degree burns. The princess dies from old age, and the dragon conquers the world. The End."

"You are such a pessimist. Everyone always dies. Or it turns out extremely sad. Take the last book for example: the princess's huntsman died. What was the purpose?"

"Casey, life isn't perfect. Besides, he was a minor character and he had no brains."

"But he loved the princess and his life was dedicated to her."

"He died for her," Cricket fought.

"Well then, I guess I just read it differently." There was a long pause. "Why can't relationships be happily ever after?"

Cricket sighed. "Oh, no. Not the 'Why can't relationships be happily ever after' crap again. What is it this time?"

"Brian and I aren't talking to each other." Casey turned around and started pounding on her keyboard with nimble fingers, typing out the last of her children's story.

Now it was Cricket's turn to laugh. "I'm not worried, Casey, dahlin', why should you be? It'll turn out all right, like it always does."

"No. It's not the same this time. We really had an awful fight."

"Over what?" Cricket was worried when Casey paused.

"The toaster."

Cricket laughed until her face was red and tears streamed down her face. "The toaster?"

"Cricket," Casey said furiously, "it's not funny. You see, he said he wanted--"

Cricket put her hand over her friend's mouth. "I don't even want to hear it."

She poured herself another cup of coffee and looked out the giant window to the street below. The people of the city caught up in the five o'clock rush. People with briefcases ran down the street to stop taxis; others tore up meter maid tickets and went on their way. From the fourth floor, Cricket could see a lot of the busy, people-filled city.

They look like ants, Cricket thought. They've all got places to go and things to do and average 1.5 lifestyles to live.

She turned away from the window and sat in deep thought.

"Maybe you could write a sequel to that other book. A lot of requests come in for that," Casey offered.

"Casey," Cricket said solemnly, "the story ended. They went off to live their lives, and when they found each other they would fall in love and live 'happily ever after'."

"Yes, but you never said that. They just left. People want to read when they fell in love again."

"Casey, people can think that up themselves. If I wrote it, the people might not like it. Then I would get complaint letters. These are much, much better." Cricket looked out the window just in time to see a Taylor's Florist truck pull up to the front of the tall building. Cricket sighed and waited for the shy delivery boy to press the intercom button.

A timid voice called through the speaker. "Florist."

Cricket turned the switch to unlock the front door. "Come on up," she called.

Casey turned around. "Now whoever thought to send us flowers?"

Cricket smiled slyly. As if she didn't know. There are probably a dozen yellow roses from Brian and a card that says 'I love you.' How unoriginal.

She had been through this many times in the past.

Casey opened the door and let in the red-haired boy. "Flowers for you again, Casey."

Casey smiled. "Oh, my favorite! Yellow roses!"

Cricket rolled her eyes.

The boy smiled at Cricket. "Thanks, Lance." She tousled his hair.

Casey tipped the young boy and sent him off. "Wasn't that sweet? I think he likes you."

"Casey, he likes my books."

Casey sighed and put the yellow flowers in the usual place on her desk. "If you could only feel what true love is like," she said.

"I don't care," Cricket stated. "I've lived without it for all these years. I don't need it. Any mail?"

"What an unromantic! Here we are discussing love and beauty and life, and you ask about the mail?"

"Cheez, Casey, if I'm an unromantic, then you must be the most--"

"Okay, okay. I get the point." She took a pile of letters off her desk. "Here you go. VISA bill, Macy's charge card, where-is-the-next-check, electric bill--"

"Skip the bills."

Casey put half the pile on the desk. "Fans asking you to do a sequel..." She watched Cricket moan. "You have won a million dollars, love Ed McMahon. Oh, la-dee-da! A letter from our favorite publisher, Dan spelding! It's urgent! Do we care to open it?"

Cricket snatched the letter from her, dropped it, and stepped on it. "Does that answer your question?"

Casey giggled.

"How can they expect me to turn out stories like a machine?  I am not a race horse! I wish there was a way to stop time. Then I could do what I wanted."

"That's a good idea," Casey said. "Ponder that a while. I'll ponder Brian."

"Oh, God."

"Well," Casey typed on, "you have to admit, he's a really nice guy. I wouldn't give him up for anything."

"Even a new toaster?"

"Oh, stop it!"

Cricket shook her head. "My best friend is a love-crazed idiot. And my other best friend is her love-crazed idiotic boyfriend! What is the world coming to?"

Casey was not listening to Cricket. "The End," she declared, as she finished her story.

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