Part 2

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The clock ticked on. Casey printed out her story and stuffed it in a large envelope. She looked at Cricket, who was diligently working on the bills. "Cricket, what if you wrote a story about us?"

Cricket cocked her head as if thinking.

Casey went on. "You could do a bit about us, and me, and Brian, and--"

"The part about you and Brian would get redundant after a while," she said thoughtfully. "And all the descritions would be awfully hard to write."

Cricket leaned back in her chair and gazed around the small room. The place was not perfect, peeling paint and wilting flowers were scattered about the room, but it was comfortable. The large window provided lots of light. There was a bathroom, enough space for two desks, and a lot of quiet. Casey's flowers added a yellow dot of cheerfulness.

Cricket liked her little workplace. The whole building was nice. It was only six stories high, and the people in it rented office space for the same reasons--to be apart from the rest of the world for just a few hours. Cricket was glad to get of her apartment in the suburbs. She loved the feeling the city gave her.

She looked at the antique clock on the wall. Andy was usually here by now. He would go to the studio next door and serenade them with a new song he had composed. Andy worked in night clubs for some cash because he couldn’t make enough composing songs. But he was good—really good—when it came to the piano.

Cricket continued thinking about redoing her own life in fiction. But how would she begin? The buzzer rang and she switched on the intercom. All of a sudden, a slightly off baritone broke out in song on the other end.

Both girls doubled over in laughter.

“Bri-an!” Cricket shouted through her teeth. She unlocked the door and a moment later a sandy-haired man bounded up the stairs, his arms wide spread.

“Am I forgiven?”

Casey ran to him and gave him a bear hug that lifted her off her feet. When Brian set her down, they kissed for a long time. He was obviously forgiven.

Cricket looked past the two lovebirds and saw a familiar face unlocking the apartment next door. She slipped past her two friends and knocked softly on the door.

“Come in.”

“Andy, it’s me. What’s wrong?”

Cricket got no answer. She shut the door and waited as he sat down on the piano bench. All at once he started pounding out various classical pieces and mixed variations of wild things. He banged harder and harder, until it seemed as if the baby grand would crumble underneath the booming sounds.

Cricket ran to him and put her hands on his shoulders. “Andy,” she pleaded.

The loudness stopped, and the last low note reverberated against the walls of the small room. Then, before the silence could set in, his muscles tensed and he began again. This time a sweet yet mysteriously lonely song cried out like a lost gull over the sparkling blue ocean.

Their mother’s song.

The song sprang painful memories in Cricket. She sat down beside Andy on the bench and gently placed her hands on his. “Stop, Andy. Tell me what’s wrong.”

“Today has been an awful day.”

“Why? What happened?”

“I got a speeding ticket.”

“And…?” Cricket was answered by silence. She reached out and turned him to her, their eyes meeting for just a moment. “Andy tell me.”

“Oh, Krys… Lisa and I broke up.”

“How? I thought you guys would get married.”

“Mom always said it would never work. Lisa was jealous.”

Cricket looked at him strangely. “Jealous? Of what?”

“Oh, she’s jealous of my piano—and you.”

“Me? Why me?”

“She said, ‘You spend more time with that baby black instrument and at work than you do with me. I’m sure your sister sees more of you than I do in one day.’”

“But did you tell her—?”

“Yes, Krys, I told her I was doing it for the money to take her out. She said money wasn’t everything. I said love wasn’t everything. She got all mad, so I started to leave. She asked me where I was going, and I told her ‘the studio.’ I was told I wasn’t to be surprised if she wasn’t there when I got back.”

Cricket hugged her brother. “So I suppose I’ll never see my brother get married.”

“And I suppose I’ll never see my sister get married.”

Cricket laughed. “You’re right about that. You’ll just have to watch Casey walk down the aisle.”

“Do you think so?”

“I know so. They’re already fighting over toasters. Come on, big brother. Stop moping around and come on over.” Cricket winked. “Besides, if they don’t get married soon, Brian is going to run out of rose money. Hey, make your move.” She motioned to the chess set that was arranged on top of the piano. The black and white blended in with the shiny black of the piano.

“Is it my turn?”

Cricket nodded. She had his queen, and she had him in check. There was no way he was going to win. He looked at the pieces and moved thoughtfully. Cricket smiled and made her move. “Checkmate.”

“You’re too good at this.”

Cricket picked up one of the pieces. “It’s my lucky white knight in shining armor,” she said, kissing it sweetly.

“It’s a shame you can’t marry a chess piece.”

She smirked.

They walked to the door. Before they left, Andy said, “Seriously, Krystlin, do you think everything’s going to be okay?”

Cricket got a sarcastically serious look on her face. “Yes, Andrew, dear, as long as I’m around, things here will be fine.”

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