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The Sunshine Girl
Here she is, knocking hesitantly on the large, oak, double doors. This was a bad idea, she shouldn’t have agreed to this, why did she... The door swings open, revealing a petite blonde girl wearing a yellow sundress. “Sarah!” the girl cries, in her usual loud, excited manner.
“Annie!” Sarah replies, in a slightly less rambunctious tone.
“Come in, come in!” Annie beckons. As the pair enters the hall, the words leave Sarah’s mouth at the sight of the grand swooping ceilings, the luxurious dining table large enough to seat their nine friends attending, and the awe-inspiring crystal chandelier. “It’s lovely, I know,” Annie says in response the Sarah’s jaw’s current position on the floor.
“Might I ask; how much did this cost?” she asks, scepticism in her voice.
She giggles, and replies, “Well, it was expensive, but I say it was worth it for my friends.” Sarah shakes her head in wonder at the girl before her.
“You are too good for this world, Annie…”
They continue to the other end of the room, where the the rest of their friends are waiting by a fire place. Cries of “Sarah, we missed you!” fill the hall and soon every one swarms around the poor girl, hugging her, jumping up and down, and generally being crazy people.
Annie smiles fondly, before gently separating the mob. “Come now, don’t go smothering the poor darling,” she says, making everyone back off, with sheepish smiles on their faces.
Sarah blushes, saying, “Annie, come on, please just call me Sarah.”
“But you’re so darling,” she whines. Sarah rolls her eyes, but she ends up laughing with the rest of her friends anyway.
Annie brings the meal to the table, which is set for their party of nine. They have the traditional Thanksgiving stuff, with the addition of tofu for Annie, since she’s a vegetarian. They eat, laugh, and somehow one of the boys, Andy, ends up using a lampshade as a shield against an assault of forks. Towards the end of the meal Annie stands up. Everyone jumps to attention at once. Everyone wants to hear her tell a story. “I want to start by saying that I’m so glad all of you could make it. I was so worried that your schedules wouldn’t fit. But you all came, and nothing could make me happier,” she takes a deep breath and glances around the table to make sure that everyone is listening. They all are, and are waiting with baited breath for her to begin. Smiling she continues; “My parents loved me, my siblings loved me, and all of my teachers loved me. I never met a single person that didn’t, for that matter! That is, until I met Sarah,” she glances over at the girl, who flushes with guilt. Annie giggles, but keeps going. “I wasn’t mad. She was entitled to her opinion. But I was determined to change it. Gradually, we became friends, and she still apologizes every chance she gets for the way she treated me when we first met. Then I met Phil, Tim, and Andy. They were the three musketeers of fourth grade, and we went on lots of adventures into the forest together. I’m still mad at you three for convincing me ruin my favorite sandals that one time!” Andy and Tim blush, and look down sheepishly, while Phil looks somewhat smug, and laughs at his brother’s embarrassment. “Abbey and I met in the library, and we trade books all the time! It’s so fun to read the stories she thinks I will like. Then, of course, I have to mention Lilah and Lilac, my favorite twins! They are always happy to have a sleepover, and to paint my nails,” she smiles toward the three girls, who sit in a group at the opposite side the table. “But there is one thing that, while you are all so incredibly different, you have in common,” they all look to her in anticipation. “You all have my undying affection, and I am so lucky, so thankful, for all of you,” Annie finishes. Sarah claps along with everyone else, and she cries along with everyone else.
They are all milling around, when Sarah sees Phil walk up to Annie from across the room. They speak for a while before Phil hands Annie a red, plastic cup. She frowns, smells it, then… she can hear her yell. “Phil! What were you thinking?! We’re only 17!” she screams. They all whirl around to face her. Sarah knows she’s never heard Annie yell like that, and from the shock on the others’ faces, neither have they.
“Come on, Annie, it’s just a drink,” Phil says, calm as ever.
“Yeah it’s no big deal,” Sarah turns to see that it was Lilac who spoke. Annie huffs with exasperation, goes to speak, but is cut off by Phil.
“Drinks for all,” cries Phil. We all cheer. Except for Annie.
It’s getting to the end of the party, and people are starting to clear out. Poor Annie must be exhausted, flitting around all night, holding back girls hair as they puke, giving people water instead of beer, breaking up fights, etc. Sarah exits the building to see Annie arguing with Phil. “I’m fine to drive, Annie,” he says, but his credibility is shot by his slurred speech. Annie says nothing as he climbs into the car, but the moment he turns it on she hops onto the hood. She sits facing the windshield, with her arms and legs crossed. But Phil doesn't see her. Sarah closes her eyes and plugs her ears when she hears Lilac scream Annie’s name.
Rain drips through Sarah’s hair and down the back of her neck, but she is too numb to the world to feel it. Three days of Annie being unconscious in the hospital, three more days of waterfall tears when she didn’t make it, and now, the numb. The knowledge that she would have to eventually step up to that little podium above her best friends grave, because everyone is expecting her to make a speech. She felt like she was dying. She probably was. No one could possibly live without Annie…
“I’ve watched so many people climb the walk to this podium. So many tell stories of her, quote her, cry for her. Now it’s my turn. I won’t sugar coat it. Annie Mist died to save the lives of her friends. She saved us from a horrible fate. That night, she told us how much we meant to her, but we never got to tell her how much she meant to us. Annie was kind and caring, and I am so thankful for the time she spent with us.I will never ever forget her. Annie,” Sarah pauses and looks into Annie’s sea of friends and family. She spots Phil, Andy, Tim, Abbey, Lilah, and Lilac huddled together under a lone tree. She finishes her sentence. “You have our undying affection as well. Thank you.” People clap as she steps down from the podium. But what they don’t know, is that she wasn’t thanking them. Sarah was thanking Annie.