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Erica's Visit

It was late. The shingled house rested between its neighbors, squeezed unceremoniously between two homes that were much bigger than it. Within this house, only one light was still on. The shadow of a hunched-over figure was illuminated in the yellow window.

Amy Lavaste worked under the pool of light her desk lamp provided, leaning over her work. Despite the lateness of the hour, she was still up, pen in hand. On the desk lay a notebook with numerous scribbled-out lines on its pages.

Amy stared intently at the wall in front of her, the pen limp in her hand. After a few moments, her eyes flicked back down to the paper, and she began to re-read what she had written so far.

Erica stared up at the castle’s high walls in defeat. Her emerald eyes took in the hundreds of guards surrounding the building. Erica knew that she needed to get in, somehow, so that she could save her friend, Rupert. But how?

As she adjusted her gleaming armor and tucked her sword back into her belt, an idea occurred to her.

Amy groaned. “But what was her idea?” she muttered angrily to herself, pounding the desk with her fist. The resounding thump was much louder than she had expected. Holding her breath, she listened to hear if her parents or brother woke up.

Nothing. Exhaling freely now, Amy buried her head in her hands, willing herself to think of something, anything. She needed to get Erica into that stupid castle.

“Is now a bad time?”

Amy nearly fell off of her chair in shock, righting herself just in time. She bit her lip to muffle the scream that had suddenly welled up inside of her; shoulders stiff in anticipation, she swiveled slowly around to face the intruder.

She sat on Amy’s violet bedspread, completely at ease as she twirled a dark strand of hair around her finger in a bored fashion. She gazed at Amy intently and unblinkingly with her emerald eyes. She wore no armor, nor were her sword or shield anywhere to be seen. Jeans and a silver tank top replaced them, but the resemblance was still unmistakable.

Amy’s jaw dropped, all pretense of politeness forgotten. “Erica?”

The girl stopped twirling her hair and cocked her head to one side. She looked clearly affronted at Amy’s questioning tone. “You’re kidding me, right?” she asked, continuing to twirl her hair once again.

Dropping her pen onto the desk and rising from her chair on shaking legs, Amy stared. She hugged her skinny frame, pinching her skin hard.

“I’m dreaming,” she muttered.

Erica stood up and walked towards Amy, who shrank against the desk. Flipping her curtain of dark hair over her shoulder, she pinched Amy hard on the arm.

“Ouch!” Amy yelped, massaging the red patch that bloomed near her elbow. “What the heck was that for?”

Erica smiled. “To show you that this isn’t a dream.”

“Was that really necessary?”

“No.”

Amy watched as an impish grin spread across Erica’s face, suppressing the strong urge to smack her. This was a serious situation, she reminded herself patiently.

She leaned back against the desk, but still found herself uncomfortably close to the girl who, she stubbornly told herself, must be some sort of hallucination. “What do you want?” she asked wearily. She glanced at her coffee cup. It had long since been drained.

Erica’s smile vanished. “Glad you asked.” She took a deep breath. “I need your help.”

“My help?”

“Yeah.”

“Right now?”

Erica’s eyebrows shot up. “No. I came here at three in the morning to make an appointment for a later date,” she snapped caustically.

Amy’s sudden annoyance shot through her like the coffee she had been searching for. “Well I’m sorry, but to my knowledge, you don’t even exist,” she said scathingly.

Erica rolled her eyes. “I am not a dream! I EXIST! I’m standing right in front of you, for God’s sake!”

“Okay, okay, keep your voice down,” Amy said nervously, shooting a furtive glance at the closed door behind her. “You’ll wake up the entire house.”

Erica crossed her arms. “So will you help me?”

Amy told herself to breathe. “That depends. What exactly do you need help with?”

“What do you mean, what do I--?!”

“Shhhh!”

Erica dropped her voice to a whisper. “I thought you knew. The castle? The guards? I need to help Rupert. I can’t just leave him there.”

Amy shook her head as though trying to get water out of her ears after swimming. “What are you doing here?” she deadpanned.

“Well, I’ve been trying to ask for your help for the past ten minutes, but—“

“No,” Amy cut across her impatiently. “What are you doing here? In my world?”

“Oh, not this again!” Erica exclaimed in a heated whisper. “Do I have to pinch you a second time?”

“Don’t you dare!”

Erica paused, examining Amy with an appraising look. “Who said this was your world, anyway?”

Extremely confused but not wanting to seem ignorant, Amy held up her hands in truce. “Whatever. Forget about it. It doesn’t matter whether or not you exist! Either way, I still don’t have a solution to your problem,” she admitted, turning her back to the girl who had somehow jumped from the pages of her notebook.

“But what about the dragon?” Erica asked quietly from behind her. Then, her voice rising steadily now, “Why can’t I use him? Listen—he flies in and sends all of the guards crying for their mamas. I run in, kick some prison guard butt—“ she punched the air in front of her, bouncing on the spot “—grab Rupert, run fast, and then ride the dragon out into the sunset.” She grinned, obviously pleased with herself. Then, as an afterthought, she sighed, “And we all live happily ever after.”

“It’s not that simple,” Amy said. “That dragon is miles away.”

Erica’s shoulders slumped. “Always the downer, aren’t you?”

“No, just the practical one.”

There was a very taut silence. Then Erica burst out, “Wait! What about my whistle?”

Amy stiffened, then spun around so fast that she lost her balance and grabbed Erica’s shoulders to stop herself from falling. Gripping her tightly, she shook her in her excitement. “You still have it, don’t you? You could call the dragon, and it would distract the guards! Then you could run in—“

Erica pried Amy’s fingers from her shoulders, standing her upright once again. “—Save Rupert, and ride off into the sunset. Happily ever after,” she finished. A bemused expression passed across her face. “I take credit for that idea, by the way. Were you listening to me at all a few seconds ago?”

Amy gave a noncommittal shrug, already turning back to her notebook and picking up her pen. The bed creaked slightly as Erica sat back down. “Problem solved,” she said, and clapped her hands loudly.

Amy’s eyes snapped open. Her face stuck to the paper she had been writing on as she lifted her head. Frowning, she looked at the wall in front of her, her mind rushing like a highway, her thoughts blurred.

It had seemed so real . . . .

After a moment’s hesitation, Amy began to write again, this time with more confidence. But her pen slipped in her hand, sending a ragged gash cutting across the page, as someone cleared their throat loudly behind her.

She jumped so violently that she whacked her head on her desk lamp. Rubbing her head, she swore loudly.

Behind her, there came a disapproving noise. “Shhh. You’ll wake up the whole house. All right, Amy?"





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