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Every kid has a dream. Most are ridiculous, I admit. However, that’s better than having none, like me. I’ve never had a dream or an ambition or whatever you wanna call it because there’s nothing that makes me get excited or hopeful. I don’t know why, I don’t even have a sob story for my reasoning. I just don’t have a dream.
“Walk!” Mr Pirfin’s voice echoed down the corridor as the students hurried to the field. Some idiot supposedly set off the fire alarm and so, we all had to go out into the damp English weather because they couldn’t be bothered for Maths. “I said, walk Miss Hall!” He shoved his finger over the top of the students to me. I hated that man, he was one of the reasons I moved school for the last two years. Slowing my pace, I almost stopped in front of a few hundred kids.
Although, one boy decided he’d had enough of Mr Pirfin’s efforts to control us and rammed his shoulder into me. I don’t know whether it was on purpose or not. Either way, his satchel’s buckle burst and flung some paper directly into my face. I stopped completely to peal it off. Unfortunately for me, the students behind went crazy and so did Mr Pirfin. Bursting past me when something exploded inside the school and the smell of smoke got stronger. At the time, I thought they were all over reacting but it was actually me, who wasn’t reacting enough.
I don’t remember the pain, doctors say that our brains deliberately block out that kind of memory but I do remember one thing. The piece of paper that stuck to my face. Luckily, it wasn’t the flames that hit me, it was some metal that smashed my side and scraped by collar bones. Well, that’s what the doctors said so yeah, I have scars but I also have the piece of paper that survived the accident too. In fact, other than my memory of Mr damned Pirfin and those aggravating kids, it’s the only thing I have to show me that what the doctors told me is true. I mean, for all I know I could have been hit by a car but no, my piece of paper and tiny memory of that crowd are the things that let me trust the doctors when I was in the hospital.
However, before I acknowledged any of that, I actually read the paper in the hospital a couple days after my accident and it wasn’t what I thought it would be. It was so much more.
“Isla! How do you feel about this? Are you upset? Will you and Tom be getting back together? What’s the story behind it? Have you met her –” I blocked out the reporters, journalists and photographers voices as I sprung into my cab. New York’s busy at this time of year, March. I guess tourists see it as the ideal time to come because they think no one else will have the same idea. Wrong.
Then again, it was always busy for me. There was always someone following me around like a sheep with a camera spouting from his wrist. People say you get used to it. Wrong again. “You ready for the interview?” My agent, May Finch, asked. Her plain brown hair was tucked into a bun neatly just like her shirt was placed in her professional pencil skirt. May was always working for me; she never seemed to want a break, I guess.
“May, no offence or anything, but I just saw my boyfriend with some slutty model. So I’d prefer if you just shut up about business for one minute and let me think this over.” I snapped. I couldn’t help it, being ‘The World’s Best Youngest Author’ was great and everything I could have ever asked for but the downsides were…well, they were like falling down Mount Everest and when you hit the bottom…it hurt. For a long time I’d been sliding down the slopes with Tom, my boyfriend, and I’d feared I hadn’t quite hit the bottom yet.
Tom and I met the year before when we started working on the new film for my book, he was the star actor. Soon into the process of filming, we got closer than a director and an actor should but it happened anyway. The tabloids and media hooked onto to it all too well for my liking but Tom loved the attention. Typical. So I guess catching him with that slut wasn’t a surprise at all, I had suspected something for a while but once the media had a story…they just wouldn’t let go.
“Sorry Miss Hall.” May looked to her feet.
Irritated by her, I span in my seat and shouted at her. “How many times do I have to tell you to call me Isla, hmm? And for the record, I’m not going to this interview. I’m going to the airport.” I aimed the last part at the cab driver.
“Airport, coming up ma’am.” I didn’t get annoyed at him for being formal, he was doing his job. May, on the other hand, had known me for the past three years and still couldn’t call me by my first name.
“Miss – Isla, we need to go to this interview. It’s essential for –”
I interrupted her. “Stop the cab!” A second later, he pulled into the side of the road, causing mayhem. I opened the door, jumped out and slammed it behind me waving the cab off with May inside it still. The traffic was hectic on the outskirts of New York so my old cab stayed in sight while I stood outside some tacky hotel. I wanted to go home to England, to my family. I hadn’t seen them for five months because I had some much promotion to do here in the States for the film and books. As much as I loved being a famous author, I needed a break. I was only eighteen.
“Over there! Isla Hall!” Photographers across the road spotted me. I jerked my hand out into the road and another cab stopped. Before the driver could ask where I was going, I threw myself in and he pulled back into the heavy traffic.
“Where to ma’am…Miss Hall?” I rolled my eyes and directed him to go to Central Park. That was always a good place to go without having a constant stream of people following you.
After about an hour, we arrived next to Central Park. I hopped out, and headed across the street before anyone saw me. Just for precaution, I tucked my hair into my hoodie and stuffed my hands in my pockets with my head down. The fresh air cleaned out all the dirty curses and cruel thoughts revolving in my head but no amount of air could flush out the image of Tom and that girl. I walked around the Park many times that day, people noticed me but one scowl and they left me alone. Eventually I got tired of pacing around and stopped to sit on one of the many benches.
Gum covered the arms of the bench and cigarettes stained the ground below but something about it was real. I know it sounds stupid but I was a world famous author and director with a Hollywood star boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, something as simple as a grubby bench felt great. Just normality felt great.
“Can I sit?” It wasn’t the scruffy Timberland boots, which were tied oddly or the fact that his dark jeans had holes in the bottom because they were too long, that caught my attention. It was the English accent, Geordie accent to be precise. Moving here meant that I had lost my broad accent and it had been replaced with a tinge of American. Admittedly, I preferred the Geordie. I looked up and to be honest, he wasn’t unbelievably stunning or handsome but he was normal. Wavy auburn hair with an attempt at being styled into a quiff, though individual waves flicked out messily; average height around six foot; tan-ish skin and light green eyes with a hint of hazel.
“Sure.” I said. As he sat down next to me, nothing changed. I remained concentrated on the gum on the bench’s warn mossy wood and he appeared to be scribbling something in a journal. Okay, it was weird to start with that he hadn’t questioned me about my status or clothing or reason for being here but it was very weird that by him writing something in what appeared to be a journal didn’t faze me at all. Usually, the first sign of a journalist and I was off running for dear life, I hated them; especially, when they had a juicy story on me, Tom and the slut of the century.
Although, he didn’t seem to be a journalist or at least not a curious one, maybe he was just writing a diary or something. Then again, the way he looked up every so often to observe people or the way a little crease on his forehead would form when he watched some people arguing was suspicious. He was figuring out something about New Yorkers, about the common people around him while I, the hot spot for journalism, was sat right next to him. And that is where our story begins.
“Can I help you?” He said clearly. If I remember correctly, that was the moment I realised I had been staring flat at him for however long he’d been sat there.
“Um…” I furrowed my face and searched for a logical answer. “What are you doing?” Stupidly, I had replied.
“You’re the one gazing at me and you’re asking me what I’m doing?” I couldn’t help but enjoy how his Geordie accent suddenly made me feel like I was at home. Maybe I was in the middle of New York and everyone was American around me but just his simple accent was enough to make me feel better at the time.
His eyebrows raised and he slapped the journal shut in his lap then tucked it back into his brown satchel. “Well I was writing, now I’m talking to you.” I rolled my eyes dramatically.
“I got that much.” He pursed his lips making him look young and boyish. In fact, he didn’t look much older than me. “What were you writing about?” I had no idea why I was so interested about this guy.
“You’re a nosy one.” I tilted my head and waited for him to reply. Really, I just wanted to hear his voice because the more he talked, the more I felt at home. After everything that had happened earlier that day, feeling at home was more than enough. Chuckling a little, he looked into the trees next to us and then muttered: “I’m trying to find the perfect story to apply for a university in England.” He seemed almost ashamed of his goal.
“And have you found one yet?”
“Na. Just a bunch of stuff about people and New York, nothing special really.” It amazed me how, still after admitting he was a journalist and he was looking for his big break story, he hadn’t asked me any questions. That was a first.
We carried on talking about nothing in particular for hours until the buildings surrounding the one area of nature began to light up. That was the last time I saw him that year, I didn’t find out his name and he didn’t find out mine.
Ever since that day I met the Geordie guy, I tried to keep in touch with my family better. He reminded me what my life had been missing and somehow just speaking with my dad every once in a while, changed everything. I dealt with the media better and was able to find the time to write another book and make a sequel film. The past five years were better than the ones before, except Tom and me. We never spoke after I saw him with the slut, which in a way was a good thing, I could move on. However, as much I hated it, I was in love with Tom. I had been since he caught my eye on that first day of filming. Whenever I saw him on the film set, which happened to be every day, I reminded myself of the piece of paper I found the day of the accident in England. Those few sentences got me through hell.
“Hey!” I stopped jogging along the pavement and span around. In front of me…was the Geordie guy? Auburn hair a little darker; light green eyes with the same amount of hazel and what appeared to be some designer suit with the old brown satchel. Unable to stop myself, I grinned widely at him. Sweat trickled down my forehead and where my blond curls where tied in a loose bun they probably had gotten stuck to the back of my neck. “Well I have to say, you look…different.” We both howled at my jogging look and his business look, it was almost like we had swapped places. He was so smart and tidy, like how I probably looked when we met last time and I was stinking New York out with my short shorts and slack top.
“I’m not the only one. I take it you got what you wanted?” He had told me of his writing dreams and ambitions to write in the leading newspapers as well as going to a posh university in England.
“Not exactly. Oxford declined my application and so did Cambridge.” Vaguely, I remembered them from my boring years at school. “But I got a job at Metropolitan.” Smiling genuinely, I sat down on a bench nearby and he sat next to me. I was still panting from my run. There was another thing that was different, New Yorkers had gotten over their obsession with me and allowed me to roam the streets freely now. However, nothing seriously fascinating had happened lately. Well, nothing like Tom and I anyway.
“I’m glad. So tell me, what was your perfect story in the end?” What was it about him that made me more and more curious each time I saw him?
He looked down at his feet. That was when I noticed he still had the same odd tied Timberland boots on that completely clashed with his suit. I snickered to myself. “The girl in the park.” He muttered to the ground. That cigarette marked ground with gum and mud and graffiti and whatever you can name, still smothering it. Yet he seemed to prefer talking to all of that than to my face. Without noticing, he had turned to me completely and looked me in the eye. “Or you may call it, ‘The blond haired girl in the park.” I realised then. His perfect story was the day he met me.
Embarrassed, I had gotten up and started pacing back and forth. “What did you write about me?” I said after a few paces and this time, the ground gulped down my words too.
“Just stuff. Really it was something I had written a while ago and tried to recreate.” No longer mortified of his dreams, he stood up too and grabbed my upper arms to stop me from pacing past him. Timidly, I peered into his eyes and tried to repeat over and over in my head the piece of paper to calm my racing blood. It always seemed to work but not then. I don’t even know why I had been so anxious at the thought of him writing about me, it just had made me feel so self-conscious I guess.
“Thanks.” I murmured roughly when it was meant to be softly. My blood never did calm, it sped up. His face was so incredibly close but I didn’t want to kiss him or anything like that…I wanted to know what he was thinking.
“Are you okay? You seem…on edge?” The little crease in his forehead returned and my blood started whirling around my body.
“I’m good. It was just a shock.” I spluttered out. Letting go of my arms, he smiled and promised to keep in touch though I didn’t see how. “Wait!” He turned on his heel.
“I need your address.” He had taken the words from my mouth. We exchanged addresses and then he disappeared down the pavement.
Later that year, in November I received a letter from him. He told me about his trips to Paris and Rome as he continued to look for that perfect story seen as I hadn’t made the cut. Yeah, I had got him a job but this guy wanted much more that a job at Metropolitan. He wanted to the world in his palm. This guy had always been weird to me but he did the weirdest thing yet on the bottom the letter, he signed it, ‘The boy in the park.’ This meant that I couldn’t return the letter because I didn’t know what name to put on the top. Obviously, he’d figured out my name without asking so I got more letters throughout the year.
He went to Venice, Greece, Africa, Mexico, Canada and many that I hadn’t heard of until finally I got my tenth letter which was signed, Skye Turner. Immediately, I wrote back to his address and talked about everything I had done. My new film and publishing book along with my travels to Asia, more States of America and Australia for the movie premieres. I didn’t mention how Tom and I were back together; in fact I didn’t mention him at all. It seemed unnecessary, I guess.
“Miss Hall, are you ready?” May Finch of course, who else other than my wonderful agent, would’ve rung my apartment at such an inconvenient time? I told her I’d be down in a minute. Grabbing a piece of stray paper on my cluttered desk, I scrawled some stuff down and then shoved the paper into an envelope. I went down to May and posted the letter later that day.
Whenever I’m falling down one of Mount Everest’s slopes, somehow I manage to clamber back up with the help of a few sentences on a piece of paper. The same piece of paper I found the day of the accident, and the same piece of paper I lost one year, three months, and twelve days ago. The thing is I really needed that piece of paper at this time in my life.
Two hours ago, my best friend had been hit by a cab and the ambulance had taken him to the hospital just in time. He was critically injured and I needed the feel of that crisp paper under my fingers to get me through this. It sounded stupid, I know. However, I needed that paper and I’d lost it.
So instead of sitting in my apartment, grieving over John, I went to Central Park .The place I always go when I need to get my head in the right place. I didn’t run through, or jog, I barely walked. Stumbling through until I stumbled into someone. Carelessly, I fell backwards a step and saw the person’s face. And of course, who else would it be? ‘The boy in the park’ otherwise known as Skye Turner, stood in front of me.
“…Isla?” God I must have looked like hell if he was looking at me like I’d just scampered up out of the sewers. My hands went to my cheeks, they were wet and sticky. My make-up had been running down my pale skin probably and my dark eyes were most likely, red and swollen. I must say, this was one of the worst times in my life so far.
Somehow I managed to pull on a smile for Skye; he always had for me each time we’d met. Instead of coming out with a clever comment to cheer me up, he engulfed me in his arms. We stood like that while the media took photos and reporters tried to get me to talk. Skye didn’t yell at them, he just kept my face in his chest where they couldn’t see my tears. I never did thank him for that.
Finally when the police came along and ordered them to leave us, they asked Skye to take me inside away from the public’s eye and he agreed. Although, he did keep me out in Central Park for a couple minutes longer, I think.
We talked about nonsense really, anything to get my mind of John until I couldn’t hold it in any longer. My feelings burst over the brim and flooded into the already tense air. “I love you.” Everything went silent. He didn’t say anything. What he did say, I didn’t hear. I didn’t want to hear anything like it at the time because it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted him to say he loved me too and that he would never leave me but that was ridiculous. We’d only met a couple of times and yeah, we talked by letter and understood each other greatly but I was a mess and he was destined for great things, my great things were slowly dissipating down Mount Everest. Never mind the fact; I’d just broken up with Tom.
“– I’m in love with someone else, Isla.” That was the first time he said my name. It was also the last time he said my name. However, when I finally forced myself to listen to the gibberish stuff coming out his mouth that was what I heard. It was the hardest thing to hear when you’re best friend was almost dead but I had to hear it sometime.
The last letter I sent to Skye Turner was fifteen years ago and it was about how sorry I was that he found me in that state. I never did get a reply. Not until now. Eighteen years since I saw him and he decides now he wants to meet at our bench in Central Park. You see, there’s just one issue…tonight is the biggest night of my life.
My book and movie trilogy is over and to celebrate there is an immense premiere in New York. Every single fan will be there and so will every journalist and photographer. All the stars of the movies will be there, including Tom who is now strictly a colleague and nothing more. This is a huge opportunity, my future counted on it and yes, people at the age of thirty-eight still have futures.
However, ‘The boy in the park’ wants to meet me and he was very aware of this premiere, who wasn’t? The whole world will be watching. But I’ve been in love with Skye for the past eighteen years of my life and now, I finally have the chance to get some kind of closure from it. The problem is my premiere and his reuniting of our friendship is both tonight. I know it’s stupid, I have to go to the premiere there isn’t a choice but Skye ended my friendship with him so abruptly after I told him I loved him and I haven’t had my explanation for years. Trust me; I need it, to move on.
So now, stood in front of a body length mirror, all I can see are my dark eyes hunting for Skye’s. I’m behaving like a lovesick teenager! But it’s true.
The stylists dressed me in this extravagant dress. A fitted navy bodice hugs my slim body and the layers of endless fabric flow into an elegant drifting skirt. Placed on top are large amounts of sheer silver material that sweeps over my left shoulder and then covers the rest of the dress. Making me look like the midnight sky with stars just burning through it. They braided a few of my curls and then tamed the rest to a glamour style of Hollywood waves. I must say, I’ve never looked more sophisticated in my life.
“You’re on in one hour.” The wonderful May sweeps by my room and calls into the door. I have a decision to make and I need to make it now. Premiere or Skye? Work or love? Choose… I’m out the fire exit of the hotel in a matter of minutes and running towards central park in my heels. When I get half way there, I tear them off my feet and stick to the back alleys where the gathering crowds of people won’t seem me.
He said to meet at ten tonight. It’s nine- fifty- eight. I sprint harder until my breath escapes my lungs too frequently and I struggle to breathe. Just a little while longer, I coax myself. I pass benches and benches, fountains, trees…our bench. That cigarette flooded ground with gum plastering the greyish wood that almost blends into the trees these days and finally…Skye Turner.
“Isla?” He whispers into the empty Park, other than the homeless folk, mutedly. Stopping, I collapse onto the bench next to him and try to stop panting. He laughs too loudly for the silent night. “You never go anywhere quietly, do you?” If I could, I would chuckle with him but I can barely say one word. So I just nod. “Why did you come? Your premiere…”He shakes his head at himself, already regretting this.
After a moment, I catch my breath and look to him. Under the lamp light; his auburn hair shows highlights of grey and his tan-ish skin is looking a little softer. I can’t help but admit… I like the aged look. “Some things are more important than fame.” There I said it. I said what everyone’s been thinking for many years now and all the celebrities have been too scared to say it because if they do, they may lose everything. Well, I’m going to lose everything anyway, so I may as well be honest now. After all, I’ve officially landed at the bottom of Mount Everest. I did just run away from my premiere…
“I didn’t want to ruin everything but there’s something you need to know before you go up on that stage and walk straight into a future, we both know you don’t want. You’ve never wanted this.” I know he’s right. I never had a dream, I never dreamt of this: being trapped in New York with a whole load of books and films needing tending too as well as having my life practically under a public microscope.
I stay silent for a moment. “What do I need to know?” He dips into his brown satchel bag, as always, and pulls out the same journal I saw him writing in the first time we met. Slipping out a piece of paper he holds it out in the light so I can see it.
That’s my piece of paper.
No one else’s.
“You sent this to me. I think was accidental.” My jaw tenses, I can’t say anything. I’ve been looking for that piece of stupid paper for nineteen years and now it’s at arm’s length from me. I need it. I want it. I have to get it. “You wrote your second last letter on it.” The letter I wrote in a hurry to go see May. I picked up a scrap piece of paper, but it wasn’t scrap it was my most treasured item…you idiot, Isla.
“Why are you giving it back to me?” How does he know it’s so important? I never mentioned it before. To him, it probably looks like some useless thing that should’ve been chucked out a while back.
“Because I have the missing piece.” What? There is no missing piece. My piece of paper is completely whole.
“Read it.” I don’t think about my words, I just say them. For some reason, I want to hear him read it. Even though, his Geordie accent has faded he still has more of it than I do. It’s not just that…I want to be reminded of the reason why I noticed him so much in the first place.
He doesn’t question my request, he reads it in the middle of Central Park on a dying bench to a girl he met twenty years ago.
“Love. I don’t know what it means; I’m not sure anyone does. I’ve always been fascinated how one word can change lives but what about the lives that can’t find love? I know they exist, the news talks about it all the time.” He pauses, that’s the part on my piece of paper. Glancing up to me, I see something sparkle in his light green eyes with a tinge of hazel, at me. He then he puts the piece of paper back into his journal and reads something from a page still within it, in the same handwriting on the opposite page…his handwriting. “It’s been years since I saw this piece of paper, twenty seven years to be precise. All this time, I’ve been on some sort of quest to discover the answer to my question and I think I finally found it. The key to finding love isn’t dating websites or reading Shakespeare’s sonnets or Pride and Prejudice a thousand times, it’s something much easier. We will never find love if we’re tearing the Earth apart for it because most of the time, love is right in front of us. Maybe other people will never find love, maybe they will. But for now I know who my key to happiness and love is.” He stops, looks me straight in the eye and says, “You.”
And for just a second, I’ve found my dream.