"Melissa! Cynthia! Time for breakfast!" A woman called out of the kitchen, which was alive with the scent of buttery waffles and warm maple syrup. Milk was the chosen beverage to go along with this speedy yet delicious breakfast. "Eat now or forever hold your stomachs!" she called again as two high school girls suddenly bolted into the room.
"Sorry, mom," a somewhat formally clad girl smiled as she sat down to breakfast. Her medium length curly red hair seemed cooperative enough today to keep out of her food. She wore a short skort* with a light long-sleeved shirt. The formal pink shirt seemed to flare out a little bit at the elbows before snugly wrapping around her wrists. Atop the button up shirt, she wore a small vest, several shades darker than the shirt and matching her skort perfectly. On her legs she wore knee-high tights and her feet were decorated with shiny red shoes that looked as if they were meant for dancing. She sat down at the table and waited for her friend to sit down before eating, but not before talking. "Cissy and I were touching up on our report for English."
"Yeah, Mrs. Boudroux," a girl clad in extreme casual wear joined in as she sat down. Her hair—though naturally and shockingly blue—was short enough to keep out of her way while eating. She was wearing a loose-fitting light blue tee-shirt and a pair of worn out dark navy jeans from the men's department of their local thrift store. Her feet were snugly wrapped in a pair of blue tennis shoes and laced through every other hole. Over the course of the year, the shoes had scrounged up a fine layer of dust and dirt that refused to come off. Cynthia wore them with pride, anyway. "Missy had a few ideas on how to interpret the dynamics of the dialogue between Hamlet and Horatio as the play goes on that I didn't think of," she admitted before gaining silent permission to eat her waffles.
"It just seemed to me that they're a bit closer than they were at the beginning of the play," Melissa brushed away the indirect praise before returning with a bit of her own. "But in that scene with the players, how did you find the double meaning in the king calling for the lights?" she asked before taking a bite of her own waffles. Her taste buds instantly declared themselves in breakfast heaven.
"I dunno, it was kind of a hunch actually," Cynthia answered after swallowing a bite of her breakfast. She wiped her mouth with a napkin before continuing. "You kind of have to wonder about the whole theme of salvation and death. He's obviously calling for the lights to end the play, but what if he's trying to call out to God for his bit of light? You know…his own salvation?"
"Well, it ties in with that church scene that happens next," Melissa said thoughtfully before continuing to eat. Mrs. Boudroux simply sat at the table, her coffee mug raised to her smiling lips. Since they were two years old, the girls had been best friends. If they weren't at the Boudroux's house, then they were at the Lake's. The only exception being if one was sick or had an appointment the following morning. Her eyes strayed over to the clock and she nearly fell out of her chair in such a haste.
"Oh gosh, is it that time already?" the woman asked thin air as she ran around the kitchen grabbing her car keys, house keys, and an overcoat. She looked over her shoulder at the two girls who had quickly finished their meal and practically ran out the door upon seeing the clock. Mrs. Boudroux smiled at how well both girls knew her and locked the door behind her before driving the girls to school. The time was 7:31. School started at 7:35.
"That was really close…" Cynthia huffed as she collapsed into her seat, Melissa close behind, just as breathless. With both of them in their seats almost to the back of the class, Melissa turned a one-eighty to see her friend. Eye contact is an important part of conversation, you know.
"How much do you think we beat the bell by?" Melissa asked through a grin, quickly regaining her posture. She placed her red backpack on her lap and pulled out her World History textbook, along with a composition notebook and a sparkly pink pen. When she had the pen between her fingers, she began to twirl it swiftly without effort, never dropping it.
"This time?" Cynthia asked as she glanced at the clock above the door. "Probably about half a minute. We keep cutting it really… really…" the girl's voice began to diminish into oblivion and her eyes sat transfixed on a certain point beneath the door, sending a warning flag to Melissa. This could be a few things, but she decided to narrow the suspects down to two. Either she'd gotten a bad grade—not possible because they hadn't started class yet—or she could be freaking out. But why would she be freaking out? Curious, the girl turned to see what could be so interesting—oh. Oh.
Zane Williams just strolled through the door. While admittedly not the high school heartthrob, he had attracted the eyes of several girls not only in their class, but several girls all over the school. One of these poor girls happened to be Cynthia, but she had been crushing on him far longer than the rest. She technically had first dibs.
"And thus, she stared at the back of the glorious head she'd crushed on for five years," Melissa teased dramatically, turning away from the boy who was talking to his friends, completely oblivious to Cynthia's existence. Though she did feel some pangs of empathy for the girl, it was almost tradition between them to tease each other about boys. Especially now. "You know the Sadie Hawkins dance is tonight, there's still time to ask him," Melissa pointed out, effectively snapping the girl out of her trance. Unfortunately, her face went from a girl in a dream to one of pure terror.
"I-I-I can't do that!" Cynthia stuttered breathlessly, her face flushing dark red. She looked at her desk, completely embarrassed at the thought of asking the boy of her dreams to possibly go with her to a dance. Though out-of-fashion, the Sadie Hawkins dance had been brought back as a part of "Blast to the Past" week. Otherwise known as homecoming week. It was part of their "Pilgrim pride!" and whatnot. Usually the girls wouldn't be too interested in homecoming, but the major switch around had many girls on the fritz, scrambling to ask a certain guy out.
"If you don't do it now, someone else is gonna ask him. It's a wonder no one has already…" Melissa pointed out. Cynthia's head snapped up, as if she hadn't realized this before. It was the twelfth time she'd been reminded this week. As she opened her mouth to object, the bell rang and all the students filed to their seats. As the boy passed by Cynthia to get to the last seat, her face flooded with red as if it had never done so before. Oblivious as ever, the boy didn't notice. Melissa faced forward to listen to the teacher and announced herself as "present" when called. A few names later, Cynthia called out "here" and Melissa's head instantly went into preparation mode. The entire period went by and she managed to take notes, make a plan, and did a semi-acceptable job of keeping her best friend from being suspicious.
"I know that look…" Cynthia said warily as the last bell rang and Melissa deliberately stuck her foot in the middle of the row to get up. As the room piled out quickly, the girl uncharacteristically tossed her backpack over her shoulder, efficiently knocked the books and papers off her friend's desk, and bolted out of the room.
"MELISSA!" her friend called out in embarrassment before hastily picking up her scattered papers. Melissa walked swiftly out of the room and waited outside the door for a few seconds. Delighted, she heard a helpful "Here you go," from the target. After a few seconds, she heard a—somewhat flustered—"WillyougototheSadieHawkinsda ncewithme!?" Silently pumping her fist in delight, Melissa waited for a few moments until the target left the room. Without Cynthia. Curious as to what happened; Melissa peeked back into the history room to see her blue-haired friend standing in shock, papers in hand and backpack halfway off her shoulder. Quickly, the red haired girl walked into the classroom, grabbed the dumbstruck girl's hand, and began to walk to their respective second periods.
But once out of the classroom, Cynthia jerked away. Confused, Melissa turned back to see her face overflowing with tears. Panicking, the girl dug into her backpack and pulled out a tissue. When she tried to wipe away her friend's tears, the helpless tissue was whacked from her hand.
"Why…?" Cynthia asked before taking a deep, rugged breath. Melissa stood in shock. Yeah, what she did was unexpected, and probably a little uncalled for, but she just wanted her to ask her dream date on a date for once. And it totally worked! "Why did he have to say he's…?" the poor girl choked out before biting her lip in a vain effort to keep the tears from overflowing. Obviously not wanting to be seen, she pushed past Melissa and ran to the bathroom. The red-headed girl was about to follow when the minute-warning bell rang and she realized she had to get to class. She could only watch for a moment as her friend wiped her tears away and veered into her second period class—Physics.
Deciding she would apologize for knocking over her books and ask what happened later, the girl decided to follow her friend's example and bolted to her second period class. Calculus was going to be ever-so-much fun today.
The remaining time until English passed in a slow stupor for Melissa. She could not get Cynthia to even look her way in passing period, and the Chemistry teacher just went on and on. While she had dutifully taken her notes, she wondered what had made him tell her "no". It was obvious that she'd been rejected, but what had he said that could make her so angry? True, she had been crushing on him for a long time, but what could he have possibly said?
When English finally rolled around, Melissa went to her seat and waited anxiously for her friend. She kept her eyes peeled as a few girls around her talked about the latest fashion and how great everyone looked today. As she thanked the girls for the compliments and returned a few herself, she finally saw her as the bell rang to begin class.
Head down, Cynthia walked into the classroom and made her way into the seat beside Melissa's. It was obvious that the girl had done more than her fair share of crying in the past two periods. Her eyes were bloodshot and her nose was puffed and pink. To anyone else, she may have looked a smidgeon sickly, but Melissa knew better. After an announcement that the day would be a free-day in English—to make up work or work on homework from other classes—Melissa tried talking to her flustered friend.
"Are you okay?" she asked dumbly as her friend nodded, reached into her backpack, and withdrew the assignment that was due today. Without a word, she passed the printed work over to the concerned girl. Melissa tapped the papers gently on the table to line them up neatly, got up, went to the teacher's desk, stapled them together, and slid the finished assignment into the collecting tray. When she arrived back at her desk, Cynthia hadn't moved except to put her head down. Her only movement was that of her breathing.
Deciding to let her be for now, Melissa slid back into her seat and drummed her fingers rhythmically on the desk. It was a recent tune that she couldn't quite place, but it was uncharacteristically upbeat. Ba…-dum-dum-dum ba-da-da-da-dum! It was from a song that had been on the radio lately, but she couldn't remember the title, artist, or words. That wasn't unusual, though. Melissa, though extremely organized, had the memory of a goldfish. That's why she usually counted on Cynthia to remember things and be creative. Well, when she wasn't being overpowered by the emotional roller coaster of life, that is.
Speaking of Cynthia, Melissa looked to her friend to notice her staring. Usually, it wouldn't bug the girl, but with the sudden mood swings today, she couldn't help but feel uneasy. Especially with the next words that came out of her mouth.
"Why did it have to be you?" Cynthia asked mournfully, softly. Her eyes looked as if they had been recovering from the excess crying and her somewhat logical side was kicking in. With a start, Melissa realized the girl's emotions were shutting down for now. Though she was relieved that her friend had decided to talk to her again, she couldn't help but want an explanation. A good one.
"Why did what have to be me?" Melissa inquired. Cynthia turned her head to see her friend better. When she did, she also was able to talk without the sound cushion of her arm.
"Why does he have to like you?" Cynthia clarified, though the simple explanation was lost on the red headed girl.
"Who are you talking about?" Melissa asked, bewildered. She knew that a lot of guys probably liked her, but she never liked any of them back and she found herself too busy to mind them anyway. And it certainly never bit at her friend like this before.
"Zane!" Cynthia hissed, her eyes welling up with tears once more. Completely taken aback, Melissa said nothing, allowing the newly emotional girl to continue. "He told me himself that he didn't want just any girl to go to the dance with. He wants you! But he'll keep me in mind in case you don't want to go…"
Melissa sat there for only a moment, unsure of what to do. If she told him no, he'd go with Cynthia, but only for a backup plan. If she went with him out of pity, then she'd be no better than he, and also betraying her friend. She had no interest in this guy, but she wanted to do something for her friend to keep her from being some guy's back-up plan.
"Girls night out" Melissa stated firmly, snapping Cynthia out of her emotional trance.
"You and me. Tonight at my house," Melissa became alight when she thought of all the things they would do. "We can watch movies and make fun of bad actors…"
"Watch people try to use Old English but ultimately fail at it?" Cynthia asked hopefully, getting into the festive spirit along with her best friend. It was one of their things to laugh at for the past year or so. Every month it was a different movie or show.
"Why not?" Melissa smiled, relieved that they were getting past the bad boy drama. Also, the prospect of laughing at a pitiful attempt to sound like someone knew how to talk as if they were in the medieval ages sounded like a lot of fun. "We can go over to your house to change out your stuff after school, okay?"
"Sounds like a plan to me," Cynthia smiled genuinely. Suddenly, her hand shot for her backpack and withdrew a pencil and a short stack of papers. With her smile stretching by the minute, the girl placed the pencil on the paper and began to swiftly and gently sketch out her latest creative idea. Curious, Melissa scooted her desk closer to her friend and watched as she drew. A figure of a girl soon emerged. Following that basic structure was another girl. They were both sitting and—judging by their postures—laughing at something out of the frame. As the picture gained more depth with various shading techniques that Melissa could not even begin to fathom, she realized something was missing from the picture.
"May I?" Melissa asked when the picture was finished about fifteen minutes later. Cynthia nodded and passed the beautifully drawn picture over. With meticulous detail, the girl wrote in an Old English font. It took a good five minutes to get everything done neatly and perfectly.
"Perfect!" Cynthia chimed after she was finished. As the girls continued to chat, the picture was placed neatly into Melissa's folder for the art wall at Cynthia's place.
"Best friends for all eternity"
"...thanks mom," Cynthia snapped her phone shut with a smile on her face. She turned to her friend and flashed the thumbs up sign. "She said it's all right."
"Great!" Melissa cheered before taking a bite of her sandwich. Though she was excited for the fact that she and her best friend in the entire world were going to have a night to have fun, poke fun at some random actors who didn't know that "thine" wasn't a word to describe your day, and throw popcorn around aimlessly, she couldn't help but have a feeling in the pit of her stomach...
"um..." a male voice crept up behind Melissa and she couldn't help but scram out of her seat. When she turned, she found the boy of her best friend's affections—and misery—standing in front of her. He was just looking at her and didn't even seem to notice Cynthia standing right next to her. Well, it was more of hiding behind her.
"Yes?" Melissa asked as curtly as she could while trying not to sound mean. But let's face it, who really wants to be face-to-face with the boy who broke your best friend's heart? Certainly not this girl. "What do you want?"
"W-well..." the boy was sweating bullets by now and checked nervously over his shoulder. Melissa began to stress her impatience by tapping her foot. Usually she wasn't this insensitive, but right now she was on the defense.
"Tonight's the girl's choice... so the girls are supposed to ask the guys... and..." Zane couldn't have looked more nervous if he tried. And boy, was he trying. He checked around one more time, took a breath, and stammered out "Iknowitsagirlschoicebutwould yougowithme?!" Melissa answered without a second of thought.
"Sorry, I have plans tonight," she pulled Cynthia out from behind her and the boy blanched. Melissa narrowed her eyes. "My best friend and I already made some arrangements. I'm sure you've got some kind of back-up plan. So have fun at the dance." Without another word, Melissa gathered her supplies and took Cynthia with her out of the room they had been eating in.
A few moments later, they arrived at their Spanish classroom, the next class they had together. There, they sat their belongings down in their respective seats—once more right next to each other—and continued their lunches. A few minutes passed in silence.
"Cissy?" Melissa asked once she'd finished her bag of barbecued-flavored chips. The girl looked up when she realized her name had been called. She smiled softly, but that couldn't mask the obvious hurt in her eyes. Melissa pulled her friend into a hug. "He doesn't know what he's missing," she tried to reassure her friend.
"Thanks," Cynthia whispered as she hugged her friend back, grateful for the reassurance. After a couple of seconds, they broke and began to talk about all the wonderful things they were going to do when they arrived at Melissa's house that night.
"Just make sure you have lights out by one," Mrs. Boudroux yawned before leaving the two girls in Melissa's room. For their sleepover, the girls were armed with three bowls of popcorn, an internet service that provided their TV with an arsenal of movies and shows to watch, and—unbeknownst to the tired lady—two flashlights for scary stories later. Outside, a faint rumbling of thunder could scarcely be heard.
"Okay, mom," Melissa laughed as her mother left the room. Her naturally curly red hair let down, Melissa had a soft pink nightgown on and her feet were kept nice and warm with pink, fuzzy slippers. She also had a rose-colored bathrobe on with two pockets. In her hand, she held the remote for the fun. She turned to smile at her friend. "You ready?"
"Bring it on," Cynthia smiled as she shoved her fist into one of the popcorn bowls. Amazingly, she managed not to get any butter on her oversized baby blue tee-shirt and fuzzy navy pajama pants. They were made out of soft fabric that should be used in all pajama pants. She still had on her blue tennis shoes. She ate a little of the popcorn she had in her hands and simply held onto the rest. Melissa followed suit. With a knowing grin shared between the two girls, her finger pressed decidedly on the "play" button.
As the night progressed, the two girls giggled at goofs, mimicked mistakes, and laughed at ludicrous lines. There was much popcorn throwing and tickle attacking. Mercy cries rang out in between friendly jests, and dark secrets were retold once more. All was normal and peaceful when the power cut out. Nervous and not-so-nervous chuckles took a little bit to simmer down. Melissa glanced at the window and Cynthia followed her gaze.
"How did we not notice that?" Cynthia mused, an amused grin spreading over her face as the now fierce winds howled against the glass. Melissa shrank back against her fluffy pink comforter and proceeded to drape it about herself, hiding the window from her face. But it was no use; she could still hear the harsh assault of raindrops on her window and attacking her home. She could hear the bloodthirsty roar of thunder threatening to blow her away. Even hiding her tightly shut eyes behind a thick comforter could not hide them from the blinding lightning, threatening to take with it anything and everything in its wake.
Cynthia knew of Melissa's fear of storms. She'd had it since they were six. The memory itself was blurred, but suffice to say that it had something to do with a really bad mime. Sighing, the girl decided to sit next to the lump on the bed known as her best friend and watch the majesty of the storm unfold. She watched as the rain beat rhythmically on the window panes. She listened as the dull throb of thunder practically rolled down her back. She watched as vibrant lightning cut brilliantly through the midnight air…and illuminated something caught in Melissa's window. It flapped and whipped violently in the wind, but stayed firmly wedged in the window frame.
Spurred on by her sudden curiosity of the paper, Cynthia stood up and crossed the room in a few steps. While the smaller, more rational part of her told her the paper would fly away anyways and it wasn't worth opening the window, the larger, more curious part of her drove her to open the window slightly, snatch the paper before it could go anywhere, and firmly shut the window again. One she'd retrieved the soaking item, she closed the blinds and the curtains in an attempt to keep the storm from Melissa.
Somehow, on her way back to the bed, Cynthia tripped over the bowl of popcorn and landed face first in front of her friend, who squeaked.
"What was that?" Melissa asked, hardly more than a whisper, refusing to move from her spot underneath her comforter. Cynthia reached to the floor, grabbed the two flashlights, and wiggled her way under the comforter next to Melissa. Turning on the flashlight, she grinned stupidly.
"Just your average mail-girl," Cynthia smiled as she placed the paper she'd gotten on the bed and handed Melissa a flashlight. "With a not-so-average letter." Knowing that her friend couldn't keep from a mystery, even one made up in the span of three seconds, Cynthia smiled as Melissa took the paper and inspected it with her flashlight.
"Did you actually look at this?" Melissa asked after a few minutes of inspecting the paper. Cynthia shook her head. She felt she was just the messenger. She'd wanted Melissa to look at it first to get her mind off the storm. Excitedly, Melissa scooted over and patted the seat next to her. Curious, Cynthia scurried to her expected seat. Holding up her flashlight, she watched as Melissa explained some odd aspects of the paper. One of which was obvious.
"Why is it dry? I got it out of the rain about three seconds ago…" Cynthia's eyebrows knit in slight confusion. The paper held its own weight up in Melissa's hands, something it shouldn't have been able to do if it were truly wet. It should have folded in on itself and dripped all over the bed. But it looked and acted perfectly dry.
"Not only that, the paper is really old… Look at these burn marks here, I wonder why they didn't reach the words. Hey, look at this ink! It hasn't faded at all. Isn't even blotched or smudged!" And in truth, it wasn't. The paper was handwritten in a foreign hand. It wasn't any font either of them had seen before. And even if it were typed on some computer and shoved in Melissa's window—which was on the second floor—the paper would have had some creases or tears along the middle. But wherever there was writing, there were no imperfections. It was almost as if the writing itself were protected by something against the elements. But what…?
"But I can't make sense of this letter at all…" Melissa scrunched up her face in concentration, blocking almost everything else out in her effort to decipher the message. In truth, it stumped Cynthia as well.
"Yeah, it's like some of the words are missing…" Cynthia agreed, peering over Melissa's shoulder. "Wait a second…" the blue haired girl murmured, reading the letter. When she'd had it earlier, she'd read the first line, and it had said "…come…you…in…gravest…circumstances" in blue ink. Now that the letter was in Melissa's hands, there were some words she hadn't seen before.
"No, you're right," Melissa stated, agreeing with her friend's first statement. "This makes no sense… what does 'I…to…only…the…of' mean? Do you think that some of the words came in a different letter?"
"No, look at this," Cynthia reached over Melissa's shoulder and pointed to the letter, still not touching it. "It says 'I come to you only in the gravest of circumstances'. But why is every other word red or blue?"
"Where do you see that?" Melissa asked as she held out the paper for her friend and current sleuthing partner to hold the other side. Cynthia began to talk as she reached out and grabbed the old parchment.
But the room never got to hear the rest of the sentence. One flash of yellow later, the pink sheets folded in on themselves and fell on nothing but the bed. The storm began to ebb away and took with it all noise. All was still and silent.
Melissa Boudroux and Cynthia Lake had disappeared.