Friday - 8:23am to the City

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Shannen had been shocked and surprised by Brianna's immense interest in Ariana's novel. Somehow she had tagged her as a fickle teenager, and it had been pleasantly remarkable when it had turned out that Brianna held Ariana's in such high regard. Shannen had discovered that Brianna had read some of Ariana's books, not realising who she was or the connection to her own family, from the school library. She showed such enthusiasm and unrestrained passion for being so close to a novel-in-progress that Shannen found it easier to explain her own sudden interest in the project.

Brianna had called her mother on Thursday night, explained carefully that she was here with her Aunt Grace and that she had been invited to stay and, after Grace and Brianna's mother had spoken at length, she had been given permission, provided she did not miss school the next day. And so, just like a teenage sleep over party, Brianna and Shannen had stayed up all night. Except instead of braiding each other's hair and painting their toenails, they worked side by side on Ariana's unfinished novel, Shannen typing away and Brianna giving advice on plot direction, what the characters might do next. By the time the early summer sun rose a combination of the amazing amount of content they had produced and extreme fatigue caused them both to fall asleep, heads resting on arms and hunched over the table.

They had lain like this for around two hours when the phone in the kitchen rung, and Shannen was startled awake. She got up and out of the chair, her stiff body protesting with the requests made of it. Brianna lifted her head, wincing as she turned to watch Shannen go to the other room and hunt for the ringing telephone.

Shannen found the phone lying on the kitchen table, surrounded by the paperwork of funerals, grave stones and estate settlements. She fished it out, hit the answer button, and said "Hello?" as she glanced at her watch. It was only just past six o'clock!
"Hello?" A polished Australian accent, almost English in its clipped tones, responded, "Who is this?"
Shannen sighed, already anticipating with dread the conversation that was to come, she had overheard Grace do it often enough to know that there was no easy way to get through it, "My name is Shannen. I'm - I was - Ariana's friend."
She waited for the puzzled silence, the torrent of questions, but was surprised when instead, the woman said, "Oh, right. That's fine. I was expecting to speak to Grace. It's Paige Bressler here, Ariana's publisher. Miz Mathers said that there was a lot of paperwork and notes of Ariana's there, and I was hoping I could organise to have someone pick it all up so that we can go through it and find out where her work was up to."
Shannen felt an instant tightening in her chest as she sensed that someone was going to take Ariana's notes away from her, and she reacted instantly, enforcing her inherited ownership of the work, "Well, you don't need to. I've gone through it all already. Did you know that she had finished her next novel?"
"No, I thought she was far from finished it. Are you sure?" The voice was suspicious, but Shannen could hear the note of hope floating just below the surface.
"Yes she has. What's the normal process for publishing her work? I think her fans deserve to read it."
At that, the pair fell into a lengthy conversation about drafts and editing, proofing and publishing, and throughout it, Shannen chose not to reveal that she had in fact, written the final ten thousand words herself. She was fully convinced that Ariana had written it, her characters knew their destinies so well that all Shannen had to do was press the keys to form the words that fell into her head whole.

"Hi. It's me. Look, about Saturday night. I just wanted to check that, you know, everything was OK. You two were both pretty smashed when you got on the train. Did you get back to Hawkswater OK?"
"Yeah, it wasn't far, I walked back. Sobered me up some."
"OK. Cool. So, how was it?"
"Heh. OK. We were both pretty smashed, like you said."
"I wasn't sure she was going to go all the way, you know. She seemed a bit jumpy. Whatever the fuck she was taking was messing with her."
"Yeah. Well. It was OK."
"Heard from her since?"
"Ha! No, man. I wouldn't expect to. I can't even remember her damn name."
"Oh, OK. Well, never mind. Just wanted to make sure you got back alright. Invited to the next one, though, I want a turn with her if she shows up."
"Heh. Yeah, alright. You and everyone else that was here."
"Yeah. See ya, man."


Brianna had dropped back to sleep while Shannen spoke with the person on the phone, the soft tones of her voice as she discussed what needed to be done with the novel washing over her in an incomprehensible babble and soothing her back into her dreams effortlessly. When Shannen hung up and came back into the room, she opened one eye and watched her moving around, eventually murmuring, "Who were you talking to?"
Shannen looked up as though she had completely forgotten that Brianna was even there, pre-occupied as she was with her thoughts, "Hmm? Oh. On the phone? It was Paige Bressler, Ariana's publisher." Shannen broke into a grin, "She's going to publish Ariana's latest novel."
Brianna frowned slightly and lifted her head, putting it on side as she took in the information, "But it's not all Ariana's work, you've written heaps. Did you tell her?"
Shannen bit her bottom lip, but somehow managed to smile through it. "Well." She said finally, arching an eyebrow knowingly, "Do you think she would have published it if she knew that?".
Brianna laughed and shook her head, then said "So you're an author who started writing, what, twenty four hours ago? And already you're getting published. That's some feat!"

Shannen and Brianna locked eyes then, suddenly touched by how far they had come in what amounted to only a single evening, and Shannen suddenly laughed out loud, throwing her head back in the first feeling of mirth she had felt since she had discovered Ariana's fate. She laughed at the bond she had formed with this stranger, at the absurdity of the writing she had completed throughout the sleepless night, and at the somehow fitting justice of the accomplishment. She felt as though, in some strange roundabout way, she had avenged her friend's death. She had brought Ariana's final act of creation fully to life, and set it free - flying across the ocean like a white dove.


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