Contest entry for Writer's Cramp. An unexpected meeting leads to a secret friendship.
“See you later, Mom!” Lily called out as she walked toward the back door.
“Where are you off to, Lil?”
Lily turned to face her mother with a wide smile, her bright blue eyes sparkling with excitement. “I’m going into town to pick up the new Casey Bean book. It should be at Trosper’s today.”
“Oh, right. I forgot.” Cynthia grinned indulgently. “Watch for cars and ride safely, please.”
“Okay, Mom,” Lily agreed leaving the house in an exuberant rush.
Humming cheerfully, Lily pulled her battered bike from the shed and rolled it to the driveway. Patting her back pocket to reassure herself that her allowance was still there, she swung her leg over the bike and started down the drive. With her blonde ponytail flying behind her and the thought of holding the latest book in her favorite series, Lily sped toward Trosper’s Books.
Lily’s thoughts wrestled with the harrowing predicament that Casey Bean had been left in at the end of the last book until the honk of a car horn blared near her. She squeaked in fright and swerved, hitting a ragged, wooden fence. Lily tumbled from her bike, landing in a heap on the sidewalk, her knee scraped and bleeding. The sound of a screen door slamming brought Lily’s attention from her knee to her surroundings, a tingle of panic flickering over her.
“Are you all right?” a quiet voice asked from above. Lily looked up to see an old woman with blue-tinted hair looking over the scabby fence at her. Old Lady Blue. No one in town knew her actual name, only her initials, T.C.B. She’d moved into the stone cottage before Lily had been born and never left. Old Lady Blue didn’t visit the grocery store, didn’t drive, and didn’t socialize. Lily blinked, realizing that not only was the reclusive woman outside, but she’d spoken. “Lily, are you all right?”
Lily gasped in fear. Old Lady Blue knew her name.
“I’m fine…” Lily answered tentatively, her fear of the mysterious woman at war with her curiosity toward the old lady.
“You should come in and let me bandage that knee. You’ll bleed all over the place if you don’t.” Old Lady Blue frowned. She brought her long, graceful hands up and wrapped them around her blue-tinted hair, pulling the long mass from her face. Lily looked around, searching for an escape, her heart racing in panic.
“I don’t bite,” Old Lady Blue murmured, her silver eyes downcast and knowing. “I don’t want to harm you, Lily. Now, up you get, you need a bandage.”
Lily stood slowly, her eyes wide as she wondered how Old Lady Blue knew her name and, worse yet, knew what she was thinking. Lily’s knee throbbed painfully as she stepped gingerly toward her bike, pulling it upright. Maybe if she just got on the bike and left…
Old Lady Blue opened the gate, the wood swinging outward, effectively blocking Lily’s escape. Curiosity continued to war with Lily’s certainty that only horrors awaited her inside the woman’s cottage as she limped into the yard, leaning her bike on the inside of the fence. Slowly, with Old Lady Blue following, Lily hobbled to the screen door. The old woman reached around her and opened the door, gently pushing Lily into the dim house.
Lily shuffled nervously to the left, into the sparsely furnished living room. She looked around and froze, a gasp catching in her chest, her blue eyes wide. Bookshelves lined one wall, all of which were overflowing with books, one of which was full of nothing but copies of every single Adventures of Casey Bean book. Pictures of a young girl who looked exactly like Lily envisioned Casey Bean adorned another wall. Items that Lily had read about in the Casey Bean books littered the room, from the character’s favorite pillow to a jeweled dagger that Casey used in one of the books.
“Have a seat,” Old Lady Blue jolted Lily from her shocked daze. She pointed to a low ottoman then went to a cabinet that had Casey Bean’s rucksack on it. Lily sank to the ottoman, gaping as she continued to stare around the room. She looked down when Old Lady Blue knelt before her and pulled her leg out.
“This may sting a little,” Old Lady Blue warned softly. Lily nodded and bit her cheek when the woman dabbed at her knee with antiseptic.
“How do you know my name?” Lily finally asked.
“I know everyone here,” the woman replied cryptically.
“Are you a witch?”
“No, dear, I’m an author.”
Lily frowned in confusion and Old Lady Blue chuckled.
“I was born and raised here in Barton. I left for a spell.” The woman explained. “I came home after I lost my daughter. I wanted to live where I could be left alone. People hurt too much.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Lily scowled.
“In another life, I was famous. When my daughter died, people said and did horrible things and I didn’t want to be around that anymore. You can call me Mrs. Bean, by the way.”
Lily’s confusion grew even as the craziest of thoughts occurred to her.
“Mrs. Bean?” Lily questioned cautiously.
“Because you like the Adventures of Casey Bean books too much?”
At this, Mrs. Bean laughed brightly.
“No, dear. Casey Bean was my daughter.” Mrs. Bean replied, looking at Lily expectantly as she put a large bandage over the raw scrape on Lily’s knee.
“Your… your… daughter?” Lily breathed, comprehension dawning. “You’re Tony Bart?”
“The one and only. But it’s a secret. I like my privacy and if it gets out…” Mrs. Bean smiled conspiratorially.
“Wow,” Lily gaped. “Your books are my favorite… wow.”
“Thank you. Will you keep my secret?”
“Yes. Will you keep writing Casey Bean?”
“Until I have no breath left,” Mrs. Bean smiled and winked. “I think, Lily, that you and I will be good friends… in secret.