Chapter 51: ILONA and the WRITER ACT IV of V of A FAREWELL TO GRADE FIVE
“Look at these numbers! Look at these numbers!” Susan shouts excitedly, almost loud enough for the entire schoolyard to hear. “These are amazing numbers!”
Collette, looking over Susan’s shoulder at the laptop screen, smiles. “That is very impressive, very impressive.”
Ilona glances at her friends, Susan and Collette and Luke, who are sitting as a trio with their backs against the wall during this lunch hour. She eyes with happiness the cute hand holding Collette and Luke are engaged in, and how with his free hand her Biscuit is catching up by reading Harry Potter finally.
“I know! My new ending for Lost is a really big hit!” Susan exclaims yet again.
“And,” Collette asks, “what about your numbers?”
Susan smiles triumphantly. “22,300 hits! 42 votes! 52 comments! All the internet loves me! I am amazing and incredible and fantastic and sensational and–”
“And rightly very happy,” Collette interrupts, “and rightly very sad.”
Susan glares at Collette, than changes to an unhappy face.
“Am I that obvious?” she says.
“Yes,” Collette confirms. “You are very very proud of your accomplishments online, as well you should be, but with so many great wins, some defeats are sprinkled in. And Samantha having gone back to Los Angeles last week is not really a defeat, but I am sure it feels like one, which is why you have been so loud lately. Now remember, you two are still Cupcake and Muffin, forever and forever, and I am sure tonight will be another marathon skype session for the two of you.” Collette pinches Susan’s cheek. “All shall be fine young Jedi.”
Luke puts down Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, flips to the next page, and picks the book up again. “Shortcake, sometimes you sound like Dumbledore, and sometimes you sound like my oldest sister Kimberly. It’s kind of cool and scary all at the same time.”
Susan stage whispers to Collette. “I thought Biscuit already read Harry Potter?”
Collette grins back. “Nope! He’s only seen the movies, but he tried to pretend for the longest time that he had read them. He was so cute when I caught him out.”
“You didn’t figure it,” Luke states while reading, “Kimberly and April gleefully told you.”
“He likes to think that,” Collette giggles, “Biscuit is scrumptious like that.”
“Scrumptious?” Ilona echoes from her vantage point only a meter or so away. “Really? Even Cupcake and Muffin never said scrumptious. Even I never said scrumptious.”
“That’s because,” Cynthia says, “Clara and Maddie never thought of giving you and Jackson a shipping name. One does tend to lead to another.” Ilona starts to shake her head, but stops, remembering she is still holding Cynthia’s laptop, as the two sit on the ground nearby the wall.
“Now then,” Cynthia states while clicking away, “I am pulling a Clara and have almost fifty tabs open on my browser, all to try track the majesty of the Trident movie.”
“And… ?” Susan pipes in.
“It has already made $900 million and keeps going strong, and virtually all the reviews love it. It looks like the movie based on the book with the man with the trident on the cover is destined to become a modern classic.”
A cheer erupts from the five of them, with Luke thrusting his book into the air in jubilation.
“And we have a comment on our latest Clara’s Corner,” Cynthia merrily continues on her report, “or as its official name is: Operation Clara’s Corner Trident Movie Edition.” She sounds even prouder then usual, Ilona thinks. “The viewer who asked us the question about friendship has gotten back in touch with us.” Everyone’s ears perk up at this. “She says that she disobeyed her other friends and went and talked about books to several other girls in her school, the ones considered minorities. She gained five new friends and lost three old friends.”
“Those three friends she lost,” Susan states firmly, “weren’t real friends at all were they?”
“Nope!” Collette agrees.
Ilona sees some sadness in Cynthia’s eyes as she replies. “Unfortunately, I have to agree. I was hoping for a better result here, but I shall leave a comment congratulating her on embarking on a new life.” Cynthia begins typing away, with her eyes trying to seem hopeful now, Ilona notices.
Collette jumps in now, airily asking, “So speaking of friends…” Ilona glances at her friend and can see the concerned look she has for Cynthia. “This last week has been one long skype session for Cecily. I am pretty sure she has been on every night with each of us for quite some time.” Collette sends a smile to Cynthia. “I love chatting with her all the time now. Hearing stories about her cousins, what Vancouver is like, and all about her new school. All lovely and interesting and-”
“Scrumptious?” Susan shoots in.
“I will hunt you down with a trident,” Collette points in mock anger.
Cynthia finishing typing and grins at Collette. “Thank you Collette. You know how much I hate bad news like that. And this girl losing friends for no reason certainly qualifies.” She happily sighs. “As for Cecily, it is wonderful to talk to her again. And to find out her silence was only because her cousins wanted her to adjust to her new life, that was nice and good as well.”
“And… ?” Ilona asks, mimicking Susan from minutes ago.
Cynthia grins at Ilona. “Okay, now you too?”
“Your back is not against the wall,” Ilona tilts her head as she recites her mental list, “you have me hold your laptop, and for someone who dislikes multi-tasking, you have seventy-five tabs open on your Browser.”
“Only fifty,” Cynthia smiles back.
“Whatever and nice try,” Ilona tilts her head to the other side, “We all know why you are so worried. Cara is meeting her father today, for the first time in forever. You are nervous, I am nervous, we all are nervous. And, most importantly, Cara and her dad are nervous.” She straightens her head and leans slightly forward. “But you know what Cynthia? I am also remarkably relaxed all because I have faith everything is going to be alright.” Ilona reaches one hand across and touches Cynthia’s shoulder. “And Cara’s new life will be alright.”
Cynthia takes Ilona’s hand and gently kisses her fingertips. “I know that, deep down I do. And Cara is still planning to stay with us for the foreseeable future, till her father rebuilds his life.” She kisses Ilona’s fingertips again and laughs. “And when did you become the teacher?”
“Somewhen between now and then,” Ilona rolls her eyes in reply, laughing.
“Bacon!” Clara shouts from her perch atop Madison’s back as her friend runs up. “Bacon!” Madison shouts out as well, a full second later.
“Have you two completed your insane journey all around the schoolyard?” Collette chuckles.
“Twice!” Clara replies. “We spread the love of bacon to one and all.”
“A bacon app, that should be my next project.”
All heads snap around to Cara, who very casually strolls up to her friends.
Cynthia bounds off the ground and Ilona folds the laptop up and starts to stand, before Cara waves for her to stop.
“Everyone sit down and relax. And in Clara’s and Maddie’s case, don’t dismount,” Cara giggles. “As for what everyone and their pets are wondering, it went well.” A huge smile spreads all across her beaming face. “It went really really well. I think I met my father for the first time for real today. I think… I now have a family.”
Cynthia is bursting from holding back, gives in, and plunges into a hug with Cara, almost knocking her friend off her feet.
“Very tight,” Cara wheezes out, “maybe stopped breathing…”
“Sorry,” Cynthia says as she lets go, “just really happy when things work out.”
“Well duh,” Clara and Madison say in unison.
“That was a good duh,” Collette and Susan also say in unison.
Everyone laughs but Luke, who puts his book down, and surveys them all with fake disdain. “Honestly, how does anyone get any reading done around her? And why is Snape such a jerk?”
A spirited debate of the who of Severus Snape, and the why of his actions breaks out, often interrupted by the exclamation of “Bacon!” ringing out to the world. This quickly morphs into a further discussion of how the meeting went between Cara and her dad, and talking about what happened before and where do they go from here. All signs for Cara points to hope, which is obvious to all. By the time the school bell goes off, they all scramble back into SummerFall with much happiness in the air.
The afternoon classes whiz by without incident, all because Mr. Micheals is still trying to be a better human. While his chalk flipping is still cringe worthy, Ilona could see an improvement. Susan was getting along better with him as well, even cracking a smile when he complimented her late in the day. After school, more talk of the events at lunch time banged about, with no one having the guts to ask where the new catchphrase of “Bacon!” came from.
Soon Ilona was heading home and getting excited for reading more of her latest conquest, Zen and the Art of Writing. As Ilona enters her apartment building, she gets the mail from the box in the lobby and shoves it all under her arm as she marches up the stairs and enters her domain. Plopping it all down on the kitchen table, she sorts through the pile at superspeed. A bill, some flyers, a notice from the building about some maintenance, a letter addressed to Ilona.
She stops. She stares.
A letter addressed to Ilona.
She picks it up and examines her name of the large white envelope, squints at it, and even mouths the words aloud. This is a letter to her. But who sent it?
Racing her eyes, she sees the return address is for a New York City publisher. The same publisher whom she sent the letter to months ago. The same letter she sent to the writer of the book with the man with the trident on the cover.
And now she has in her hands a return letter. From the writer? That question and a million more slam through Ilona’s mind.
A chill vibrates up her spine, and the world switches to slow motion as she slides her finger under one corner of the envelope and starts tearing carefully, all to preserve the vessel of their reply. Fretful seconds later, it is open, and Ilona slides down into her chair at the kitchen table. Two pieces of paper greet her, one flat, one folded, and her eyes hit the top sheet first. Because she sees the signature. It is the author’s. And her heart skips a beat.
Taking in a deep breathe and slowly closing and reopening her eyes, all to make sure the world is not playing tricks on her, Ilona takes in the letter one more fresh time.
And it is still real. With this truth now apart of her, Ilona finally lets the letter become alive in her soul. She zeroes in one the first word and Ilona starts to read.
Thank you so much for your letter! I am sorry I have not replied sooner, but with all the crazy craziness of the movie premiere and all the wackiness that entails, well, you get the picture.
As for your story, I thought it was wonderful! Here you were, a shy little girl who wanted so much more out of life, who changes into a nice bright articulate young lady with all these amazing friends. All because you had the courage to move your life forward! It is a true honour that my work was used as an instrument of growth. The way you describe it, my book became your passport to the wall.
For me, the truly gratifying part of your story is at the start, with your parents. They went out and got my book for you, all out of love for their sweet little kiddo. I love that nickname by the by. My parents used to call me “hey you!” and my baby brother “stop that!” and I bet you can guess why! But back to you, my wonderful friend Ilona, and your parents. Cherish them, because while some children, young, old, or grown-up, have a mother and father, you have a Mumma and a Poppa. That makes all the difference in the world. Trust me, I know this. Nothing Trident would have happened without the love and care and support of my mom and dad who listened to the endless stories that popped out of my head, sometimes for waaaay longer then sanity should allow. They sat, they smiled, they applauded, and they gave me the courage to start typing away every night, committing all my outlandish tales to paper. From those hundreds and hundreds of pages of inspired stories with heroines and villains and dashing dering do came the seed of what the world now knows as the Trident series.
With all that said, one of the reasons I am writing you back is to give you some of my older, seasoned, thoughts. I get tons of fan mail, but your letter did resonate with me. When I was a teen, back in ye olden days, I met a favourite author of mine, and he was, how do I put it mildly, a jerk. After that I made a vow to myself, that if I ever became an author, I would always strive to be kind and supportive to all who crossed my path on their journey. Just like Kron Garr does in every book.
What journey, I know you are asking that Ilona, you inquisitive ambitious reader you, am I talking about?
Your journey to becoming a writer.
The tale you told me, of you and your friends, was so beautifully done. Madison bargaining for snow? I was cheering her on! Susan’s quest for a new Lost ending? Enchanting! Clara defending Judy Blume? Praise be her name! Cynthia crying in the basement? Touching! Collette leading you to the art room? Very delightful! Cecily sticking her tongue out? Childlike merriment! All wrapped up by you, Ilona, living and chronicling it all. The ups and downs and all the shades inbetween. I loved reading it all and really want to experience more. More of the whirlwind of fun and learning and bashing through the realities of living. More of you.
Go on Ilona, enter the next journey of your new life. Complete your story. Just start at the start, than move forward. You deserve this happiness.
Remember chapter three of book two? Of course you do! So I throw the Gauntlet of Games down at your feet and challenge you. Write a book. Now. Take that souped up old laptop and start typing.
Now. I mean it Ilona. I will send the Horn of Gossamer after you if you don’t.
Can’t wait to read it!
Yours with much Love,
Nadia Raja Noor
The Rise of the Trident
The Release of the Trident
The Rebirth of the Trident
… and some really bad mopey poetry when I was a teenager.
P.S. I found your parent’s note inside my book very kind and funny. So yes, don’t forget your lunch!
P.P.S. I always find it weird when people refer to my first book as “the book with the man with the trident on the cover.” I think the internet started that up.
Ilona stares at the page. And stares. And reads it all again. And again. And stares.
A minute later, which is actually some hours later, Ilona barely hears the apartment door open and words, shouted somewhere behind her, sounding like her parents, strike her ears.
A motion beside her snaps Ilona away from the paper and she sees her mother, looking concerned, again saying something. She hands the letter to her mother, and somehow finally manages to open her mouth.
“Mumma, she sent me a letter. My friend Nadia wants me to be a writer.”
Reality reshapes and reforms as her mother takes the letter and reads it. Once silently, the second time aloud to Ilona’s father. For the first time in forever, Ilona can feel herself breathing again.
“Ilona,” her mother says, sitting next to her at the kitchen table, beaming happiness, “Nadia thinks you can be a great writer someday. And I think she’s right. So why not give it a try?”
“But I’m not a writer,” Ilona shouts, “I’m not Nadia or J.K. or Suzanne or Judy or Anne or Charles or Harper or Ray or Thornton or John or Douglas or Faith or Richard or Gordon or Veronica. That is not who I am.”
“And at one point,” her mother flips her fingers into Ilona’s hair, “They weren’t who they are now either. But they became something new.”
“Just like you did,” her father says, walking over and rubbing Ilona’s shoulder, “at this very same kitchen table months and months and months ago.”
Ilona glances from her parents, to the kitchen table where a million years ago she asked for a book, back to the letter still in her mother’s free hand.
“Maybe Nadia is right Mumma and Poppa,” Ilona finally smiles, sending a warm happy wave from her belly up her back, filling her soul with hope, “and maybe I should try.”
Song For This Chapter: Love… Thy Will Be Done by Martika
First serialization started on Friday, June 7th, 2013.