CONTAINS SPOILERS! DON’T READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THIRTY NIGHTS.
Ani: (enters undisclosed location and knocks on undisclosed door. Benson opens it.)
Ani: Hey –
JB: I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU HAVE THE NERVE TO SHOW YOUR FACE HERE!
Ani: Umm… Benson, I –
JB: That’s Mr. Benson to you.
Ani: Mr.? Since when are you a Mr.?
JB: Since you darkened this doorstep with your tar-black soul.
Ani: Tar-black? I go for gray usually. You know, try to keep a low profile.
JB: (flares nostrils, fists hands to the side, steps out, and hovers half-an-inch from my face, hissing through his teeth. Mental note: Dragonosis is contagious.) DO YOU THINK I WILL SPARE YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE A WOMAN? IN NAME ONLY.
Ani: Hey, that’s harsh. I’m on my period. Which means I am a woman. And if you kill me, you will all remain in your current state of hell unless someone writes a fan fiction on you.
JB: A fan-what? IS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE SOME KIND OF A THREAT?
Ani: You’re damn right. Now I have readers with a million questions. Are you going to let me in or not? (taps foot, which in reality is trembling.)
Ani: Fine, I’m calling Aiden. (pulls out ancient cell phone and dials super-secret number. It rings…. and rings…. and rings….finally, Aiden picks up.)
AH: You better be calling to tell me the sequel is finished and it has only five words: ”She lived happily ever after.”
Ani: No. I’m calling because your asshole security guard won’t agree to be interviewed by my readers. And if they don’t get their answers, you get no sequel. Period. And I mean that literally.
AH: NO. PUNS.
Ani: Well, then you tell Benson to let me in.
AH: (growls something that may or may not mean “let me talk to talk to him”)
Ani: (passes derelict phone to Dragon No. 2.) Aiden wants to talk to you.
JB: (takes the phone from my hand with look of disgust on his face.) Sir?… Weapons? No, just that fucked-up brain of hers… (presses lips together)… This woman needs to be committed, Sir. Who the fuck knows what she will write next…She is wearing flannel pajamas and is mumbling about “lilies on a grave”… I don’t know what that means… Respectfully Sir, this is Jane Doe to the Nth Degree. At least with Jane Doe, we know she has an obsession with Marine uniforms soaked in blood. With this one, we could end up hookers harvested for internal organs. I don’t trust her. I suggest immediate termination of target…(glares at me with flared nostrils)… Are you sure, Sir?… Not even in her drink?… Yes, Sir. (hangs up, hands me the phone).
Ani: What’s that part about the drink? You’re making me nervous.
JB: (smiles like Hannibal Lecter). Let me show you. Would you like to make yourself at home and have a nice cup of hot chocolate?
Ani: (shakes in fear). I will come in but no to the chocolate. I hear arsenic is really bad for you.
JB: (lets me in, follows like a shadow to an undisclosed sitting area, and sits at the edge of a chair.) Your questions.
Ani: I need Cora around. You know… as a witness.
JB: (laughs in mirth). If you think Cora will save you, be my guest. I’ll call her.
Ani: (squares shoulders in a manner befitting her role as a creator). No need. I can summon her with my mind. Voila! (Cora appears next to Benson).
CD: (starts running towards me) HOW DARE YOU SHOW UP HERE? (JB restrains her from her waist and pleads with her to sit down because Mr. Hale said so. CD sits next to JB, breathing hard.)
Ani: (straightens her pajamas) Right. Calm down both of you. I know what you think, it’s all in my head. So just sit down and answer the readers’ questions.
JB and CD: (finally shut their mouths and glare at me with poisonous eyes, waiting.)
Ani: Benson, Aiden said in his interview that you are undoing dirty deeds. What does that mean?
JB: It means I am trying to help him right four wrongs.
Ani: Four? By whom?
JB: By your sick, twisted brain.
CD: (grips Benson’s arm and whispers). Benson, please! Be careful. She can send us to Siberia and then we can’t help at all.
JB: (turns to her) Careful? Cora, for the love of God, when was the last time you saw Mr. Hale eat? Or sleep? I’ve had to sit up with him every night since Isa left. You know what happens at night. You’ve seen it!
CD: I know. I know. But she can make things worse. Just answer her questions so she can leave.
Ani: You know I can hear you.
JB: Do we look like we give a fuck?
Ani: You should. Now what do you mean by what happens at night? I have readers who worry that Aiden will hurt himself.
JB and CD: Over our dead bodies.
Ani: Is he sleeping?
JB: (sighs) Barely. And when he does, he can’t wake up. His dreams are different. Violent like the ones about the war but all the violence is inwards… I don’t know how to explain it.
Ani: Is Corbin around? I know Isa called him before she left.
JB: He practically lives with us now. Happy?
Ani: Not particularly. What about Aiden’s parents? Do they know?
CD: (looks down, twisting her fingers). Not yet. They… they only know that they needed to come home.
Ani: Who told them?
CD: (swallows, looking guilty) I did.
Ani: Cora, why?
JB: Don’t you dare talk to Cora that way!
CD: Mrs. Hale called me. She had been trying to reach Mr. Hale’s cell and the house phone for days. She was besides herself with worry. I didn’t tell her anything but she asked me point blank, ‘Do I need to come home for my son?’ And I only said ‘He misses you.’ Next thing I knew, they had boarded a plane. (starts tearing up, wiping her tears with a napkin.)
JB: (glares at me) See what you did?
Ani: Sorry Cora. I know you don’t believe me but I have a plan. Benson, does Aiden know his letters are gone?
JB: What do you think, genius?
CD: Benson please!
JB: Fine. Yes, he knows.
Ani: Was he angry?
JB: Angry is an understatement. But not because she has them. He said they were always hers. I don’t know what the letters say but I think he was angry that I imposed their burden on her. But thankfully for my job, he understood my intentions.
Ani: What were your intentions?
JB: (sighs again) I am not allowed to talk about this. I can only say that I knew the truth and I knew she would leave him. I suppose I hoped that the letters would ease the pain for her. And eventually for him.
Ani: When did you write your note to Isa?
JB: When Ms. Petras showed up to pick up Isa’s things.
Ani: You seemed shocked that Isa was leaving for England.
JB: (puts his face in his hands and rubs his eyes hard). Nothing could have prepared me for it. Or Mr. Hale. In all his plans, that was one thing he did not account for. I suspect part of the reason I am not dead for letting her go is his shock. That, and the other Marines of course. But how were we supposed to know? She is selfless, yes, but she had worked so hard for that green card. It was all she wanted. How could anyone have predicted she would sacrifice it in an instant for the Solis’s?
CD: I’m not sure it was only for the Solis’s. I think even if they were wealthy and Mr. Hale still reported Javier, she would have left. I think America started to mean both Mr. Hale and Javier to her. Either loss, let alone both, would have destroyed the dream. I think that’s why she left in the end. Like she said to Benson, if she was going to be homeless, there was only one place for her. England.
JB and CD: (stop talking, their eyes glued to their feet. Benson looks up.) Any other questions?
Ani: Not for now. I’m sure we’ll talk again soon.
JB: Don’t bet on it. Now leave or so help me God, I will write that sequel myself and it will end with a wedding and sixteen children.
CD: And your painful death.