Authors: Linnea May
Lesley is standing next to me, stretching herself in an attempt to figure out how fast the waiting queue in front of us is moving. Getting an overview of her surroundings has never been an easy task for Lesley, who is significantly shorter than me and constantly cursing her little stature.
But today, she is especially annoyed and on edge. Unlike me, she has been looking forward to this event for weeks, months even.
And she is not the only one.
It is ridiculously crowded. We are pushed left and right, mostly by women. There are a few men around, but their number is negligent to the massive amount of women who have shown up for tonight. Quite a few of them are about the same age as us, but I also spot a lot of middle-aged women, some of them accompanied by their husbands. But most have shown up in little groups of friends, nervously chatting and giggling as they endure the wait.
All of them appear to be just as excited as Lesley. Full of anticipation and impatience, stretching and jumping up and down as if that would cause the waiting queue to move faster.
"Ugh, this is taking forever!" Lesley complains next to me. "Can you see anything? Is it even moving forward? Are the doors open yet?"
I chuckle. "Don't worry, we have our reserved seats. It's all good. We'll get there soon enough - just like everyone else."
She frowns up at me. "Please! You're so much taller than me - what do you see?!"
I sigh. I hate being reminded of my height, especially when it is pointed out as beneficial for serving as a radar or scout.
But Lesley is right. It is much easier for me to assess the situation without jumping up and down and stretching my neck to the limit as she has been doing it for the past fifteen minutes.
I get on my tiptoes and take a quick look around for her sake.
"The doors are not open yet," I announce. "They haven't even started to let people in."
Lesley lets out a disappointed sigh.
"It's supposed to start in like..." she pauses and checks her wrist watch. "Ten minutes!"
I pointedly roll my eyes and laugh at her.
"Artists," I say. "They always need their fifteen minutes extra. To show how important they are. Such divas."
"Pf, you're just hating on him," Lesley snorts. "I don't think you're right. He strikes me as a punctual and reliable person."
I raise my right eyebrow and glance over to her. "Is he now?"
is Cedric Crow. One of the most successful and most popular fiction writers in the country.
And - I am sure - one of the richest. I don't know how he did it, because I could never get myself to finish one of his books due to lack of interest. But his works sell like hot cakes.
And he is young, too. At only 31 years old, he has already managed to achieve what most people can only dream of. I am pretty sure that his overwhelming success and fame can also be accounted to his young age and his admittedly attractive looks.
Lesley, one of his biggest fans, has tried her best to make me like him for months now. And that also included showing me a wide range of pictures and providing me with every little detail about his career development and private life. I don't know why she would think that these kind of details would cause me to be interested in him. All that should matter is his writing.
Of course, lending me a few of his books was her first move. He must have been writing like a maniac these past few years because there were so many to choose from. And of course, Lesley has them all.
His first title came out about five years ago, causing a big uproar because of his young age. A lot of critics praised his writing and his creativity, but also voiced their concern that he would be a one-hit wonder. He was too young to be taken fully seriously.
Many expected him to publish maybe one or two other books before he would vanish like many before him because the follow-ups would never be able to keep up with the giant success of his debut.
But they were wrong. That guy just kept publishing. And his success just grew bigger and bigger. He never rested on his laurels. I admire that. But I would never go as far as to say I admire him - or his books.
He writes mostly thrillers and suspense fiction that is - according to Lesley - "quite twisted" and shows an eerie understanding of the human psyche. I have never been an avid reader and especially not of this genre, so when Lesley handed me the first book of his to have a look, I was more than skeptical.
I started reading it for her sake. This has been the dynamic of our friendship since we first met at college. Lesley was a major in English literature, and I was enrolled on the other side of the campus in a completely different faculty, majoring in computer science and programming.
While our majors could not be further apart, we do share the love for sports. Running in particular. We met through a little group that called itself 'night owl runners', a workout group that never met before 10pm and enjoyed the dark and quiet of the night for their regular runs.
We got along right from the start, even though we are completely different people on so many levels. Lesley is short and petite, sporting beautiful black hair and unnaturally bright blue eyes that shine even more in contrast to her dark hair. She is quirky and pretty, and an absolute culture-nut. Be it movies, theater, art galleries, concerts or literature, she is into all sorts of things - and she has declared it her personal goal to share that world with me.
I, on the other hand, am tall and somehow awkward next to her. I have always been athletic and slim, but running appears to be my only passion. I never had a particular interest in anything, but I feel that having a friend like Lesley, who gets excited about so many things, has done me good.
She has dragged me to all kinds of events and galleries. Some of them - I must admit - bored me to tears, and I still don't get what people see in contemporary art and its alleged depth. But sometimes, I actually enjoyed myself, and I thanked her for introducing me to something new that would have never occurred to me if it hadn't been for her.
However, I have little hope for the event of tonight. Lesley has been raving about Cedric Crow forever - since he became famous, actually. And it bothers her to no end that I don't share this particular fancy of hers.
So when she found out that he is about to give one of his rare readings in our city, she immediately bought tickets for us without even asking me.
Despite that unexpected ambush, I did insist on paying for mine, as I know that Lesley's financial resources are smaller than mine are. An editing job at a small publishing company does not pay as well as the position I was able to land with my sought after programming skills.
Yet, I am sure that she would never want to change places with me. Unlike me, Lesley absolutely adores her job and the world she works and lives in. I might make a little more money than she does, but I don't cherish what I do. It is practical but dull.
Then again, there is very little in this world that I cherish. If anything, I am happy to be influenced by the blinding sparks that surround a spirit like Lesley, whose eyes are beaming with excitement as she notices the crowd around us moving.
"Oh my god," she gasps. "Something's moving!"
I chuckle and stretch myself a little to see whether the doors ahead of us have finally been opened.
And indeed, they have. The crowd starts shifting and shoving around us, and I can hardly hold on to my tiny friend next to me as we are being pushed forward, closing in on the giant hall that will change my life.
Our seats are excellent. Lesley's determination certainly pays off.
Her happy grin widens as we take our seats in the third row, right in the middle in front of the two chairs that will seat Cedric Crow and the interviewer for tonight. The center aisle is only two seats next to us. Really, the seats could hardly be any better, especially considering the giant size of the venue that easily holds a few thousand people.
I turn around and browse through the hall. It quickly fills up as people are taking their seats. As far as I can tell, there are not many free seats left. According to Lesley, it has been sold out for weeks.
"Wow!" Lesley exclaims, with her eyes still beaming. She stares at the stage in front of us, and my eyes follow hers.
There is a simple desk further on the right side of the stage, which is probably where he will conduct his reading before the interview starts. A lonely bottle of water and a glass are waiting for their use along with a little reading light - which strikes me as weird as the entire stage is brightly lit already.
"Gotta say, great seats," I say. "He can spit at us from up there if he feels like it."
Lesley rolls her eyes and frowns at me. "Stop it with the sarcastic comments already. Who knows, you might actually like it!"
I shrug. "Sure. Maybe."
"At least from here you'll get a good view of him," she adds and winks at me. "He really is gorgeous. Even if you don't like his writing, maybe you could just enjoy devouring the sight of a beautiful man directly in front of you. I mean, it has been a while, right?"
She casts an evil and knowing grin in my direction. Lesley is well aware that my love life has been non-existent lately. Well, for months and years actually. The few flings I have had in between could never measure up with the happy and healthy long term relationship that Lesley is in.
Especially in the eyes of my parents, who have been waiting for that one liberating call for years. The call that would finally tell them: "Yes, I have met him. I have met
and I am going to marry him."
What they get instead are barely any calls to begin with, which also grinds their gears and causes a series of complaints every time we do talk. Luckily, they live on the other side of the country, so I don't have to deal with their disappointment face to face very often. And they can trust in my younger sister to fulfill all those expectations. She has done everything right, met the perfect guy in college, married young, built a house just a few minutes away from my parent's house and will most likely get pregnant any day now.
I, on the other hand, moved all the way to the East Coast, chose a major and then a job they don't understand and never even introduced a boyfriend to them. It's just a matter of time until they assume I might be gay, I am sure.
I wouldn't say I am jealous of Lesley, especially since I don't understand what she sees in her boyfriend, who is nice and courteous, but tame. He is good looking, but so incredibly average and spineless with everything he does. A man like him would bore me to tears.
But Lesley is happy. Very happy. And I am little envious of that.
Life would be so much easier and nicer if I wasn't constantly bored by everything and everyone.
I return her cheeky grin with an exaggeratedly condescending smile. "Whatever."
"Oh," she beams. "Your trademark answer!"
Before I can reply, Lesley hushes me as the lights dim.
A murmur goes through the crowd as the hall darkens around us. The chattering slowly fades away and is replaced by people hushing each other. Nervous breathes and the obligatory couching that always cuts into the silence of a crowd.
It appears as if the organizers are just waiting for the crowd to calm down completely before turning on the spotlight that illuminates the stages. Squeaks of joy and excitement accompany the dramatic gesture, shortly followed by applause when the interviewer steps onto the stage.
He is a literature critic and rather well known - at least to people like Lesley. I have never heard of him before, let alone read any of his reviews.
He does look like the typical literature geek, though. An average sized man with unkempt hair and ridiculously big glasses. Despite tonight being a huge public event, he looks as if he just randomly picked anything from his closet that could go as 'formal suit' without paying attention to its fit. The pants are slightly too long, and the jacket sits comically large on his narrow shoulders.
He is standing directly in front of us, between the two armchairs, waiting for the crowd to calm down.
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen," he yells when the applause finally fades. "A full house! That does not happen often in these halls - especially when it's just two book nerds talking on stage."
The crowd grants him a little laugh out of courtesy. At least that is what I believe. They can't possibly think that he was funny?
"But of course, we all know that's not exactly what's happening here tonight," he continues. "It's one book nerd, talking to the bestseller sensation that is Cedric Crow!"
He is greeted with cheers and applause again while I am trying my best to not roll my eyes too obviously.
After all, with how close I am sitting, he might actually be able to see it, and I don't want to make him feel uncomfortable. He is just doing his job. And he does not look like someone to whom these kind of things come easy.
He continues by summarizing the success story of Cedric Crow, listing his most famous books and dropping the numbers of copies that he has sold and how high his titles have ranked on certain bestseller lists.
With each sentence and each appreciative feedback he receives from the crowd, one can see him becoming more comfortable on stage. He starts walking up and down the stage, using his hands more and more to emphasize what he is saying and delivering his obviously well thought through jokes with more confidence.
Through the entire welcoming speech, the crowd is glued to his lips. I glance over to Lesley, who is so taken in that she barely acknowledges my existence.
I smile as I turn around to look back up at the stage. Okay, her excitement is contagious. Now even I am curious for the ominous Mr. Crow to finally step onto the stage.
The interviewer appears to come to an end of his introductory words and is ready to free the crowd of their anticipation.
He stops his pacing and reaches his left arm out in a welcoming gesture to the side at the back of the stage.
"Now, the man we have all been waiting for," he closes. "Mr. Cedric Crow!"