“That doesn’t look like a cave.” Anya laughed lightly at Deanna’s drawing.
Deanna scrutinized her picture. It looked fine to her; there really wasn’t much to drawing a gaping hole. “What do you mean? It has all the natural elements of a cave! It’s dark, mysterious, foreboding.”
“Clearly you don’t know much about caves.” Anya had a way of smiling that made you think she had an agenda. “I mean, have you ever been to a cave?”
“I don’t like the way you said ‘been’. It was very cave-like.”
Anya just smiled back adventurously. “Would you like to go to a cave?” The gleam in her eye was familiar somehow.
When Anya arrived half-way through the school year, novelty singled her out like a plague. But Deanna befriended her. Anya reminded Deanna of someone she’d always wanted to be friends with. They’d become fast friends actually. Inside the halls of school they were rarely separated. They sat together at lunch, walked together in the hallways, and passed each other notes in class.
She just wasn’t sure if Anya would remain her friend if she found out how truly boring she was. After all, caves? When Deanna invited her new friend over after school, her intended plans for a fun afternoon were spoiled immediately by storm clouds. So it was Anya’s idea to draw.
But caves? Of all the things to do on a rainy Friday, Anya wanted to draw caves. Deanna went with it. But to actually explore a cave, now that didn’t sound safe. A little too adventurous. A little too un-ordinary. Very un-Deanna.
“I really don’t think that’s a good idea. And—and there aren’t any caves around here.” Deanna’s nervous chuckle escaped even though she tried to hide it.
“Have you no sense of adventure?” Anya smirked as she picked up her own drawing and handed it to Deanna.
“Not really, no.” She managed a start of a smile, but when her eyes fell on Anya’s drawing it melted. She looked up from it too quickly, surprise evident on her face. “Where did you get this?”
“I drew it.” Anya said casually.
“Yes.” Anya shifted to her knees and her crisp, green eyes met Deanna’s. “I did. Right here, in front of you.”
Deanna didn’t know what to say.
“Deanna, I need your help.”
“Help? What for?” She asked confused. Something in Anya’s carefree face suggested urgency.
“Drawing might not be something you’re that great at.” Anya let the agenda smile lighten her face again, but only slightly. “But painting pictures, I think, with a different tool? Words perhaps? Now that might be your forte.”
Deanna let the drawing slip from her fingers and she nearly shivered under Anya’s green gaze. “Words?” She choked.
Yes, Anya looked familiar. Too familiar. If you took away the white button-up shirt and fade blue jeans and dressed her in that patchwork blouse, those brown breeches she’d stolen from her brother, and put that heavy amulet around her neck, the one with the intricate carving of the dragon…
“We miss your father too.” Anya pulled Deanna from her thoughts; her face turned sympathetic. She unbuttoned the collar of her white shirt and Deanna’s breath caught. The amulet.
Deanna’s blood went cold and she stood; she took a step back from whomever it was that knelt on her bedroom floor. But Anya is such a common name, isn’t it?
Anya rose. Her eyes were pleading. “I think you can finish where he left off.”
Deanna drew away sharply. Whatever kind of joke this was, it wasn’t funny. Anger bubbled up causing her to fight unfriendly tears. This was the meanest trick anyone had ever played on her.
“I don’t know how you’re doing this—but this is wrong—I can’t,” Deanna paused to let her shaking voice steady. “I need you to leave.”
“Deanna, no, don’t banish me! It was hard for me to come here.”
“You’re not welcome here!”
Anya looked as if she would utter a curse, instead pleading words poured out of her mouth, “Since you don’t wish me to stay I have to go, but please, please Deanna. You’re the only one who can help us. You are the only one who can finish this. Right now our world is in peril. Since your father left it’s been stuck that way. We need your help.”
Deanna watched in horror as Anya faded! A girl of flesh and bone was dissolving into nothing. Into air!
“You’re the only one that knows us well enough Deanna, you’re the only one that will listen to us!” She was nothing but a dim refection now. “You know where to find me.”
Deanna could do nothing but stare at the empty space in front of her. She sank onto her bed. There was no explanation for what just happened. If her father had gone crazy before he died she might at least have some scientific backing for this, but he hadn’t. It had been cancer.
Deanna’s eyes fell on her bedroom floor; on Anya’s drawing. It was the very same. Her father’s cave.
Deanna sneaked out of her room, slipped down the hall, and carefully lowered the door to the attic.
The heavy scent of must descended from the unused room. She climbed the stairs, letting the hotter air welcome her into what had been her father’s study. She found herself drawn to the small circular window at the apex of the house and nestled there, beside the box. She blew the dust shards off the lid and slid the cardboard top off. It was still inside.
The paper was slightly yellowed with age, the typing a lighter gray, but still readable. She lifted it carefully from the box and held it on her lap like she used to when she read it while he was alive. He’d let her. He’d called her his little editor.
She ran her fingers across the crinkled page. It was beautiful. Her father’s words. Her father’s imagination. Her father’s livelihood poured into paper that her mother had banished the moment he died.
It had always been so real to Deanna. The drawing on the first page looked uncannily like Anya’s picture. Underneath it, in fancy letterhead, the title was printed in all caps. Deanna’s finger slid over the two small words: THE CAVE.
Maybe she could finish it. If Anya helped her.