The pair now sat on one of the sofas, sipping hot chocolate as Sarah – or Kaylie – explained everything to a dumbstruck Ashley.
“Fame had gone to your head,” she told Ashley. “Whenever I called you, whether it was for some support or if it was genuinely to see how you were doing, you would just go on and on about yourself and the book you were writing next and the people you had met. It was like I didn’t matter at all. When my mother finally died, you didn’t even have the decency to turn up for the funeral and support me.”
“Surely I was doing something important,” Ashley suggested defensively. “I wouldn’t have just not turned up.”
“You were at a party with some of your new friends.”
She winced at that. “Oh,” she said quietly.
“Yeah. Oh.” There was a long pause. “It took a few years for me to really lose my patience with you, but it happened. I was reading the acknowledgements for your books and the only one that mentioned me was your very first book. It just caused something inside me to snap. I was so low, I was struggling to hold down a job, and you were cutting the rope that was our friendship. I really just…snapped.
“My friend, Roddy, had been studying the ways of time travel for quite some time, so I knew how I was going to change things in the past to sort it out and possibly make things easier for the me who was yet to go through losing her mum. I waited for nine years, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Sarah took a sip of her hot chocolate. “As I see it, you have two choices,” she said, “and depending on the one you choose I can either make or break you. Don’t make me break you.”
Ashley nodded before draining her mug. “You’re right,” she said, “and I’m so sorry for how I – the future me – treated you. I really am.” She got up. “I’ll sort this.”
Sarah watched as Ashley walked out of her office with a smile on her face. For some reason, she believed her.
Ten months later
The copies in her hands were something she never thought possible. Sure, it had once been a dream of hers once upon a time, but she never in a million years believed it to become a reality. Now here she stood with a box of the first batch of what she just knew was going to be a huge success amongst readers her age. Yes, she was certainly going to be busy once her new career took off.
She smiled as she took in the brightly coloured front cover. ‘The Adventures of Kid: Unlocked’ Episode 1. Written by Ashley Davies. Illustrated by Kaylie Evans. Drawing comic strips had merely been a hobby to pass the time at school initially, but Ashley came up with the idea for them to start their own comic and the ideas came flowing out of her like never before. She wasn’t sure why Ashley had suddenly decided for them to work on this project together, but she appreciated it. It was a nice change from her panicking about what she was going to do with her life while her best friend excelled, leaving her behind. She liked the new Ashley.
She often wondered if it had something to do with those Sarah Hawkes books for this change in Ashley but she never asked. Besides, Ashley had a book that was in the middle of the publishing process now so all was good.
Her train of thought was interrupted by her phone ringing. Ashley.
“They have? That’s great! Are you at home now?”
“Yeah I am,” Kaylie replied. “Where are you?”
“I’m just going through some finishing touches on the book with my editor, and then I’ll be right with you. We’re nearly done; I’ll be there in about fifteen, okay?”
“That’s fine. How’s it going?”
“We’re very optimistic, let’s just say that.”
Kaylie smiled into the phone. “You deserve this, Ashley.”
“And you deserve this. I’ll see you soon.”
Hanging up, Kaylie couldn’t stop grinning. Life was looking up. She and Ashley were closer than ever before and her career was now taking off. Everything was looking up. Well…nearly everything.
“How’s your mum?” Ashley asked when she came in.
Kaylie sighed. “Not good. She’s always sleeping these days. The doctors have said there’s not much else they can do for her. It’s not looking good.”
“It’s hardly your fault.”
“Just know that I’m here for you. No matter what. Okay?”
Kaylie smiled. “Of course,” she said.
“I mean it,” Ashley vowed. “You’re my best friend. I’m not going to let you go through this on your own.”
“Well, that’s all I needed to know.”
They hugged. “Now come on,” Ashley said with an encouraging pat on the back, “let’s get to work on episode 2. I have loads of ideas for how Kid can escape those cells.”
It was difficult for Kaylie to not smile despite her mother’s condition. She had a true friend in Ashley, and she knew that she could get through anything with her for support.
She paused a moment as Ashley went into the dining room before taking a letter out of her pocket. The creases were enough to prove that she perhaps knew what the letter said word for word, yet it was still some comfort to have it with her at all times. The generous stranger had also attached a cheque for £75,000 for her to “use to your greatest advantage”.
This, right here, was to her advantage.