John sat at the kitchen table, swilling the last of his third martini.
“I’m leaving you! For good, this time!” exclaimed Cheryl in tears.
“What! I would never act that way!” declared John to his friend, Bob. No wonder Cheryl is leaving me; I’m a lush.”
“John, you know you can’t help your actions. You’re a character in Sharon Adams’ novels. So is Cheryl. “
“Sharon Adams’ schlock novels.”
“Sharon Adams’ lucrative schlock novels. “
“I don’t understand why they’re so popular,” John whined. Her characters are wooden and her plots totally predictable.”
“Sharon knows her audience. Steamy sex and intrigue is what they want, and Sharon always delivers. To date, she’s written eleven novels with you and Cheryl as main characters, and her public can never wait to get their hands on the next one. You know that, John. “
John sighed. “I wish Sharon Adams had never thought of me.
“Why do you say that?”
“Bob, you’re a real person, so you can’t know what it‘s like to be a fictional character wanting more than anything else in the world to break through to the other side.”
“Being a real human being is not all it’s cracked up to be. There are so many decisions you have to make, problems you have to deal with, mistakes you wish you could take back, but you can’t. You know, sometimes I wish I could be a character in a novel, just like you and Cheryl.”
“Don’t ever say that, Bob.”
“Because you know what it’s like to be free. I don’t.”
“Sometimes I think freedom is highly overrated.”
John stared at Bob. “ Do you know that in Adams’ last book alone, I cheated on Cheryl with two women, stole money from her bank account, and blamed her for a crime that I committed.”
Bob laughed. “Why you devil, John!” He paused. “But you see, that’s the beauty of being a character in a novel. You can’t control your actions, so no one can blame you for them. “
“But, damnit, I want to control my actions! He paused. And so does Cheryl.”
“How do you know that?”
“I … just do. I’ve been speaking with her lately. “ He blushed.
“You like her! You like Cheryl!”
“Well, after being with her for eleven novels, I can hardly help but like her. She’s a nice person. And pretty, too. “
“She’s a character, just like you are. And, just like you, she’s Sharon Adams’ slave.”
Bob looked down, and didn’t speak for some time. He regretted being so harsh on John, but facts had to be faced. After a time, he spoke again. “Look, pal, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t I call Cheryl to the house. Maybe I can come up with a plan for both of you. “
John brightened at that. “Sounds good to me. What time?”
“Midnight, of course. That’s when all the magic happens.”
They waited for what seemed an interminable amount of time, but finally, finally, the clock struck 12. The doorbell rang. Bob answered it. “Cheryl, come on in,” he said. “John’s been waiting for you.”
Cheryl came slowly, carefully, as if she were walking on eggshells. She glanced at John.
“Hi, John,” she said. She smiled.
“Hi, Cheryl. So it seems…
“It seems you’ve forgiven me for what I did in that last novel.”
Cheryl shrugged. “Well, I know you couldn’t help it.”
“Thanks, Cheryl, for understanding.”
She ran into his arms and gave him a great big hug. “I like you a lot better without that Adams bitch,” she said.
“I like me a lot better without that Adams bitch,” John agreed.
“Well, I’ll leave you two alone,” Bob said, and left the room.
John lit a candle and put it in the middle of the dinning room table. “I made us dinner.” And suddenly, there it was: grilled salmon filets with blackberry reduction, baked potatoes with sour cream, and a beautiful mesclun salad.
“I hope you like it.”
Cheryl gazed delightedly at what John had accomplished. “I love it! Did it take you all day to make?”
He laughed. “Like I have all day!”
They both sat down at an elegantly appointed table, and dug in. John thought conversation would be difficult without Adams putting words in both their mouths, but it was surprisingly easy; thoughts and ideas flowed smoothly from both of them. It was when they were having dessert, a chocolate soufflé with raspberry coulee, that Cheryl questioned what had been on both their minds.
“John, how are we doing this?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean. How are we walking, talking, cooking, eating, doing anything at all, without Sharon Adams pulling our strings?”
John sighed deeply. “I…I don’t know, Cheryl. I was kind of hoping it wouldn’t come up.”
“How could it not come up? It should be impossible for us to know that we exist at all.”
“I doesn’t make sense to me, either. I didn’t realize I was a character in a novel until this latest one of Adams. In it, she has me storming out the door because I couldn’t stand Cheryl’s nagging anymore. To my surprise, a man was standing at the other side of the door, wearing a t-shirt that read BOB, all caps.”
“Wait, was Bob the guy that let me in?”
“The very same. Actually, I almost forgot about him.”
“Come to think of it, something like that happened to me, too. In Adams’ last book, I was to leave for a work conference, when a man took me through a door I didn’t recognize, then disappeared. I thought it was all part of the story, but…
“I wonder where Bob is, anyway,” John said.
They walked to the kitchen, because they remembered that Bob had gone in that direction. Cheryl saw a scrap of paper on the floor, and picked it up. It was a note.
Dear Cheryl and John,
I’ve a lot to explain. I had also been a character in a novel, a long time ago. The title of the book is not important. I lied to you before, John, when I said that I’d rather be a character than a real human being. It’s true that a real human being does suffer in life, and is responsible for his or her actions. But when you’re truly human, you have a gift that’s too precious to want to take away-life! I treasure that gift with all my heart and soul. To this day, I don’t understand how I broke through from being a character to a person. I happened to go through a portal that looked strange, and suddenly I was free, and have been for many years. Over time, I have developed the ability to create portals to other dimensions just by staring at an ordinary door, wall or window hard enough. Since I like both you and Cheryl, I’m creating for you one of these magical portals.
Cheryl and John looked around the kitchen. Everything was pleasant and ordered. They gazed at the back door. It was pink and glowing.
“This must be the way!” Cheryl exclaimed.
“It’s a big step. I don’t know…
“C’mon, John. Of course it’s a big step, but if you think about it, we’re already halfway there. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be talking to each other right now. We wouldn’t be yearning for this. For each other. Without Adams’ interference.”
They kissed, long and passionately. John was sure, now. He wanted to be with Cheryl. He wanted to be fully human.
They went through the glowing door, and into a garden of delights. It was warm and sunny. They made love without fear, without shame. John and Cheryl planned out their lives together. They didn’t know if all their plans would come true, or even if any of them would, but it didn’t really matter, not then. They were grateful to be alive and together, and they silently thanked Bob for his help in letting them break through to life.
Article from the Daily Telegraph:
Sharon Adams, author of the wildly popular novels featuring Cheryl Spencer and John McDaniel, disappeared yesterday afternoon. Her whereabouts are unknown, but she is thought to be in hiding. One theory is that she is suffering from a nervous breakdown. A friend of Adams, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that lately she had expressed disgust for the characters she had created, and wanted to do away with them. Her public, however, wouldn’t allow her to do so. “I feel they have almost become real people and they’re taking over my life,” Adams said on more than one occasion.
We wish Sharon Adams the best, and that, wherever she is, she soon will enjoy a full recovery.