1. One summer day there were five companions enjoying one another’s company: Emma, Lindsay, Emily, Julie, and Bella.
All are in their early 20’s and still discovering the kind of women they want to be.
Emma is the workaholic who never stops coaching her students, logging in as many hours as possible to make extra money. She has desires.
This group of friends hangs out with each other. They protect one another. They watch fireworks together on the picnic grass at the park. They walk to a fancy restaurant together and reminisce about their school days. They leave the restaurant to window-shop at a nearby mall. While admiring a display of printed dresses, Emma realizes her purse is missing. Emma turns to Lindsay, Emma’s hands reaching along her own shoulder for where her purse should be.
“Where in the world did my purse go,” she stammers.
Lindsay blushes and says, “I have no idea.”
Emma wonders if Lindsay took her purse. Then she wonders why she wondered.
“It was with you all the time,” Lindsay continues. “Wasn’t it?”
They move on to another window display: a mannequin in a sequin dress surrounded by glittery stars.
Bella, Julie and Emily walk ahead. Lindsay stops to touch Emma’s shoulder to comfort her.
“I’m sure it will show up,” says Emma, who decides quickly that she’ll remain friends with Lindsay even though she has doubts.
One day Julie, who loves traveling, decides to take a local train to Cleveland and invites Bella.
They both buy 1-way tickets that cost $10. The journey is more important than the destination.
Julie and Bella both sit facing the future, each with a book in hand, titles obscured from the other passengers.
Behind them a man mumbles to himself in his seat. He kicks Julie’s seat several times and she feels a rumble in her stomach. Julie hears the man begin to sing underneath his breath, but she can’t make out the words.
He kicks her chair again.
On the pages of her novel a crazy man stalks a young woman. It’s Julie’s first time riding a commuter train. Bella sits content, sometimes staring out the window at the grey skyline.
Neither of them expect to encounter any problems. Once, though, Julie felt that someone might try to kidnap her. A childhood fear, maybe. Or was it a dream or an extended imagination from other novel? Julie imagined herself kidnapped to nowhere anyone would ever think to look.
Julie cranes her neck to search for a conductor or security guard, but the commuter car is mostly quiet except for the echo of the mumbling song behind her and the whoosh of the commuter train moving along its tracks.
The song is an earworm she’ll never be able to delete. She looks down at her novel, tears beginning to pool, and then looks to Bella.
When their eyes meet, Bella knows to say, “It’s only a book, Julie.”
Irene Mae, 30, was born in the Philippines, and raised in Alhambra, California. A sophomore student taking Library Technology, A PCC alumni, she graduated in 2017 with an Associate in Arts in Social and Behavioral Sciences. She loves to write and read books. Some of her favorite works are The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao, Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee, and Shine by Jessica Jung. She also loves to read Archie Comics, and likes to watch PBS Kids’ Arthur by Marc Brown. During her free time, she sometimes volunteers at Alhambra Civic Center Library. She currently works as an editor for INSCAPE, a Literary Magazine (Summer Special Issue) for Pasadena City College.