Stop the Presses (Short Story)

You know, if the school wanted to foster a love of writing and journalism among the students, they’d have given us a nicer room for the school newspaper.

The musty smell of that room still lingers on my coat. A dark, dreary janitor closet of a room with murky windows. File cabinets, cramped desks and windows that were stuck shut. Oh and a coffee machine that only produced mud flavored water. What a inspiring, creative place it was.

Only three of us students ran the school newspaper. That week, two were out sick with mono that they contracted from each other. And our supervising teacher had a meeting with their divorce lawyer.

I, Bianca Pellegrini, had to singlehanded write, edit, proofread, publish the entire ‘Sullivan Spectrum’ newspaper before the impending deadline. And I refused to miss a deadline. Thank goodness nothing interesting ever happened around here.

There was a knock on the door. No one ever knocked on that door.

By Thursday, the mountain of stress and my foul mood reached it’s peak. You really shouldn’t meet the love of your life in such a state.

With frizzled curls tied into a messy bun and raccoon bags under my eyes, I stalked over to open said door. And there he was. Picture handsome and humbleness wrapped in a theater kid package. Tobias Bernard.

“Can I help you?”

An earnest smile greeted me. How dare he. “Hey, I’m Toby B-“

“Oh I know who you are.” A proper journalist needed to know who’s who. “Your sister made the front page last week.” How could I forget that cover story? A picture of a “artistically defaced” statue and his sister Kimber with paint on her hands. Literally caught red handed.

An amused smirk played on his lips as he scratched the back of his head.”Yeah, that’s my sister. Don’t hold it against me.”

“Actually, that old statue needs a pop of color.” We shared an awkward laugh. “Did you need something?”

Without an invitation, he waltzed himself in the room. “Bianca, right?” I nodded as his hand rifled inside his backpack. “You wrote the review for the school musical.” From his backpack, he pulled out a rolled up, crumpled newspaper. “I need you to change it.”

Crossing my arms, my brows knitted together. Excuse me?

A bit hesitant and bashful, Toby continued. “See, my friend was the lead. And there were some… Critical things written and she’s been crying about it for days.” He offered me the newspaper, to see for myself, but I didn’t bite.

“It’s called being honest.”

“You called her mediocre.”

“I called her singing mediocre.” I corrected. Trust me, mediocre was an understatement. “Besides, I can’t reprint my review. I’d lose credibility.” Definitely couldn’t lose my credibility. I slumped back in my seat behind my desk. “Sorry about your friend, but there’s nothing I can do.”

After a brief stalemate, he conceded. With a deep sigh, his shoulders shrugged. “Well, It was worth a shot.” His fingers idly lingered on my mug of coffee, peering inside with a grimace.

Snatching the mug from his grasp and turning back to the computer, I began working on the next article. A half baked piece about the prom’s unoriginal theme, under the sea. Drown me already. I thought he would leave, but he didn’t. His eyes glanced around the empty room. “Wait, are you working on the paper by yourself?”

“Yep.” I grumbled before sipping my coffee, which no longer tasted like sludge but like a fancy, overpriced espresso. Little did I know, that was the first sign of his “magical talent”.

Toby leaned against the desk, tossing me a skeptical yet intrigued look. “But you’re only a freshman.”

Okay, make that one big gulp of coffee. “Bottom of the totem pole. I know. Gotta work my way up.”

As it turned out, we kept talking until free period was over. All thoughts of stress and deadlines lifted off my shoulders. The conversation was oddly comfortable. Toby had brought me a welcomed break, I’d say. Talk about stop the presses. I told him about my plans for my own column next year. He asked what I’d write about.

“Paranormal investigation.” Unusual subject matter, I understand. Ever since I was a kid, I chased the things that go bump in the night. Stories of witches and ghosts and aliens caught my interest.

His once relaxed demeanor grew tense. He shifted away from me, rubbing his arm. Trying to play it smooth, a magic he had yet to learn. “That’s pretty cool.”

The bell rang and we parted ways.

“We should hang out sometime.”

“Yeah, maybe we should.”

As he walked away, he sent me a wink. Corny fool. But that corny fool eventually became my boyfriend. Who was the fool now?

“Lemme know if you find any witches, Bianca Pellegrini.”

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