13-year-old Layla was sitting on her bed, relieved that the day was finally over. She was tired. Everyday, it was the same. She woke up at 6 AM, she washed up and put on her royal dress, she ate her breakfast prepared by the castle’s staff and she started her classes. The same as always. Princess etiquette, languages, history, ballroom dancing and so on and so on. And Layla was just sick of it.
Layla’s relief to all the stress had been a kind girl named Anne, who would sneak into one of the castle’s highest towers to dance. She showed Layla how to do it and as difficult as it would to mimic Anne’s dancing in a gown, Layla had managed to get the hang of it. She would find some time every day to sneak up to the tower and dance with Anne. For the little time she could get with her best and only friend, Layla was able to be a free spirit. Just dance, laugh, have fun and be happy.
Unfortunately, it couldn’t last. A few weeks down the road, Anne told Layla terrible news: she was moving away. Layla was heartbroken, but Anne promised she’d write. The final day before she left, Anne gave Layla a gift. It wasn’t much, but to Layla, it meant the world. The gift was a pair of leg warmers that Anne had stitched Layla’s name onto. Layla cried and bid farewell to her friend after they enjoyed their last dance together.
It’d been two weeks since then and Layla still hadn’t really gotten over it. She began slacking a little in her classes, often losing focus and forgetting to pay attention. Her mind was on Anne. Of course, since she never told her parents or anyone else about Anne, everyone thought she was beginning to go through a rebellious stage and became stricter with her. Naturally, this added stress did not help and put poor Layla on the verge of a mental breakdown. But she didn’t want anyone to become suspicious, so she would run away to her room, lock herself inside, hug the leg warmers and cry. Sometimes, she was only in her room for 15 minutes. Other times, she would be in there for as long as an hour. Sometimes, at night, when she was really tired, she’d look up at the stars and make a wish for Anne to come back.
Anne had kept her promise to write and Layla wrote back, but she didn’t tell Anne about the stress she was going through. She didn’t want to seem selfish or needy. Still, she wished Anne could come back for one day. She wished she could just have one day off. No classes, no dress, no rules. Just rest for one day and maybe find another friend to spend time with. Of course, no one could replace Anne. Not in a million years.
It was surprising that Layla couldn’t fall asleep tonight. She was exhausted. Today was a harder day than usual. All day, she’d been screaming in her mind, “Let me lay down! I want to sleep!” Now, it was finally time for bed and she couldn’t sleep.
Layla got off her bed and walked over to her bedroom to gaze at the stars. “Oh, Anne,” she whispered. “Why did you have to go? Why couldn’t you stay? I miss you so much.” She then fell to her knees and, in sudden anger, banged her head against the wall. “I’m so selfish!” she cried. “I can’t depend on Anne all my life! Even she wouldn’t want me sad like this.”
Thankfully, the thud hadn’t been heard outside the room, so Layla could try again to go to sleep. Knowing she’d better not stay up too late, she crawled into bed and tried to calm down enough to sleep. When she couldn’t, she took out the leg warmers and clutched them tightly, rubbing them against her cheek a little. They reminded her of Anne’s hands, which always felt soft. She then let out a tiny giggle, the first since Anne left. “I’m so silly,” she said. “It’s such a silly thing to remember, how someone’s hands feel.” She put the leg warmers back in their hiding spot and finally fell fast asleep.
“Layla?” a voice whispered. “Layla? Over here.”
Somehow alone at the top of the tower, the same one Layla and Anne used to dance in, Layla turned around. Her eyes grew wide with surprised and then delight. Standing right in front of her face was Anne!
“Layla, don’t think you’re alone,” Anne said. “We’ll always be friends. You’re never alone. I’ll never stop writing. And I know someday, we’ll see each other again. I promise.” Anne came closer to Layla and took her hand. “I promise.”
Layla hugged her friend, the two spinning around in joy for a few seconds. Right now, she couldn’t have been happier.
“Anne!” Layla shouted as she woke up. She looked at her clock. 1 AM. “Oh, it was just a dream,” she mumbled sadly. But then, she thought for a few moments. She thought and she thought. Finally, it became clear. “It wasn’t a dream,” she realized. “It wasn’t a dream! It wasn’t a dream! It was Anne!” Layla jumped on her bed happily, not caring about how loud she was being or if she woke up the whole castle with her happy squeals. “It was Anne! Anne came back! She came back!”
Layla jumped off her bed and ran to grab some paper and pencil. She began writing a letter, detailing her troubles, the dream and her realization, and used a second sheet of paper to draw and color a picture of her and Anne dancing together in the tower. It was a rather childish-looking picture, but Layla couldn’t have cared less and she knew Anne wouldn’t care either. Underneath, she wrote, “Friends Forever”.
Layla stapled the letter and picture together and sent it off. She jumped back into bed and returned to her sleep.
The next day, Layla was in such a great mood that even her classes didn’t seem boring. She didn’t say much, but all day, she carried a big smile on her face. Strangely enough, nobody asked any questions, not that Layla would’ve told them the truth anyway.
That night, Layla found a letter waiting for her in her room. It was from Anne. It read:
Great minds must think alike. I had that same dream. I don’t like it here. It’s so…so…boring! Nobody is into dancing like I am here. I never told you for the same reason you never told me about me about your troubles. But I’m glad you did. I feel like we’re still close by, even though we’re far in distance. We’ll definitely see each other again. One day, it’ll happen. I think about you everyday, Layla. When I think about you, I don’t feel alone. I remember my dance partner. Don’t ever think for one second I’ve forgotten you. Never, Layla, never. Not ever. That picture you gave me is hanging on my wall, right above my bed. I’m going to look at it every night before I go to bed. Thank you.
Your friend always, Anne
If smiles could curve around whole faces, Layla’s certainly would have. She clutched the letter to her chest and smiled as big as her lips would allow, letting out the happiest squeal she ever had in her life. She would never be alone again. Anne wouldn’t let her be.
Layla tucked the letter away with the others and looked up at the stars out her window. “Good night, Anne.”
Far away, in her own home, Anne was doing the same. “Good night, Layla.”