A Beautiful Day Once by Tracy Joy Jones - Prologue

A Beautiful Day Once (a novella) – Prologue

Eden—Age 14

“Eden, this movie is ancient! Why do we have to watch this one?”

Abby and Isla were both pouting. They’d thought Eden meant a “real movie” when she invited them over for her a birthday/slumber party. And she had. Opening night in the theatre, bags of candy hidden in their purses, curled up in the luxurious reclining seats Eden had only experienced once before. The girls talked of nothing else all week.

And then this morning happened.

The lunch lady pulled Eden aside. Ms. Jenkins tried to be discreet about her empty lunch balance, but it didn’t stop a flush of pink heat from prickling Eden’s cheeks. The embarrassing news hurt even more because it could only mean one thing: her mom’s check had bounced. Abby and Isla didn’t even ask. Abby handed her a banana. Isla shared half her sandwich. Best friends ever.

However, in that moment, her friends hadn’t really understood what Eden instantly knew—no money meant no movie. What would her mom’s excuse be this time? More pretend doctor’s visits? Electrician bill? Cost of milk? Her mom shouldn’t have bothered. Eden knew exactly where the money went.

“At least they could have gotten someone cuter than Bill Murray. Was he ever cute?” Isla glared at the tv, still pouting as Bill Murray gave his opening forecast in front of a green screen, predicting clear skies and a problem-free weekend.

Eden tried to see the weatherman through her best friend’s eyes. Okay, he wasn’t traditionally cute, but he made Eden laugh. Besides, Isla could afford to be picky. Half the school was in love with her.

“It’s not really about what he looks like,” she said carefully, afraid to reveal too much about her lifelong celebrity crush on Bill Murray. How could she ever explain the unexplainable? “I think it’s his face. It’s like it’s made of play dough. He can literally say anything he wants without saying a word.”

Both her friends glared at her like she’d lost her mind. Maybe she had. Bill Murray was what? A hundred-and-two by now. Groundhog’s Day had released in 1993. So he had to be at least as old as her grandmother.

“Okay, so he’s an old man now, but you guys, you know I’m a sucker for anyone with a great sense of humor.”

Abby gave an enormous sigh, pure exasperation on her open face. “Yeah, but why can’t humor ever come in a nice package in real life? Why do all the funny guys look like rejects from Saturday Night Live?”

“Be nice, Abby Morgan. They’re not all bad looking. Look at Ashton Kutcher, Paul Rudd. Hello? Ryan Reynolds. There are lots of good-looking guys who can still make me laugh so hard, I cry.”

“Exactly my point, Eden. Bill Murray? Totally not it.”

Eden sighed and snuggled down into her sleeping bag and pillow, knowing she would never win this fight. She wasn’t even sure she wanted to. Bill Murray in real life wasn’t her dream guy, but his character, Phil Connors, had learned to play the piano to win the heart of his girl. He’d learned to ice-sculpt just to impress her. No one had ever done anything for Eden like that in her life. It was her birthday today, and the only thing her mom had done was popped popcorn before she disappeared.

Eden took a large handful from the bowl and stuffed it viciously into her mouth. No cake waited for her at home after school. No apologies for going back on her word with the money and the movie. Dinner had been leftover pizza. Eden blushed bright red with embarrassment and then again with anger when her mom had pulled it from the refrigerator. She didn’t want to fight with her mom on her birthday, but how could she do this? Again.

Her mom disappeared into her bedroom as soon as she possibly could. Or more accurately, oblivion. Most days, Eden would go in and try to rescue her, but today, she couldn’t find the compassion to care.

“Let’s order fresh pizza, my treat.” Abby wiggled her eyebrows, pulling out her phone, and saving the day again.

“Forget about your mom, Eden. We’ve got you.” Isla put her arm around her shoulder.

Twenty minutes later the pizza arrived, and Eden forced herself to let go of her anger and enjoy the moment. Cuddled into her sleeping bag, surrounded by her friends, watching Bill Murray’s disdain for every living thing, Eden pretended that this had been the plan all along. After all, what she’d really wanted was her friends around her making it all okay. And that’s exactly what she’d gotten.

A knock at the apartment door startled the girls and Eden racked her brain as to who could be visiting at 8 o’clock on a Friday night. Maybe the pizza guy had forgotten something. Only Isla looked completely unsurprised. She jumped from her sleeping bag with a squeal and ran to the apartment door. Opening it a crack, she spoke to someone for a moment and then turned dramatically.

“And now, my darling friend, your birthday present.” With a flourish, Isla flipped the switch for the living room lights. Nothing but the blue light of the tv and Bill Murray’s face remained. For a second, a ribbon of light cut through the living room from the hallway as someone entered the apartment, and then went back to darkness. A flare of a match, and Eden watched fourteen candles dance to life. The room warmed with the soft glow of a candlelit birthday cake floating toward her.

“Happy Birthday to you….”

The voice was male and instantly recognizable. Eden smiled in the dark, wondering what Isla had bribed her brother with to get him to do this. Wilder couldn’t sing to save his life, but Eden didn’t care. He came bearing cake.

Abby slipped an arm around Eden’s waist, and Isla joined her on the other side. Wilder stopped in front of the trio and finished his song.

“Make a wish Eden Parrish, and make it a good one. A girl doesn’t turn fourteen every day.”
What could she wish for? Everything she wanted was right here in this circle. Her best friends at her side.

In the background, the first strains of “I Got You Babe” began to play from the television. “So put your little hand in mine…”

Wilder glanced over her shoulder at the tv, his beautiful mouth pulling into an enormous grin. “Best movie ever.”

And in an instant, Eden knew.

“Okay you guys, I know my wish. Ten years from now…”

“NO! You can’t tell us. It won’t come true.” Isla held up her hands as if to block the words from reaching her ears.

“Isla, I have to, or it never will. Seriously, just hear me out. Ten years from now, we all make a road trip to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for Groundhog’s Day. We’ll have started our lives, and I’ll have money. The whole trip will be my treat. For my 24th birthday, I’ll get to live a perfect Groundhog’s Day with my besties. All the candy we can eat. Watch a movie at the cinema. Stay in a bed and breakfast, and dance around the square in the morning with the groundhog. What do you guys say?”

Isla looked at Abby and raised an eyebrow. Abby lifted a shoulder in return.

“It’s probably not even a real place.” Abby shrugged as if she hated to be the only realist in the room.

“What if it’s just a set in Hollywood?”

Eden frowned. She hadn’t thought of that. It all looked so real.

“Well, then we’ll go to Hollywood together or Punxsutawney or wherever it was they filmed it. Come on. It’ll be fun.” Eden bit her lip. Just having something beyond her current life suddenly seemed so important. It felt like a reason to keep going.

Across the cake, Wilder’s dark blue eyes danced with laughter in the candlelight. He was mocking her, but who cared what he thought anyway? It wasn’t his birthday.

“Okay!” her besties yelled in unison. “Let’s do it.”

The girls squealed and jumped the way you could only do at a slumber party with your best friends.

Eden blew out fourteen candles to seal the deal. Her face was so close to Wilder’s she couldn’t miss the smirk, but at least he had the good sense to keep his thoughts to himself.

What would she be like in ten years? Would all Isla and Abby’s dreams have come true? Hopefully, she’d be far, far away from Chicago. Maybe she’d have to fly in from some far-off destination. Maybe she’d be married or famous. The world suddenly seemed full of possibilities. One far off day with friends and ten years to dream and plan the adventure. She could hardly wait to get there.

Thank you so much for reading with me! Keep reading with Chapter 1. And make sure to sign up for my newsletter to read the full book coming soon!

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Comments 2

  1. Loving the story so far!! Happy birthday late! My birthday is in February also, the 25th. When I was a kid, we got snowed in on that day for a few years in a row, so that’s a family joke now. And one year years later, got snowed in again, at work, 30 miles from home! Fun times!

    1. Post

      Thanks, Kathy! And Happy Birthday to you in advance. I’m such a summer girl, but then I was born in South Africa where February is summer. A part of me thinks I’ve never adjusted. 😉 Thanks so much for the comment. Glad to have you reading along.

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