The Taylight Zone - Anthology Seven

07 - The Clock Struck 12:00 - Jaxsper

"Win a Date with Taylor Hanson” That’s what the magazine said.

"Xaveria, I have to do this!" Ashley said, giggling and holding up the magazine. She read the contest rules out loud to her friend as she laid back on the pink comforter of her bed. 'All you have to do is write in 250 words or less why you deserve this prize, include your picture and you could be hanging with Hanson at our TV broadcast countdown on New Year's Eve.' Xaveria, I have got to do this!"

"I don't know, Ashley," said Xaveria, "They would probably never even see your entry. I'd like to win too, but one look at my picture and they would throw my entry away."

Xaveria wasn't really all that bad looking but she sure felt like she was when she looked over at Ashley. You know the saying, "for every good looking girl, there is her ugly friend beside her.' Ashley was one of the most popular girls in school, blond hair, blue eyes, perfect teeth, cheerleader, the works. Xaveria, on the other hand was plain looking, wore glasses and dressed simply.

Xaveria and Ashley had been friends since they were in grade school. Ashley would let Xaveria sit at the cool table with her at lunch occasionally, and in exchange Xaveria would help (read: do) Ashley's homework for her sometimes. Not that Ashley really needed it, for some reason, the teachers seemed to like her and would let her get away with things. Everyone liked her. No one really noticed Xaveria except for Ashley. That's sort of the reason Xaveria let herself get talked into always helping Ashley.

"If you're worried about sending in a picture, Xave, we'll split. It says here the winner gets to bring a friend anyway. Tell you what, why don't you write the essay and I’ll attach my picture to it. You're much better with words anyway. Write something really good while I fill out the entry form. We'll use my name, ok? So, when you write it, pretend it's me talking."

Xaveria tried to think of what to write. She thought of writing about how much Ashley loved Hanson, and how she always screamed and jumped up and down whenever they were on the screen, but she decided against it. Finally, she decided to not write what Ashley said. She just wrote from her heart.

Dear Taylor,

They tell me that you’re going to read all of the entries to this contest. Even I wouldn’t expect you to do that. Thousands upon thousands of girls must be writing to you even as I send this. Still, whoever might be reading this, would you please thank Taylor for me.

I know how much you enjoy making music, Taylor. I know that it’s your passion. It brings me so much happiness too. When I’m feeling down, “Mmmbop” makes me alive again. If I’m ever lonely, I can hear you sing how you will come to me. When I fear that I will never see someone again, I can hear you sing of how they will be with you in your dreams. Your music has helped me through some difficult parts in my life. Please, whoever is reading this, all I want is for you to thank him for me.

No, that’s not all. This could be my only chance. Taylor, please pick my letter. Please meet with me on New Year’s Eve. Let me thank you in person. I don't mean to sound pushy. I am not normally like this but, I'm going to take this one chance today, for tomorrow may never come for all we know.

Ashley read it over and said, "Well, I don't think it's really good, Xave. You left out all the parts like how much I loooovvvee him, and how I've got all his pictures all over my room, and how I kiss them every night. How much he's mine! I guess it will be ok though, since we're using this!" Ashley held up one of the glamour shots she had taken at the mall with her cheerleading friends. Xaveria had to admit, she was jealous of how Ashley looked.

"I won! I won!" Ashley yelled into the phone.

"What?" asked a Xaveria, pushing her homework aside and cradling the phone closer to her ear.

"The Hanson competition, Xave! Pay attention! I won! They must have loved that picture I sent to them! I told you, with that picture I was a shoe in!"

"Wow! Great, Ashley. We won!"

"We... oh yeah, I did say that you could come with me right? Won't it be cool, Xave? I'll get to dance with Taylor Hanson.

The day finally arrived. Of course Ashley was stunning in her pink shiny dress. She had her hair just so, and looked lovely.

The limousine, another perk for the contest winner, picked the girls up and they arrived just before the party and filming were to begin.

Taylor, and about fifty photographers from magazines, was there to meet the girls. The photographers started to take her picture as he held his hand out to help her from the car. He self consciously kissed her cheek while they snapped away. Ashley was the perfect winner, she posed for the camera and it loved her. Taylor guessed that this would be good publicity for the band. Ashley was wisked away, to meet with Taylor's brothers and some of the TV executives.

Taylor was about to leave as well, when he saw Xaveria still sitting in the car.

"Need any help?" he said leaning into the car and smiling politely.

"No, I'm ok. Just giving Ashley her moment in the sun. Is all the picture taking over?" Xaveria asked.

"Yeah, I think they're just about finished. I know what you mean, though. They photographers can be a real pain sometimes." Taylor extended his hand and helped Xaveria from the car. She took it cautiously.

“Well, one of the drawbacks of being famous I suppose, everyone knows who you are,” she said. She mentally kicked herself, thinking, “Dumb, dumb, dumb. Nice going! That was some profound statement.”

Taylor replied, “Yeah, but sometimes I want to go somewhere or do something without having everyone watch every move I make.”

“Why not now?” Xaveria said, “You have a few minutes before the party officially starts. There’s no better time than now. Tomorrow may never come for all you know.”

Taylor said it sounded like a good idea. He asked Xaveria to come along with him, she could act as his alibi if anyone came looking for him. They slipped away from the crowd and walked behind the building to a duck pond. They spent a few moments away from the flashing lights and the loud music, just sitting on a bench in front of the pond, watching the water shine and the ducks swim.

Taylor could hear more and more cars pulling up and letting more people out. Xaveria could see Taylor wince he heard the people arrive. She asked him if he was feeling better, but reminded him that they should get back soon.

“I keep thinking back to when my brothers and I first started,” Taylor said as he looked up to the sky. It was growing darker, and the live countdown TV broadcast would begin soon. “We love to perform and share our music with everyone. It’s nice to hear the applause and see people get excited but sometimes it can be a real pain. Making music is what I like, but meeting people is what I have to do. It’s sort of the ‘business’ in ‘show business’ you know?”

Xaveria tried to comfort him. She said, “But making music is what you should focus on. Your music bring alot of happiness to alot of people. I know it has brought it to me.”

Taylor stood up from the bench and faced the pond. The moonlight reflected from it, illuminating his face. “This is nice, just sitting here. I haven’t had a quiet moment like this in a long time. Well, at least it would be quiet if not for the ducks. Quack, quack, quack,” he joked. “Here, Xaveria, watch this.”

Taylor picked up a stone and skipped it across the pond. The rock bounced three times across the surface of the water, before sinking. Xaveria told him that was nothing, selected a nice flat rock and skipped one herself. It traveled much farther than Taylor’s.

“You know, you’re cool. I never met any girl who could do that.”

Xaveria said, “Well, I think you’re cool. The way you can handle the crowds. The way you don’t get all nervous in front of people. I wish I could be like that.”

One of the executives came running down towards them and ushered Taylor back inside. It was growing darker, and the broadcast would soon begin. Taylor needed to be there to start the show and dance the first dance with the contest winner. Taylor excused himself and the two went inside, leaving Xaveria by the pond.

“Nice one,” she thought to herself. “Your big chance to talk to him and what do you do? You show him how you can beat him at skipping stones. ‘Never met any girl who could do that’ he said. No wonder. No boy wants a girl who can beat them in stupid contests. I think he was trying to impress me and I just had to show him up! Now he’s up there dancing with Ashley, and where am I? Down here with these ducks.”

Xaveria saw a shooting star overhead and made a wish. She wished that she could be the girl that boys liked. She wished she could be beautiful and confident, and something incredible happened. Maybe it was the shooting star, maybe she had a fairy godmother, maybe Santa Claus was just six days late, but she got her wish. Suddenly, she stood up taller. Her hair, while not that different, was highlighted and perfectly in place. Her make up changed and her eyes grew brighter. She removed her glasses and could see perfectly. Her dress fit her tighter and shimmered. Xaveria got her wish. She stared at her reflection in the pond. The changes were subtle but to her, it made all the difference in the world.

“I’d better hurry,” she thought, “For all I know, this will end at midnight like Cinderella.”

Taylor felt Ashley hugging him way too tightly as he danced with her on the dance floor. He wasn’t really the romantic type, but he guessed it would look nice on camera. He could feel Ashley grinding into him, and giggling in his ear. Taylor looked over her shoulder to the clock. Just an hour to go until midnight. He resigned himself to a sloppy, wet kiss from this girl.

Then, he saw it. A vision entered the party. One of the most beautiful girls he had ever seen. She didn’t walk, it was more like she glided into the room. Taylor untangled himself from Ashley, as the show went to commercial, and walked towards this vision.

“Hi,” he said to the new girl. “Who are you, mystery woman?”

“Mystery, huh? I like that. Let’s keep the mystery alive. Just call me....X.” she answered, fluttering her eyelashes.

Taylor said, “Well then, Ms. X, would you care to have the next dance with me. I’m not really much of a dancer, but I would love to try it with you.”

Ashley didn’t look very happy when she saw Taylor dancing with this new girl. Who was she to steal the spotlight? Taylor began the dance a bit self consciously, but X’s confidence calmed him. X told him to ignore the spectators and the cameras, and just live in the moment. Taylor thanked her. He said that no girl had ever done that, make him feel at ease this much.

Taylor and X stayed on the dance floor for an eternity, but midnight quickly approached. Taylor was led away and back over to the contest winner. The cameras wanted to catch him giving her a kiss as the clock struck 12:00.

Xaveria stepped outside. As she heard the crowd inside counting down to the new year, she could feel her beauty fading away. By the time it was midnight, she was her regular, plain self again. Still she was happy for the fleeting moments, the moments when all eyes were on here. When Taylor’s eyes were only on her.

She turned when she heard a familiar voice behind her.

“Excuse me,” Taylor said. “Have you seen the most beautiful girl in the world come out here?”

Xaveria joked that she had no idea what he was talking about as she replaced her glasses. Taylor kept walking closer and closer to her until he was just inches away. He took her hand in his.

“X.... I mean, Xaveria, I know it was you. The moment I met your friend, I knew that essay wasn’t hers.”

Xaveria choked for a second. “You.. you read my essay?”

“Of course. You don’t think I picked the winner because of the picture do you? The publicist complimented me on my choice when he saw the picture, but it was your words that touched me. Little did I know that I would be stuck dancing with some fake all night. Your friend’s like an octopus, you know that?”

Taylor and Xaveria both laughed.

“Xaveria, I knew that it was you who had written the essay the moment I saw you. I knew it was you when you came into the party just now. I’ve read your work. I’ve talked to you. I’ve seen your heart. I would know it was you in the dark, X. You know, you ran out of there so quickly, I didn’t exactly get my New Year’s kiss.”

Taylor took her face in his hands and leaned in. Xaveria’s breath caught in her throat in anticipation. She felt his soft lips against hers. He stroked her cheek lightly as he gave her the sweetest kiss in the world. Their lips parted but Taylor remained close. They both realized that they had stopped breathing.

“I’ve never met any girl who could do that,” Taylor said smiling.

He took her hand and led her out of the building towards the duck pond. On the way, he picked up two flat stones. He said that now that he had found her again, he wanted a rematch. Xaveria laughed.