Dear Stacy,

Please meet me at the following address at one pm on Sunday. I believe I owe you an apology. I would like to issue it in person.

Yours,

A


Stacy hesitantly stood outside the entrance, staring up at the sign proclaiming the establishment to be to AL GRILL AND DINER in gaudy red and partially broken neon. She'd almost decided not to show up at all, but in the end convinced herself the meeting was in a rather public place in the middle of the day and the writer had said she was going to apologize.

There were several other people in the diner which made Stacy feel better. A twenty-something man idly twirled a pen by the register, motioning to her to sit wherever she liked. Passing by several tables and booths, Stacy exchanged a hesitant smile with a gentleman enjoying a cup of coffee. Another man sat in the corner in the back, seemingly ignoring everyone else. The cook, a large black man, hummed to himself as he flipped various things on the grill in the diner's visible kitchen. A woman sat at the counter reading a book, also enjoying a cup of coffee.

Sitting in a booth next to the window with a clear view of the cafe entrance, Stacy nervously flipped through the menu. Greasy choices packed with calories assaulted her eyes. Since most everyone there was drinking coffee, Stacy thought it must be good. Then Sandi's admonishment against caffeine surfaced. When the young bored-looking man came to take her order, Stacy's butterfly-filled stomach allowed her to merely squeak out, "Caffeine-free diet Ultra Cola, please."

She thought she might have seen a hint of a smirk as the waiter walked away, but was too apprehensive to think anything of it. Just as he passed the register, Stacy saw the woman at the counter stand up. Her heart sped up when she realized it was the person she'd come to meet.

Settling across form her and setting down her steaming cup, the woman smiled.

"Hello, Stacy."

"H-hi," Stacy managed to get out.

Sitting back to regard the pigtailed girl the woman said, "Recently I've been informed I was... unpleasant to you. To an unacceptable degree."

Stacy realized the woman seemed to be waiting for some kind of reply. "It wasn't... I mean I didn't... It wasn't me!"

"Goodness, Stacy, I know that." The woman sipped her coffee. "To be honest, and I know you wouldn't know this, but I have had a similar conversation to this with Daria's mother."

"Really?" Last Stacy had heard Helen Morgendorffer had never been a target of this particular writer and to her knowledge, never suffered any of the gruesome cruelties some of her fellow Lawndalians had at her hands. This somehow made her feel better.

"In the end we seemed to agree that angst was better than oblivion." She paused to look Stacy directly in the eye. "You do know that's what happens when your world is abandoned, right?"

Stacy gulped. Yes, she had heard rumors of other planes ceasing to exist because the interest that kept them alive had run out. Still, was it better than some of the things that had happed to people she knew in Lawndale? It was hard to say.

Waving a hand, the woman continued, "But that's neither here nor there. I came here to issue an apology." Stacy looked surprised at this, even though the note had said that's why they were meeting. "In particular, for a letter I wrote to you."

"Well, I... um. It wasn't so bad," Stacy admitted. "After I read it a few times, I could kind of see you wanted me to keep trying. To not give up hope."

Nodding slightly, the woman smiled. "Yeah, that was the point. I really do like you Stacy, you have a lot of depth. There's a lot to work with. That's why you're one of my favorite people in Lawndale."

A bit stunned, Stacy said, "Wow. Thanks. That means a lot."

Just then the waiter brought Stacy's soda. The woman put a bill on the table. "I'll get that. It was nice to see you, Stacy. And I do apologize if the letter came off as too harsh."

Unwrapping her straw, Stacy chided herself for being so nervous. All the writer had done was apologize, just like she said she would. She even said Stacy was one of her favorite people. Really, she wasn't as bad as people said, Stacy thought to herself. She was actually pretty nice. And she did enjoy the attention, a small part of Stacy admitted.

"It's okay," Stacy chirped. "Thanks for meeting me, though. It was... nice."

The woman stood up, leaving her empty mug on the table. She had just passed Stacy when she turned, now standing behind her. "Oh, Stacy," she said, putting a hand on the young girl's shoulder, "one more thing."

"Wha-"

With a lighting-quick motion, the woman twisted Stacy's head at a severe angle. There was a sickening crunch and Stacy's body went completely slack. Gently leaning her head on the table, the woman watched a trickle of blood pool on the Formica surface.

"No more suffering today, Stacy."

The cook set a fresh cup of coffee in front of the woman as she sat back at the counter and picked up her book.

"You're just evil." He was smiling.

She smiled back, but didn't look up from her book. "You know it."

The waiter stood next to the table and frowned. "Why do I always have to clean up?"

The man sitting in the other booth replied, "Because you're the new guy."

"Dammit!"