'I can't sleep.'
She breathes out a sigh as she drops her phone beside her, spreading out on the plush comforter of her queen-sized bed.
The muffled TV makes for good background noise in the otherwise silent hotel room, and the muted golden glow of her desk lamp brings a bit of warmth into the space.
The text was sent to her assistant – as well as closest friend, Stephen – who is staying in the room across from her own. She isn't really expecting to get a reply back, but at this point, she really has nothing to lose.
She has to go up on stage and speak in front of a thousand people in four hours, and tonight of all night's sleep has decided to completely evade her.
'Amy Stonehall' is now a household name, after a series of wildly successful novels themed similarly to her favorite childhood book, Peter Pan.
What started as a hobby to get her mind off of her demanding college curriculum turned into a passion she never knew had been tucked away deep within.
Now, eight years after starting her journey as an author, she's been invited to speak at one of the biggest writing conventions in the country, with a focus on sharing her story and helping other young authors achieve the success that she's found for herself.
Some part of all the success feels undeserved, Amy isn't even her real name.
Her mother named her Britney after the famous singer from back in the day, but according to her publishing team, "all the best authors have pen names," so she was pressured into fashioning herself one too.
She hoped that it would make her feel like she belonged amongst the greats in her field, but all it did was leave a cavity in her chest that she doesn't know how to mend.
Britney sighs and swings her legs over the side of the bed, dragging a hand over her face.
She looks like shit, having spent the better part of a seven-hour flight buzzed with adrenaline. Despite the seats in business class giving her all the space she could have wanted, she still ended up feeling boxed in and anxious.
But she could blame that on her fear of flying.
Now, safely on the ground again, her spiraling thoughts are a product of her own making.
'You're not good enough to be this successful.'
'They're lying to you, all that praise means nothing.'
'You had it easy, you clearly didn't suffer as much as you should've.'
It's easy to start down that path, getting herself off of it is the challenge.
Britney stands, walking over to the desk where her half-empty water bottle awaits. The cool water occupies her mind for only a moment, then her eyes slide over to the two suitcases that sit in the corner by the door, having been there since she arrived hours ago.
She grabbed a set of pajamas and her toothbrush out of them but has ignored them ever since.
The very sight of them makes her stomach twist into anxious knots, their contents promising two weeks full of interviews, promotions, guest appearances, and events such as the one happening tomorrow.
She turns her back on them in an attempt to banish those thoughts to the back of her mind and walks over to the ceiling-to-floor window on the right side of the bed.
Despite it nearing five in the morning, she neglected to pull the heavy curtains over any of the hotel room's windows. The sparkling lights of the city are nothing short of mesmerizing, and she can't help but keep returning to the window to ogle the views the twentieth floor has to offer.
New York City never sleeps, and although it's her first time in the big city, she already feels like she belongs.
Vehicles sporting red and white lights cluster the roadways and the surrounding buildings display their soft-toned colors through windows and entryways. There are no visible stars overhead, but the gibbous moon winks in and out of view with the passing of the clouds.
People walk the sidewalks, bundled up in coats and scarves and anything else that will keep them warm against the winter weather. Spots of brown litter the mounds of snow that have been pushed up against the curbs, and holiday decor hangs from every lamppost and establishment.
Britney has always wanted to visit New York City.
It's romantic and enchanting and everything that eleven-year-old Britney dreamed of when she made it her goal to live here. A lot has changed over the course of twenty years, but this – possibly ignorant fanciful image of the city – has stuck with her through thick and thin.
Being here now still feels like a dream.
A buzz behind her has her whipping around towards her phone.
Her first, anxiety-induced thought is that it's the event organizer telling her that her appearance tomorrow has been canceled and they've found someone to replace her, but upon further inspection, she realizes that it's a text from Stephen.
'What's bothering you?'
It's a simple text, but it brings a smile to her face all the same.
He knows her so well.
Her best friend since third grade, Stephen has been with her through the ups and downs of her entire career. He's seen her at her worst and been with her at her highest.
He can see through her like an open book, so she doesn't bother lying to him when she responds.
'I can't stop thinking about how little I've done to deserve any of this.'
And that's true, to her at least.
All she really did was write the books, to attribute such honor and success to her name seems inappropriate.
'You and I both know that's not true.'
Stephen, with his infinite level-headed wisdom, responds.
'You didn't spend the past eight years slaving over your work just for you to feel like that.'
Britney purses her lips into a frown, wanting to agree with him. She knows what he's saying is the truth, but why can't she see it for herself?
'Hold on, give me a minute.'
Britney stares at the text, curious as to what it could mean. Has something come up?
She moves to sit on the bed, sending a quick text to Stephen asking if everything is alright.
She doesn't get a response, but part of her didn't expect one either. She sighs, placing the phone on the bed beside her.
Her mind takes her back to the event organizer. Stephen is the one handling most of the back and forth with them, as Britney's assistant as well as right-hand.
Had they contacted him to make a sudden change? Is there something new in the script that she has to memorize?
The practical part of her brain reminds her how improbable that is. With it now being a quarter to five in the morning, it's unlikely that Stephen would've gotten a call over something they can just discuss once they arrive tomorrow.
Britney runs a hand over her face, willing the nervous thoughts obsessed overthinking out of her mind.
Perhaps she should try scrolling through the TV to see if anything entertaining is on. Maybe it'll tire her out enough to finally fall asleep.
Telenovelas, game shows, and the occasional random superhero movie are all that's on TV, so she leaves it on an old action movie she's never seen before.
It's already halfway through but she doesn't care to pay much attention to it anyway. Britney takes her phone with her as she shuffles up the bed, opening up social media the moment her head hits the pillow.
Maybe some cute cat videos will help to soothe her.
A soft knock on her door has Britney springing upright, her heart giving a start. She stares at the door cautiously, mind running through every possible scenario.
All apparently, except for the obvious one.
Her phone buzzes with another text from Stephen.
'Can you let me in? :)'
Relief washes over her as she smiles, practically shooting off the bed towards the door. Stephen greets her with a smile and a white convenience store bag.
"Sounded like you can use a bit of a pick-me-up."
"Oh, can I," Britney responds with a chuckle, stepping aside to allow Stephen into her room.
He'd gone and picked up some cup noodles, snack-sized chip bags, and a party-sized pack of her favorite candy. Britney's heart melts at the gesture, grateful tears pricking her eyes. "Oh, Stephen, you're the best."
"I know I am," he says with a self-satisfied smirk, and he laughs when Brtiney whacks him on the arm. "That's not all I got though."
She's already popping a handful of candy into her mouth when he turns to face her. Britney gasps at the box of cards that Stephen waves suggestively, a knowing grin on his face.
"No frickin way!"
Candy forgotten, Britney reaches for the game that she hasn't seen since her college days. "Where on earth did you find this?"
Stephen shrugs, grabbing up a chip bag as he makes his way to the end of the bed. "I have my ways," is his simple answer. "Now get over here so I can mop the floor with you."
Britney snorts out a laugh, childish glee filling her to the bone.
"Oh, you are so on!"
With the knowledge that sleep would never come to her tonight, and knowing that if she did she'd wake much more frazzled and anxious than before, Britney takes her spot on the bed and deals the cards.
Even if just for a moment, laughing and playing with Stephen puts her heart at ease, and Britney couldn't ask for anything more.
About the Creator
I am a 21 y/o writer of over a decade who has been crafting fantasy stories for as long as I can remember, and am currently working on publishing my first work within the next year.
Constructive criticism is always welcome!