Whenever Reden would visit Kalihen, his friend would always be scribbling in a little black book...
For as long as Reden could remember, whenever he would visit Kalihen, his friend would always be sitting in his study, scribbling furiously into a little black book. He would stand there and watch him sometimes, intrigued by the fervor and concentration. But the moment he made a sound - a creak of a floorboard or a squeal of the door - Kalihen would slam the book shut. If both Reden and Alis were there, Kalihen would take extra care to tuck the book into a hidden compartment within his desk, as if they might team up and take it from him.
Reden had asked about the book a few times in the beginning, simple curiosity lighting inside him like a match. Kalihen would assure him that it was just a journal, nothing interesting, and then soon after, make up some excuse about needing to go into town and usher him and Alis out the door. So, Reden quickly learned that it was better to pretend that the book didn’t exist. Kalihen started locking his study door, too, forcing anyone to announce their arrival with a knock.
But none of this made Reden forget the tiny black book. In fact, it did quite the opposite. What was once a flame large enough to light a candle had now become a raging wildfire, eating at everything in its path, and threatening to consume him completely. No matter what they spoke of, whether it be the writing class Kalihen was saving up for or the annual Balladry Festival contest that had just come into town, Reden could only think of that book.
So, like any other self-respecting young man in a similar situation, the next time Kalihen went into town, Reden climbed the apple tree outside the study and snuck in through the window. He had tried to convince Alis to join him, but she couldn't stomach the invasion of their friend’s privacy. Reden agreed that maybe this wasn't his best idea, but he simply had to know what was in that book.
The book, he knew, was kept in the top right drawer of the grand mahogany desk. He also knew that Kalihen kept that drawer locked. Likely for this very reason. Reden’s eyes were drawn to the stacks of paper piled messily onto the desk.
Odd, he thought. Kalihen was usually neat - too neat actually. Every pen had to be lined up parallel to each other and directly in front of the tiny frog statue on the desk. His papers were always kept in folders and filed away into various cabinets.
According to Kalihen, he never allowed Reden past the door of the study because he was in the habit of stomping around in his shoes and tracking dirt throughout the room. It simply wasn't conducive to the space. Speaking of, Reiden bent down and unlaced his boots. It wouldn’t do to leave any evidence of his little adventure around the room.
Returning to the desk, Reden decided to leave the stacks of papers as they were. Where would Kalihen keep a key? It would have to be somewhere close by and somewhere not so obvious… like under a tiny statue. Reden lifted the frog. Sure enough, there it was, glinting dully in the light.
Reden twirled the key around his finger a few times before jamming it into the lock. It was the moment at the height of a story, the crescendo at the most dramatic part of a song. Finally, he thought. Though he couldn’t possibly fathom what Kalihen might have written to make him hide the book so.
The drawer slid open easily, as if it had been waiting for Reden to open it. And there it was. The little black book. Oh how it beckoned him, even now. Read me, it begged. He flipped open the cover.
A dedication: To the only star in my sky.
The first page was left blank, but that was the only one with no ink. Each page after was filled with a poem. Some were barely two lines long, but others took up nearly the entire sheet.
Reden didn't know what he had expected, but it certainly hadn't been to be quite so… baffled. Yes, that was the word. He was utterly baffled. Kalihen might have been the last person he would have suspected to write such flowery prose. About love no less. But Reden recognized his friend’s thin scrawling script.
Who could this possibly be written for?
Then another thought popped into his head. Kalihen could win the Balladry contest. He must not have realized that the contest ended today, Reden decided. Without another thought, Reden tucked the book into a pocket in his jacket and relocked the drawer. He threw on his shoes and raced all the way to Alis’ house.
“I need a favor,” he said to Alis in between heaving breaths. “I found Kalihen’s book. It’s filled with poems, can you believe it? I’m submitting it to the Balladry contest, but I want it to be a surprise. Please, please, will you distract Kalihen for the rest of the day?”
Her eyes widened at the book in his hand. “You took that?” she gasped.
“I had to. Kalihen deserves the money. The grand prize is $20,000.”
Reluctantly, Alis agreed and that was all he needed.
Two hours later, Reden sprinted to Kalihen’s house. When he arrived, Alis and Kalihen were laughing about something one of them said. They looked up as he entered and suddenly Reden’s gut twisted. What if Kalihen was mad at him?
“Kalihen,” he started. “Promise me you won't get mad.”
The other boy was immediately on edge. “What did you do?”
Reden reached into his pocket. From the corner of his eyes he saw Alis shake her head at him, silently begging him not to do what he was about to do. “I kind of… well, I kind of tookyourbookandentereditintothefestival.”
“You did what?”
He pulled out the little black book. Kalihen jumped to his feet.
“I know I shouldn't have looked at this without your permission, but you won. See?” Reden pulled out the sack filled with the prize money and handed it over. “It’s $20,000. You can take writing classes for years now.”
Kalihen snatched the book from him. “That was not for you to read.” He threw a quick glance at Alis, who was fidgeting with the hem of her shirt. “Have you read this too?”
“No!” she exclaimed, then stared at the floor. “But I knew what Reden was up to. I’m so sorry.”
Kalihen sighed and handed the book to Alis. “Well you might as well read it. I wrote it for you after all.”
Alis read the first two poems then promptly burst into tears. “Kalihen, you wrote this for me?”
Kalihen blushed and she threw her arms around his neck.
Later, Reden apologized profusely. He should never have gone behind his friend’s back like that. But, ten years later, Reden stood up at their wedding, and told the story of the day his two best friends first got together, all thanks to him.