Karen braced herself for what she'd see as the door slowly opened in front of her. She instantly tensed her shoulders up around her ears without noticing, it was a reflex. You just don't see your friend looking like they'd be more at home in a soup kitchen than in their nice house without worrying what they'll look like at the next visit. She reminded herself that Sherri was a writer, this was "normal", so to speak, there wasn't any real reason to be concerned. But underneath that something in her head was screaming that she needed a doctor and if Karen didn't intervene she'd eventually come knocking at a door that wouldn't be answered.
But instead of the unwashed, distracted and frantic-eyed woman she'd beheld three months ago there was a bright-faced, smiling visage in front her, happily standing back to welcome her friend.
"Oh my God..." Karen said, she couldn't help it. It was too much of a shock. A happy shock, but a shock none-the-less.
"I know," Sherri said closing the door behind her.
Karen looked her up and down. Not only were her clothes clean, her hair combed, her arms hanging limply at her sides as if she were just too comfortable to stand any other way but her face had dropped what looked like years of agonizing worry. The eyes were bright and focused and showed crows feet at the edges from smiling. Her skin pigment looked like it'd be at home on a 12 year old girl playing hopscotch. Her lips kept a slight upturn even when she dropped the smile. She looked like a totally different person.
"I mean... oh my God!" Karen exclaimed happily, holding her arms out for the hug she didn't realize she needed.
"I know," Sherri replied, locking her in a bear hug that made her back crack.
"Ooomph-" Karen breathed, then straightened herself and tilted her neck to the side noticing how much that actually helped. All of the stone solid muscles had relaxed and she noticed her whole body dropping it's anxiety from joints she didn't even realize were frozen. "I just- I can't believe it!"
"Well, I told you I get crazy when I write," Sherri said, leading the way over to the couch.
"Yeah, you told me you get crazy but I didn't think you meant it literally!" Karen said following her, still marveling at how loosely her friend moved, almost as if floating through the room rather than walking. "I mean, you were practically schizophrenic before and now you're... you're like Buddha or something!"
"Uh, well gee- thanks for that description. I didn't think I was that bad before."
"Oh yeah- are you kidding me? You were talking to yourself and you kept stopping mid sentence to write something down and you couldn't stay on topic and don't even get me started on what you looked like- you could've been homeless the way your hair was stuck and your clothes-"
"Ok- ok. I get it." Sherri said with a dipped brow. "It got to me, I know."
"So what happened?"
"What do you mean? You stopped writing?"
"Yes! It's finished! I got through the editing, it's at the publisher's, it's done. I'm free," she said. Her voice held the serenity that comes from not obsessing over something with every fiber of one's being when one has spent every waking second engaged in that particular activity for a long, long time.
"So when does it come out?" Karen asked, expecting the joy of writing to emerge when reding the finished product.
"Who cares? I'm done! Don't you get it? No more constantly worrying about my characters and ebing so deep in the whole world i've created that I loose touch with reality. I'm free. I don't even want to think about it!"
“Wow,” Karen said again. She sounded like a six year old seeing a giant dinosaur skeleton for the first time, full of excitement and awe. All this over seeing what could only be described as an actual, bonafide artist. This must be the process of creativity. You lose yourself and then reemerge from a quicksand of madness. “So… so what do you do when you’re not crazy?”
“Well, I catch up with old friends- I want to hear all about your trip! And I clean the house, cook real meals, enjoy reading a book rather than obsessing over my manuscript- I even open my mail!” she said, picking up an envelope from the coffee table in front of her.
“So you’re… normal. That’s great,” Karen replied. She watched as her friend’s peaceful smile cracked and then completely fell away as she read the contents of the envelope. “What? What is it?” she asked, her body tensing up again.
“It's a book advance,” her friend said.