By Maureen Thayer
Rollie Tyler walked onto the set with a smile on his face.  Today was a very special day for him.  It was the one-year anniversary of the day his life changed for the better, the day he started working for Manny Ramirez.  He really didn’t expect anyone else to remember, but that was all right.  His little party tonight would just be a party of one.

The morning passed quickly.  The Aussie did the work Manny assigned to him with the smile never far from his face.

“You seem to be in an extremely good mood today, Rollie,” Manny commented while they were having lunch.  “Is there some particular reason for it or are you just feeling good?”

“I’m just happy to be here, Manny.  Life is good.”

“Yes, it is.”  Manny’s eyes caught sight of someone approaching them and gave a sigh.  “Except when you have to deal with a pain-in-the-butt assistant director.”  He went off to deal with the pain-in-the-butt.

The rest of the day passed as quickly as the morning.  Not even some mechanical trouble with a piece of equipment could dampen Rollie’s mood, though the fact that Angie didn’t come to the studio after school was disappointing.

Manny’s daughter was his best mate.  Hardly a weekend went by that they didn’t spend at least some time together.  She was like his little sister, and he loved her dearly.

Their relationship had gone through a bad period a while back when Angie seemed moody and almost constantly angry at him.  At the time, he’d had no idea what the problem was.  It had started at around the same time as the Aussie’s first date with Kelly Marshall.  Angie had been dreadful to her, actually asking Kelly point-blank if she’d had plastic surgery to enhance her figure.  And Rollie still suspected that Angie had something to do with Kelly’s lips turning green when she put her lipstick on.  His relationship with Kelly had lasted all of three dates, his trouble with Angie, three weeks.

There had been one particularly bad day when he couldn’t seem to do anything right as far as Angie was concerned.  Hurt and angry, he had finally confronted her.  Though she never told him why she’d acted the way she did, the next day, she suddenly apologized to him.  From then on, their friendship had been nothing but good, though Rollie did notice that Angie didn’t hug him, or hold his hand, or kiss him on the cheek as often as she had before, which was something he missed.  She also teased him on occasion, something she hadn’t done before.  The teasing was rare, though, and was never cruel.  It sometimes even made him smile, and it made her seem even more like a sister to him.

A while after their relationship got back on the good side, Rollie found out that Angie had advanced into puberty, and he decided that that must have been what the problem was.

“I was wondering if you could do me a favor, Rollie,” Manny said as they finished cleaning up.  “We’re just about out of red dye, and we’re going to need a lot of it tomorrow.  Could you pick some up?”

“Sure, Manny.  Where do you want me to get it?”

Rollie got the address from Manny and picked up the dye.  On the way home, he also got a pizza, a piece of chocolate cake, and a box of birthday candles.  He knew that a lot of people would think it was silly to stick a candle on his lone little piece of cake, but he didn’t care.  He was celebrating.

Balancing the pizza, cake, and candles in one hand, Rollie unlocked the door of his apartment.  He flipped on the light as he stepped in--and came to an abrupt halt, his mouth dropping open.  Hanging from the ceiling and walls were crepe paper streamers of every color imaginable, and standing in the middle of the living room were Manny and Angie, huge grins on their faces.

“Surprise!” they shouted in unison.

“What in the world?  What’s all this?” the Aussie asked, stunned.

“You didn’t think that we’d forget what day this is, did you?” Manny asked.

“I . . . yes, I guess I did.  I didn’t believe that you’d even think about it.”

“Rollie, this day is as special to us as it is you.  Don’t you know that?”

A bright grin spread across Rollie’s face.  “Thanks, Manny, and thank you, Angie.”

“What kind of pizza did you get?” Angie asked, grabbing the box from him.

“Sausage and mushroom.”

“Ooh!  My favorite!  It isn’t very big, though.”

“Well, I wasn’t expecting company,” Rollie explained.

Angie grinned.  “We wanted to surprise you.  Do you like my decorations?”

“I sure do.  How did you reach the ceiling, short stuff?”

Angie poked him in the ribs over the “short” comment.  “How do you think, bean pole?  I used a ladder.”  She looked at the cake sitting on top of the pizza box.  “Come take a look at what I made.”  She grabbed Rollie’s hand and led him into the kitchen.  On the table sat a big, beautiful, double-layer German chocolate cake.

“Wow!  I’m tempted to skip dinner and go straight to dessert,” the Aussie said.

Angie smiled delightedly.  “That’s fine with me.  It’ll leave more pizza for me.”

“Uh uh.  No way, Ange.  If you want my third of that pizza, you’ll have to kill me for it.”

Angie looked down at the pizza, then back to Rollie, as if trying to make up her mind between the two.  “Well . . . maybe if it was a bigger pizza.”

“Oh, thanks a lot, Angie.  Now I know where I stand on your scale of importance,” Rollie said sarcastically.  Then a smile came to his face.  “Come on.  Let’s eat it before it gets cold.”

They ate the pizza and the fried chicken and potato salad that Angie had brought.  The cake came next, along with some vanilla ice cream.  Angie put one of the candles on the cake and told Rollie to make a wish and blow it out.

“I thought you only do that on birthdays,” Rollie said with a smile.

“We’ll make an exception,” Manny responded, delighted with the happy sparkle in his apprentice’s eyes.  A couple of months ago, that sparkle had been very much missing.  Rollie had gone out on a date, and what Manny had feared would happen did.  Angie did not take it at all well.  She began acting cold and distant to him.  Though Manny never caught her saying anything mean to him, there had been times when the look on the Aussie’s face had made him suspect that Angie had said something.  Poor Rollie, not knowing why Angie was acting as she was, had clearly been miserable.  Manny had kept hoping that Angie would get over her anger on her own, but then a day came when he had actually seen tears in his apprentice’s eyes, and the F/X artist had finally decided that enough was enough.  He had gone home that night determined to have a talk with his daughter, but she was already asleep by then.  The next morning, he had to leave before she got up.  Then, all at once, Angie had come to the studio that afternoon and everything had changed.  The relationship between her and Rollie had been fine since then.

Manny watched as the Aussie closed his eyes for a moment, then blew out the candle.

“What did you wish for?” Angie asked.

“I can’t tell you.  It won’t come true if I do,” Rollie replied with a mischievous smile.

Angie pouted for a moment, then got busy cutting and serving the cake.  It tasted as good as it looked.

After dinner, they all sat in the living room and began to share memories of the last year.  It was a wonderful evening, and Rollie was wishing that it would never end, but he knew that it had to eventually.

Angie watched Rollie as he and her father talked and laughed over some of the funnier disasters that had happened at work throughout the year.  She was so happy that they had done this surprise party.  This was a special day.  It was the anniversary of the day she found her best friend.  She had lots of friends at school, kids she hung around with and played with, but Rollie would always be her best friend.

A couple of months ago, she had been really hurt when Rollie went on a date.  Before then, Angie had dreamed that, someday, when she was all grown up, she and Rollie would get married.  But when he went out with that Kelly woman, Angie had suddenly realized that Rollie didn’t feel the same way about her as she did about him.  Angry and upset at what she felt was a betrayal, Angie had treated Rollie horribly for weeks, though she had been careful to never say anything mean to him while her father was around since she didn’t want Manny yelling at her.

Rollie’s relationship with Kelly had only lasted about a week and a half before they decided that they weren’t compatible, but that made no difference to Angie.  She had still been mad at him.

Then, one day, she saw Rollie talking to a pretty girl at the studio.  Furious, Angie had acted even worse to him than before.  She would never forget the look on his face when, a little while later, he made a small error in the placement of an explosives charge, and she made a hurtful comment about it. . . .

“I’m sorry, Manny.  I guess my mind just wasn’t on what I was doing,” Rollie said.

“Hey, don’t worry about it,” Manny told him.  “The director was happy with it anyway.  You’d be appalled at all the mistakes I made during my first few months working for George Dean.  Frankly, your track record has been a lot better than mine was.”  Manny glanced over at the director.  “I’d better go find out if he’s made up his mind on how he wants that gag on Friday to go.”

“You just can’t do anything right, can you,” Angie said after her father left.

A look of anger and pain came into Rollie’s eyes.  “Angie, why are you treating me like this?  I thought that we were friends.  What did I do to make you hate me?  Did I do something to hurt you?  If I did, I’m sorry.  I would never want to hurt you.  I lo. . . .”  He stopped, then sighed.  “I’m sorry that you don’t like me anymore.  Maybe you should just stop talking to me.  Or maybe . . . maybe I’d better just leave.”  There was a small tremor in his voice.  “If you can’t stand the sight of me, then perhaps it would be best if I just wasn’t around for you to see anymore.”  He turned on his heels and left, telling Manny that he was going to start setting up the next gag.

Angie watched him go.  Leave?  Did he mean leave for good?  Go away forever?  The thought of Rollie going away and never coming back made Angie feel like crying.  She didn’t want him to leave.

Angie called to her father and told him that she was going home, making the excuse that she had lots of homework.  All the way home, she kept thinking about never seeing Rollie again.  By the time she went through the door of the loft, her eyes were burning from unshed tears.  The moment the door closed behind her, the tears came.  All the hateful things she’d said to him and the way that she had been treating him came back to her.  With a sob, she ran upstairs and threw herself on her bed.  How could she have been so mean to him?  And it had all been just because he’d gone out on a date, shattering her little dream that he would someday marry her.

Suddenly, Angie realized how stupid and childish she had been.  Rollie was a grown man, and she was just a kid.  How could she have thought that he felt the same way she did?

“Dumb.  You are so dumb,” Angie told herself.  And now she had hurt Rollie, said terrible things that she could never take back.  He should hate her for it, but he didn’t.  Even after the way that she had been treating him, he had still been nice to her.  And now he thought that she hated him.  Angie cried even harder, ashamed over how she had treated her best friend.  Somehow, she had to make things right.  If Rollie went away, she would just die.

The next afternoon after school, she went to the studio, still not sure about what she was going to say to Rollie.  As she walked toward him and her father, the Aussie looked up and spied her.  She saw a cloud of sadness pass over his face before he dropped his eyes back to what he was doing.

Gathering her courage, Angie slowly walked up to him.  She came to a stop about four feet away.  Rollie’s hands paused in the act of putting together a squib.  He sat unmoving for several seconds before finally lifting his eyes to hers.  In those eyes she could clearly see the pain she had caused him.  Seeing that made tears come to her eyes.  She covered the last four feet between them and threw her arms around Rollie’s neck.

“I’m sorry, Rollie.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean it,” she sobbed.

The Aussie hesitated only the tiniest of moments before his arms went around her, hugging her tightly.  His hand began stroking her hair.  “It’s all right, sweetie,” he whispered.

The hug lasted a long time before Rollie gently pulled away and looked down at her.  Sniffling, Angie stared at the top button of his shirt.  His finger came under her chin and lifted it up so that she had no choice but to meet his eyes.  The difference that she saw there was amazing.  The sparkle was back in them, along with a look of joy.

Rollie’s fingers wiped the wetness from her face.  “Hey there.  Dry those tears now.  I don’t want any more crying from my girl, okay?”

Angie nodded.  “Okay.”  She looked down at what he was doing.  “Can I help?”

A wonderful smile lit up the Aussie’s face.  “Yeah.  That would be great.”

Angie sat down, and side by side they worked, not speaking another word of what had happened in those three weeks. . . .

Rollie never did ask Angie why she’d acted as she had.  Their friendship had continued just as strong as it had been before.  In time, Angie’s crush on him faded away.  She now looked upon him as a brother.

Angie got up and went upstairs.  She came down a short time later with two gift-wrapped packages.  She handed them to Rollie.

“What are these?” he asked in surprise.

“Anniversary presents,” she told him.

“But I didn’t get anything for you,” the Aussie said, suddenly feeling bad.

“That’s all right, Rollie,” Manny assured him.  “You didn’t know that we were going to do this.”

Rollie looked down at the gifts.  He decided to open Angie’s first.  He removed the wrapping paper with care, eliciting a faint sigh of impatience from her.  A big smile spread across his face when he saw what was inside.  It was a black jacket upon which had been embroidered the Ramirez F/X logo and his name.  Rollie took a closer look at the stitching and realized that it had been done by hand.

“Did you do this,” he asked Angie.

She nodded.  “I’m not very good at sewing and embroidery.”

“This is wonderful, Angie.  It looks great.  I’ll want to wear it every day.”  He gave her a tight hug.  “Thank you.”

Angie smiled brightly, happy that she had spent all those hours on the embroidery.

Rollie picked up the present from Manny and unwrapped it.  Inside the box was a gold-plated keychain shaped in the form of Australia with Rollie’s first name engraved on the front.

“Thanks, Manny.  This is great,” the Aussie said with delight.  “I guess you noticed that I needed a new keychain.”  His old keychain, one that his father had given him to put his car keys on when Rollie got his driver’s license, had gotten damaged and had begun to spring open at the most inopportune times.

“Only after about the third or fourth time that your keys went flying everywhere,” Manny responded with a grin.  “Look on the back.”

The Aussie turned the keychain over and discovered more engraving on the back.  “To the best apprentice and one of the finest friends that I could ever hope to have.  Happy Anniversary.”

Rollie blinked back the tears that had come to his eyes.  He looked up at his boss and friend.  “Thank you, Manny, for everything.”

“I’m the one who should be thanking you.  You’ve been a Godsend.  I don’t know how I ever got along without you.  And you’re good for business too.”

Rollie shook his head.  “I seriously doubt that.”

“Believe it, Rollie.  I’ve gotten a lot more job offers during this last year than I did the year before.  The word is getting out about all those amazing gadgets that you create.”

Rollie smiled shyly, still thinking that Manny was exaggerating his contribution to the increase in business.

The F/X artist had grown serious.  He reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope.  “This came for you yesterday.”

Puzzled at the expression on Manny’s face, Rollie took the envelope.  His eyes widened when he saw the return address.  It was from one of the largest special effects companies in the country.  His eyes opened even wider when he began to read the letter inside.

“They . . . they want me to go to their New York office for a job interview.”

Manny nodded, as if he had already guessed that’s what the letter was.

“But how do they even know about me?” the Aussie asked in confusion.  “I’ve only been doing this for a year.”

“Those big F/X companies always have their eyes and ears open for hot new talent.  It’s one of the ways they stay ahead.”

“You’re not going to go there, are you?” Angie asked, her eyes filled with fear.

The Aussie silently folded the letter and put it back in the envelope.  “Manny, you’ll have to give me some advice on how I should write the letter turning them down.”

The expression of dread that had been on the F/X artist’s face lifted slightly.  “Are you sure, Rollie?  It would be a huge step up in your career.”

The Aussie looked directly into his boss’s eyes.  “Manny, I wouldn’t trade what I have here with you and Angie for ownership of ILM.”

A joyful grin spread across Manny’s face.  He reached out and gave Rollie’s shoulder a strong squeeze.  An instant later, Angie was hugging Rollie.

“If you had left, I would have killed you, Rollie,” she said, her face trying to grin and frown at the same time.

“I can believe it,” the Aussie replied, laughing.  Then he became serious.  “I want you both to know how great this year has been for me.  There isn’t anything else in the world that I’d rather be doing or anyplace else that I’d rather be.  But it’s more than the work.  I haven’t felt this much like I was a part of a family in a long, long time.  You guys are my family.”

“You’re our family too, Rollie,” Angie said, her hand slipping into his.

“Yes, you are,” Manny agreed.  “And, as family, I want you to know that if you ever want to talk about anything, and I mean anything, we’re here for you.”

“Thanks, Manny.  Thanks a lot.”

That night, as Rollie got ready for bed, he thought about the wish that he had made.  He had wished that he would never lose the wonderful life he had found with Manny and Angie, that they would always be his friends.

The Aussie’s mind went back to all the things that had happened in the last year and how Manny and Angie had become so very important to him.  How amazing it was that people could come into your life, and in so short a time, they could become such a big part of it that you could not bear the thought of them not being there.

Friendship truly was one of the most wonderful things on Earth.


(Author's Note: ILM stands for Industrial Light & Magic, the special effect company that George Lucas founded.)

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