One of my favorite pastimes is the crossword puzzle in the Sunday Times. On Sunday afternoons I love to cozy up on the sofa and work on the day’s puzzle. Besides it being a great mind stretching exercise, there’s another reason I love it so much. My best friend, Lizzy, happens to be the creator of every Sunday’s puzzle.

Lizzy and I went to Central High School. We played volleyball together. We went to prom together. We even dated and eventually married another pair of best friends: Kevin, Lizzy’s husband, and Steve, mine. After college we all came back home and currently live right down the street from each other. We are both so happy, we have healthy children, and husbands who love us each so much. Life couldn’t be any better.

I always beg Lizzy to give me some clues about each Sunday’s puzzle, but she never does. Instead, she sends me messages in the puzzles. I know that there is a hidden message when the answer to 1 ACROSS starts with an “L” and ends with an “S”, the initials of our first names, Lizzy and Sarah. Then it is up to me to not only solve the crossword puzzle but also to discover her message. Sometimes the messages are very easy to find like the four words across the top of the puzzle. Other times they coincide with certain numbers from our past, our locker numbers in high school, our cell phone numbers, or our dates of birth. The messages themselves can be anything, a funny joke from our past, or an invitation to tea on Wednesday. 1 ACROSS is always the first word in her messages.

Last night the four of us went out, but dinner with the four of us wasn’t the usual exchange of stories with much laughter. Normally our evenings out together begin with general news about jobs and kids and then escalate, as we pop open a second bottle of wine, to old stories from high school. By the time we leave for home our throats are hoarse from all of the hilarity. Tonight was different, Lizzy was very subdued and no matter what Kevin said or did there was no snapping her out of whatever funk she was in. It got me wondering, she’s tired and a bit down and Kevin was all excited, maybe she’s pregnant again. Oh, that would be SO amazing!

As we left the restaurant, Lizzy leaned into me and said, trying to put on a smile, “Good luck with the puzzle tomorrow.”

“Oh boy!” I thought, “She’s gotta be pregnant!”

And so today, while cuddling under a quilt with a hot cup of tea, I got even more excited when the answer to 1 ACROSS was, “LIES”. Considering what I found out last night, it was an unexpected start to her message but it still fit the bill, so I anxiously worked my way through the puzzle. After completing it, no special message jumped out to me. I began running through many of the number combinations that Lizzy had used in the past, but nothing seemed to work. I did notice one thing, however, that was very out of the ordinary for Lizzy and I was really surprised that her editors didn’t catch this mistake either. The clue for 14 ACROSS was the exact same as the clue for 1 ACROSS which meant the same answer, “LIES”, appeared twice. Something seemed very odd. I wracked my brain, and then remembered that we had a favorite sequence of numbers that we always used when we tried to strike it rich with the Lottery back in high school. That’s got to be it! She’s gonna hit the lottery, WITH A BABY! It was series of numbers made up of our birthdates and our favorite numbers written out in ascending order. I hadn’t thought of these numbers in years, 1-5-14-17-24-44.

Lizzy’s messages usually alternate the “ACROSS” and “DOWN” words. She didn’t want it to be too difficult for me to figure out. I eagerly started figuring out the message from all of the numbered clues, but it turned out to be a COMPLETELY different message than I had hoped for:







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