Accidently, I let myself fall asleep as Claudia’s weeping slowly subsided and my troubled thoughts started to diminish. However, when the night rolled in and I did get into this peaceful slumber, I found myself thinking about what had just happened today; and how much I wish that it never did happen. In fact, I found myself wishing a lot of things never happened.
It was incredible how money could make a man that, at one time, had been of normal sanity, a good sense of humor, and an excellent friend. Charles Franklin Dascher was a unique individual, and probably part of a breed of humanity that is very rare. He was adventurous, daring, hilarious… a joy to have around. Now I began wondering how I’m going to deal with him no longer existing.
Quickly I remembered how Charles was in the past week, or weeks if his behavior started even long before he made it vocal to me. He was bribed by Leeman to spy on us… and he took it. Charles has a reasonable amount of sense, but he agreed to do so anyways. What had he planned to do with the money? It was all puzzling… then he tried to kill me, unsuccessfully, though he could have almost killed Daniel in the process. How had he changed that dynamically? Did Leeman’s downfall really signal that big of a defeat for him?
My mind switched to Eva, the awkward German exchange student nobody really even had the chance to know. Her life, like Charles’, was short, and the demise of it had seemingly been Leeman’s dirty money. Charles found some reason to take her down with him, along with the cash… and it didn’t add up. Eva wasn’t exactly a bad student or a troublemaker, but like Charles the bribe got to her.
Suddenly, I felt as though I discovered a left-out piece of an unsolved puzzle. There had to be more to this, and I think I figured it all out. What if there was only ONE bag of cash, and really Leeman had given it to Charles first then Eva afterwards, or vice versa? It was all a game of trading currency under-the-table… all of it stemmed from the man that had been claimed to be a saint, the perfect principle that the world had ever seen.
Just as suddenly, I wondered; why did I care? Charles had despised me, planned my demise… Eva was just a follower and a double-crosser who hardly spoke… they actually meant nothing. Yet their deaths struck me a glancing blow. The nature of their deceases, though… driving off a bridge to drown to death or die upon impacting the water’s surface… I shuddered as I recalled how quickly it had happened, seeing the limp bodies dragged out of the water, and then the suitcase.
Stop it, my mind screamed at me. These bad thoughts will get you nowhere. In fact, there are plenty of good things that you have to focus on. I remembered the girl I held in my arms that was sleeping quietly, her head gently rested on my shoulder while I rested on hers. For some reason, I began to reminisce in the time we had spent together.
All of those years of her never understanding me, all of those years of me doubting her and myself and my social abilities… and my life… I found that I had ended up in some situation in which the Loner was not a title that was given to me anymore. I could almost be called… popular. I talked to a ton of people; the jocks that had once been my enemies, who actually had a good sense of humor, the popular girls that never paid attention to me, as well as Daniel and Claudia’s circles. I was fitting in somehow.
Even if the world around me shattered into pieces, all I needed was Claudia. I had wanted her all of my life, and… I love her. There’s no need to conceal it, hide it; she knows, anyways, we both know. We love each other, like it was all meant to be. It was because I loved her so much that I began to craft a wonderful scheme; and not just for her. I had plenty of things in store for my wingman.
The end of the school year was approaching, and coming up over the horizon was the big highlight of the second half of the year for the juniors and the seniors. For the seniors, it was sort of their farewell event, and for us juniors it was out last party before the summer of our last year before we hit the hard road onto college.
But that wasn’t all. Claudia’s birthday was also this weekend; tomorrow, actually. I had already laid out my plans to her parents. It required money, lots of it. It was something very expensive, one-fourth out of my price range. My parents gave me tons of cash, enough for college, and enough for anything else… my old parents… I shuddered at their memory.
Back to the plan. Claudia always wanted to go do something special, see something special, and thankfully her parents were up to supporting my effort. I pitched in most of the cash, but they contributed a bit so that it could be possible. I couldn’t wait to reveal them to her tomorrow… she’ll be thrilled, guaranteed.
Then prom. It was a rule, a requirement, to ask your date out in some intricate way that he or she would not expect. I already had an idea for how it would work, and it would require the help of my friend if he was as true of a wingman to me as I was to him. Daniel had already told me he planned to ask Sarina, and it was definitely more clever than mine. I was playing a part in it as well, helping him make sure she’d say yes subtly, even though I knew she would. I also had to help set the position up. I found myself excited for these experiences.
I felt someone gently nudge me. Uttering a simple “ugh” of having to wake up, I turned to see Claudia had gotten me awake. I yawned, stretched, then gave off a smile. “Good morning, princess” I offered with a grin.
She laughed a bit, a good sign since she had just been really stressed about the whole Eva ordeal. “Good morning to you too, peasant”. I laughed, sat up, then leaned back on the couch cushion.
“Can’t believe we fell asleep” I said with a laugh. It was kind of awkward now that I thought about it… actually… incredibly awkward. We just slept with each other. I quickly began to see how weird that was. At the same time, I actually didn’t care at all.
“Not my fault you’re lazy” she joked, easing herself into her wheelchair as she said this. Every time I saw her, all I could think of now was how she would react tomorrow.
I stood up, shaking my head. “I think you’re delusional”.
She stood up and kissed me. “Then I guess we’re both crazy”.
I abruptly realized my previous observation had been incorrect; it wasn’t the morning. Peering out the window and checking the clock, I saw that it was almost 4am. I was wondering why she woke me up, then I turned and saw the movie in her hands.
“The Princess Bride, hmm?” I asked for confirmation, realizing her trickery, a smile playing on my lips.
“Something I haven’t seen in too long” she replied.
We both smiled at each other as I voiced what I had just figured out. “You tricked me”.
“Maybe” she replied, inserting the DVD into the player. As soon as it was functioning, she rolled over to the couch, got out of her wheelchair, then eased herself back on. I helped make sure she didn’t fall; that moment at the beach showed her therapy was getting her somewhere, and may fully return restore her walking, but I was still cautious.
“Couldn’t wait until morning?” I asked her, being serious for once.
“I’d rather it be quiet, in the night” she responded, which was reasonable enough. “And… I couldn’t wait” she said with a childish giggle.
With a shrug, I put my arm around her as she laid her head lightly on my shoulder. The movie started, and we followed it, wide-awake, from start to finish. I think Claudia began to fall sleep at one point, but I was able to keep her awake. We both said Inigo Montoya’s famous line together, then of course she cheered when he killed the evil six-fingered man. Claudia had a thing for rooting for main characters a lot, though personally I thought it was kind of cute.
The credits rolled, and I felt like I never really have before. Everything felt very relaxed, laid-back. In all of my life… or our lives, I should say… we had been relentlessly attacked by tragedy and depression. Now as I viewed today, how Daniel was together with Sarina, and how I was love with Claudia… it felt as though we were moving forward, away from our past.
“Still awake?” Claudia asked me jokingly. I was the one that kept her going through the film. She got tired easily, and it wasn’t that she didn’t like the movie, it was just how she was wired. In contrast, I was pretty much a night owl, morning dove, and afternoon Neanderthal.
“I’d like to believe so. Unless this is all a dream” was my reply.
“What if we were in the movie?” she wondered out loud. We shared a look as we began to imagine the possibilities.
“I’d be the Princess, of course-“
“High self-esteem I see?”
“Oh shut up…”
“Daniel could be Vezini. But that means he dies…”
“We’d rewrite it”.
“That would ruin the movie!”
“Well, it’s a dream! You can’t dictate it”.
"Oh shut up”.
We laughed throughout as we began to write our own version of the famous film. Eventually, we found ourselves at the end, when the group is riding out of the castle, having killed the six-fingered man and tied up the villainous Prince.
“It was the most passionate kiss” Claudia recalled as her mind remembered the movie. After she said this, I turned and replied;
“Sure about that?”
It was almost like a tackle. Claudia brought me into a kiss that would definitely blow the film version away. In this embrace we sat for a long time until we broke apart and smiled at each other. Once again we realized how much we really did love each other, realized how much we mattered to each other. I knew I couldn’t go on without her. Even if a fire tried to kill us, it wouldn’t burn us down.
It was around 7am at this point. The sun had begun its journey to the top of the horizon. We yawned at exactly the same time, got up and walked (or wheeled) to go make breakfast. Claudia offered when the movie ended she’d make waffles, so I held her to that, more as a joke, but she made them anyways.
To anyone who knew us well, they’d think that our relationship would never work. The fact that we lived together in the same house in a brother-sister type of relationship… and we technically WERE siblings… we still dated. We lived together so easily as though we were part of a family. We ate together, did homework together… simple things that ordinarily would be uncommon in a normal dating relationship in high school. It was as though we loved each other in one life, but at the same time led two lives with each other. I make it sound complicated, but, to me, it really isn’t.
Suddenly, I remembered the plan; the birthday plan. Right now was the perfect time.
When she turned to get the waffles out of the fridge, I revealed four plane tickets to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“Little early, but happy birthday Claudia” I said, grinning.