Slay the Dragon, Save the Princess | {story#14}


This is an original fiction piece written for StoryADay September. Read more & follow here.
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She turned from our star, cutting short the conversation. I tried to reconnect several times, but she wouldn’t return to my frequency.

Is it really over? Did she really just break up with me?

I just stood there in my backyard, in silence, still sweaty from the pacing I had done for the past two hours on this most-stressful of phone calls. The long distance had been tough, to be sure, but surely she didn’t think that this one year we’d have to spend apart was worth ending things over, did she? I know this year had been hard with her Master’s program, but I generally found Jules to be so calm, steady, and at ease. I didn’t think anything could get to her. It seems I was wrong.

I turned to Tim’s star and started saying his name. I waited for a few moments and he finally returned my call, his voice filling my mind’s thoughts. I told him about the conversation with Jules and me. As I began telling him, I felt the first bit of sobbing begin to swell within my chest. Tim cut me short and told me to come over. I ran over to his place as fast as I could. Though the speed limit was 55mph, I easily went 75. By the time I got there, my feet were bleeding, as this particular New Jersey road had not been paved with the anticipation of feet going that fast–60 or 65mph, maybe, but certainly not 75.

As my feet began to heal, I told him about how Jules felt like I had been neglecting her; how she needed more “presentness” from me; how she only just now realized that my “normal rhythm of life” was so much different than hers. Neither Tim nor I knew exactly what this meant, but I think she was referring to my frequency of calling her. She must have thought that my lack of calling was simply me enjoying life without her, but (as I explained to Tim), it was because she kept talking about how stressful school was and how she had no time to get everything done!

During the course of my conversation, I moved on from a sense of loss to a sense of anger. How dare she not give me any chance to change or adjust? How dare she think she had the right to end things like that for such silly reasons?

“They’re not silly to her”, replied Tim. “She’s in the middle of the most stress she’s ever had and her only source of relief and comfort seemed to abandon her.”

“Who’s side are you on?!”, I indignantly asked.

“I’m on the side of your relationship. Look, I think you guys can get past this–and I want you too–but not as long as you’re just getting pissed at her. You’re right. She’s right. It’s just one of those things. When was the last time you saw her?”

“Not since she left, but she’s only been in California for two months! How often was I supposed to see her? She had just started school!”

“Bro, it’s not that long of a flight. Five? Six hours? You could even sleep on the way there! When was you license last renewed?”

“Six-months ago…”, I muttered.

“Then you’re good to go! Now get your ass in the sky and get over there!”

I knew he was right. And after my pride relented and allowed me some perspective, I was able to see the situation a bit more clearly. I really did love her. I really was trying to give her the space I thought she wanted. No, I hadn’t asked her before making these assumptions. Yes, she probably felt neglected. Yes, she had dropped a bunch of hints that I should have been calling more. No, I didn’t pick them up at the time and am only now figuring them out.

It had started raining, and it sucked that I hadn’t brought a shoe-weight with me to keep me from sliding all over the water. Knowing the roads would be slippery, it took me a lot longer to get home, allowing me a lot of time to think. Watching the water slip down my skin and clothes and form a little pool beneath me, I imagined our relationship was like one of these gathering pools of water: a growing platform on which we stood, off of which we could slip at just the wrong moment.

This thought felt a bit off, though–like it didn’t “fit” what I knew of Jules and me. It felt like a winter sweater that had grown on your body while you slept in a weird position, so in the morning, it felt a bit off and didn’t quite fit properly. And so, just as one would do with that misshapen sweater, I discarded this equally misshapen thought.

You see, we really hadn’t been so precarious as all that. We’d been through some real crap. It’s still weird that this would cause Jules so much frustration. Ever since I met her those two summers ago, we’d been so consistent. Sure, we had our issues, but, year-round, we’d been inseparable. In the summers we’d hold hands, feeling the air-conditioning release from our pores, cooling our otherwise sweaty palms. In the winter, we’d fall asleep holding ourselves so tightly we’d wake with a single sweater grown around us. We loved each other!

It’s then I tried on a few new thoughts, to see how they felt. What if she’s freaking out right now, wondering what she’s done? What if she’s so terrified of how I’m feeling and thinks I’m so mad that she couldn’t call me right now? What if she feels this has been a huge mistake and doesn’t want this to end?

I walked around with these thoughts for a bit, and they actually fit remarkably well. It seemed to just resonate. In a way that is beyond explanation, it was almost like a voice deep within me was affirming these musings–not as merely “valid”, or “worth a try”, but truth. Real, solid, deep, tangible truth.

I immediately packed my backpack. It was already nearly 1am, but i didn’t care. My girl was hurting and I was going to run after her.

With my pack packed, and my heart filled, I set off. The post-rain air was thick with fog and humidity, such that, even in this cool weather, my pores still began releasing their layer of cool air all about my body. The humidity-sweat soon evaporated, especially as my elevation became ever higher. At this point, a fresh sweater began growing, and it’s soft warmth was a welcome relief from the sharp bite of frost these atmospheric clouds nipped upon my cheeks.

I soon centered my thoughts on my destination. Having moved her in at the school, my cognitive map was still fresh enough to let my mind fix on the position. Feeling my autonomic muscles take over, I relaxed and soon fell asleep.

A clap of lightning woke me. My senses told me I was somewhere over Kansas, a little more than half-way to Jules. I felt myself being pulled down and looked below me to see the top of a tornado, opening wide its jaws to draw me in to its whirlpool. I flexed all my muscles, trying to pull out of the force, but it was too strong. I was swallowed into the tornado, along with boards, nails, wheat, animal parts, doors, windows, and a tire. I spun and spun and spun until I landed with a thud on the ground. Then there was nothing but silence all around me.

I saw my leg and my arm were clearly broken, as well as a pipe having run clean through my thigh, stuck mid-way through. Cursing, I laid back on the ground waiting for my body to heal.I felt the messages moving up and down my spinal cord to the various parts of my body, checking their statuses. I felt the extra blood begin to move to my arm and as the skin reformed itself, it drew the broken muscle across the ground towards its original place, slowly fitting it back like a puzzle piece. When I felt my arm was back in its proper spot and back to its original strength, I removed the pipe from my thigh, and the pain almost made me pass out. I screamed at feeling the movement of an object within my body. I was not used to this sensation. As soon as it was removed, though, I felt my heart begin to send it’s healing strength. I watched as the wound bound up. Each sinew reconnected and regenerated. The skin cells rejoined to their original counterpart.

All together, it took about two hours for the healing to be done. This was certainly the longest my body had taken to heal from any injury it had, but I chalked it up to the Kansas air. I set back off.

I arrived in California, around 9:30a. Jules had class at 9a. It was her first exam of the semester. I felt bad that our conversation surely messed with her studying, but I had no doubt she was fully prepared as of this week.

The door to her studio apartment remembered me and easily opened to my touch. It was a good sign Jules hadn’t reset it. Inside, I found a situation I know that Jules would not have been happy for me to find: clutter. All over the floor were used tissues and tissue boxes, uncleaned dishes, books splayed all over the floor, and an unmade bed.

Knowing she’d be back by 11:30, I began cleaning. I swept her floors, palm-sweat her dishes clean, and pore-dried them. I took some roses from the front of her apartment complex and put them nicely into a vase and set it on her kitchen table. I made her bed. I made a lunch using what ingredients she had in her kitchen. This ended up forming a lunch of meager means–mainly some lunch meat and untested white bread. I sat on the couch around 11:15 to wait for her.

I woke up to her face. It was 1pm. She had come back late after getting lunch on campus after her exam.

“I’m glad the door remembered your touch”, she said.

“Me too”, I groggily replied.

“You’re either here to yell at me or forgive me, right?”

“I’m here to love you.”

“How can you still love me after what I did to you?”

“What do you mean?”

“I was a crazy-person on the phone last night. I’m so sorry about how I acted. I don’t want to lose you. I’ve been so embarrassed and a wreck all day. I could barely make it through my exam. I hate being that needy girl. I just hate being away from you. This school stuff has just been messing with me. I was going to call you tonight, I promise. I’m sorry.”

“But Jules, you were right. I was an asshole and made a lot of assumptions. I’m sorry.”

“How are you able to forgive me?”

“Are you kidding me? I don’t deserve you in the first place! I spend time with you and start feeling like I’m living some other life–a life that must be too charmed to be mine. It always seems to be that when I’m most lost in you and your presence, I stumble on a mirror. And when I look in this mirror, I’m reminded that I’m the one in this movie with you. I look into my eyes–that that face I’ve started into most intimately all my life, and I’m shocked. It floors me every time I realize that this face–my face–is the very face you love. I can’t handle it some times.”

“I do love it. And I love you.”

She leaned down and joined me on the couch. We awoke several hours later, wrapped in a single sweater, trapping us in one another’s arms, breathing each other’s breath.

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Creative Commons License
This work by Paul Burkhart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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