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LMS VI: Let Me Live Tonight 1.10

by winterwolf0100


Warning: This work has been rated 16+.

By the end of kindergarten, she’d grown bored of school. “School is boring!” She’d say, swinging from the branches of our tree, pulling herself up to balance precariously on top of it. The sun showed red-hot and the ground wavered in the heat. “I want to go on an adventure!”

Her parents had begun reading her chapter books before bed— ones with princesses and magic and sword fights and wizards. Every day after school, she’d recount the stories to me, so it was almost like I was reading the books too, even though my dad was at work too late to read to me, and my mom was always too tired. When she was done telling the previous night’s chapter, we’d begin to act it out.

“I’ll be the knight!” She’d declare, “and you be the dragon.”

We’d chase each other across our yards, roaring at each other, using sticks for swords. Sometimes we were a knight and a dragon, but as she finished one book and went on to another, things changed. Sometimes, we were both wizards. Sometimes, we were fighters. Sometimes, we were on a quest to find something magical. We ran through caves and fortresses and dungeons and forests, all in our two yards.

One day, I came outside in the morning— school was out for the summer— and she sat underneath the tree, legs pulled up to her chest, chin resting on her knees. She looked up at me and frowned when she saw me. “I have really sad news,” she announced, staring down at her lap.

“What?” I asked, moving to stand beside her.

“The elf princess is captured,” she said solemnly. “The guard betrays her.” I saw that in her lap, she held the current book her parents were reading her, one with a shiny golden cover. She was holding it with a sense of betrayal, discomfort and disconnection from the pages in front of her.

“What happened?” I asked, sinking down next to her.

“They’re in the marketplace, and she’s in her disguise,” she began, flipping through the pages of the book absent-mindedly. “And the guard is with her. But then, they’re surrounded by enemy soldiers who found them. And she tries to run, but the guard grabs her and pushes her towards them to save himself.”

“What?” I exclaimed, looking over her shoulder at the book. “Let me see.”

She held the book up miserably and pointed to the page. “It’s right there! He’s too scared and he betrays her and runs away instead!”

“What happens to the elf princess?”

“We don’t know yet,” she groaned, leaning her head back against the tree.

I frowned. “That’s terrible.”

We sat in silence for a long moment, before she sighed and set the book down. It was mid-morning, but sweat was already beginning to trickle down the back of my neck, and I moved a hand to unstick the hair from my forehead. Slowly, she let her legs slide down and she sat back, then pushed herself to her feet determinedly.

“Okay,” she announced. “We have to do it now.”

“But I don’t want to betray you,” I said, shooting to my feet. “I don’t wanna be the guard.”

She shrugged. “You’re always the guard.”

“Yeah, but I don’t wanna do that,” I complained. “I don’t want to get you hurt.”

“We don’t know that she’s hurt,” she pointed out.

“It’s the enemy soldiers, of course she’s hurt!” I yelled, before crossing my arms and turning away. “I bet they killed her,” I muttered.

“Don’t say that,” she whispered, fear seeping into her voice. “Please don’t say that.”

“I bet they did.” I doubled down. “I bet they took her back to their king and he killed her and now she’s gone forever and the guard’s a stupid traitor. I hope he dies.”

She rushed towards me abruptly and pushed me. I stumbled but didn’t fall, then turned to look back at her, incredulous.

“Don’t say that,” she cried out angrily. “She’s not dead, we don’t know that she’s dead! I don’t want her to be dead, I don’t want—” She stopped, beginning to cry. She sank slowly to the ground and buried her face in her hands. I froze, unsure what to do as I watched her. I hesitated, then sat down next to her again. I stayed quiet; I didn’t know what to say.

“I don’t want her to die,” she cried, her body trembling. Her breaths quickly sped.

“She’s not gonna die,” I reassured.

“I don’t want her to be dead,” she hiccuped as she began to cry harder.

“She won’t be. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.”

Her crying morphed into sobs as she hugged herself, body shaking like a leaf. The heat beat down on us as we sat in the tall green grass. “I— don’t want— to die,” she choked before burying her face in her knees.

“You’re not gonna die,” I whispered. “You aren’t really the elf princess. It’s just a game.”

We stayed quiet for a long time before she stood, hiding her face from me as she whispered, “I’m gonna go inside. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Okay,” I said, picking up the book and handing it to her. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She wiped her face on her arm and said, “Don’t tell any of the other kids about this, alright?”

“I won’t,” I promised.

She nodded, then hurried to her front door and disappeared quickly inside.

The next day, we met outside again, same time, alone. All the other kids were away for the summer or at camps. She exclaimed, “Good news! They had a spy on the inside, and the elf princess got out!”

“That’s great!” I said, and she picked up a stick and tossed it to me.

“Here’s your sword. We gotta do when the spy gets her out!”

We played the rest of the day, adventures and quests and danger. When we finished with what she’d read the night before, we moved on to our own stories, making them up as we went along. We played all day, stopping for sandwiches at her house, burgers at mine. We sped through our meals then ran back out to play. We had until dark, and in the summer, the light seemed to stretch out forever. We ran through jungles, swung from vine to vine carrying torches and out-running traps. The yellow blended with the green and muddled the sticky air. We played all day until we collapsed beneath our tree, exhausted and sweaty. We sat there quietly, catching our breath.

She didn’t mention the previous day. I didn’t bring it up. I never told anyone about that day— not even Felix. I still haven’t told him.

Sometimes I think about that book— the elf princess and the guard, the spy and the danger. That moment of suspense, when the air hung still, knowing I’d have to wait until the next morning to know what had happened to her. A push and betrayal, a pluck and a toss. In the summers we picked flowers just to watch them fall apart, the sun falling into the green.

~~~

1194 words


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“Writing fiction is the act of weaving a series of lies to arrive at a greater truth.”
— Khalid Hosseini, Author

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