April 1, 2017

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Apparently what I wrote yesterday, I didn’t post. Here it is, a day late.

Stupidity and Humanity 

If one word only must be used to describe Casey Aitken it would be “romantic.” Her heart overflowed with dreams, both plausible and out of this world. She believed wholeheartedly in marriage, seeing it as a beautiful thing. Men made her heart skip a beat; she could see something good and beautiful in every one she met. Most often, she spent her time reading. The classics were her favorites: Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, Oliver Twist, To Kill a Mockingbird. Many of her peers teased her for her seemingly outdated interests and views. They thought she was old-fashioned to the point of ridicule. They laughed at her ideals, saying they were bogus, telling her to give up on them, wholeheartedly believing that she must be wrong. How could a good man and a good woman somehow find each other in this mess of a world, fall in love, and keep their marriage in tact despite all the temptations and catastrophes that life might throw?

If Casey was a romantic, her sister was the exact opposite. Meg fell more in line with the rest of the world. To her, falling in love was a beautiful feeling but it could hardly last. She had contented herself with dabbling in affairs of the heart, rather than committing herself to one man in particular. If she didn’t believe in the power of marriage, why should she expect her man to? Meg proudly identified herself with the rest of the world, sometimes tossing her own teasing and insults at her younger sister (though typically, her words held much less sting than those of others). 

Despite their opposite views and opinions, Casey and Meg were close enough that people often confused them for twins, when in fact Meg was two or three years Casey’s senior. The two sisters did everything together. They would go shopping together, showing off their possible picks for the other to get her opinion. They would go to the movies together, joking that they were each other’s date, particularly on such romantic holidays as the overly commercialized Valentine’s Day. Every little thing in their lives, they shared, their secrets and their deepest hurts. If Meg experienced heartbreak, which she did more often than a woman of her ideals would prefer to admit, Casey always lent a listening ear and a loving embrace. If Casey had a particularly poor day, Meg always put on her favorite comedy, popped popcorn and poured glasses of their favorite beverage, and forced Casey to watch the movie until she had a smile on her face. The two were practically inseparable. 

When Meg went off to college in Casey’s junior year of high school, Casey found herself lonely, watching her sister from afar as she ran off to study—her dream, like her, practical—and to fall in love with boy after boy. It felt like Meg had met someone new every week, and Casey worried about her sister. Love didn’t work that way, not in Casey’s perspective. Love lasted longer than a few short minutes or hours, weeks if you were lucky. Love lasted a lifetime if fought for like anything worth having deserves to be fought for. She did not see her sister finding any such love in the near future. 

Two years later, Casey followed her sister to college, even to the same one, though their courses of study couldn’t be further from the same. Meg studied medicine, hoping to help those in need, while Casey took a more traditional, intellectual route, spending all her time in the liberal arts, the literatures and the writings and the philosophies. Casey dreamt of a career in writing, or maybe as a teacher, or maybe as an academic. Meg, on the other hand, only attended classes because she needed them in order to follow her childhood dreams. 

Even in their love lives, the two sisters differed vastly. Meg continued to have a new date every week. Sometimes, she brought the same guy home two or three weeks in a row, pleasantly surprising her sister. Those moments gave Casey small bursts of hope–maybe her sister wasn’t as hopeless a case as she had originally thought!–but then Meg would come home the next week with a different guy, shattering all possibility of any change. 

For the most part, Casey didn’t search for love. She believed that love would find her if it was meant to be. She still found herself pining over guys, as all young girls of eighteen or nineteen do, but for the moment, she wished to focus on her studies. A liberal arts program, she found, was quite taxing and it took much of her energy away. Her social life slowly started to disappear as she melted into her studies, sometimes hardly distinguishable from the stack of books surrounding her. 

The only friend she had was a young man, her age and class, named Ian Martz. Ian Martz had big hopes himself, dreaming of big things to come. The two got along famously, similarly minded and tempered. Both believed in the beauty of a lasting love, which would theoretically make them more compatible than any other pair, but neither of them could see it. They viewed their relationship as fraternal, certainly not romantic. Romance would be weird in a relationship such as theirs. It had no part existing there, and they both heartily agreed to stamp it out if it ever arose. 

Ian failed in his task. Day in and day out, he had to watch as his closest friend and the darling of his heart slowly fell for someone else. She became blinded to the man’s faults, seeing only the slim goodness and light that no one but herself could see. The man became a myth in her mind, more fiction than fact. Ian often found himself advising her against any emotional attachment to the man, protesting about his inherently evil self, but Casey could not see what Ian could. 

Slowly, Ian watched as she fell apart. The man toyed with her, playing her like a puppet, playing with her heart like a child plays with his toys: distractedly in spurts, moving on to the next thing that catches his eye. Casey began to lose the vibrancy he had come to associate with her, her life draining as she put herself through the hell that was an on-again-off-again relationship with the man she thought was her future. Her ideals had fallen to the wayside when she met the man, believing that love will work out always, believing that whatever it was she had with this man was love. Ian’s heart broke along with hers as he watched. 

One day, Casey had had enough. She couldn’t take this anymore! No more of this nonsense, she told him, either they were going to be an actual couple who stayed together or they would never again see each other. Too quickly he chose the latter. He left as soon as the words escaped his mouth, his steps betraying his smugness. He had no shame. Betrayed, Casey sobbed until the sun went down right on that very spot. 

Ian found her as he returned from his final class of the day, standing in the shade of a tree, her eyes red and heavy with the tears still forming behind them. Immediately, he rushed to her side, taking her into his arms, holding her tightly against his chest, his hand cradling the back of her head, his touch gentleness itself. He whispered in her ear, soothing words that passed between them in the relative silence. He didn’t ask what had happened. He didn’t need to. Rather, he took her by the hand and led her back to her room, where they sat in silence until she felt the need to speak. 

“How could I have fallen for him?” she asked, her voice numb as she stared blankly ahead of her at the wall. Ian began to protest, but she interrupted him, “I feel so stupid! You warned me. You knew this would happen. How could I have been so stupid as to ignore you?” 

Reaching out to wipe the new tears on her cheeks, he said, “You weren’t stupid, Case. You were human.”

“It’s the same thing, Ian.” 

That moment, Ian determined to prove her otherwise. “You want to see stupid versus human?” he asked. Sheepishly, she nodded. Clearing his throat, he stood before her. “Exhibit A: stupidity.” He then proceeded to reenact his protests and his giving in too soon, demonstrating for her the thoughts that had raced through his mind that he wished he had found the courage to voice. The doubts and the strengths that flooded through him. 

“Exhibit B: humanity.” Pausing briefly, he took a series of deep breaths: one, two, three, one, two three, one, two, three. He raises his eyes, connecting with hers and refusing to drop the connection. “Catherine Aitken, you are my best friend. You have been since we met two years ago. Immediately, I could see that you were a lovely, independent woman. You didn’t care what the world wanted of you, what it said you should believe or want or ask of it. You had your beliefs and you stuck to them. You’re funny and sweet. You’re the most caring person I’ve ever met. Casey, I…” He let his voice trail off as he took in her face, a confused and tear-stained expression painting it. “Casey,” he continued with another deep breath, “I love you. I love you as my friend and as my sister, but as so much more. I hated seeing you get your heart broken as it happened. Seeing your pain tortured me. I wished I could do something, but I had to let you tackle it by yourself. Now that you’ve seen the real Pfaff, I hope you can turn to me as you always have and let me in. I want to help you, Casey, because I love you.” 

Casey stared at Ian, jaw open and a different brand of tears staining her cheeks. “Ian, we said no romance!” she laughed, wiping her tears away. 

“I know, I know,” he protested, swooping in to take her hands. “But can I help falling in love with the most beautiful woman I know, who just so happens to be my best friend?” He settled his hand on her cheek, cupping it with great gentility. “You deserve so much better than Pfaff. So much better than even I can give you, Casey.”

“No one could give me better, Ian,” she mumbled. “No one.” 

*** 

Prompt: Write a story with a pre-developed character. (From my currently in development miniseries Elegance & Idiocy)

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