The whole way back, I kinda just sat in shock. I had just seen my sister go mental on a whole crowd of monsters, a flaming rat, a battle between a kraken and a dragon, my new brother ‘s death…
My stomach lurched. CL was a nice dude. He hadn’t deserved to die. He could’ve had a whole new life-parents, siblings, friends, maybe even a girlfriend at one point-and he was dead. I walked over to Slip, where she leaned up against his chest and cried as Speedy murmured in her ear and stroked her hair. When he saw me, he freed a hand and patted it on the seat next to him. I did as he asked. “Who’s driving?” I muttered. “My parents,” said Speedy with a hint of pride. “Turns out they’re not only good in cars.” Nameless sat in the back, texting somebody. I peered over her shoulder.
“Gentle Spinner?” I asked. She whipped her phone away. “Friend of mine,” she said. I thought I saw a hint of red appear on her cheeks, but it passed. I shook my head in exasperation and went over to Slip. “Hey,” I said gently. She looked up, and she hugged me. “Don’t you go anywhere,” she said. I pulled away, and looked her in the eye. “I’m gonna be here, Slip. Always, I’ll be right by your side.”
“Annoying her,” Nameless piped up. I shot her a glare as Slip giggled weakly. Then she yawned, putting her arm around Speedy. “I’m gonna go to sleep, kay? See ya.” And with that, she shut her eyes, leaned up against the wicker basket, and began to breathe deeply.
When we got back, we climbed out. I had never been happier to see Night Watch Island. I looked over at the mall, quiet now, and all I could think about was CL’s ghost haunting those halls forever, seeking the flaming rat and raven that costed him his life.
Two months later, things had settled down. Speedy’s parents and him lived in a nice house on the right of us, so Slip didn’t have to fly every time she wanted to see him. He also quit his job at Golden Blimp, calling his boss a few choice things for telling him to kick out Slip and fly a family to Wimpy Boardwalk Island. I heard the boss had quite a day after that.
SD and I got an apartment building that we don’t really use, just kinda duck into whenever we needed it. We pretty much just rented out the rooms most of the time. Funny, we normally end up in there at the same times… [Shaddep, Slip. You don’t see me criticizing Speedy.]
Nameless and her parents decided to move into one of our apartment buildings, so I have to be careful which room I run into when SD and I…talk. Yeah, talk. Let’s go with that.
We have one room in the building devoted to CL, with a full collection of his medallions all mounted on the wall, and pictures everywhere of him. Every one of us normally walk in for about half an hour every two days and pay our respects. We even managed to get some poems and letters he wrote about his experiences.
One day, as I flipped through the room, I noticed a notebook. It had writing on it, so I held it up.
“To whoever this may concern,”
“My name is Cuddly Lion. When I was popped out of that box, I was confused. Everything was all wrong. And then I saw him. He was my master. But he became more than that. Soon, we were best friends, almost like brothers, the same person even. And then one day…an accident happened. I don’t want to talk about it. But he never saw me after that, and I never saw him. I left a new dummy poptropican there and left. I saw things I never could have even dreamed of. And I still had one dream. I wanted someone who loves me, a parent, a brother, anything. Rage built inside of me. I became foolish. I did things I shouldn’t have. To be honest, I became too dependent on my fame, thinking it would bring me all the way. It did not. As I write this, I am just starting off. I will use this, as by now it is my only true friend.”
I flipped through. There was more. Random notes of “The zombies are at the door!” and “The mall manager hired me! Finally!” and stuff like that were jotted hastily down in the margins. I found the last one.
“I’ve met Raven. I hate him, but if he kills me…no longer will I have to suffer the pain I have suffered.”
On the back, a couple of words were jotted down.
The words were signed R.F. With a blink, I knew who the mysterious R.F. was. I blinked back tears and I realized I needed to live life to the fullest. I called SD. “Hey,” she said after five rings. “Hey SD,” I said. “Do ya wanna go somewhere?” There was a long pause. “I-I guess, but-” I cut her off. “Just meet me at the airport. I’ll explain everything. Then I called Slip. “I’m taking SD. You coming?” That was all I needed to say. We had been saving up the money for a while. “You know it, bro. I’ll get dressed,” came the reply, and then a long “BOOOOOOOOOOP.”
I met SD at the airport, and Slip and Speedy were there too. SD looked awesome. Both Speedy and SD looked bewildered. “You’ll see,” I told them. I walked up the aisle and came back with some tickets. “Let’s go.”
Less than an hour later, we were on Shark Tooth. We all walked into the Coconut Cafe. “Table for four,” I told the waiter. He nodded and led us to a nice table. Then I noticed someone I knew.
She whipped her head around, then her face turned completely red. “Hey guys,” she said, trying to sound casual. My mouth fell open as I saw a blond dude holding her hand. He looked at me. So many memories flooded through my head I staggered a little bit.
I was five years old. I climbed up the steps to school and I started to trip. But as I fell, a guy grabbed my hand and hoisted me up. I looked at him. He had his pure-blonde hair done in spikes and he wore sunglasses. “Thanks,” I stammered. He broke into a toothy grin. “No problem.” He trotted up the steps.
Another time, in third grade. I was playing with my trucks in the sandbox when an eighth grader stole one. I chased after him, but my attempts were fruitless. I almost cried, but that kid jumped off of a ledge he had apparently been sitting on and hit the guy in the chest. He chucked me my monster truck and ran off.
In fifth grade, he dropped his books. I picked them up and handed them to him. He muttered thank you and ran off.
And last year, I saw him…bump into Nameless on the street.
I approached him. Nameless watched me, almost fearfully. I grinned and punched him, then turned to Nameless. “He’s a keeper,” I told her. She laughed as we pushed our tables together.
After we said bye to the others and I had given GS a few quality bruises, SD and I walked home, our legs cramped from the long ride. We were silent for a while. For some reason, I kept whipping around, like someone was following us. After a bit, SD piped up. “Thanks,” she said softly. “That was fun.” I managed to smile. “Well, you’re the coolest girl in the world,” I said. “You deserve special treatment.”
She laughed. “Shut up, B.F,” she teased. Then she kissed me.
When we finally broke apart, I smiled. I didn’t look back again.