Chapter 65: Lucky Ones - Lana Del Rey
I was pulled out of a deep sleep by a small animal relentlessly lapping my cheek with their tongue. I opened my eyes and discovered Dante was the culprit.
“What are you doing here, Baby?” I scooped him up into my arms and sat up in bed.
“I missed you too.” I giggled as he continued to smother me in kisses and wag his tail.
“Milo?” I presumed he couldn’t have been far away if Dante was present. “Honey, this is amazing. I love my birthday present.” I rubbed Dante all over, sure to scratch his favorite places.
“Good morning, Babydoll!” Elle walked into my via our bathroom tunnel, shattering my previous assumption that Milo was occupying it.
“It’s a very good morning. Look at this little cutie.” I rubbed my face against the top of his head.
“Everyone should wake up happy on their birthday.” Morgan and Sami paraded into the room through my main door.
“That has been accomplished. Where’s Milo?”
“Who is he?” Morgan acted as though she had never heard that name before.
My eyes shifted between the three of them. “Our best friend, my boyfriend. That name should ring all sorts of bells.”
“Are you talking about Milo De Luca? We’ve seen the kid around, but we’ve never chilled with him.” Sami kept up the ruse.
“Elle, why are they acting like this? He –“ I caught sight of my wrist when Dante wiggled in my arms. “WHERE’S MY BRACELET?! I slept in it last night.” I let go of Dante and started sifting through my sheets frantically. “Will you please help me find it? The clasp must have broken. It means so much to me, please.” I was on the verge of tears as I moved my search to the floor.
“Maybe it is in this box.” Elle offered me a white gift box instead of helping.
“Why would it be --?”
“Just open the damn box. I told him this part was dumb. Didn’t I tell him that?” Sami insisted.
“You did.” Morgan agreed.
“Even I knew you’d flip out if it was swiped. Open the box.” Sami shoved the box into my hands.
I tossed aside the white lid aside and discovered a letter labeled ‘Beautiful’ in Milo’s script handwriting.
Happy Birthday, Beautiful
Today, we’re revisiting darker days
Back when you didn’t know me and I didn’t know you
Because we need to start from the beginning to get some place new
If our inside jokes, late night chats and intimate moments are something you’d miss if they went away, I need you to put on the items in the box and spend your special day a certain way
You have many things you need to find
You’ll be going all over campus, I hope you don’t mind
See the sweetest girl of them all for your first clue, she’ll tell you what to do
I love you,
“He’s sending me on a scavenger hunt?” I asked Morgan, solving my first clue.
“Yes, but I can’t give you your first clue until you get dressed.”
I shifted my eyes down to the box on the floor in front of me. There was a pale blue striped dress that flared at the waist. The fabric was light and airy, perfect for spring. The accompanying footwear was silver high heels. The combination of the two screamed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
“Did he buy this?” I petted Dante to get him to calm down. He was trying his hardest to weasel his way into the box to play in its contents.
“No, I did. He promised his gift to you is free and he kept it. I had a ball picking this outfit out, by the way.” Elle took credit.
“Will I be donning pigtails and a bow today?” I hinted at the Wizard of Oz reference.
“No pigtails. They’d make you look even younger. We’re going with the curly down do Dorothy got once she was in Oz.”
“You even knew the shoes were silver in the book, not red.” I scooped up Dante. “You’re going to make the best Toto, little fella.” I hugged him to my chest. “Elle, do you mind hunting down a tote bag he can be carried in safely?”
“He’s already set. He showed up in that.” Elle pointed to a tan designer dog carrier in the corner. “And Milo didn’t buy it. His mom did.”
“It’s basket colored. The details add a lot.” I mused with a smile.
“I’m supposed to care for him while you get ready. Hit the showers and doll yourself up. We’ve got a long day ahead of us.” Sami took Dante from me.
“Can’t he just run around in the bathroom while I shower?” I reached out for him.
“No. He needs to eat and go the bathroom. It’s on the schedule.”
“Since when do you care about schedules?” I grumbled as I worked myself off the ground.
“Since I was put in charge of the care and keeping of an animal.”
I was left with no choice other than to do as told. Elle was my assistant, transforming me into my own version of Dorothy. I picked up Dante’s bag and clicked my heels together three times for good measure. Dante, Morgan, and Sami were waiting for Elle and me in the living room.
“Let’s get this show on the road.”
Sami loaded Dante into his bag as Morgan handed me a yellow envelope with a red heart seal.
“I’ve got four wheels and some consider me a death trap. I believe I have a bad rap. With out me, you see, Milo would have never met thee. Look down, not around. At the bottom I will be on the ground” I read aloud.
“His skateboard will be at the base of admissions hill. Are you coming with me?”
“For sure. It’s your birthday.” Sami returned Dante to me. His little head was poking out of the carrier. He was looking around expectantly. I carefully transitioned him to my forearm.
“We’re going on a little adventure, Baby. Let me know if you need anything.” I kissed the top of his head.
“I have a leash and other items for him in my satchel. Pass the need info onto me.” Sami slung her bag across her body.
“I will. His happiness is my priority.”
I grabbed a transportable snack on the way out the door. The four of us walked to the first location. Nick and Ryan were waiting by the skateboard.
“Happy birthday, Izzie.” Nick greeted.
“You’re finally legal,” was Ryan’s variation of the same sentiment.
“My first impressions of you still ring relatively true.” I stooped down with Dante’s safety in mind to retrieve the next clue.
“Your next clue is with a person I used to visit a lot. She cares for me more than she ought. When I fell to the flu, she left my care to you.”
“Nurse Miller. Easy enough.” I answered the riddle as soon as I was finished reading it.
“When will Milo be joining us?”
“Later.” Ryan answered simply.
“What time is later? I want to share this with him.”
“He wants to stay away from you until the end. You can either rush through this and miss out on the fun or be patient.”
“He’s getting me back for our anniversary. Torture, that’s exactly what this is.”
“It’ll be worth it in the end, Babydoll. I promise.” Elle rubbed my back.
“It already is. I get to go on a walk with a puppy and most of my friends. Where are Adam and Finn?”
“We’ll meet up with them eventually. All you need to focus on is the clues.” Morgan was the one to diffuse my concerns.
“Is Nurse Miller in her office?” I asked the receptionist.
“She sure is, but only one of you is allowed to go back there at a time.” He pointed in its direction.
It was a given that I was to be the person. I knocked on her door as I poked my head inside. “Nurse Miller?”
“Izzie, --“ She moved her reading glasses to the top of her head. “I was wondering when you would arrive.” She closed the tab she had open on her computer.
“Are you always here on weekends?”
“No, only one Saturday a month. Milo spoke to me early enough to align our schedules. Is that a dog?”
“His name is Dante. I wouldn’t be a proper Dorothy without a Toto.” I scratched the space between his ears.
“He is very cute, but make sure he stays in his bag and out of the examination rooms. Some students are allergic.” I could she her resisting the urge to reach out and touch him.
“He likes people.” I gave her the opportunity to pet him.
He licked her hand.
“He certainly does.” She ruffled the hair atop his head.
“I believe you have a letter for me.”
“I do. Yes. Just a minute.” She pulled open her top drawer and handed me the envelope she found inside.
Here is where I first bid you farewell.
Even then, I thought you were quite swell.
Who knew an offer to show you around would lead to so much more?
Your next clue will be found on the door
I read the clue to myself.
“I’m on my way to my old dorm room.” I inserted the envelope in the side pocket of Dante’s carrier.
“Have fun on your search.”
“I’m already having a ball. Thanks for helping.” I adjusted Dante’s bag straps on my arm.
“You’re welcome. Happy birthday.”
I waved goodbye and met up with my friends in the lobby.
“Time to head to McDaniel Hall.” I announced.
I led the way.
“When am I getting my bracelet back? I feel like a part of me is missing.”
“Your story has been reset. We are not to that part yet.” Morgan was apologetic.
The yellow envelope was taped to door of my old suite.
“Seek the one that told me I liked you more than a friend. His level of engagement will greatly depend. He’s the keeper of your next clue. You won’t see me for a while, but remember, I love you.”
“Do you know where Finn is?” I spotted Sami in our clump of friends.
“I’m not the dude’s keeper. Why am I always the first one everyone asks?”
“You keep tabs on each other. It is the same reason people ask me about Elle and Milo.”
“Whatever.” She grumbled. “He’s in his suite.”
“Thanks.” I began my walk with a bit of skip.
“Was Finn really the first one that told him he liked me?” I knocked on the boys’ door.
“We were all thinking it, but he was the first to say it to Miles’ face.” Ryan was the only one able to answer.
“His lack of a filter came in handy that time.” I proceeded to knock louder.
“Cease the loud noises. I pulled an all-nighter and I haven’t had my coffee yet.” His dead eyes bore into me.
“I – I wanted –“
“Noise.” He gave me the letter. “I’ll be back.” He shut the door in our faces.
“Interesting.” I remarked on our encounter as I ripped into my letter.
"The world started to stop when I looked at you. You were content with being just friends, I didn’t know what to do. Here we sat and learned of our team for Camp Artsy. For months we trained to go to NYC" I read from the card.
“It’s in the auditorium. Should we wait for Finn?” I surveyed the group.
“He has to leave now.” Elle warned.
“Miles isn’t messin’ around today.” Ry agreed.
“Right, well –“
“I’m here. Let’s go.” Finn left their suite with his sunglasses on and a travel mug in his hand. He raised his hood as we were making our way to the stairs.
I could not recall our exact seats during the Camp Artsy meeting, but I recognized the general area. We checked beneath all of the seats in that zone.
“Found it!” Elle exclaimed.
“The place you’re going has green trees and skies of blue. It’s the location of our first date and where you learned of my family too.” She left me the task of opening it.
“Admissions field.” I waved the fleet onward.
I removed Dante from his bag once we were outside. His leash gave him the ability to stretch his legs and remain close.
“Are you getting tired of following me around yet?” I smiled over my shoulder at them.
“We’re in this for the long haul, Babydoll.”
“You really are a rag tag group of misfits who are willing to seek answers with me. Can –“
“We will neither be skipping, nor singing. He never made us agree to that.” Finn shut my plan down before I could voice it.
“I’ll skip with you.” Elle poked his tongue out at Ry. She looped her arm through mine.
“As will I.” Morgan flanked my other side.
“I’m not going to be the one that sits out.” Sami linked up with Morgan.
We skipped all the way to admissions fielding singing We’re Off to See the Wizard. Nick was kind enough to pick up the letter resting at the bottom of a tree.
“You looked pretty tangled.” He offered it to me.
“It’s a fun mess.” I curtsied to say thank you.
“In New York, ghosts from your past came back to haunt. There you were forced to fight for the life you truly want. You stood strong and made us proud. Instead of turning invisible, you became very loud. To remind you that I’m always here, I purchased a bracelet for you to wear. You’ll get it back, don’t you worry. It’s at the device in the lobby used to get upstairs in a hurry.”
“The Elevator?” Morgan stated as a question.
“That’s where I was headed when he gave it to me.” I smiled at the memory.
Dante was returned to his bag before we went inside the main building. Grace was standing at the elevator with an envelope in her hand. I prayed she was the keeper of my bracelet. It made sense for her to have it. She was temporarily my replacement.
“You have my bracelet, right? You’re the one with my bracelet?”
“Do you think you said that enough times, Iz?” Ry teased.
I threw my hand back, dismissive. “Please say you have it.” Grace was my main concern.
“He said you’d be eager to have it, but I was not expecting this.” She opened her hand, revealing my bracelet.
I put my hand on my chest and exhaled after seeing it was safe. “Thank you for taking care of it.”
“I vowed to do so. Your wrist, please, ma’am.”
I allowed her to fasten my bracelet onto its designated wrist.
“Again, thank you.”
“Here is your letter.”
“Almost forgot about that.” I accepted it sheepishly.
“She’s the one that plots and plans, with a voice that rings out like thunder and too much passion for such a small person to withstand. She’ll be armed with your next clue. If she’s hungry, stay away, what ever you do”
I extended my hand to Sami. “You’ve had a letter this entire time?”
“I wasn’t allowed to fork it over just yet. I know how to keep my mouth shut.”
“Do the rest of you have a letter I should know about?”
“Can’t say.” Ry replied with a straight face.
I tried to get him to budge by staring him down. “She was the queen prom night, and the one of hearts on Halloween. She can do it all and more, better than the world has ever seen.” I read the letter when my intimidation attempt was proven pointless.
“You’ve been holding out on me too?”
“In the name of love, Babydoll. This is far from a betrayal.” Elle kissed my cheek before giving me my next clue.
“The new year started and this kid didn’t have a clue. He’ll be waiting where he introduced himself to you.” That was the first one I actually had to think about.
“So it’s with Adam, but where is he?” I posed my question to the group.
“Did you meet him before we came to school?” Sami tried to help me.
“No, Milo didn’t meet him until the plane ride. Oh, our suite.”
Adam was standing in front of the entertainment center when we walked into the suite.
“Have you been standing there the whole time?”
“No.” He gave me the next clue.
“We had very detailed instructions. No behind the scenes details will be revealed until it is over.”
“He has some explaining to do later.” I cleared my throat. “A tiny dancer that moves in her own way, find the instrument you motivate me to play.”
I walked away without answering the clue aloud.
“Do you know where you are going?” Adam was the first to follow me out.
“You’ll find out soon enough. I’m entitled to secrets too.”
I keyed into the music department building. I used Sami’s passcode to get into the practice room we went into for our anniversary. Sure enough, on the sheet music stand sat a red envelope.
"Bend over backwards, looped de loop. He was the tyrant leader of my Camp Artsy group." I extended my hand to Ryan.
“I am still willing to defend my behavior.” He pulled a letter out of his back pocket.
“You always are.” I skimmed the letter prior to reading it aloud.
“I know you’re getting tired, you’re almost done, but keep in mind that the journey contains all the fun. Go to the place where our friends learned of our popularity problem. They know us best so we decided to involve them.”
Off to the dining hall we went. I was thankful for that particular destination. It was a prime opportunity to get something to eat. I didn’t have to worry about compiling a meal myself, none of us did; our usual table was set and an afternoon snack was waiting.
“He was the one I called that fateful day, but we all got more than we bargained for. There was plenty in store. He had two that tagged along. We discovered where we belong.” I didn’t read the clue until after eating.
Nick slid it across the table. “The last one.”
“Really?” I eagerly opened it.
“This is the last clue; it’s true. Go to the location where I ran into you.” I slowly lowered the paper as I tried to process what it was telling me.
“He had me run all over campus just to return to square one?” I asked no one in particular.
“Yeah, yeah. The rules.” I pushed back my chair and lifted Dante’s carrier from the one beside mine. I disposed of my trash before marching on to my final destination.
Milo wasn’t at our spot, nothing was.
“This is right. I know it is.” I scanned the area for him.
“He’ll probably be here in a second.” Morgan encouraged.
“We should get Dante some water while we wait.” Sami suggested.
“Good idea.” I knelt to the ground to be with him.
He was supplied a small dish, and water from Sami’s reusable container was used to fill it. His tail wagged to express his happiness as he eagerly slurped from his bowl.
“Someone was thirsty.” He wormed closed to me, insisting that I pet him the moment he was done drinking. “Do you want more? We can get you more—“ He abruptly tried to bolt away from me. I grabbed his leash before it was out of reach. “You don’t do that! It scared me.” I cradled him. “What were you even --?” I rose to my feet with him still in my arms when I saw Milo walking down the hill.
He was dressed nicely. His tailored navy suit and emerald green tie prevented me from feeling overdressed.
I met him half way. “You’re not a fraud. Your magic is real.”
He put his hands into his pockets and smirked. “We haven’t spoken in almost 24 hours. You spent the entire day running all over campus because of me. Why is your first order of business tending to my self-esteem?”
“You can be The Good Witch of the South. Glinda’s dress is pink in the film. I think a tie of the same shade would suffice.”
“Audrey’s Glinda. She helped Dorothy to embark on her own adventure instead of simply telling her how to solve her problem at the beginning.”
“Fine, if you insist on remaining the wizard, we’ll have to skip to the fourth book. Glinda teaches him real magic in that one.”
“You are too stubborn to leave me out of this.”
“It’s not the same without you.”
His eyes held mine. “Will you marry me?”
The official question knocked the wind out of me, but my answer remained the same.
“I was planning on it.” I mustered up a smile to put him at ease.
“Yes?” He searched my eyes for the truth.
“Everything can change in an instant and nothing is guaranteed, especially tomorrow. All of this, my life and who inhabit it, is such a gift.” I grew misty eyed. “I am saying ‘yes’ now and hoping I’ll be lucky enough to say ‘I do’ in the future.“
He kissed me in response.
“Will you please put down the dog?” He requested when Dante’s activity made ours uncomfortable.
“This is a one time thing.” Dante was returned to the ground. The handle of his leash was around my wrist.
We were able to kiss properly once that was the case.
“I have something for you.”
“But you were doing so good today. Why ruin it by squeaking in a last minute purchase?”
“It was free.” He reached into his suit’s breast pocket.
He withdrew a ring consisting of an emerald green jadeite gem the size of a pea, surrounded by small diamonds. It looked like a shimmering flower, resting on a thin band of yellow gold.
“This is a family heirloom.”
My left hand was held. “From which side?”
“My father’s. It belonged to Rosalina I. She –“
“Loved ballet so much that her husband established the Listonenian Royal Ballet Company.”
“How do you --?”
“It was in one of Elle’s PowerPoints. There was a portrait of her too, very tasteful.”
“She is highly regarded in our family. Her legacy’s preservation is critical as far as we are concerned.” He eased the ring onto the correct finger.
“Are you sure about giving this one to me? I might not be special enough to---.“
“It’s mine to give and I know it should be yours.” He kissed the back of my hand.
“It truly is beautiful.” I examined it.
“I know.” His eyes were on me.
“Are they watching us?” I chose to ignore his insinuation.
He looked over my head. “Yes.” His gaze returned to our inner circle as soon as he gathered this information.
“What are they doing?”
“Elle’s crying and Morgan’s consoling her. The others are quietly speculating amongst themselves.”
“What should we do?”
“What do you want to do?”
“Run to my suite and hide from questions and congratulations in my room.”
“You are certainly the woman I am destined to marry.”
Our fingers intertwined and we held each other tight. I secured Dante’s leash. The three of us fled the scene.