Four years later…
"C'mon, you owe me. I helped you move into your dorm last semester." I whine, pleading with the girl at the other end of the phone line. A groan rips through her lips, and jolts through the phone line. The stern lines in her face, the hard look in her eyes are evident in crackle I hear through my phone. I can definitely picture the girl at the other end of my call right now.
Times changed a lot of things in the past four years, but not Jade West.
"I hate you." She murmurs after a moment, but the blades edging her words have dulled over the years. Rather than carving straight through me, they only graze my skin. I guess its familiarity, or something like that, which led to us becoming honest to god friends.
Jade still addresses Tori and me with a sneer, but grudgingly admits we're her best friends since Cat and Andre aren't really around anymore. With Beck on location for most of the year, it seems Jade can't help but gravitate towards us. Whenever Tori mentions the "f word" as Jade calls it, we're informed that our friendship is just because everybody else at school is utterly intolerable. Tori and I are sure it's more than that. We've wormed our way into the shriveled husk of Jade's heart.
"Hate you too, Jade. Meet me there in an hour? I've already hired all of the equipment, all I need is somebody to operate the spotlight…" I chuckle, tossing her words back flippantly. I suppose it's an indication of just how much things have changed. Jade would have eviscerated me for saying something like that in high school. I swear I hear Jade roll her eyes in response, though.
"Yeah, sure. But you know what this means." Jade states flatly. My lips quirk into the barest of grins, and even though I know she can't see me, I nod out of habit.
"I'll do it, Jade. I know you've wanted to kill me for years, now you finally get your chance." I reply, giving her all of the ammunition she needs to rope me into another horror short. As the words leave my lips, I recall the details of Jade's script and a shiver rattles through me. She's truly found her niche within the horror genre. Fangoria even penned an article on her after the release of her last film, My Scissors. After a successful run around the film festival circuit, I've got no doubt that Jade's got the connections to have me cut in half.
"You know I gave up on actually achieving that after Vega's last hissy fit." Jade states dryly. It's a tone that only suggests menace to an outsider, but I've fallen far enough into her inner circle to laugh. She's never quite warmed to Tori in the same way she has to me, but quiet tolerance has replaced her outright hatred of my girlfriend.
I chuckle as flashes of the moment Jade is recalling flash before my eyes. Jade had suggested dumping my body in a river in a bid to finance her first film. Tori had taken the joke to heart, and my arms were the only thing stopping her from tearing Jade limb from limb. The six weeks I had lived with those two during our first semester at college were among the most painful of my life.
"Sure, sure. I'll see you in an hour." I reply, deciding to end this conversation while I'm ahead. Jade's got a knack for adding more and more conditions to a deal if she's able to hold your ear. It's not that starring in Jade's films is a bad thing. Truthfully it's the reason I've gotten offers for work. It's just that Jade is a total perfectionist, meaning long days and even longer nights on set.
Slipping my phone into my pocket, my eyes fall upon a small red velvet box.
It reminds me of a girl I used to know. Cat's changed a lot in the past few years, and her red hair is just one of many things to have fallen into the past. Pushing those depressing thoughts out of my head, I focus on what's ahead of me. If tonight doesn't go off without a hitch, I don't think I'll ever be able to move past it. I know Tori won't mind, but I've gone to a lot of trouble to make sure this evening will be perfect. It's the least I can do for her. She's stuck by me through every missed role, every failed audition, and every month that the rent payments came mostly from her pocket. Now that I'm finally making some money, I want to pay her back for all of those barren times.
The clocks hands finally spiral into the location I've been waiting for. Dragging a few short breaths of air into my lungs, I leap out of my chair and hurtle towards the door. To say my heart is hammering against my chest would be an understatement. It's something closer to a tactical nuclear strike with each beat within my chest.
My car starts with a slight hesitation, sending my heart leaping into my throat for a brief moment. The engine finally roars to life and I heave a sigh of relief. Tossing the car into gear, I peer over my shoulder and roll out of my park. With each rotation of my tires, the air thickens within my lungs. As I'm weaving through the entrance to my destination, I'm struggling to breath at all. When I'm sitting in the car park, self doubt begins to seep into my thoughts. It's faint, but it's there. What if I'm making the biggest mistake of my life?
What if I'm about to ruin everything?
"Stop it now." Jade's shriek rips me out of the waking nightmare my thoughts are rapidly mutating into. I whip my head in her direction, the urge to glare at her blotted out by relief. Jade's looking down into my car, and her arms are screwed disapprovingly across her chest. I swing a leg through the door and haul myself upright, coming face to face with her sharpened expression.
"Stop what?" I mumble, wondering if this is the opening round to one of Jade's games. I've come to terms with the rules, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't enjoy a break on a stressful day such as today. As I'm pulling my guitar case from the trunk of my car, I notice Jade's emerald orbs soften. It's something that's less than tangible, but I've learnt to recognize it.
"Stop thinking Vega isn't going to dissolve into a puddle of goo at the very idea of this. She's a sap, you're a sap, this is perfect….For saps." Jade tries to phrase her response in a way that I'm used to hearing, but the tone renders it an alien language when it slips off her lips. We both seize as Jade stops speaking, it's kind of strange being reassured by her. I guess other than Tori, she's probably my best friend. It's a situation that never seems any less bizarre though, to be honest.
"Thanks, Jade." I mutter, leading her toward our base of operations.
"Don't mention it. Seriously, don't." Jade retorts, as she trudges behind me, and along the winding track. As we walk, Jade pulls out her phone and I feel the nerves within me pick up once more.
We're both saps. This has to work, right?
"Vega, I know you're studying, but I need you to meet me at the hospital." Jade's voice tumbles through the speaker of my phone. At the mention of a hospital, I drop the pen in my hand and everything I've been trying so hard to implant on my brain tumbles out of my head.
"W-why? What's wrong?" I ask, panic seeping into my tone. I've never been fond of hospitals, and the past few years has only intensified that dislike.
"Don't get all wound up, I just need a ride home. I got in a little accident on set, and apparently I'm not allowed to drive with this medication. Whatever." Jade states dourly, and I can picture her glaring at the heavens in annoyance. I let go of a breath that I didn't know had been caught in my lungs.
"Alright, I'm leaving now." I reply, reaching for my keys and already stepping towards the door. The sooner I leave, the less chance there is that Jade will wander off. I've experienced her lack of patience countless times since freshman year.
"Cool, thanks Vega. I'm gunna go explore the garden while I wait. Come find me when you get here." My mouth opens, but before I can ask Jade to just wait out front of the hospital, she's already hung up. Balling my fist slightly, I realize it's pointless to try and call her back. There's pigheaded, and then there's being Jade. Once she's said something, as far as she's concerned, it's fact.
The drive to the hospital flies past me easily enough, and I find my thoughts beginning to wander as I wait for a red light to turn green. I told Robbie I'd be studying late all week, but maybe I should just head home early tonight. We've barely seen each other since Monday between my studying and his secret project. I think he's working on a film with Jade, he's called her a few times about whether progress is good or not. Maybe she'll let something slip when I manage to track her down in the garden.
I shift my car into park, before climbing out hastily. Who knows where Jade could be in the garden. Knowing her, she's probably deliberately relaxing in somewhere difficult to reach. Heaving a sigh, I trudge along the path leading into the garden. As my eyes scan the area, my mind drifts back to four years ago. A smile tugs at my lips as I recall Robbie's song. Up until that point, it was the most romantic moment of my life. It still holds a special place in my heart, but he's consistently added more memories into it, some of which are even more special.
Happening upon a familiar winding path, I catch a faint glimmer of light in the distance. Squinting, I can't really make it out. It looks too bright to be a phone, but maybe Jade's over there anyway. I step towards it purposefully, intent on getting home as soon as I can.
I step forward, and the lights catch me in their glow. My eyes blow wide open, and my legs almost give out. Chains of lights hang within the trees, and there's a singular spotlight illuminating a familiar structure. I take a few shaky steps towards it, just barely able to believe what's before my eyes. It's as though I've been transported back in time to high school, to the night I fell in love with Robbie.
My eyes catch sight of Robbie. He's standing behind a microphone stand and his guitar hanging loosely over his shoulder. I'm reminded of the last time this sight soaked my eyes as I swallow thickly. Robbie had been so timid as he sat on a simple wooden stool.
A gentle lilting melody sweeps me away from the real world, and into a plane of existence containing only Robbie and myself. Robbie's smiling as he strums his guitar, peering directly at me, like I'm the only person in the world. It's nothing but clichés as my heart stutters, and comes to a halt. It's crazy, and it's almost as though I'm lost in a fairy tale.
"Forever can never be long enough for me
Feel like I've had long enough with you
Forget the world now we won't let them see
But there's one thing left to do"
My heart's hammering as Robbie's voice passes through the speakers that surround us. I can't believe he's gone through all of this trouble just to sing a song to me. Tears prick at my eyes, but I can't bring myself to blink as I step towards Robbie.
"Now that the weight has lifted
Love has surely shifted my way
Today and every day
The entire world drops away when those two words leave Robbie's lips. I'm not even sure how it happens, but as Robbie continues to sing, I find myself standing only a few feet away from him. I don't know when he found the time to write this song, but that's what makes it even more special, I think. If he's the melody, then my heart is the bass. It's shuddering rhythm within my chest threatening to drown out everything else.
"Together can never be close enough for me
Feel like I am close enough to you
You wear white and I'll wear out the words I love
And you're beautiful
Now that the wait is over
And love and has finally shown her my way"
Robbie's eyes meet mine, and it's all the light I need. All of the pageantry is incredibly romantic, but the only light I really need is contained within his eyes. Robbie takes a step away from the gazebo, but the spotlight follows him as he steps towards me. Suddenly those clandestine phone calls to Jade during the week make so much more sense.
You'll always be
Happy by my side
I promise to
Sing to you
When all the music dies"
My heart begins to hammer against my chest, I know this song can't go on forever. What's going to happen when the last chord is silenced? I bounce on the balls of my feet as nervousness pumps through my entire being. I'm still trying to come to grips with the fact that somebody wrote such a beautiful song for me when the last word passes Robbie's lips.
There's a slight crackle from the speakers as Robbie puts his guitar down and then nothing, just crushing silence.
"Tori Vega, will you marry me?" He asks, falling to one knee, as the spotlight bathes his features in an unearthly glow. In direct contrast to his posture during his performance, I can see Robbie's hands rattling as the words slip into the air.
"O-o course I will!" I manage to rattle out. Robbie barely gets a chance to slip the ring onto my finger before I'm diving from my place and throwing my arms around him. My weight pools on Robbie and sends him teetering off balance. We land in a pool of tangled limbs, and it's just the slightest bit imperfect. Just the way all of the best things in life are.
"Y-you're crushing my lungs." Robbie wheezes as the air rushes from his lungs. I blink with a start and scramble off his chest. My lips curl sheepishly into a smile, and I linger next to him. My hearts threatening to rip straight through my chest, and my eyes keep catching the glistening ring on my finger. I hurl myself forward and sweep Robbie into a kiss sending us flying back into the grass from our seated position.
"So, are all proposals set to music, or am I just lucky?" I ask, peering down at Robbie as tendrils of my hair blanket us. It's kind of fitting I suppose, he's the only thing that matters to me in this moment. I can see every contour of his face as he laughs slightly in response to my question.
"Not usually, but I recall hearing that all of you most special moments were set to music. I didn't want to break up that little party." Robbie replies, smiling up at me. When a stray giggle slips through my lips, Robbie's eyes light up even more. They're something close to a supernova as I melt into his arms, determined to hold onto this moment for as long as I can.
I'm certain he's not perfection distilled into human form, he's something much better.
He's Robbie Shapiro.
Beware, ridiculously long author's note.
Cliff notes: Thanks, Love you all, I'm a review whore so leave one :)
Ok jeez, this has certainly been a long and winding road. There wasn't much Rori at all before I started this, and Jonathan wrote the Bound series. Feels like this is a full blown ship now, and not just two dudes on a raft. Anways, back to my point, we're finally at the end and it feels pretty good. I might revisit this universe from time to time, but as of now the book on this is closed.
Major thanks to anybody that's left a review on this, especially the people that have been around giving feedback for basically the entire story. I'm talking about Jonathan 81, BigStuOU, Raiden2342, ZenNoMai, Lebensender, RaptorIV, SuperNeos2, Jeremy Shane, DarkseidAlex, Anon.10810, TheProwler, Havok Mayhem, Megan0104 (who recommended Robbie's song, "Marry Me" by Train) and of course my amazing beta Agent Taggert. You guys are the shit. You all kept this story from collapsing in on itself and never coming to a satisfying ending. Anybody I've not mentioned by name, I'm super sorry you're awesome too! Special mention to anybody that's reviewed and doesn't have an account. So considerate of you to leave a message of any kind. :)
Look out for me in a week or so, I'm still flying the Rori flag and I have a couple of half baked chapters for stories in the oven. They're pretty swell though, I think.
Anyway, to round off this absurdly long author's note, if you haven't said anything to me about this fic in the reviews than speak now, or forever hold your piece. I'd like, totally dig it if you said something though.
Catch y'all on the flipside.