My first guest post! This one is by Christine Rains. If you're interested in submitting to AoA, please check the guidelines at the bottom of the page.
“And then the big bird popped the balloon and they all fell from the sky. The end.”
“That's not a very happy ending. Don't you want the boys to have a happy ending?” I cocked my head to the side, studying my four-year old son's serious expression. An early autumn breeze tussled his hair. The porch steps were a bit cold under me, but he didn't seem to notice.
“Not every story has a happy ending, Mommy.”
Payton was too wise for someone so young. My heart broke a little. All I could do was lean over and hug him.
“Roar!” The neighbor's boy jumped forward and made a whooshing sound like he was blowing fire.
Payton dodged to the side and struck out with his foam sword. “Ha! I have you now, dragon!”
The battle was spectacular. Cape and wings fluttering behind them as they whirled around. Each struck mighty blows and recovered from grievous wounds.
I smiled behind my book. They were more exciting than anything in print.
Finally the dragon coughed out a great fireball. The knight held his ground, but fell to the ground screaming. He kicked and jerked his body up in a bridge before collapsing. His tongue lulled out as he lied unmoving in the grass.
The other boy looked as surprised as I was. He nudged Payton with his foot. “What happened?”
“I'm dead.” My son propped himself up on his elbows. “Your fire was too much. And I was wearing metal armor. I roasted alive inside. It was pretty horrible.”
“The knight's suppose to win.” The neighbor frowned.
“Not all knights win or else there wouldn't be any dragons left. Sometimes the dragon has to win.”
“But dragons are bad.”
“And sometimes the bad guys win.” Payton stated as he stood up, glancing over at me. I hid my tears behind my book.
I rested my hands on Payton's shoulders. They were wide for a sixteen-year old's and made him seem more a man than he truly was. I wanted to embrace him, but I didn't want to embarrass him in front of his friend even though the teen was dying.
“I'm here for you, man.” Payton whispered, holding a limp hand in both of his.
“I can't... fight it any more.” The boy's voice was quiet and crisp like cling wrap. Veins were blue under his thin skin. Blue as his eyes in their sunken sockets.
“Then don't. It's okay. You did all you could.” Payton nodded, biting his lower lip.
His friend's mother was wailing in the hall. Her husband unable to console her. She claimed she couldn't handle being in the same room as her son any more, but she could stand in the hall and shake the windows with her cries. More nurses and doctors attended to her than they did the dying boy now.
Payton said nothing more as we listened to his friend's last few rattling breaths. It was all I could do not to burst out into tears. When finally his chest was still, Payton laid down the bony hand and leaned into me. I took it as permission to hug him.
“I'm so sorry, hon. It's so unfair.”
“It's okay, Mom. He fought hard, but sometimes the disease wins.”
I bent my head and cried against his shoulder.
Payton looked so handsome in his tux. He beamed at his new wife. They danced under the stars with the grace of Fred and Ginger. Everyone applauded as he dipped and kissed her at the end.
They laughed as they stood. The music changed and Payton delivered his wife to her father. He then came over and offered me a hand. “Come on, Mom. Let's see if you still know how to waltz.”
“I don't know, hon. I'm not use to these shoes.” I smiled as he whisked me out onto the dance floor. I fell into the familiar steps, but got a little too dizzy when he twirled me. He kept a firm hold and didn't let anyone see me totter.
“It's been the perfect day. I'm so happy for you and Jenny.”
“Thanks, Mom. You've done so much for us. This day couldn't have happened without you.” Payton sparkling eyes grew a little misty. “Wish Dad were here.”
“Me too.” Oh how I wish he were. It'd been twenty years since my husband had been hit by a drunk driver. I missed him no less now than I did then. “You look so much like him. So handsome.”
“I always thought Dad looked a bit geeky.” We both laughed. The song ended and Payton kissed my cheek. He glanced over at Jenny and grinned.
I wiped at the tears on my cheeks and motioned for him to go to his wife. Payton squeezed my hand and winked.
“Don't worry, Mom. This story is going to have a happy ending.”