Chapter 16: Stranger than Fiction
Angie walked slowly down the hall, trying to remember why she had even come on this god-forsaken cruise in the first place. At this rate, the ship was most likely going to be sucked straight down to hell. She nearly smiled at the thought of that. Considering how well sheíd been feeling, it would make a lot of sense, and probably cheer her up a bit.
How could she be this upset over a guy she had just met? They were still practically strangers, and yet, she felt somehow close to him. Was it the fact that he didnít seem to care how fast they moved? Or was it his sense of selflessness? He put himself in danger, held open doors, carried luggage, paid for meals...
So what? She thought. There are lots of men who do that. Chivalry wasnít dead yet, and certainly she could find a few. Dozens probably. She was pretty enough and lady like. So why this guy?
Because, answered her brain. He cares more about others than himself. He doesnít know how to care about himself, and that makes you feel sorry for him. Great so I pity the guy and worry about him; love that does not make. It just doesnít work like that; love wasnít about pity, it was about caring for someone.
Greg walked briskly down the hall, passing by the rooms one by one. He finally arrived at his room and opened the door. Stepping inside, he saw his bag lying open on the floor and Angieís dress lying in tatters.
Angie was generally very tidy; raccoons usually were, Greg being the exception. He picked up his items and put them back into his bag. He cleaned up the rest of the room and headed for the shower.
"What do you mean heís not here?" demanded Angie.
"Heís not here," said the lynx. "He left."
"Where is he then?" asked Angie.
"I dunno," he replied. "Why donít you check his room?" Angie threw up her hands in disgust. Some nurse she was, losing a patient like that. Now she was just upset because everything was still going down hill.
Greg let the water run through his fur, rising away the salts and grime of the days. It felt good to be clean again. He toweled himself off and put on the complementary robe. He picked through his bag and pulled out a pair of shorts, just something to relax in. He pulled them on and opened up his laptop, and began thinking. His thoughts drifted to Angie. He snapped the case shut and went for the door.
Angie caught the doorknob and pulled open the door.
"Angie?" said Greg surprised. The sight of Greg standing there healthy was more than she could bear. She leapt at Greg and knocked him backward onto the floor and kissed him.
"Iím so glad youíre okay," said Angie.
"You might have just changed that," said Greg. He pulled himself up from the floor then picked Angie up off the floor. "But I think Iím fine."
"Iíve been so worried about you," said Angie. "I... I wish there were something I could do to show you how happy I am. Iíve been so worried about you, I havenít slept, I havenít..." Greg put a finger to her lips.
"You look like youíve walked through hell," said Greg. "You get some rest, Iíll order something to eat." Angie smiled and nodded off in his arms; so much for ordering food. He put her down on the bed and fell asleep beside her.
Food could wait.
Julie walked by the room and peeked in. She saw the two raccoons, asleep next to each other. At least they had one another. Stability was hard to come by these days. She walked on to her room and opened the door to see Anne curled up in a chair, catching a nap. Julie flopped down on the bed, and stared at the ceiling. The ceiling soon became the inside of her eyelids, and she was asleep.
"The world was not meant for us porcupines," said Carrie, picking the leaves off her quills.
"You arenít kidding," said Jen. "How easy do you think I have it?"
"Hedgehogs have it much easier," said Carrie. "Your quills arenít constantly lashing out and hitting people."
"At least you can use your back as a message board," said Jen, she fixed her hair.
"Why did I bring you on this trip anyway?" asked Carrie.
"I was the only person whoíd actually come with you to the islands, thatís why," said Jen. "Plus I already had all my shots."
"Right," said Carrie. "I forgot."
"You forget everything," said Jen. "I still donít understand how you lost your brotherís number. How long has it been since you heard from him?"
"About two years," said Carrie. "The last thing I heard from him was something about his wife being missing."
"And you didnít keep in contact?" demanded Jen. "Youíre not a very good sister."
"Iíve been called worse," said Jen. "Oh, look at this carving."
"Anyone ever tell you that you canít focus on one thing?" asked Jen.
"I forget. Has anyone?"
"You are really starting to aggravate me girlie."
"Weíre getting off?" asked Phyla. "Any particular reason?"
"Our flight leaves from the airport there after we land," said Joseph. Just be sure to take everything with you."
"Right, right," said Phyla. "Let me just check on Greg and Angie."
The dreams lost in each other merged to form an interesting pattern of events: a wedding, children, and all the events that make life worth living. Greg had a few of those memories, mostly failed and now fraught with anguish. Yet he slept well, seeing himself in a future with the vision of beauty beside him. He knew her less than he knew anyone, yet he cared. Now he was not afraid of the same fate that came of him and Marita. He was ready to care again.
Angie lost herself on a plane of lavender and blue. The landscape shimmered and was alive. She knew this was a place of peace and joy. Standing next to her was the raccoon that lay beside her; someone that cared more about her than himself. That truly was rare. Gentlemen were harder to come by than she had thought. She knew this was a close to perfect as she could get.
Phyla opened the door a crack and peered in. There lay on the bed the two love struck raccoons, asleep in each others arms. Theyíre okay, she thought, and turned to walk away. Greg opened his eyes to see her leaving.
"Phyla," he whispered. She turned around and looked at him. "Thanks."
"Youíre welcome," she whispered back as she left. They would do just fine.
"Got our stuff?" she asked.
"Yes," said Joseph. "Weíll be reaching port here shortly."
"Goodie," said Phyla. "Letís go watch the ship dock."
"Oh," said Carrie. "Letís go watch the ship dock!"
"What that big cruise liner?" asked Jen.
"Sure, why not?" said Carrie. "We can even wave at all the people getting off the boat."
"Like weíll see anyone we know," said Jen. "Oh look, there they are now!" Jen and Carrie watched the people shuffle off the boat, some with their packages, some not carrying anything.
"Hey, is that Greg?" asked Carrie.
"Huh?" asked Jen, squinting to see. "Who? That raccoon?"
"Hey Greg!" she yelled. Greg spun about on the gangplank to see a porcupine jumping up and down, waving her arms.
"Whoís that?" asked Angie, still wiping the sleep from her eyes. Greg took a closer look.
"I think itís my sister Carrie," said Greg, squinting against the sun. "Hey Julie!"
"What?" she yelled back.
"Whoís that?" he said pointing to the porcupine.
"That is our dippy sister," said Julie. "What is she doing down here?"
They walked down the gangplank and over to the waving porcupine. She ran up and hugged Greg, then Julie.
"Itís so good to see you guys again!" she exclaimed.
"Where have you been?" asked Greg. "I havenít heard from you in nearly two years."
"She lost your number," said Jen.
"Oh, this is Jen, my room mate," said Carrie.
"Nice to meet you," said Greg.
"You mean to tell me that no on has known where you were for the past two years because you lost our numbers?" asked Julie.
"Not exactly," said Carrie. "I actually went to Australia to study for a year."
"Why Australia?" asked Greg.
"I canít speak German or I would have gone there," said Carrie. " I met a nice platypus while I was down there. Iím supposed to meet him here on this island again." Greg heard this and automatically slipped into protective brother mode.
"What? How old is he? Where did you meet him? Do I have to rough him up a bit?"
"Greg!" scolded Angie.
"And who is this?" asked Carrie. "Whereís Marita?" Julie poked her in the side.
"Bad topic," she whispered.
"No," said Greg, "its fine now. Marita left me, plain and simple. This beautiful creature is Angie."
"Still the hopeless romantic," said Carrie. "This guy is really sweet. Lots of luck with him," she said to Angie. "Anyway, I have another hour before I meet up with this guy. You want to walk around with us? Iíll buy lunch."
"Great plan," said Julie. "Iím starving here."
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