Let’s Play Pretend Part 4
[Prologue] 1 2 3 4 5
As they walk down the sidewalk to the festival with their hands intertwined swinging between them, his heart is racing as if he were running a marathon. His mind has been a whirlpool of worries, anxieties, and an infinite amount of horrendous imaginary scenarios which all have the probability of one in quadrillion chance of happening.
Joy is smiling and swinging their arms as she skips and hums along to a clumsy version of…well he can’t really recognize what she’s humming. She is so excited and relaxed and calm, everything he’s not. She doesn’t see the risk in this game they are about to play, this ruse, this this facade they are about to put on. No, she just sees it as another one of her drama club plays. It was actually quite comical getting ready this morning. Listening to her plan out her “character”.
“Joy you’re just you,” he chuckled as he made them coffee.
“But what is my motivation?” She smirked putting her earrings in.
He smiled, “Um…you’re a pretend girlfriend…?”
“Where am I from? Am I foreign?”
“Joy come on now,” he shook his head filling two mugs with the hot brown lava. “You’re just you.”
“These are legitimate questions that an actor must ask before a performance,” she deadpanned.
He rolled his eyes and sighed, “Alright well you are going to school in Georgia, you are an art student and your name is Joy.”
“Can I be foreign?” She beamed and bounced on her toes, “I’ve always wanted to have an accent!”
“You don’t do accents well Jo-jo,” he grinned and took out the coffee creamer from the fridge. “And plus Nathan already met you, don’t you think it’d raise some questions if you suddenly changed nationalities?”
“You’re looking too much into it Cassie,” she waved her hand dismissively before her eyes grew wide. “Ooooo! What if I had an French accent!”
“I’ve always loved the way your mom sounded with her french accent,” Joy sais thoughtfully. “And plus you speak french so we could say that’s what started the conversation!”
He gave her a puzzled look to which she huffed and rolled her eyes, “Common ground Cassie.”
“Joy no you are you,” he said firmly.
“But I can do it! I even know the slang!” She smiled, “Oui Oui mon mo-i-tee.” She said butchering the word in a horrendous french accent that made his skin crawl.
“Mon moitié,” he corrected.
“It es a beautiful mec out today.”
“You’re not using mec correctly,” he smirked. “And it’s est not es.”
“Un patin es charmantee!” She said passionately
He snorted, “It’s esta, the word is charmant, and I’m positive you have no idea what un patin means.”
“Je pe-x par-lor fran-say,” she said and flipped her short hair with her hand.
“Ok I know you have absolutely no idea what you are saying, nor how to properly pronounce the words. You are murdering the language with a somewhat french accent so you can sound like you know french,” he smiled at her. “Give it up kid.”
She narrowed her eyes and pouted, “You’re crushing my creativity.”
He rolled his eyes, “Jo-jo I’m nervous enough for this as it is,” his smile faded. “I need to know you’ll take this seriously.”
Her mock irritation melted as she frowned, “Cassie I am taking this seriously.” She put her hand on his on the table, “I was just trying to lighten the mood was all.”
He smiled a little and squeezed her hand, which caused her lips to curl upward. She squeezed his hand back to reassure him that she was on his side.
“Just keep it simple, please?” He asked
She smiled, “I promise with KISS.” When he gave her a puzzled look she followed up with, “KISS, Keep It Simple Silly.
He laughed and relaxed into her reassurance that they’d make it through today as a bonafide couple.
But that reassurance is fading fast as they grow closer to the park.
His stomach is in knots, the rationale part of him is not wanting to do this at all. Rationale Castel is screaming all kinds of red alerts and warnings, seeing how this could conclude in life-ending flames. However, Irrational Castel has a much louder voice right now and is yelling over all of Rationale Castel’s thoughts about how he could finally put an end to the humiliating set ups. It’s funny how Irrational Castel has the voice of a mouse compared to Rationale Castel when he’s alone, but as soon as Joy appears it’s as though Irrational Castel has downed seven cups of espresso and ten pounds of sugar. Irrational Castel suddenly is like a ten-year-old with ADHD and the vocal chords of a megaphone that drowns out Rationale Castel’s hollow attempts to bring some common sense into the picture.
R.C, we really shouldn’t do this
I.C. but it’ll be fun!
R.C, but this could end very badly
I.C, but it’ll be fun!
R.C, this is a terrible plan!!
I.C, but hear me out though…it’ll be fun!
Gosh, she really brings out a wild side in him.
Although they disagree on just about everything there is one thing R.C and I.C can agree on. Joy’s ideas--no matter how outrageous, unattainable, illogical, crazy, and ill advised they may be--are what make up some of the best memories he has.
As they near the entrance to the local park his blood tingles under his skin as the pressure from his anxieties builds up. But all that he needs is to see the shocked speechless expression on Autumn’s face and suddenly his anxieties and worries are put on mute. Confidence and pride and maybe a little smugness floods his body ‘til it reaches the overflowing point. His posture changes as soon as he sees Autumn’s flabbergasted face, his shoulders square, his back straightens, and his chest puffs out as he walks with a sense of status.
He’s so confident that he even breaks their hand holding and opts to wrap his arm around Joy’s waist pulling her flush to his side. Is he smiling? Well he has to admit Joy does have this confident effect on him. Perhaps that’s because he knows he doesn’t have to impress her, he’s got nothing to prove when he’s with her. She knows him and she loves who he is, he’s at ease around her cause he can be himself totally and completely.
Joy glances at him as her smile grows and she follows his lead by wrapping her arm around him and slipping her hand into his back pocket. If he had one word to describe the odd look in Autumn’s eyes it’d be: combustion.
“Little hi little low,” Joy greets cheerfully.
“Little hey little ho,” Nathan chuckles.
Autumn gives him a queer look, but Joy is elated that he not only got the Stuart Little reference but he completed the greeting.
Catsel fist bumps his roommate and smiles at Autumn–not really because he’s happy to see her, but because he is loving the look on her face. Her mouth hangs open slightly, her one brow is quirked, and her expression looks crossed between confusion, disbelief, and a burning flame of…well he’s not sure what. But right now he doesn’t care, time to get back at her for all those ghastly dates without his consent.
“Good to see ya Autumn,” he says without a single sense of nerves in his voice.
Autumn shakes her head and smiles, “You too Cas.” Her eyes shift to Joy, “This must be Joy. Nathan’s told me about you.”
“And you’re Fall!” Joy says with glee and rapidly shakes Autumn’s hand, “Cassie’s told me lots about you!”
Autumn blinks, “It’s Autumn.”
“To some people,” Joy shrugs, “but other’s use Fall it’s faster. But pretty either way.”
It takes Castel every ounce of self-control he can muster to not laugh. He can’t tell if Joy is just being herself or she’s trying to aggravate Autumn with the subtle offhanded comment…probably a mix of the two he concludes.
Autumn blinks again before shaking her head, “Alrighty then…uh…shall we?” She asks turning to Nathan.
“I’m all set,” Nathan smiles taking her hand.
“Onward to adventure!” Joy howls and thrusts her fist into the air
“Adventure!” Castel echos and throws his fist in the air as well.
They both giggle and race each other through the park’s gate with Nathan and Autumn in tow. Perhaps today will be easier than he thought.
The festival is more of a mini-carnival or at least that’s how Castel would describe it. Food carts, game booths, marketing tents, street performers, even some rides fill the park. At the center of it all is a big stage sits between two oak trees, with as enormous white sheet cascading down from the branches of the trees. That must be where the movie will be shown later this evening.
Castel smiles as Joy pulls him along as they jog down the green grass.
“This is so cool!” She squeaks and beams at him, “What should we do first?”
“We could play a game,” Nathan suggests from behind them.
“A game sounds fun!” Joy nods and points to a booth, “Let’s go to that one!”
Soon the four are standing in front of the milk-bottle booth. Nathan pays for three baseballs and takes a chance throwing the three balls knocking down the bottle tower. Autumn grins as she picks a big stuffed dolphin from the rack. Joy bounces eagerly beside Castel.
“Which one do you want Jo-jo?” He asks and digs a dollar out of his wallet
Joy taps her chin humming thoughtfully as she scans the rack of stuffed animals. Her eyes light up as she points to a giant stuffed panda bear.
Castel smirks, “Alrighty. Hey you know Zack taught me the trick to these games.”
He nods, “Yeah you aim for the carni’s head and take the prize while he’s unconscious.”
Joy and Nathan snort, Autumn rolls her eyes and the carni eyes Castel with a cautious expression. It looks like he’s trying to decide if he really wants to take Castel’s dollar or tell the kid to take a hike.
Castel smiles and holds his hands up in defense, “Only kidding Sir, only kidding.”
The guy gives a gruff huff and opts to take the dollar in exchange for three balls, but he does stand far enough off to the side so he’s not in the line of fire.
Joy giggles and Castel smiles as he aims for the bottle tower. He misses…terribly!
Joy doesn’t hold back the bark of laughter as Castel blushes. He was not an athlete but he’s was sure he’d be able to at least knock one of the bottles over.
“Alright alright,” he rolls his eyes and pokes Joy’s side. “Enough now, that was just a warm up.”
“Uhuh,” Joy snickers and bites her lip trying to stop the laughter.
Castel takes the second ball into his hand, “Ok this one’s for real.”
He throws the ball and this time it hits the table which the bottles are set on and ricochets back at them. Both Castel and Joy squeak and duck to avoid decapitation by the flying ball. Once they are sure they’re safe they stand again. Castel’s face holds a very bewildered expression as he looks at Joy who looks as though she’s going to explode with laughter.
He narrows his eyes at her, “Ok ok so I’m not a good shot, sue me.”
“It’s ok Cassie,” Autumn says from somewhere behind him.
“Yeah it’s ok Cassierole,” Joy nods in agreement. “I mean if the goal of the game was to miss in every way possible you’d be a champion!”
He blushes more and growls at her, “I still have one more shot.”
“Optimism!” Joy cheers
He takes the last ball into his hand and stares hard at the illusive bottle tower. He’s determined to win her that bear, he’s just gotta look at this from a mathematically stand point. He quickly calculates the angle he’ll need to throw from, how much force he’ll have to throw it at, the direction of the wind, he even estimates the mass of the ball and the distance at which he stands from the tower.
“Quit stalling!” Nathan yells.
“Alright! I’m throwing it I’m throwing it!” Castel snaps and takes a deep breath.
He rears his arm back and soon the ball has left his hand. It flies through the air with the speed of a rocket and his heart pounds as he watches the ball near it’s destination.
The man yelps and jumps out of the way of the fast ball. Nathan and Joy burst into laughter when the carni glares at Castel.
“I’m so sorry Sir,” Castel shakes his head. He sighs and looks up at the bear, “I’m sorry J-bird.”
Joy smiles and shakes her head, “No worries Cassie.”
“I really wanted to win it for you though.”
“I know you did,” Joy smiles sweetly and takes his hand, “I know you’re a terrible shot.”
“Hey!” He starts to protest but she cuts him off.
“That’s why it means more to me that you still tried,” she says and kisses his cheek.
All the anger and humiliation instantly melts away as she smiles at him and he feels his own lips curling. His hand is attached to the back of his neck.
“Thanks Jo-jo…I’m still sad I couldn’t win it for you though.”
The carni clears his throat, “Listen kid,” the guy rubs the back of his neck, “that was really sad and painful to watch.”
Castel’s cheeks burn and he hears Nathan bite back a laugh.
“I feel really bad for you,” the carni says, “I don’t want you to walk away with nothing so…here.” He says and holds out a very small bubble container.
Castel takes it and opens the little container, out falls a silver plastic ring with a purple gem in the center. Well it’s not a bear but…
Castel smiles and thanks the carni before handing the little trinket to Joy.
“Here Joy,” he says and puts the plastic hoop onto her finger.
Joy holds her hand out in front of her studying the little ring. Nathan smiles at the carni’s kindness and Autumn rolls her eyes and smirks with a slightly smug look.
“What a useless piece of junk,” Autumn scoffs and Nathan shushes her.
Castel’s heart sinks, rude or not she’s right. Just as Castel is going to apologize again for his failure here eyes grow wide and her lips pull back into a toothy grin.
“This is so cool!” Joy squeals and bounces on her toes, “It looks so real!”
Castel grins as Joy coos over the obvious fake ring, she always sees the best in everything.
“Joy it’s clearly not–”
“Cassie this is awesome!” She pipes and gives him a broad smile. “Do you think you could miss like nine more times!?”
They walk down the hill as Joy marvels at the ten plastic rings that cover her fingers. Castel smiles and wraps his arm around her as she babbles on about how she feels like royalty with all the rings, and how from now on when ever he greets her he has to kiss every ring like they do with the queen. Castel tries to explain that, no one kisses all the rings of the queen or the Pope or the Godfather and Joy huffs and says she’ll have him thrown in the dungeon for crass talk about his queen.
He can’t help the way his heart pounds more in his chest when she calls herself his.
They pass some street performers playing the guitar, a box drum, and a trumpet, with a lead singer. It sounds like they’re singing I Got You by Train but their own version of it. Joy smiles and joins the small circle that surrounds the performers and starts to dance to the beat. Castel smiles and watches her dance around with such a loving gaze; the bedazzled gems of his name sparkling in the sunlight. He will never know how she’s learned to dance like there’s nobody watching her. He’s pulled from his love induced stupor when she appears in front of him and grabs his hand. She pulls him over to the circle with her. She smiles widely at him as she starts to dance. His eyes shift to all the people watching them and pulls his hand away shaking his head.
“No Joy,” he whispers and takes a step back prepared to watch her from the sidelines.
She captures his hand again and smiles sweetly at him, “Come dance with me Cassie.”
His face goes red and he looks around again at all the eyes watching them. Joy cups his cheek and turns his chin to look at her. She gives him a reassuring and genuine smile as the lyrics play through the air.
I got you I got you
You’re the sun through my window warming my skin oh you
Like Sonny and Cher expect I’ll be there for you!
“They aren’t here,” she says just above a whisper. “Dance with me just like we do at home. Just focus on me.”
Her words calm the storm in his stomach and she takes both his hands. She slowly starts to sway back and forth and he’s surprised to find his body following hers. He feels his lips pulling into a smile and he imagines they aren’t at a big festival with thousands of people, no he’s back in her parent’s cabin. They year they got snowed in and she took the opportunity to teach him how to dance. He can feel himself relaxing and soon he’s completely forgot all the people around them. He dances with her smiling and singing along to song with her. Although he has forgotten the people, he does however hear laughter, clapping, and cheering and when he looks around again everyone around them has joined in the dance as well.
They ride on the roller coaster, the Spinning Top, the Whip Lash, and the bummer cars. Castel smiles as he rams his car into Joy’s causing her to laugh and chase him around the track. He glances over in the direction of his friends just in time to see Nathan slam into Autumn’s car. She scowls and glares at him, but not in a playful way. She looks like she saying something to him and judging from his face it’s not something nice. Castel honestly feels kind of bad for his friend…
“That was so much fun!” Joy giggles as he helps her out of her little car, “I beat your butt!”
“I doubt that!” Castel laughs as they walk out off the track.
“You’re just a sorry loser,” Joy says and whips her hair back with her hand.
Castel chuckles, “Sure Jo-jo sure.” He smiles back at Nathan and Autumn, “You guys wanna go on one more ride before getting something to eat?”
“Yeah I’m down for another ride,” Nathan says with a weak smile.
“Alright what do we wanna–”
“They have a carousel!” Joy cheers and tugs on Castel’s sleeve.
“A carousel?” Autumn echos and rolls her eyes, “You cannot be serious.”
“Why not the carousel is fun!” Joy beams at her before looking at Castel, “Come on Cassie!”
Castel laughs as Joy drags him to the carousel leaving Nathan and Autumn behind to argue whether to join them or not. Apparently they chose not but Castel is one hundred percent positive Nathan wanted to go on the ride with them. As the bob up and down on their plastic horses Castel can’t help but laugh at how frustrated Autumn looks. Despite all the nerves he’s happy they’re playing this game, if only to make Autumn feel guilty for all the humiliation she’s put him through. Although he does wish Nathan would detach himself from her hip and come have fun with them–let her be the stick in the mud this is fun! Joy’s ideas are always fun.
“So how long have you two been together?” Autumn asks as they sit down at the picnic table.
“Three years,” Castel says using some of his napkins to clean up the mess Joy has made on the table from her chili cheese dog.
Autumn blinks in surprise, “So all this time you’ve been in college?”
“Yupper roonie,” Joy smiles as she licks the cheesy chili from her lips. “Started when we were just wee baby freshmen.”
“How come you’ve never visited?” Nathan asks and slurps his soda.
Joy shrugs, “Ticket was really out of my price range. Plus we’d see each other on breaks and between semesters, so I didn’t see a point.”
“Oh where do you go to school?” Nathan questions with a smile
“UG,” Joy says before bursting into a mini-giggle fit.
Nathan chuckles, “University of Georgia?”
“Ding ding ding, give the boy a prize Vanna!” She cheers and nudges Castel’s ribs with her elbow.
“Why am I Vanna?” He laughs
“You’ve got the arms for the part,” Joy grins and does a quick motion with her arms as if she were showing off a car.
The boys snicker and Autumn gives a forced smirk.
“So why now?” She asks with an underlying dubious tone
Joy clicks her tongue and rolls her eyes, “Duuuh girl it’s called a surprise.” She smiles and pokes Castel’s side, “Thought it’d be fun to come see my dork before we left for break.
Castel smiles and bites into his hot dog, “And a nice surprise it is.” He says before giving her cheek a quick peck.
Autumn doesn’t look convinced, “How come Cassie has never talked about you? I mean as a couple.”
Joy’s eyes widen and she gasps, “Cassie you don’t tell people we’re together?”
Castel’s eyes widen slightly and his heart picks up in speed.
“Well um…I just…” he’s totally dropping the ball! What’s wrong with him? Why can’t he make up a reason? What even would be a good enough reason!? He can’t think, especially not with the way Autumn is smiling at him right now. Although it is a smile it’s not a nice smile, it’s more of the look a spider would have when a fly gets caught in its web. Castel hates how he knows which role he’s playing in that scenario right now.
“I’m just kidding Casper,” Joy says putting her hand on his arm. “I know why you don’t tell people we’re together.”
“Why?” Nathan asks
Yeah why? He thinks as he stares at her, trying hard to tell her with his eyes to watch her steps.
“Our families don’t want us together,” Joy says in a loud whisper.
Nathan and Autumn share a confused glance.
“Why not?” Autumn asks
Yeah why not Joy? He thinks in his head, his heart pounding a million miles a millisecond.
Joy sighs dramatically, “They’ve been feuding for years and refuse to let us be together. We’re what’s it called? Sud…stud…star? Yeah! Star-crossed lovers!”
He is internally screaming.
She smiles at Castel before putting her hand on her forehead as if she were going to faint, “A doomed forbidden love.” She sighs audible before smiling again, “You know like that one couple that, that dude Shakespeare wrote about. The whole Romeo Oh Romeo come we must kill ourselves do to poor communication.”
He’s still screaming.
“Romeo and Juliet,” Castel hears himself correct despite the howls of his internal self.
“Tomato tamahto,” Joy waves her hand dismissively. “My title is much better.”
What happened to KISS!? He yells in his head as his heart runs out the door with its bags packed leaving a sign on his ribcage that reads ‘gone finishing’. He swallows only to find his mouth has gone dry and he dares to look at Autumn. Maybe there’s a chance she’s buying it…nope. Not at all.
The girl still smiles but there’s an evil glint in her eyes as she laces her fingers and tucks them snugly under her chin.
“So why can’t you tell us you have a little birdie Cas? I mean after all we’re not family?”
Castel is proud of himself that he’s held his smile although his cheeks are starting to hurt. He takes a breath and clears his throat. Perhaps there’s a chance he can save this sinking relationship.
“Well you know how word travels like wildfire,” he says and seeing that he has no pen to start clicking, he opts to flatten out the napkin he’s been mangling. “Nathan has met my family before, and he’s pretty good friends with my brothers. Suppose one time on accident he let’s it slip out that Joy and I are together? My brothers would tell my parents and they’d tell Joy’s and it’d be a whole ‘nother turf war.” He shrugs, “I couldn’t live without Joy so we’d run off and elope in some other state.”
“Yeah it’d be a trickle up affect.” Joy pipes in
“Trickle down,” he corrects.
“Whateves somethings trickling to somewhere,” Joy rolls her eyes and finishes her chili cheese dog.
“Aren’t you going to have to elope anyway?” Autumn questions with a sneer
The malicious sparkle in her eyes angers him. He wants to put her in her place, so he swallows his nerves and finds his courage.
“Well we’re hoping one day we’ll be able to sit down with our families and work things out.” He says with a smirk, “I mean after all I want both of families to be there when we get hitched. Wouldn’t you?”
Autumn stares him down for a moment and he stands his ground. He doesn’t care if it is a lie he’s going to make he believe it. He’s so done with her arrogance and delusions of superiority, Joy’s lit this cannon and he’s gonna make sure it lands right on the target.
Autumn drops her hands and takes a deep breath, “Well I wish you would have at least told us you were taken.” Her eyes soften, “I wouldn’t have tried so hard to set you up.” She looks down almost embarrassed, “I’m so sorry I had no idea you two were together I mean it makes so much sense now. You were not interested in those girls cause you already had a girl.” Autumn looks back up at him, “You sure were loyal. I’m sorry for pushing so hard.”
Castel can feel his muscles relax, “It’s alright, no harm done.”
Autumn turns her gaze to Joy, “Please forgive me I had no idea.”
Joy smiles and shakes her head, “Don’t worry about it Fall everything’s A-Okay.” Joy shoots finger guns at Autumn who seems to almost sigh in relief.
“Thank you,” Autumn smiles.
Although Autumn has finally apologized for her nonstop revolving door of sloppy mean girls, he knows the day is not over. They’re not out of the woods just yet.
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