Character Encounters: Surprise Date.
A Disney-Pixar movie was in the DVD player, I was snuggled under a blanket in comfy clothes, my computer was nearby… and I was all ready to celebrate Valentine’s Day Han’s way, Solo.
And then the doorbell rang. My face looked something akin to Bilbo’s when the Sackville-Bagginses would come visiting.
Oh well, no need for me to get the door. My dad got up and, accompanied by the barking Rosey, went to answer the door. But, being the busybody that I am, I silently slipped from under the quilt (more like noisily fell off the couch, entangled in the blanket) and tip-toed Legolas-like to the sliding door, separating the kitchen/TV room from the rest of the house. I peeked around the door, but couldn’t see much. But I could use my other senses – namely my sense of hearing.
The man at the door was enquiring for… me! The voice wasn’t familiar. Who could be asking for me on Valentine’s day? A creepy creeper! And my sword was in the other side of the house! The one time I really need it, of course it’s going to be in the other room.
My dad was trying to dissuade the man from coming in to speak with me when suddenly I felt the strange need to go to the door. I walked forward and next thing I knew, I was standing face to face with a familiar being, though I’d never met him before.
“It’s okay, Daddy,” I whispered. “It’s Character Encounter time again.”
He nodded knowingly and sat down on the couch. He was on his phone watching a hockey game, but I could tell he was very alert to what was happening at the front door.
“You are Abbey,” the man at my door stated, rather than asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “Am I right in assuming you are King John?”
“Yes.” He looked perplexed. “I received this note telling me to come to this address and ask ‘Abbey’ out to dinner, as it is a celebration of love in your country.”
I nodded. “Yeah, it’s Valentine’s Day. It means that couples all over the world go out on dates together – out to dinner, maybe catch a movie… you don’t know what a movie is. Just believe me when I say they’re pretty cool.”
“Right.” King John nodded, but didn’t look convinced. “I will take your word for it. Will you attend dinner? I have here the name of an inn.” He showed me the slip of paper.
“McDonalds, pretty fancy,” I said with a nod. Though I desperately wanted to stay home and watch the movie, maybe if I went out to dinner with King John he’d tell me why he was such an evil overlord. “Well,” I said, “if we’re going out to dinner, we need to dress in fancy clothes.”
“I am dressed in fancy clothes,” King John replied.
“Yes, well, that’s not what we call fancy in this country. My dad can lend you some of his clothes; you’re about the same size.”
Since my date would be dressed in dress pants and a button-up shirt, I decided to pull on the only dress I owned. Brown, slightly World War Twoish. Since it was freezing outside, I pulled on brown leggings to match the dress, and red high heels.
“I’m ready!” I called. “Whenever you are!”
A few minutes later, King John came out, dressed handsomely. He looked like a business executive. I took his arm and we went outside.
“I brought my carriage,” King John said, opening the door for me.
Though a carriage in the McDonalds parking lot would look strange, I would never pass up the opportunity to ride in one, so I climbed in.
Shortly, we reached the restaurant.
“Whoa! Cool ride, bro!” several teens said as we walked into McDonalds.
“Wow, you are one lucky girl,” said a woman (thought I noticed that, as we turned away, she eyed us strangely… what was one so young doing out with one so old?)
King John scanned the menu. “Hmmm… what are these ‘Big Macs’?”
“Why don’t you let me order for you,” I suggested.
“I am King and I am fully able to order for myself,” King John replied, holding himself just a little loftier. “Give me one Big Mac,” he told the woman at the cash register.
“One Big Mac. Would you like fries and a drink with that?”
“Alright. Anything else for you?”
“That’ll be six-fifty.”
“Six-fifty what? I am King! I do not pay for mea-“
“Um, ahahaha… My date here is just joking!” I interrupted. “If we wanted royal treatment we’d be at Burger King. No, that’s a bad joke. Sorry. Anyway, I’ll be paying. You can add a cheeseburger with ketchup only (along with the meat, cheese, and bun, of course, haha) and another order of fries and a chocolate shake to the order. Thank you!”
I paid quickly and ushered King John to a table in the corner. I sat him by the window so he wouldn’t see all the attention his carriage was attracting. People were stopping on the road to stare… little kids were being posed next to it while mommy took a picture… His carriage-driver was shooing people away like they were ants.
“You stay here while I get our food,” I told King John. He seemed willing enough to wait. After all, he had been waited on his whole life.
I juggled our two trays and somehow managed to pour us each root beer without dumping everything on the ground. The trip back to the table was trickier; the fries fell to the floor. After much embarrassment and apology on my side, the cashier gave me another bag of fries.
Stupid heels… I thought.
For the next few moments, King John and I ate in silence.
“This is good,” he remarked, nodding to the burger in his hands. “I must instruct my cook to make this back at the castle. And what do you call this drink?”
“Umm, it’s root beer,” I said.
“It is the best beer I have tasted! You say it is made from roots?”
“Not really… I’m not really sure what it’s made of,” I replied. “Let’s talk about something else. Why are you so villainous?”
“Villainous? Me?” King John’s eyes grew wide. “Not I, surely.”
“Well… you treat your peasants poorly and cheat them of the necessities of life. You manipulate people into thinking you’re this great guy when all you really want is power power power… I know all of the facts, what I want to know is why. Why do you manipulate and cheat people?”
“Well,” said King John, “you said it. I want power.”
“But why? What’s so great about power?”
“My father and I have always strived for power.”
“Your father, now he’s an interesting man. Why did he want power?”
King John shrugged. “My grandparents had six sons in quick succession. The first five died before reaching one year of age. My father, the youngest, was the only one to survive. Because of this, and because he was prince, he received everything he wanted. This included the best education, which sharpened his already keen mind and made him the smartest man in First Country. He came up with brilliant strategies during the Goblin Wars and he became a hero. It is no wonder then, that he thought he could rule the all five Countries better than their own rulers.
“The only thing he didn’t count on was having an equally brilliant son. He underestimated me my whole life; he treated me like a naïve child from the moment I learned to speak. It was my older brother he favored, but my older brother was a fool, gaining his brains from my mother’s side of the family. No amount of learning could make him smart. But my father didn’t see that. When my brother died mysteriously, my father hated me all the more. He thought that I was the stupid son, and for awhile, I bought into his lies, until I realized my worth – realized that I was stronger than him, smarter than him; it was easy to slay him on the battle ground. Now I am King of First Country, and soon, the whole realm.”
“Interesting…” I said. “So, you’re father always treated you like dirt, made you think that you were worth nothing… and because of that, you got your revenge, and now are trying to make everyone think you are the best by ruling over them all. Thank you, this has been a very productive date! Now please take me home. I want to watch my movie.”
King John stared at me. “Very well. Come.”
I threw our garbage away and we went back out to the carriage. We were gone no more than thirty minutes, but I learned much. It was indeed a very productive date.
Live long and prosper!