-Last Summer-

Chad quietly snuck through the front door of his house at three in the morning coming back from another party celebrating the end of high school. He collapsed on the cool sheets of his bed and immediately passed out asleep.

Minutes later, or what seemed like to him, his father came in pulling open his blinds bringing the streaming bright sunlight in his dark room, the rays suddenly stinging his eyes.

"Dude dad, what the hell? It's six in the morning!" he groaned burying his head in the covers.

His father pulled to covers off him, "It's Monday, Chad and on Monday adults out of school work."

"Come on, it's summer."

"So? Now that you're eighteen and refused to go to college, summer doesn't mean vacation anymore. If you plan on living under my roof you better get dressed and go out and look for a job."

"I can't dad, I already have plans for today."

Chad's planned schedule: 12 pm wake up and eat brunch 1-3pm try to get to level nine on his playstation game of some sort 3-4pm pawning newbs on message boards and getting game codes 4-6 pm take a nap before dinner 6-6:30pm eat dinner 6-3am go out with friends 3am crash.

"Well that's a shame then because you're going to have to cancel them. Look Chad I didn't work my ass off since I was sixteen, putting food on the table, clothes on your back, and paying for those countless private schools you attended, just to see you become some slacker. You know what I was doing when I was your age boy?"

"I don't know, choosing your retirement home?"

"I was in the army."

"Oh jeeze dad, not this again! I can't join the army, I'm a pacifist and you know how bad of aim I have."

For his whole life he's been told what to do, where to go, even what to eat. He was sick of all of those strict, condescending, uniform-only private schools, his strict ex drill sergeant father that wouldn't let him sleep in, even on Saturdays, and his mom, a teacher, who every day after school made him sit at the kitchen table and wouldn't let him do anything till his homework was done and checked. Now that he was eighteen and done with high school he was going to claim his independence and vowed that from this day forward he won't have to ever to do homework or take an exam again, unless for the DMV, and believed that there was way to live a good life: sleeping in everyday without any work or responsibility to do. Somehow he was going to figure out how to live that life.

0o0o0

Summer came bringing no warmth to Chris as he saw Piper grow weak and pale, she had lost her curly hair as well as weight. But despite all that she still was her same self whose eyes sparkled with excitement and wonder whenever she told him more about Azalea. He was now an expert on her made up world that was ironically like the real world despite the unusual creatures and scenery.

"This is Ivor, he is a sorcerer who relies on magic to do everything for him, everything that he could easily do himself. He even relies on magic to make choices for him, which is pointless being that he's the wisest being in Azalea," She told him showing her drawling of him. "He is very selfish and spoiled, there's so much he could do that he, himself refuses to do, and unlike Azelyn, it's not that he doesn't think he can, he knows he can, he just doesn't want to make the struggle and sacrifice based of fears of losing his luxury, when little does he know that he already is doing just that to keep himself in luxury. If he would put as much effort into doing than he does escaping, Azalea would be better off."

After graduation he made the choice to take a time off and delay starting college to take care of her while both of their parents worked all day to pay the hospital bills. And for part of the summer she was able to live back at home and be away from the hospital as long as she comes in for annual checkups and took her medication. It was a good sign that she was getting better and responding to treatment.

That day Piper wanted him to take her to see a musical at the playhouse in the community center.

"Please Chris, this is their last performance of The Fantasticks and I don't want to miss it," she bouncingly pleaded with him.

"I shouldn't have left the paper out on the table."

"I wanted to go before I read the ad, Chris please take me. I have to see it. I won't ask for anything else I promise."

"I doubt that, but alright, I'll take you. You realize we have only twenty minutes to get there and we don't have reserved seats."

"So, at least we'll try and if it's sold out then we tried and so what. But we have to try to make it."

They rushed out of house and to the car and drove. Chris didn't want to get her hopes up, the chances of being able to make it there on time and getting tickets were slim. Once there they got out and went quickly to the box office just to see the man at there placing the sold out sign and closing the doors. He looked at Piper, not sure what to tell her. He looked back at the sold out sign, he had to find a way in.

Suddenly he saw Laura racing to the theater, obviously looking like she's running late.

He did what he had to and didn't want to, he called her name and tried to get her attention.

She twisted and went to them, nearly tripping still in the process of putting on her shoes. Her eyes were red as if she had been crying. "Chris, hi," she said breathlessly. "This must be Piper."

Piper was oddly shy and star-struck at the sight of her, as if she was someone famous.

"Yeah, she wanted to come and see---"

"Oh no, and it's sold out right?" she finished for him, not really having time to talk. He was about to answer but she answered for him, "Come with me, I'm kind of running late but I can get you two in, I have two seats reserved for family that never shows."

"You're in this play? I mean, if isn't any trouble for you—"

"Of course not, truth be told you're doing me the favor here, I won't have to look so unloved this performance with someone filling those empty seats." She chuckled nervously. "Hurry, follow me."

"Why doesn't your family show up to see you?" Piper asked. Chris suddenly was embarrassed, wishing she didn't ask such a personal question.

"It's a long story," she said leading them through to the stage door in the back of the building and to her dressing room door. "Wait here," she instructed before disappearing for a few seconds and returning with the tickets, "Okay go left and turn right to the door and that should take you to the seats and if anyone stops you, just tell them you're with me."

They did as she ordered and found their seats trying not the make a scene. They were good seats, great seats in fact, third row center.

Piper was unusually quiet and was acting strange.

"What's the matter," he whispered.

"You know her?"

"She was in my class."

"But that impossible, she couldn't have been."

"Why is that?"

"She's Azelyn."

Chris didn't say anything, he didn't want to argue with her, not knowing what to make of this. He didn't know that she actually thought of her made up world as a real place.

0o0o0

He didn't want to work at the movie theaters anyways. Chad had just left there after a disastrous interview. In it he had gotten into a big argument with the manager over a movie somehow brought up, the manager thought Ghostbusters was made in 1974 and Chad knew it was made in the 80's and pretty much it ended with Chad leaving and asking the manager why he works at a movie theater when he's knows nothing about movie trivia. This wasn't the first time this happened, or the second or third. This is part of why Chad didn't like to work for someone, he hated having to follow orders by someone who's an idiot and treats him like one.

Part of the reason for his poor grades in school wasn't due to lack of work but not following directions and rebelling. Chad didn't think of school as a learning environment but a creativity and individuality killing prison. He spent his school years trying to piss off authority with his countless schemes and rebellions. For instance, sophomore year when there was a new principal that was making tons of new and ridiculous rules, Chad made and posted up posters everywhere of the principal's eyes saying, "Big Brother is Watching You." Junior year Chad got in trouble when it was finally discovered that every time his PE class ran the mile, Chad had his own little secret shortcut that led off campus to a café where he'd wait and grab a bite to eat with his beloved caffeine for five minutes before heading off and going back on the dirt track to finish the mile in under seven minutes. Chad had this philosophy and that was, "No matter what, there's always a way out." And he used that in his everyday conflict with the thing called work.

He decided to quit job searching for the day and go visit his ex-girlfriend at the diner where she worked. They met in school. Then she thought he was cool as did most everyone. Then she saw him as brave, sticking up for what he believes in. Then he was the perfect guy for her. All that suddenly changed their senior year where she began to see him in a different light. Now she saw him as a loser who slacks off. Now she saw him as the worst guy for her, a guy with no job or future plans.

She now had a list of requirements for everything. She wasn't going to college in the fall all because she couldn't find one that fit all of her needs. She dumped him because he didn't meet any of her requirements of the perfect guy for her. To her, her perfect guy was someone older, rich with great career or enrolled in an ivy league, someone responsible, someone with gorgeous features enough to put any heartthrob to shame (well he thought he fit this requirement), someone who's goes to church, someone with good taste in clothes, someone sensitive-the list went on. Yet he had to wonder to himself if all her setting her bar too high for everything was because she actually knows what's best for her? Or is she just setting these high and impossible to reach standards as an excuse to put off change?

He took a seat at one of the booths. "So have you found your price charming yet?" he amusingly asked.

"I already found him, but unfortunately what I want is a knight in shining armor, not some prince charming who's never appreciated me enough to take me to the senior ball because he didn't have enough money for the limo after blowing his allowance on another guitar," she said trying to contain how much he hurt her then.

"The same guitar where I wrote your song on, should I sing it to you again? I will."

"This isn't funny," she sneered.

"Hey Janelle, you have to admit that was great song I wrote you."

"Don't flatter yourself."

"I'll take that as a yes, sing my song again—"

She gave him an annoyed look smacking the menu in his face, stopping him from singing. "Must you come here to eat?"

"Yeah, you know I love your company."

"So what the hell do you want this time? The Heart attack French burger or the usual diabetes risk driven chocolate sundae?"

"I think this time I'll have you," he said with that mischievous grin of his that melted her heart then.

"You already had me and lost me. You can't have me again. Are you going to order or just sit here and take up my time?"

"Sitting here taking up your time sounds nice, but the chicken strips sounds better, I don't know," he said, playfully taking his time to order, "What are the specials?"

"I don't have time to play this game, you're getting the tuna melt whether you like it or not." She ripped the menu out of his hands and walked off.

"Hey, you know I hate tuna!" He protested after her.


A/N: Yeah I think this is a prequel(I think I meant "draw", probably another error I have to fix), well I making it one, but reading this won't really spoil anything if you're reading The Thorn Witch(there's only three characters in this from Thorn Witch, two you know already, the other you're going to find out next chapter or so). I'm erasing the last Author's note because it made things to awkward and yeah I was preaching just a little too much in it(a little might be an understatement lol)

Don't worry I will be finishing this, this isn't a short story(though I wish I could make it one)

Thanks for the reviews!

PS if any of you love the movie The Princess Bride, you'll love where this story is going

Jules