The next day Dastan and I sit on my bed eating a bowl of popcorn watching Fantasia. We make no mention of yesterday besides the fact that I have to play Mickey Mouse at the parks in only two weeks. No mention of the kiss. No answer to my questions.
The day's pretty much a waste.
On Monday morning we arrive bright and early for my first training session. To say the least it is very interesting.
First, I am put into a room full of about twenty other people within about a five years or so of my age. Dastan told me on the way here that he really wasn't joking when he said that I should feel privileged about getting to play Mickey. Evidently they do the whole "You must work your way up the ladder" deal, and many start playing characters like, say, Pinocchio (another character of which I do not care for), and work they're way up to "beloved" characters such as Mickey Mouse, and the "face characters" (people like the Princesses and Peter Pan, for example).
Dastan also told me that the maximum height for people playing Mickey is 5'2. I told him he was crazy and that it must be a mistake, because I'm 5'4 and there's no possible way that I'd be able get past these Disney freaks' crazy eyes without them noticing.
When I arrive, I am told to stand up straight for measurements. Crazy enough I'm measured exactly across the line- five feet, two inches.
I grind my teeth.
After twenty minutes or so, a man comes into the room and introduces himself as Matt. I see Rick and he waves excitedly. I wave awkwardly back.
For what seems like an eternity we practice charades. You know, movements that are likely to happen while meeting park guests, like acting out excitement or embarrassment. It's almost kind of fun. You know, if it weren't for playing Mickey and everything.
After a while we are assigned to four groups of five. Our group practices writing Mickey Mouse in that special way he does for autographs while I assume others practice their own character names. The group beside me is playing Minnie Mouse. I am disturbed to find a short young man standing there along with four girls.
I always said Disney was a messed up place.
At lunch we are allowed an hour to eat before we should report back to casting. Dastan had told me this morning that he wouldn't be here until after the day was over (maybe he's afraid that if I get away from here once I'll never come back) so we picked up a snack from one of the quick service restaurants in Animal Kingdom on the way out for me to eat.
I take out my lunch and sit on the floor eating quietly in a corner where no Disney freak would likely be; yet like always, I am wrong. Just as I'm about to bite into my chicken sandwich I hear an excited squeal from beside me. It resembles what Pip from Enchanted sounds like in the real world.
"That's from the Rainforest Cafe isn't it?" She says.
"Yeah," I say, not bothering to look up to her and trying my utmost to remain silent.
"How'd you get there so early?" She asks curiously.
"Did you know that The Rainforest Cafe was awarded the Best Family Friendly restaurant in 2006?" She says as if I'm listening.
"I did actually," I say.
For a moment I think she might leave me alone, but I think too soon.
She's relentless. "My family and I used to go there a lot," She sighs.
I huff annoyingly and turn my body to her. When I look up I am blinded by a perfect smile and loose auburn hair. I admit that she is very pretty and I'm almost puzzled as to why she's playing a costume character and not a princess. I mean, despite her auburn hair, she really does resemble a princess. Especially Cinderella with that squeaky goody-two-shoes voice.
"My brother and I would have to look around the restaurant at least ten times." She laughs while her hands fly up to hide her blushing cheeks.
Ugh. Even her hand gestures mimic Cinderella.
"Yeah, it's a pretty cool place," I admit.
She smiles and sits beside me on the floor.
I try not to grimace.
"My names Sophia," She says putting out her hand.
Her smile grows. "Mickey? Seriously?"
"Yeah, my mom is a Disney fanatic." I say.
"Oh, so is mine. My dad actually works for Disney," She says matter-of-factually.
I squint my eyes when I tell her that my dad does too.
"That's so cool!" She says, and the next thing I know she starts asking me questions about how many times I've been to Disney World and where I live, and soon enough it seems as though I'm telling her my entire Disney crazed life.
And that's not even the crazy part, what's really crazy is how much fun it is to see her mouth drop lower and lower in awe everytime I tell her a new part of my life, like my house. I mean, I hate my house, but it's kind of cool that someone's actually jealous of me for a change.
Usually people just make fun of me.
"And the living room's Peter Pan themed," I tell her. "We even have the clock," I say, "you know, the one Peter Pan lands on."
"Big Ben," She corrects.
"Yeah," I say. "That thing." And for just a glimmer of a moment I catch myself smiling at the thought.
I wipe it away just in case Dastan were to come around the corner and see me. Wouldn't want him to even get the thought that I'm enjoying this.
Because of course I'm not.
By the end of lunch Sophia and I report back to our groups. She's in with the creeper guy playing Minnie Mouse.
I shutter at the thought.
The day goes faster than I expected and when Dastan picks me up I am almost smiling.
"How was is it Mickey...Mouse?" He
"Ha ha, funny." I say tilting my head.
"It was Disney," I answer bluntly. "But I'm not out with the actually people yet so I guess you can live for a little longer,"
He rolls his eyes but leans over to open the door for me with some sort of grin.
"Why so smiley?" I ask.
"I'm not smiling," He says defensively.
"Yeah you are. And you're not just smiling, you're smiley." I say. "It's an adjective."
"Whatever," He says.
I shrug and pull my seat beat on.
"Why do you always ask that?" He interrupts eagerly.
"Um, what kind of question is that?" I ask blowing a strand of hair off my forehead.
"A good one." He retorts.
"Right," I say.
"I'm serious, Mickey." He complains.
"Because I want to know where we're going?" I ask rolling my eyes.
Dastan can really ask the most annoying questions sometimes.
"Don't you like to be surprised?" He asks.
Annoying and stupid.
"Don't you like to be surprised?" He says again.
"I'm not sure if I want to be surprised with you," I say, hoping this will satisfy him.
He narrows his eyebrows and I realize that it won't.
Well, I think to myself. The last couple surprises you have given me have included moving into a giant tree, playing with children toys, and kissing me in front of an audience, what is there left to surprise me with?
Then it hits me.
What if he's asking me this because he does have some big surprise for me. Like, say, showing me the frozen head of Walt Disney or something. I must say, that would be pretty surprising, if not totally frightening. Well, on second thought I think that experience might just scar me for life and leave me even more scarred of the Magic Kingdom than I already am from my little it's a small world experience.
Thank goodness that' only a myth about Walt.
Or at least I hope...
Anyways, Dastan continues to stare at me, waiting for an answer.
"Uh, how am I supposed to answer that?" I ask him.
"Yes or no would work," He suggests.
Why can't I just be normal and answer these questions simply?
No, I have to be weird and a freak and go through my entire life's course to figure a logical and accurate answer. It's like Spaceship Earth all over again.
Thinking, thinking thinking-
And that's when I recall a memory I thought for sure I had forgotten.
My mind flashes back to that moment and it's as if I'm living it again. I had just turned sixteen and it was late. I had snuck out earlier that night; mad at my mom because she had told me that I wouldn't be taking my phone on our Disney trip the next week because she felt it "distracting". As usual I called Austin and retreated to him. We weren't dating, we were just really good friends. And that definitely wasn't something my dad favored. I've known Austin all my life, and unfortunately so had dad. Dad knew just as much as mom did when it came to our friendship, that it wasn't good for my "well being".
I know now of course that they were right about him, but boy was I angry that night.
Austin and I had been gone for exactly forty-five minutes until Austin's phone rang- Dad. Surprisingly I answered and half listened to my dad furiously yell at me and half worriedly watched Austin tapping his fingers angrily on the wheel. I rolled my eyes at him as he annoyingly muttered something about dad, who was still shouting through my ear about how dead I was when I got home.
"If you're not home immediately..." He began the speech. Basically no Austin for a few hundred years, I guess you could say and then he went on and on about how much of a disappointment I was and how he couldn't believe I would do something so irresponsible.
"I'm sixteen dad!"
"Exactly!" He yelled. "You better get home-"
I was tired of listening. I hung up.
"You've got to be kidding me." Austin yelled, banging his fist on the wheel.
"Nope, it appears that I am now the biggest disappointment of his life." I said.
"Well, at least it can't get any worse." He said.
I laughed. "That's what you think! This time next next week 'll be forced into another fourteen day vacation spending every waking hour with that man! Not to mention my Disney freak mother, and my dear ole brother who is just so innocent and nothing at all like me. Trust me," I said "it could get a whole lot worse."
"I guess so," He said
I nodded, burying my head in my hands. Minutes later I wiped the invisible tears from my cheeks and sighed. "We should go."
"Why?" He shrieked.
"Because," I said. "I'd rather not be grounded until the end of the year,"
He put the key in the ignition but stopped suddenly. "No," He said.
"You're not going home,"
"Because, you're father needs to learn how to loosen up." He said. "And you need to learn to take a few risks,"
I shook my head and held my hands out to illustrate what's around me. "You don't call sneaking out at midnight and driving away from home a risk?"
"Hardly," He said. "That's not a risk. That's called running away."
I raised my eyebrow.
"Then where are we going?" I asked.
"What the heck Austin? No what?" I yelled.
"No 'where are we going'. No more 'where to,' Mickey." He said, calling me by my real name. He always called me Nicki and I knew that if he said Mickey he was deadly serious."You're in for a little surprise." And with that he sped up, going the opposite direction of my house.
I watched helplessly as Austin sped through the streets, swerving the car back and forth for fun.
"This is a surprise?" I yelled over the wind.
We were going fast.
"Shut it!" He yelled, and I did. Austin could get violent when he got fired up and I didn't want to deal with it that night; however, he just kept speeding up. Faster and faster.
I decided I'd rather be hit than die in a car crash.
"Okay, slow down!" I shouted over the wind.
"We're fine!" Austin said passively.
"No, weren't not!" I yelled.
"Just go with it!" He yelled back.
"You're going to get us killed!" I screamed and after several moments that I was sure that we'd crash and die, he finally pulled over.
He gave me a hard look, and opened his door. He began to walk away.
"Where are you going?" I asked.
What was wrong with him?
He kept walking.
"Austin!" I yelled getting out of the car and running toward him.
He turned around, with his knife in hand.
Blade pointed out.
"What Mickey, what do you want?" He said forcefully.
I looked at the blade and looked back at him.
This couldn't be Austin.
This wasn't really him was it?
He wouldn't literally kill me would he?
His mom said something about him, being what, what... bipolar. Yes, that was it. But I've never seen him like this. So worked up, so mad. And about what? Driving me home?
"What?" He asked. I looked into his green eyes and saw the only thing left that reminded me of my best friend.
"I want you to come back." I whispered.
"So what? So you can get back to your petty little house and live life like a Disney princess? You're just like Sleeping Beauty, Mickey. You're asleep. You can't do anything in that house, and you know it."
He was right, of course. I didn't do anything outside of being Disney. I was constantly protected by my family as if I had been cursed. Never left home. We never talked or got to talk about much else. Everything was always Disney and we both knew that the only amount of real life I actually got was from Austin.
I guess, in a sense, I was sleeping.
"You're right," I said, stepping back from the knife. "But if you just come back, I promise. I'll be..." I first though of Rapunzel and how she ran away from her tower, but I thought that a bad example. "I'll be different. I won't be a princess anymore. I promise. Just please come back." I pleaded, actual tears falling like rain drops on my cheeks.
He stared at me long and hard, but after several eery moments he finally lowered his weapon and took steps toward me. I was scared of what he might do at first, after all Austin was strong and he definitely didn't need a knife to kill me if that's what he wanted to do.
I shut my eyes preparing for the worse; but all I got was his hand grasping mine.
"Don't be sleeping Beauty," He just kept muttering on the way home. I drove, although I only had my learners permit and not my license. I dropped Austin off at his house without a word. Yes, I was grounded for six months from practically everything, but that hardly touches the aftereffects of that night.
Yes, I think. Austin did surprise me that day- and every day since. I became a different person that day. I became so scared that if I did something wrong or offensive to Austin he'd turn back into the guy I saw that night.
I remember, that's the day I started hurting people. I hurt my parents because Austin didn't like them. I hurt my brother because Austin liked it. I hurt my friends because they didn't like Austin. I didn't care what they felt or how much damage I left, I just knew that they couldn't hurt me like Austin could.
...I guess I became so distanced that eventually I ended up hurting Austin too.
My eyes tear up.
Snd suddenly I'm back in Disney World, back with Dastan.
"No," I cry staring at the red scar on my arm. "No surprises!"
My eyes over flow and they spill like a water fall.
"No," I mutter. "No, no, no."
I shut my eyes, waiting for a joke of some sort, but there comes nothing. Instead Dastan puts his arm around me and holds me close to him. I cry into his chest until I can't anymore.