Book 1 of the
Chronicles of Sanctuary Series
Before I Sleep
Magnolia High School, New Martinsville, WV
It was arguably the best, and worst, day of Dustin’s life. He’d just had yet another “discussion” with his father concerning his career choice. Dustin felt that a PolySci major was something that would allow him to help others and his father felt that he needed a more “practical” degree. Dustin had always said that he could take a minor that would provide him with a fall back and his father always replied with “Noah didn’t build the Ark when it was raining.” Whatever that meant. However, that wasn’t what was worrying him today. No, today was graduation and he was going to ask Stacie to marry him. They’d been together since the eighth grade and he couldn’t conceive his life without her in it. So, yes, today, right after graduation, he was going to ask her to marry him. He thought he knew what her answer would be, they’d spent hours talking about the future, but what if she said no?
Dustin sat amidst the swirl of activity of people getting ready for graduation and contemplated the possible outcomes. If she said yes, then everything would be right with the world. They’d go to college and graduate and buy a house and Dustin would use his Major to make a difference in the world. Lord knows the world needed help with it going to hell in a hand basket. They’d have 2 kids, a boy and a girl and they’d have a dog or two.
But wait. What if she said no? Dustin’s heart sunk to his toes and the room started to spin. No, she is going to say yes, he thought. He looked up and saw Stacie standing with a few of her friends and his heart just ached. He’d known he’d loved her the moment he’d first seen her. He watched as she laughed at something one of her friends said and brushed her hair behind her ear. The only thing that had made high school bearable had been Stacie. If she wouldn’t marry him there was nothing left for him in this world. On the outs with his parents and faced with college next year, he really was not in a position to face being without her.
“Attention students, attention. We will begin lining up to enter the auditorium in 15 minutes.” the PA system blared. The hubbub of activity intensified and he lost sight of Stacie in the swirl of bodies. He took a few deep breaths to steady himself and then headed over towards Stacie. Moving through the crowd, he heard snatches of conversations.
“Oh, I hate this gown. Why can’t we just wear our prom dresses?”
“…makeup twice and I still can’t get it right.”
“…and hang out at the river after graduation.”
“Did you see Brenda today? Man, she’s…..”
“….next week, twenty-eight bucks an hour…..”
Dustin steeled his reserve and took a deep breath. With an air of confidence that he did not feel he sided next to Stacie and said, “Hey baby, you ready for this?” Stacie spun around and her eyes lit up as a smile broke out on her lips. I want her to always look at me like that, he thought. She stepped into his arms and breathlessly kissed him.
“I can’t believe it’s finally here, can you?”
“No, I can’t believe it either.”, although he was sure they were talking about different things.
“After this summer, we’re going to be in college and living on our own with so much more… ‘Free time’.” she whispered to him.
Visions of what that free time would entail swirled through his head and then the thought that asking her to marry him might destroy all of that. He blanched at that thought as his mouth turned dry.
“What’s wrong baby? Are you ok?” she asked him.
Dustin stared at her as the thoughts in his head threatened to engulf him. Maybe I should just ask her now, get it over with. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do, ask her now and then I won’t have to sit with this ball of ice in my stomach. “Stacie, um, I wanted to….”
The PA system blared to life drowning him out. “Attention students. Please line-up, in alphabetical order, at the main exit. Attention students. Please line-up, in alphabetical order, at the main exit.”
Around him, the rest of the students started to move and line up and Stacie leaned in to give him a kiss. “Just 2 more hours and we’re done with this place baby!” She turned away from him and started to head towards the line forming near the doors.
Dustin raised his hand as the words died on his lips. Oh, real good Mister, I Can’t Say Anything Without Clamming Up. Why in the hell would she want to be with you? You’re afraid of your own shadow. Let a cat step on your shadow and you’d bolt like a….
Someone grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around. “I’ve told you a thousand times Mr. Moore. Daydreaming is for the lazy and it’ll get you nowhere,” said Coach Finnegan. “Now march yourself over to the line and get in the proper place.” Coach Finnegan pushed Dustin by his shoulder in the direction of the line.
“Go, get over there.” Dustin felt himself moving towards the line all the while thinking about how he’d frozen when he tried to ask Stacie. He slid himself in line and started to settle in when a voice behind him said, “Wrong spot asshole. You need to move down towards the M’s, not here in the K’s.
“Sorry.” Dustin muttered under his breath and move out of line and back towards the M’s. Just as he settled into place, the PA Speaker blared to life again. “Attention students. We will now begin moving into the Auditorium, single file, into your assigned seats. Once settled and the ceremony is started, after the commencement speech, the Valedictorian will speak and then we’ll call you, one at a time, up to the stage to receive your diploma. After receiving your…”
Dustin tuned out the PA speaker and tried to steady his nerves. Ok, two hours to get yourself together and not come across as a complete spaz when you ask her. The line started to move and he entered the auditorium and took his seat.
And the next two hours disappeared. Before he knew it, they were all standing and tossing their caps in the air and yelling. He vaguely remembered hearing his name and getting up to go on the stage. Thankfully he seemed to remember that he didn’t fall flat on his face or do anything to majorly embarrass himself. He stood with his parents and smiled and nodded as everyone was talking, all the while searching for Stacie in the crowd. As the students milled around he reached into his pocket and felt that the ring box was still there and he breathed a sigh of relief. Seeing her standing with her parents and some other friends he turned and asked his parents to come with him and then started over towards where Stacie was standing with her parents and friends. The closer he got, the harder it was to move, each step feeling as if he was walking through a quagmire. He tried to set his face as expressionless as possible but he could only imagine how pale and ghastly he looked. Stacie turned and saw him and her face lit up as she rushed over and hugged him. They stood there holding each other as their parents mingled, shook hands and stared proudly at them.
He looked deep into her eyes and said, “Stacie, there’s something I wanted to ask you……”
“Yes, Dustin, what is it?”
“Ummmm.” Dustin looked around and saw that both sets of parents had stopped talking, watching them closely. He turned back to Stacie and said, “Um…. There’s something I want to ask you.”
“I heard you the first time. What is it?”
Dustin reached into his pocket and pulled out the ring box and fell to one knee. “Stacie, I’ve loved you since I meet you and I can not imagine a day without you. Will you marry me?”
Stacie’s eyes grew wide as she looked at him and then the ring. Their parents also stood there, frozen as if time itself had come to a screeching halt. Even the hubbub of voices around them seemed to die off as well.
Looking at her face Dustin’s heart sank as he knew the answer she was going to give. She was going to reject him right there in front of everyone. Why in the hell did I think it was a bright idea to ask her in front of the entire world? He felt nauseated as if everything from his toes up was going to exit his mouth in a projectile stream…
“Dustin? Baby, are you ok?”
“What? Yeah, sure, I’m fine. I’m just waiting for your answer.”
“Well then, wake up. I said yes.” She looked at him expectedly.
Then it hit him. She’d said yes. Suddenly everything cleared and all was right in the world. He stood and placed the engagement ring on her finger and pulled her close, inhaling the scent of her hair as the tensions drained out of him. His father pulled them apart and hugged him and shook his hand while Stacie’s parents did the same. Then a maddening swirl of teenage girls whipped around Stacie, all jabbering at the same time, ohhing and ahhing at her ring and expressing various forms of teenage sentiment.
Stacie’s father disengaged himself from the crush of girls surrounding Stacie and walked over. “Do you have a date in mind son?”
“Um, no sir. Not really.” Dustin looked over and saw Stacie preening, flashing the engagement ring to anyone that would even glance her way.
“Let me make a suggestion, if I may?”
“Of course sir.”
“Don’t set a date. Wait till you graduate from college and then set the date. It’ll give you time to settle into things without us parent’s hovering over you.”
“Yes sir, that sounds like a perfect plan.”
“And let me say this…” Stacie’s father looked around to see if they were alone and then looked back, his eyes boring into Dustin. “You treat my daughter right, you understand me? If you hurt one hair on her head, I will find you. I. Will. Find. You.”
“Yes sir, I understand sir. I’d never do anything to hurt her, ever, I swear.”
“Good.” Stacie’s father turned and walked away. Dustin stood there and watched Stacie, his heart soaring to the clouds and smiled softly.