Between Friends – A Short Story

Between Friends

There once were two friends. Paul was everything good in the world. Ramon was not. Paul devoted his time to hospitals and orphanages. Ramon stole whatever he could. Paul thought the purpose of existence was to help your fellow man. Ramon was not sure we really existed. But still they were friends.

            They had met in the third grade. Their teacher switched the troublemaking Ramon’s seat next to the quiet and obedient Paul. Ramon was pleased for he had a smart mind to copy on exams. But one afternoon the teacher noticed their papers had identical answers. “What is the meaning of this?” she asked. Sparing Paul the shame of snitching, Ramon confessed and placed the blame squarely on his shoulders. It was a moment of purity Paul could never forget.

            This moment established a friendship that lasted to adulthood. Once a week unless Paul was on a humanitarian mission or Ramon owed someone money they would meet at Tubby’s Tavern for cider. It was a warm, autumn Sunday when Paul said, “I have fallen in love.”

            Ramon laughed. “You don’t say. Who is it this week?”

            “IT is true I have been with many girls. But correct me if I ever told you I was in love.” Ramon remained silent. “She should be here any minute. I wanted you to meet her.”

            In a strange quirk of fate Ramon turned his head and he too fell in love. Her long brown hair, aristocratic nose, and her swagger of detachment broke his heart as she walked to their table and embraced Paul. Paul made the introductions. “Carolina, this is my truest friend, Ramon.”

             “It is a pleasure.” She looked directly into Ramon’s eyes as she shook his hand.  “If you’ll excuse me I need to use the restroom.”

            Ramon could not stop shaking as he spoke. “She is beautiful, but no more so than your former lovers. Why are you in love with her?”

            Paul smiled. “She reminds me of you. She can be crass, but when given the chance she proves her soul to be as pure as any.” Before Ramon could rebut Carolina returned to the table. “I’ll buy us another pitcher. You two get to know each other.”

            As soon as Paul was out of earshot Ramon whispered, “What are you doing with him?”

            She shrugged her shoulders. “We are in love.”

            “There is nobody in this world with as kind a heart as Paul. If you break that heart I will kill you.” Her smile showed the teeth he once knew so well. “I mean it. I don’t care how much I still love you. I will kill you.”

            Paul returned with the pitcher and began pouring. “So Carolina, did he tell you his favorite color?”

            “Yes. Ramon-Blanco Herrera’s favorite color is red.”

            Paul was shocked and smiled. “What else did he tell you?”

            “That he prefers to steal something over paying for it, he once owned a sailboat, and you are the person he holds most dear in the world.”
            Paul laughed and put his arm around his young lover. “Was I gone that long? She knows more about you than she does about me. Now Ramon, what did Carolina tell you about herself?”

            “Nothing. She remains an enigma. Do you realize old friend, that Carolina is the first person to be invited to our Sunday meeting.”

            “Huh, that is true. Why have you never brought anyone?”

            Ramon stared at Carolina as he answered. “I once considered it but she was always too busy.”

            “Busy on a Sunday? Doing what?”

            “Sleeping with another man.”

            Paul was ashamed. He had been told this story and had forgotten it. “I am sorry.” Then Paul rejoiced, “Perhaps Carolina has a friend as beautiful, pleasant, and virtuous as herself.”

            Carolina was cornered and had to escape. “I will begin my search now. I do not wish to intrude on your special Sunday drinking session any further.” She kissed Paul and stood up. “Ramon it was a pleasure to meet you again.” They shook hands and she exited.

            Paul wanted to know what was the meaning of, “Again?”

            “She is from the south, yes? Southerners constantly misuse the word again.”

            “Can you see why I am in love with her?”
            “Yes. It reminds me of a story from the middle ages.”

            “You are so learned Ramon. Always a story for every occasion.”

            “Ramon emptied the contents of his mug and began. “There once was an old wizard. He was exiled from his village for practicing magic. As the wizard aged he grew bitter and cursed the village that rejected him. The village elders grew tired of seeing their children die and their cattle growing wings and flying away so they chose the most beautiful, charming girl in the village to appease the wizard. She marched up the mountain to his hovel and it did not take much kindness for the wizard to love her. He loved her so much he was not ashamed to tell her he would give up his vengeance on the village if she could love him. She said she could but he should make that proclamation to the villagers and not just to her. The next morning they descended the mountain hand in hand when a sentry spotted the wizard and did as commanded. He fired an arrow directly into the wizard’s heart killing him.”

            Paul stared at Ramon before he replied. “I understand the story is supposed to warn me, but I think it has a happy ending.”
            “Happy ending? The wizard is dead!”

            “Yes, but at least he died with a pure heart. Better to die in bliss than to live in spite.”

            Ramon could do nothing but laugh. “Perhaps Paul for you and you only that story can have a happy ending.”

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