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The Ultimate Price
Author's note: I was inspired by all the people who don't get to be with the one they truly love, because of how they look. I hope people understand that it's what's on the inside, and that you truly know a person when you hear them talking behind their back, and what they do when you are not around.
This is a story that does not have a happy ending. No, 'and they all lived happily ever after.' No, but this story is about love. True love, and the difficulties of getting there and staying there....
My name is Courtney Eames, and six is my magic number. It's the number of bones I've broken, the number of boys I've dated, the number of people I can honestly trust with my life, and it's the number of breaths the only boy I truly loved had with a bullet in his chest, before he died.
"Walt!!! Hey!!!!" Courtney said, smiling her radiant smile more brightly than Walter had seen in months. She ran down the junior high school hallway and tackled him with a big hug. He embraced her tightly, missing her warmness and how she always smelled like something sweet. He could never quite say what the smell was, only...sweet.
Courtney Eames had brown, silky hair that fell A few inches below her shoulders. She had deep green eyes that the boy could stare into for days. They reminded him of being deep underwater, not knowing what lay far ahead, but feeling safe in the deep sanctum. She was average height, and had perfect teeth. That was all Walter really noticed in her appearance. But he hadn't had a crush on her since second grade because her teeth were nice. He had liked her for her niceness, her generosity, her laugh, her sweetness, and o much more.
They finally ended their embrace. "Hello to you too, Courtney" Walt said with a smile. They sat down on a wooden bench.
"Oh my gosh I'm so happy!!!!" She practically screamed. Walter was happy she was so glad to see him again. He had been in London for a week, and his phone didn't work overseas, so they couldn't get in touch. And seeing her so ecstatic to see him made him want to hug her again. He didn't know what else to say, so he just said the first thing that came to mind.
"Why?" 'Why?'. He knew why, how could he ask that? But her response wanted him to lock himself in a room and never come out....
"Collin Cole just told me he thought I was really cute and has liked me for a long time!! Isn't that amazing?!" She was smiling so much, and seemed so happy, he couldn't tell her his true feelings.
Collin Cole. Collin was the kind of guy that will pretend to be so nice and sensitive to girls, than turn around and hurt one of them. Like this girl Katie Holmes. She was a very nice girl who, in the fourth grade, messed up on spelling the word "embarrassment" in front of the whole school and the whole schools parents in a spelling bee. She was so embarrassed that she broke down crying on stage and screamed and violently kicked anyone who tried to touch her. Everyone called her 'Kicking Katie'. Well, Collin told her he didn't care what people said about her, he was going to care for her and be there for her whenever she needed him. In sixth grade, he asked her to be his girlfriend, and she happily said yes. They seemed happy enough, holding hands always and hugging. Then one day, Collin brought Katie to the movies, it was the first time her parents let her go alone. Collin told her they should sneak out behind the movies, and Katie hesitated, but eventually agreed. Right as they were out of sight, Collin's friends shoved the girl to the ground and started kicking her and chanting 'Kick-ing Ka-tie, Kick-ing Ka-tie!!' and then left her, crying and bleeding. That had been on Christmas break, and by the time everyone got back to school, Katie had moved to Florida, and Collin could be seen crying, saying how much he missed his baby. Than, when the girls were gone, he would snicker with his friends at how hilarious they were. No one ever found out, besides Walter, who had been friends with Katie. She told him everything the day before she moved, and said she wouldn't trust a guy for a long time.
And his best friend was obsessed with him. Why wouldn't she be? He was tall, with blond hair and big muscles and according to everyone who went to his famous pool parties, a six-pack of abs. Also, just to make Walter mad, Collin was given a British accent. The one thing Walt didn't like about visiting London was knowing Collin Cole was born there. So while Collin was attractive and muscular, Walter was tall, overweight, and according to everyone who went to his famous school, a big head. He was lucky to even know an amazing girl like Courtney.
"Walter? Walter!" She snapped loudly in his ear. He realized he had been staring blankly at a wall for a while.
"I asked what you think I should do about Collin thinking I'm cute, and that he's liked me for a while. I mean he's so hot and sensitive and he thinks I'm cute!! I hope he asks me out, what am I going to say? I'll say yea, no duh, but how should I say it? Like 'yes'? I don't wanna seem like I'm begging or anything, even though why should ,I beg he's already asking me out so what's there to beg for? Or maybe I should-"
"I gotta go." Walter stood up to leave, he thought he would be sick.
"Wait, what's wrong? You were just so happy." She obviously didn't realize what she'd done.
"You deserve better than him, Courtney." And with that, he left, ignoring the continuous "Walter!! Wait!!"'s coming from the wooden bench.
"Hey freak, Court's been tellin' me you think she deserves better than me?" Collin Cole said as they were running around the P.E. field.
"Please get away, Collin."
"Hey! Who the hell you think you are?! Listen mate, I'm going all the way with her, then imma ditch her. So after that she's all yours buddy. But if you screw this up for me, if you even talk to her, I'll make you life a living hell! You got that fatty?" Walter couldn't stand it anymore, he extended his leg to his leg to the right, tripping Collin. Trying to gain his balance while running, the boy slammed into the soccer goal post. Everyone laughed at him, even he couldn't escape the mob that was junior high. Walter knelt beside him.
"Listen to me you idiotic jerk. Courtney Eames is a beautiful, strong, nice young woman. She is a light, where it's dark, and you're gunna try and put out that light. She is everything you could never understand. When you see her, you should drop to your knees, because you are in the presence of an angel. Just spare her your cruelty." Walter stood and walked inside, to the waiting coach, who proceeded to give him a week's lunch detention. It would be a worse punishment, but coach had a pretty good hunch it was Collin Cole who put a bee into his water bottle and shook it up, so he was glad somebody did something to calm the kid down from his ongoing rage.
Courtney looked for Walter at lunch, she needed to talk to him about Collin, but she found out he had a lunch detention. She kept going over what Walt said, 'you deserve better than him, Courtney.' She knew Collin was rough around the edges, but she thought underneath all that he would turn out to be a sweet, caring guy. Plus, his looks didn't hurt, with his perfect abs and big arms and that beautiful face. He had hit her before, last year, in seventh grade. He tried to kiss her, but she was too nervous, so she backed away. But he grabbed her head and tried to force her to kiss him, so she kicked his leg very hard, with heels. Mistake. He grasped her arm and brought his hand back, striking it across her face. The pain was so immense, she felt like she would never feel on the left side of her ace again. It stung like a billion hornets stinging her at once. 'But...' she thought, '...he was right to hit me, I should have kissed him.' He had apologized the next day, saying he didn't know what came over him, and that he just liked her so much, and wanted to kiss her so badly. She didn't fully buy it, but forgave him. 'After all, who else is there at this school?'
Collin Cole was not a guy who took being slammed into a soccer goal post easily.
"Only one week of lunch detention? That's ridiculous!!! I suppose the rest of his punishment will have to be delivered by us, eh boys?" His gang of four followers murmured in agreement. They waited after school behind the field used for P.E.
"Walter always walks this way to get too his bike, Collin." Josh Wilkins reminded Collin for the fifth time.
"Thank you Josh, if I need an update I'll be sure to- Quiet!! Here he comes, hide!" They all hid behind the baseball dugout, as Walter walked across the grass.
Walter was walking across the grass, the wind was very violent. He was feeling as if a knife was in his heart, as he was thinking about Courtney and Collin kissing, when he heard a familiar British voice. "Well, well, well, look who it is." Walter turned around. There, with two big guys behind him, was Collin Cole. Walter thought he could try to run, he spun around to escape, and knocked into two different, bigger guys, arms crossed, eyes happy, as they were about to witness a helpless victim get beaten. Walter had been lucky, and stupid, for tripping Collin in P.E., none of his buff friends had been around, and Collin was tripped so easily. But now it was different, Walter would loose this fight. "Collin! What's going on?!"
Courtney walked onto he P.E field, grumbling that her soccer coach was making her retrieve all the soccer balls as punishment for chewing gum. As she was complaining to herself, she noticed Walt, walking to his bike. She finally had a chance to talk to him! "Walt!!" She yelled, he couldn't hear her, the wind was very violent. Plus, something else had Walt's attention. She moved to see who or what it was. Collin. She'd heard about Walter tripping him in gym class, she knew he would want revenge. She started running to the fence gate, towards the six boys. This time, she screamed the loudest she possibly could.
"Collin! What's going on?!"
"Shut up Courtney, this is to protect you.
"How will fighting him protect me?!"
"He was trying to get something out of you, Court." Collin said, suddenly very grim. "He just wanted to, how do I put this delicately, go all the way with you?"
"No!!! Courtney I would never even think of doing that!! He said that! Not me!!"
"Oh save it, we all heard you say it a few moments ago. How did you put it? Something like, 'I'm going all the way with her, then imma ditch her'. Yeah, something like that." Walter looked at Courtney, she looked back at him, her green eyes misty. He knew when she was heartbroken, and she was know.
"Walter, is it true?"
"How can you even think it is, Courtney?!"
"Because I've been used as an object before, and it feels a he'll of a lot like this. Is. It. True." It wasn't a question anymore, she was demanding he tell her. He looked at Josh, standing behind Collin. Josh pulled out a silver gun, just barely visible behind Collin. Courtney's eyes were fixed on Walt, she didn't notice the gun. But Walter got the message, it was in Collin's eyes.
'Lie to her, or you're dead.' Walter couldn't put Courtney through this horrible thing. Maybe if he sacrificed his life, she would be spared great pain. But to his horror, Josh's eyes, for just a moment, flickered to Courtney, than back to Walt's. He grinned, as did Collin.
'Lie to her, or She dies.' was the message.
"It's true, Courtney."
She slowly walked up to him, and slapped him across the face.
"I trusted you."
"I know" She started to walk away. "Come on Collin, let's go."
Collin turned to her, "Not yet, sweetheart, I don't think Walter here has learned his lesson yet."
"What do you mean?" She asked, but Walter could tell she knew exactly what Collin meant. She started running towards Walter, but Zach, the one next to Josh, and Jack, the bald one behind Walter, each grabbed one of her arms. Now stood Josh, with a gun, James, behind Walt, Walter, and Collin. Collin slowly walked towards Walter. Walt had had a few lessons in boxing, maybe he had a decent chance.
"Don't fire unless I tell you too, Josh." He said. Courtney was struggling too much to hear him say it.
Walter didn't wait for Collin to make the first swing. he thrust his fist out, surprising and hitting his mark square in the chest. Collin stumbled back, but quickly got back on his feet.
"So that's how we're playing, huh?" Collin whispered more to himself than to Walt. Collin threw a punch at him, which Walter threw up both arms up to his right side to block. But Collin stopped the punch short, and swung his other arm, slamming into Walter's left, unprotected, side. After that, Walter didn't stand a chance. Collin thrust a fist into Walters face, knocking him onto the ground.
"STOP IT!!! COLLIN!!!!" He could hear Courtney screaming.
"Go ahead, scream all you want, school's empty, love." And with that, he brought his leg back, and slammed his foot into Walters already bleeding face.
"Come on Walter!! Fight back you pathetic excuse for a man!!!" Collin screamed at him, while continuously stomping his foot on Walters chest.
"COLLIN!!! PLEASE!!!" Walter could hear she was crying, and so was he. He could feel the warm blood on his face.
"Courtney...." He managed to say her name.
"I think I love you." She never heard Walter say those words, because as he was saying them, Collin got a metal baseball bat from the dugout, and knocked him out cold.
Walter explained to his mom how he fell off his bike and tumbled down a rocky hill on the way home from school. After washing up and changing out of his bloody clothes, he went down to the Lakefront. He sat on the stairs leading into Lake Ponchatrain, the water lapping up the sides of the bottom steps.
"I understand if you want me to leave." He looked behind him. It was Courtney, she was standing in the wind, her brown hair flowing to the side, and a black eye. They just stayed where they were a while, him sitting and her standing. Finally, Walter spoke.
"How'd you get the black eye?"
"Collin. He brought me to his house last night, and, well let's just say I said no to what he told me to do, and he tried to force me so..." she pointed at her eye, "black eye." she was choking on the tears she was holding back.
"Why'd you go to his house last night? After what he did to me, do you just not care?"
"No no no, Walt, I went to his house to get my jacket, I'd left it there, I swear!!"
"Can I just tell you that I know, I'm not the most attractive guy to look at. I don't have a handsome face, I don't have big muscles or a six-pack. I can't give you 'that'. But if I had Courtney Eames as my girlfriend, I would tell her how BEAUTIFUL I think she is every minute of everyday. I would scream my love from the rooftops!!! I would tell you I love you every second, until you get so annoyed you just want to strangle me. I would be your shoulder to cry on when you're sad. I'd be your punching bad when you're mad, your dance partner when you're happy, and your clown, all the time. When your sad, I'm here, when your happy, I'm here, I'm always here for you Courtney. You put butterflies in my stomach, you're perfect in every way. Courtney, if my heart was a house, you'd be home."
Courtney had tears running down her cheeks. Walter grabbed one of her hands with both of his "I..." he kissed her hand, then wiped the wetness off her cheeks with one hand.n"Love..." Walt kissed her cheek, then moved the hair that was in front of her face, behind her ears. "You." Courtney finished it for him. Walter smiled, and so did Courtney. They moved their heads closer and closer together, until, finally, their lips touched. And for the first time in years, both Courtney and Walter felt...safe, in each others arms.
The next day at school, Walt and Courtney were walking down the 300 wing, holding hands and laughing together. Walt brought her hand to his face and kissed each finger. She giggled, he did this often and it always made her smile. She didn't really know why.
"HEY!!" Everyone stopped. Walter turned to see Collin, red-faced and shaking with rage. Collin ran at him to tackle him, and they both fell into a stack of chairs. Walter got to his feet first, but Collin was ready, he grabbed a chair while laying down and slammed it into Walt's legs. Walt screamed with pain and fell to the ground. His legs felt like they were broken. Where they? Collin got up with the chair and shoved one of the chair legs into Walt's forehead. Everything was fuzzy, it felt like Walter had just gotten off of an extreme roller coaster.
Time for Collins next victim. He turned to her.
"Hey Court." He grinned a sinister grin. "sorry bout yesterday, didn't mean to hit ya. What do you say we get some coffee?" Courtney shuddered with anger, she clenched her fist, and slammed it into Collins grinning face. There were bright red marks where her three rings had hit.
"That wasn't smart." Collin pulled back his entire arm, Courtney knew the punch would knock her out. She closed her eyes. Instead of a punch to her face, she heard a loud thud. She opened her eyes. Walt, bruised and bloodied, had picked up Collin and thrown him ten feet across the floor.
Then the unimaginable happened. Collin produced from his coat pocket, a silver handgun, pointed right at Walter. Several people screamed, and everyone fled, except Walt, Courtney, and the man with a gun, Collin.
"COLLIN!!! NO!!! I'll do anything I swear just don't shoot!!" He ignored Courtney completely.
"Collin!!! Please shoot me not him!!" Courtney screamed.
"Courtney no stop it." Walter piped up. But now Collin was attentive.
"OK, I'll make a deal. Either you too can choose to stay together, and I can shoot one of you. Or Courtney can come with me now and nobody has to get hurt." Collin was definitely serious. All was silent.
"I'll go with you." Courtney finally spoke.
"NO!" Courtney started to walk to Collin. His gun was still fixed on Walt. Courtney was by Collins side. He grabbed her and kissed her on the mouth. When Collin looked back up, Walter was running at him. Collin moved and hit Walt on the back of his head with the butt of the gun. Walt fell to the ground, and Courtney instantly moved to help him, and Collin grabbed her and threw her into the wall.
"So, you've chosen to still love each other. All right, I'll kill you first Walter." Collin started to smile.
"I'm gunna enjoy killing you Walter." He laughed horribly. He'd gone insane. He stood there, gun in hand, eyes wide, laughing and chanting....
"Kick-ing, Ka-tie. Kick-ing, Ka-tie. Kick-ing, Ka-tie." He started to kick Walter's gut.
"COLLIN!!! For god's sake stop it!!!!!"
"For god's sake Courtney!!?? How about for the sake of your dearly beloved!!! HOW ABOUT FOR THE SAKE OF HIS LIFE!!!!"
Courtney heard nothing after the gunshot. Nothing but three words. Then...silence. Right after Collin had fired, a police officer burst through the doors, and tackled Collin. She saw Collin was laughing maniacally, but she heard nothing. She ran to Walter, he was barely alive, shaking violently. His breath, that was the only sound she let in.
Six. That's my magic number. It's the number of times I held hands with Walter Williams, the number of times I've moved, the number of times I ever slapped someone, and it's the number of breaths the only boy I truly loved had with a bullet in his chest, before he died.
One. He shuddered a breath in and out. She grabbed his hand, it was barely warm.
Two. The gasp of air was sudden and short. She squeezed his hand and kissed each finger, as he used to do with her.
Three. He shuddered out a breath, which seemed painful. She stroked the mess of his hair out of his bloody face.
Four. The breath was a long and shaky one. She ripped off a price of her shirt and gently wiped his face clean.
Five. His breathing was accompanied with a cry of pain She put her forehead against his, and closed her eyes.
Six. The breath was barely audible, but she heard the last breath he would ever breathe. She gently pressed her lips to his. For the very last time. She remembered the three words he had said before the gunshot....
"I love you too, Walter Williams."
He didn't have the best body, or the best face, and he had a bit of history of hurting people. But his heart was pure, anyone he hurt, it was because he just wanted people to be happy. No body's perfect. He died, so that I could live. He risked everything for me, and paid the ultimate price. I now strive to be half the person he was. In this world of hurt and pain, the only relief to be found is the bond of people. The bond that cannot be broken by anything, even death. For even if a special person in your life dies, you can carry on their life in yours. Remembering them not only at their very best, but also their worst. Because at their worst, you're there for them. You have their backs and they have yours. For the night is darkest just before the sunrise. And the sunrise...it's beautiful. So when things seem worst, just make the journey to the horizon, to the sunrise, to hope, to joy, to smiles, and to LOVE.