I woke up early, but stayed in bed. Today is my 15th birthday. I know what you're thinking, that I should be happy about all the presents I'll get and should definitely be feeling anything but intense sadness.
You see, exactly a year ago EAS was at war with the Snow Queen and all of her forces. This day a year ago, both the Seelie and the Unseelie courts were stormed and burned to the ground. Countless of Fey died that day. A lot of people died in that war. Hadriane. Hansel. Kenneth. Rapunzel. The Director. Even Solange.
I knew I wasn't going to fall back asleep again so I got up and quietly changed into a comfortable shirt, pants, and shoes. I strapped on my sword and Rapunzel's light and slipped out of the apartment, leaving a note for Mom and Amy so they wouldn't worry, and headed straight to the training courts. I needed to clear my head.
The courts were empty, just as I had expected them to be. Creating as little noise as possible, I picked out and set up a bunch of dummies, all standing and facing me, ready to attack.
I took a deep breath, steadying my nerves, drew my sword from its sheath, and lunged at the dummies. All of the dummies came to life at once, each aiming to catch me off guard and disarm me. I parried, counter attacked, dodged, snap kicked, and punched my way through the magical dummies, determined to keep my skills as sharp as ever.
I fought off the last dummy that tried to stab me from behind. As I delivered the final blow, a voice behind me spoke - causing me to jump no less than three feet into the air.
"Figured you'd be in here, today of all days," Chase said with a grin taking up half his face, defining his dimples and the bright twinkle in his eyes.
"Chase! Don't do that again! You scared me!" I berated him, while my heart decided to beat a hundred times faster now that he was in the room.
He laughed and flew towards me, his fall colored wings buzzing behind him. He kissed me on the lips, dragging the kiss out for a few seconds. I lost myself in the kiss for those few moments before saying with a smile, "That one’s number 55."
"Um, no! It's number 54. Besides I'm not going to argue about this right now," Chase grabbed my hand and began dragging me toward to doors leading back to the courtyard.
"And why are you even in here in the first place? Today's your birthday! You should out there celebrating - not moping. You taught me that, remember?" He went on.
"You know why, Chase," I answered absentmindedly, trying to put my sword back in its sheath without hurting anyone of us. "Especially since last year-"
Chase cut me off. "The war last year was inevitable. Either way it was going to happen. And besides we ended it. We never have have to worry about it again. You never have to worry about it again," he had stopped trying to to drag me, and was now staring deep into my eyes, his emerald green, earnest, and insistent.
"I know, but..." I whispered, looking down.
I felt his gaze soften and he cupped my cheek with his hand, bringing my eyes to his once more.
"But you feel guilty for being for being happy on your birthday. Yeah, I know," Chase finished for me.
"But I also know that you deserve to be happy, Rory. What was it Rapunzel told you? 'Your birthday gives others an excuse to celebrate you.' Give us that chance, Rory. Give me that chance," he added quietly.
I was stunned by his sudden burst of affection, despite him warning me before about him 'oversharing' to me all the time. He leaned and kissed me one more time. I nodded and let him take me through the doors to the courtyard.
“That was 55,” Chase said.
“56,” I answered.
I didn't know what I expected but it certainly wasn't a near empty courtyard with Lena standing in the center, tapping her foot on the ground, impatient.
"Hurry up," Lena said, running over and grabbing my other arm. "We're going to be late."
"Late for what?" I asked, confused.
"All three of us are supposed to go on a scavenger hunt," Chase explained. "Each clue we get will lead us to the next one. The final clue is going to take us to a surprise location for your birthday.”
We spent the next hour running from one end of EAS to the next, joking and laughing as we found one clue after the other. We went through the Door Trek system and used temporary-transport spells, all the while talking and enjoying each other’s company.
The final clue led us to a door I hadn’t even noticed before. It was a dark sapphire blue door lined with an ornate silver design along the edges. Chase opened the door for me, and with a flourishing bow and a grand sweep of his arm, he led me through.
I hadn’t been to Disneyland since Mom and Dad divorced when I was in 3rd grade and we moved away from L.A. I was stunned into silence with a big smile growing on my face as I saw all of my friends and family - even Dad, Brie, and Dani were there - started singing “Happy Birthday” with a banner that said ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY RORY!!’ adorning Sleeping Beauty’s Castle entrance.
Dad came over, holding Dani’s hand, and gave me a big hug saying, “I managed to pull a few strings. I know how much you love this place and I wanted you to have fun today.”
Yup, I definitely had the best friends in the whole world. And I most definitely had the best birthday ever.