Chapter 12:

Dancing with Death

The Lonely Lovers Club

“Come on guys. Hurry up,” said Gus.

Today was the day. After preparing for a week, Gus was ready to finally propose to Adam.

But getting here was no cake walk. It was a busy week for the three boys. They were constantly crafting decorations, making props, debating tactics. It was restless.

Willie knew he had high standards. In the past this could be a problem for the lonely lovers club. But the real challenge came from Gus’ high energy. While Willie would be meticulous about insignificant details, Gus would have full blown breakdowns over those details. It seemed like running out of tape could cause the entire proposal to crumble. Perhaps Gus didn’t realize how cheap a roll of tape cost.

But nevertheless the boys endured. The three boys all had the same goal and were able to stay focused on accomplishing that goal. They had completed all of the necessary parts to this proposal. The only thing left was setting up some finishing touches. Then, of course, Gus would actually have to propose. And with his attitude, they had no idea what to expect. Willie had a slight fear Gus would chicken out at the last minute.

As the boys set up, Willie and Ginko continued to suffer through Gus’ hyperactivity.

“Hurry up. I can’t miss the chance,” said Gus. Gus adjusted his tie as he spoke, probably trying to suck in as much air as possible. He was already dressed in his suit. Willie believed no one could propose unless they were dressed their best.

“Relax,'' said Ginko. He passed paper cut-outs of hearts to Willie. Willie stood on a desk nearby hanging the paper hearts from the ceiling. “We have like an hour. We’ll be done well before then.”

“What about the fireplace?” asked Gus. “You said that was the most important part.”

In a way, Gus’ continuous badgering had become white noise to Willie and Ginko. They continued on as if there were no worries at all. Plus, they knew exactly where to find Adam. Everyday he stayed after school for the chess club. They had plenty of time before that club ended.

“It’s okay, Gus,” said Willie. “All of the hearts are practically hung. The fireplace is ready in the Lonely Lover’s Club classroom. We’ll just bring it over and have time left to practice.”

“Well then can we go,” said Gus in a rush.

“Fine alright,” said Willie. He stepped down from the desk after hanging one of the last hearts. He took the time to admire his work. Proud, Willie left the room with Ginko and Gus.

Willie had only just begun imagining the proposal when a voice shouted down the hallway.

“Hey, Gus.”

It was a boy Willie had never seen before, but he looked in a hurry.

“I was just in the parking lot. It looks like someone hit your car,” said the boy.

“Oh you’ve got to be kidding me,” Gus said. Normally, that reaction would probably sound alarming, but for Gus that was his normal voice. He always sounded alarmed.

Before anyone said anything else, Gus took off towards the parking lot. The rest of the boys followed. Gus was surprisingly quick for someone wearing a full suit and dress shoes.

They burst through the school doors. Ran into the parking lot. Then weaved through rows of parked cars. When they made it to Gus’ car, Willie didn’t notice any damage.

To be fair, Willie did not look for any damage. His attention was completely consumed by a body laying on the ground of the asphalt parking lot. On the ground, surrounding the body, was a chalk outline. Just like a police crime scene marking the location of a murder. The body belonged to someone Willie had just begun to recognize over the last week: Adam.

Although that was quite a sight to take in, Willie noticed a sign next to Adam on the ground. It read: I’m dying to go to the dance with you.

On closer inspection of Adam, his eyes appeared to be open and looking at Gus. In Adam’s hand was a single red rose.

“Oh brother,” whispered Willie, recognizing the situation.

“What the heck is going on?” asked Gus.

Uncharacteristically, Adam sat up, ruining his chalk outline. He held out the rose in his hand to Gus.

“Gus,” said Adam. “Will you go to the dance with me? I’m dying to go with you.”

Gus stood in the middle of the parking lot with a silly look on his face. Willie guessed that expression was a mixture of pure confusion and giddiness.

“Oh my goodness,” Gus exploded. “I didn’t think you would ask me.”

Gus smiled a bright, big smile. His volume and tone were still crazy as usual, but he was a lot more cheery. Clearly he was surprised.

“So is that a yes?” asked Adam.

“Oh yes,” said Gus. “Gosh, yes. Of course I’ll go.”

The two boys gave each other an awkward hug. Although, that didn’t stand out to Willie. Most of these proposals ended in uncomfortable hugs. It was a natural reaction to show affection for two new romantics. If the two were a couple before the proposal then a hug would look authentic, or maybe they would even kiss. Willie wondered what kind of reaction he would get from Maria this weekend. But now wasn’t the time to think of that.

“You look great in a suit, by the way,” said Adam.

Gus looked down at his outfit. “Oh yeah. I got all dressed up because I was going to ask you to the dance.”

“What?” said Adam. “No way. What were you going to do?”

“I was going to -” Gus stopped, distracted by his own thoughts. “Wait. I’ll just show you. It’s basically set up inside.”

Gus grabbed Adam’s hand without any warning and pulled him towards the school. They walked off, leaving Willie and Ginko alone with a poorly written sign and a chalk outline of a body.

“What the heck just happened?” asked Willie.

Willie stood still for a moment. He turned around to look at Gus and Adam, but they had already gone into the school. He turned back, facing the strange scene in front of him. Willie walked over to the sign and picked it up. The words echoed in his head. I’m dying to go to the dance with you.

“I told you a pun would work,” said Ginko.

Willie was upset. Willie was shocked. He didn’t know what to say. It was one thing to have his plan ripped away from him. It was another to have his plan ripped away by a pun. Why is it that puns were so popular? It seemed like the least romantic way to ask someone a romantic question. Maybe that was just it. Willie understood love and romance. These silly puns were not a part of that.

Willie was about to say how unbelievable this was when a thought occurred to him: it did not matter. It did not matter that Gus did not propose. It did not matter that it was a stupid pun. All that mattered was Gus. All that matters is that Gus would get to go to the dance with his crush.

“I think that went swimmingly,” said Willie.

“Oh don’t be like that,” said Ginko. “This was a disaster.”

“This was certainly not a disaster,” said Willie. “Gus and Adam are joined together. True love is the victor today.”

“Ah yes,” said Ginko. “That’s it. True love is the victor. Not you.”

“Well I say we are all winners.”

Ginko laughed. “I know you hate that pun.”

Willie shook his head. “I don’t know if I can truly explain it to you, Ginko. We played a vital part in this operation. We were here to motivate Gus into action. No doubt his confidence would have been shaken without us.”

“Well I don’t really follow that logic, but I am glad it worked out,” said Ginko. “Let's see how everything went with the girls’ proposal.”

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