Categories > Movies > Dead Poets Society > Richard's Redemption

chapter twenty-one

by catstaff 0 reviews

How do you go on after betraying your friends? Especially when they only think they know why you did it... and you're petrified of what will happen if they discover the real reasons. Cameron's POV,...

Category: Dead Poets Society - Rating: R - Genres: Angst,Romance - Warnings: [!!!] - Published: 2016-06-16 - 4210 words - Complete

As it turns out, we end up with a round dozen of us meeting at the soda shop in town on pass day. Me, Todd, Knox, Nuwanda, Meeks, and Pitts bike into town together. When we go into the shop, the girls are waiting... Amy, Tina, Chris, Ginny, and two unfamiliar girls. One must be Carol, and I can only guess that the other is a friend of hers, brought along for moral support or perhaps to be fixed up for the Halloween dance with me or Todd.

One of the strange girls, with red hair, grins when our group walks in the door. “Redheads of the world, unite!” she calls over to me. “We must bring about the downfall of blond supremacy!”

Chris, the only blond in the group of girls, laughs. “Sure, Carol, sure. Anything you say.” She beckons us over and makes the introductions all around. The other girl is Carol's roommate Linda. As I'd surmised, Carol suggested she join the group so that we'd have an even number of couples planned for the dance.

It turns out to be an enjoyable pass day. Both Linda and Carol are quick to accept that Todd and I are taking them to the dance as friends, but they're pleased enough to be escaping the random draw that they have no problem with this. It probably helps that they're sophomores, too, and therefore less likely to be seriously thinking of commitment quite yet.

Naturally, the first order of business... after ordering ice cream sodas... is to come up with coordinated costumes that will also pass the decency codes of the schools' dress policy. Tina is already grumbling because she wanted to go as Altaira Morbuis and have Meeks be Commander John J. Adams from the movie Forbidden Planet, but the Henley headmistress already announced that no costume will be deemed acceptable unless the skirt is at least knee length.

“How about we go as Martians, then?” Meeks suggests.

Amy pouts. “But that was what Gerard and I were going to do!”

Pitts takes her hand with a smile. “We can all four be Martians... Marvin the Martian and his cousin Melvin, and their girlfriends Marcia and Melly.”

Tina grins. “Oh, I like that one! With helmets like Commander X-2 in the Bugs Bunny cartoons?”

Meeks laughs. “Sure, why not? Between the four of us, we'll surely manage to find some way of making them.”

Carol, who seems to have selected me in accordance with her redheads unite speech, smiles at her sister. “Who or what are you and Knox going as, Chris?”

“Um... I don't know... something romantic, though,” Chris replies.

“You're both blond, how about Brunhilde and Siegfried?” Todd suggests.

Knox laughs. “It's a good thing I'm tall,” he comments. “I suppose I can pull off a warrior's physique. Chris, you'll be beautiful as a Valkyrie.”

Ginny twines her fingers with Nuwanda's. “Charlie, will you laugh if I say I want to go as Cinderella and Prince Charming?”

Before he can answer, Knox laughs again. “Him, charming? You've got to be kidding, Gin.”

“Oh, hush, you,” Nuwanda shakes his head. “Ginny, I'll be happy to be your prince for the evening, as long as you don't try to run away and drop a slipper.”

Carol giggles. “Nothing so romantic for me, ick! I want to be someone strong. Rosie the Riveter, maybe. Will they let us wear pants, do you know?”

Tina thinks. “I don't recall hearing that we couldn't. Just no short skirts or anything with a lower neckline than the average formal gown.”

“Great!” Carol smiles. “So, dungarees and a blue work shirt and loafers for me. I'll be a lot more comfortable than most of you. No high heels to worry about. But what will you be, Richard, if I go as Rosie?”

“I can ask my father to send one of his old Army Air Corps uniforms and wear that,” I decide. “That should coordinate fairly well. What about you and Linda, Todd?”

They look at each other. “Um... I like The Wizard of Oz. Maybe something from that?” Linda suggests tentatively.

“How about you be Dorothy and I'll be the Scarecrow?” Todd seizes on her idea with a smile. “The ruby slippers will be the only slight problem, right? But not too bad. You can get an inexpensive pair of pumps... or maybe use an older pair that you'd be replacing soon anyway... and cover them with glue and red glitter. And you can carry a basket, and maybe put a stuffed dog in it for Toto.”

“And you can get some old beat-up clothes at a thrift shop or a rummage sale, and maybe there's a farm around here that will let you have a little bit of hay to have poking out here and there,” Linda grows more enthusiastic when her idea isn't immediately shot down.

We finish our sodas and move as a group to the pizza parlor for lunch. The conversation swings from the Halloween dance to the upcoming production of The Taming of the Shrew at Henley Hall and the parts that Ginny, Charlie, and Linda hope to land in it, to everyone's plans for next pass day. We decide to meet up as a group again, so we can let each other know how we're progressing on our costumes, just in case anyone runs into a problem and needs to rethink the plans.

After lunch, we split up. The four couples head off to wherever “their” spots might be for some time to themselves. Carol and Linda head for the clothing stores to start looking for what they will need for their costumes. Todd and I walk our bikes across the main road to the common, where a few old men are playing chess and some small children are flying kites.

It's a beautiful late September day, just a hint of crispness to the air but not yet cold, and with the blue skies and golden afternoon sunshine that can only be found in New England in the fall. It's not yet peak leaf season, but the trees are already sporting patches of color among the green. As we'd planned earlier, we settle in at one of the common's picnic tables and pull out our writing paper and pens.

Oh Captain, my Captain!

I'm pleased to hear that your wedding went well. I hope we'll get the chance to meet Mrs. Keating someday. After all, if she's your choice, she must be someone very special indeed.

Charlie Dalton is back at Welton. He's done some growing up in this past year the same as I have. I don't know if he and I will ever be close friends, but we're no longer enemies, anyway. He's rooming with Knox Overstreet this year, so he's back as a part of the study group as well. Dean Nolan wouldn't let him back on the school paper after that article he slipped in last year, so he's doing drama this year. He's also still dating Ginny Danburry, which I think is why he went for drama. I finally managed to get out of debate club, and I'm in the biology club instead now.

And... Todd and I have dates for the Halloween dance. Chris asked if one of us would take her sister Carol, to save her from the random draw. Carol will be going with me, and Todd is taking her roommate Linda. They're both sophomores, and we've made sure they know we're only going as friends. They don't seem to mind any, since it saves them from getting stuck with who knows what as partners. Linda and Todd are going to be Dorothy and the Scarecrow. Carol is going to be Rosie the Riveter, and I'm going to wear one of my father's old Air Corps uniforms so that we're a somewhat matched set. It ought to be interesting. Friends or not, this will be the first time I've ever had an actual date for a dance.

I hope your school year is off to a wonderful start, and I can't wait to hear back from you.

Your friend,

I seal my letter into its envelope and wait for Todd to finish his. While I'm waiting, I scribble off a quick note to Father, asking him to send one of his old uniforms. Once he's done, we head to the post office to send them out, then swing by the diner for BLTs to take back to school with us for dinner.

By our next pass day, we're all firmly settled into our usual school routines. Classes and activities, meals and study sessions absorb the majority of everyone's attention. I'm more grateful than ever that Todd helped me earn back the trust of the others last term. That old saw about not knowing what you have until it's gone is true. I was always so busy avoiding closeness with anyone for fear they'd guess my secret that I never realized how much I liked them all until they turned away from me.

But now the camaraderie is back. This time, I'm not going to mess things up for myself. Now I know what being a good friend is all about... and I'm going to make sure I am one, to all of them.

And that's starting by helping carry the costume gear into town on our bikes. Todd and I don't have anything too bulky for ourselves, but Knox has a big horned helmet and a wooden greatsword as part of his Siegfried costume. As if that wasn't enough, Meeks and Pitts have some rather large bits and pieces as well, which I can only describe as brightly colored motorcycle helmets with scrub brushes stuck on top... four of them, presumably two for them and two for Amy and Tina.

We manage to get ourselves and all our paraphernalia into town without dropping things more than a couple of times along the way. As planned, we head straight for the pizza parlor this time, and claim adjoining tables to wait for the girls to arrive. We order a couple of pizzas, a plain cheese and one with the works, plus a couple of pitchers of Coke.

The girls and the food arrive at the same time. There's a flurry of greetings exchanged, then we all sit and grab some pizza before pulling out what we've come up with for our costumes so far. Carol looks especially proud of herself for finding the perfect accessory for her Rosie the Riveter costume... a man's tool belt, with a hammer and a small rivet-setter hanging from the loops.

Knox, Chris, Meeks, Pitts, Tina, and Amy are all trying on their respective helmets... Chris has white-feathered wings on hers where Knox has horns... and laughing. Then Meeks notices that Nuwanda and Ginny are empty-handed. “Hey, you two, haven't you worked on your costumes yet?” he asks.

“Of course we have,” Ginny replies. “But we're Cinderella and Prince Charming. Would you bring a white ballgown into a pizza parlor?”

“We showed each other our costumes when we auditioned for The Taming of the Shrew yesterday,” Nuwanda adds. “And Ginny's got a point about bringing white into a pizza parlor.”

Meeks, who just managed to drip sauce on his shirt, blushes. Tina grabs a napkin and mops him up with a grin. “At least you'll be wearing a red shirt to the dance,” she quips.

Todd looks at Linda, who also auditioned. “What parts did you all get?” he asks with a smile. “I forgot about the auditions, so I didn't ask Charlie last night.”

“Ginny is going to be Bianca,” Linda smiles. “And Charlie is Lucentio. I'm going to play the widow who marries Hortensio at the end.”

“Congratulations, all of you!” Todd applauds and the rest of us join in. “We'll be sure to come see the play and cheer for you all.” Everyone agrees with this plan, tentative as it might be. Then we get back to the dance plans.

Carol looks over my father's old Air Corps uniform. “I like the dark brown shirt with the light tie,” she comments. “I don't think I've seen any military uniform like that before.”

“Father said that was a way to be different,” I explain. “Since the Air Corps was part of the Army until 1947, the Air Corps did what they could do distance themselves from the regular army, as far as uniforms went. Dark shirts with the light ties, for example, and flight groups would make up patches based off of the nose art of the ranking pilot's plane.”

“That's interesting,” Chris comments. “Someone ought to write down things like that, so they'll be remembered. It's always the little things that get forgotten, yet that's what makes history so interesting.”

“You can always write it, Chris,” Knox smiles. “You did say you wanted to teach history while I'm in law school, after all. Why not write a book while you're at it?”

Chris laughs. “I think I'll have enough to do,” she says. “But speaking of writing...” She reaches into her purse and pulls out letters for all of us guys. “Mr. Keating wrote again.”

Todd and I both smile as she hands us our letters. But we try not to be too obvious about wanting to take off from the group to read them. Fortunately, the pizzas and Cokes are just about gone and everyone is getting ready to part company anyway. The couples all stroll out holding hands, while Linda and Carol decide to head back to Henley Hall to get an early start on their French homework.

I look across at the common, but as it's now peak leaf season, the grass is crowded with people photographing the town and the trees. Todd frowns. “I say we pick up some snacks and go back to school. It'll be quieter there. Maybe we can take a scull out,” he suggests.

“Sounds like a plan to me,” I agree. “Especially since it's going to be too cold to row soon. We can read our letters on the lake.”

A stop at the store gains us a bag of potato chips, ham and cheese grinders, more Cokes, and Hershey bars. We cycle back and stow the food in our room, then take ourselves to the boathouse. McAllister is on duty once more and greets us with a smile.

“Back for a row, then, lads? Mr. Anderson, I'm glad to see you did get into rowing this year,” he says as he unlocks a scull for us and gets out the oars. Then he drops his voice. “Your older friend's wedding went well, and his bride is quite the sweet lady. I think they'll be very happy together. Don't tell the Dean, of course, but if you come by my office Monday afternoon, I'll show you a picture of them.” With that, he shoves the scull away from the dock and walks back into the boathouse.

Todd and I grin at each other as we row away. “Fancy McAllister going out there for the Captain's wedding,” I chuckle.

“I wonder if Nolan knows he went?” Todd laughs.

After we make a couple of circuits of the lake, we ship the oars and pull out our letters.

Dear Richard,

I'm glad to hear that you and Mr. Dalton are no longer enemies, even if you're not good friends. That's one of life's hardest lessons, you know, that of getting along with people you're less than fond of being around. But it's one that every man needs to learn, as you can't always choose the people you work with. Make friends where and when you can, by all means. But practice diplomacy with the ones you would prefer not to call friends, and you'll increase your chances of success in almost any endeavor.

Congratulations on getting into the biology club this year. As I recall, you always did favor the sciences over literature... not that I consider that a problem, despite being an English teacher. I expect you'll do well with it, especially since it is your choice, and not something chosen for you.

As to your date for the Halloween dance, I'm sure you'll have a good time. I'm glad to hear that both your date and Todd's are aware that you are escorting them as friends only. It does make things easier when everyone is open about their intentions and expectations. I'm sure you'll have a good time, even if you do have to dance more frequently than you would had you gone stag. Dancing really isn't all that bad, I promise.

Things are going well here. I'm very much enjoying married life, as well as teaching at Berkeley. College teaching is less restrictive than even I'd expected. I think I'll be very happy here, especially with Jessica by my side. With any luck, you'll not only get to meet her, but perhaps also our first child when you come out here for college. She hasn't made any announcements yet, but I am a bit suspicious of her behavior lately. Perhaps I'll be telling you officially by my next letter.

Your friend and Captain,
John Keating

Todd and I do make a point of stopping by McAllister's office on Monday, under the pretext of asking a question about the homework. True to his word, he hands us a few color snapshots from the wedding reception. We both chuckle at the one of Mrs. Keating feeding the cake to the Captain... apparently she shares his sense of humor, because she's mashing frosting onto his nose. We thank him for showing us the photos, but as we start to leave, Todd pauses.

“Sir? I was wondering... since you're obviously still in contact... if we took some pictures of us at the Halloween dance, would you be willing to send him copies? I... suspect he might like that... like to see that we're all doing all right after... everything.”

McAllister's eyes soften a bit. “Aye, lad, I suspect you're right about that. He asks after you all in his letters at that. Sure, if you get some pictures, I'll be glad to send them on for you. Just don't tell the Dean, all right, lads?”

“We won't,” we promise, then we hurry back to the dorm.

Come Saturday and the Halloween dance, all six of us are in a very cheerful mood. My grandfather sent me a brand-new Nikon F camera for my birthday this year, so I'm all set to be the group photographer tonight. Of course, Todd insisted that I show him how to use the camera, pointing out with perfect logic that if I'm taking all the pictures, I won't be in any of them.

As this dance is far less formal than the Valentine Ball, there is no sit-down dinner with the girls beforehand. We simply meet up with our dates (or our random draws) in Welton Hall, then proceed to the gymnasium for the start of the festivities. Knox, Meeks, and Pitts spot the girls first, as Chris's Valkyrie helmet and Amy's and Tina's Martian helmets help them to stand out from the crowd. We all head over to greet them, and I hope to get some pictures before we head in to the dance.

However, the first thing I do is blush, when Carol greets me with a wolf whistle. “There's just something about a man in uniform!” she declares to appreciative giggles from the other girls.

“Oh, I don't know, I like the ray gun better than a tail gun,” Amy quips, patting the toy weapon at Pittsie's waist.

I take a deep breath, thankful to have the attention off of me. “How about the Martians get their pictures first? Each couple, then all four of you together,” I suggest.

They agree, Amy and Tina cheerfully, Pitts and Meeks a little reluctantly. Then I shoot Siegfried and Brunhilde, more commonly known as Knox and Chris. Ginny and Nuwanda have managed to put together outfits straight out of the Disney Cinderella movie. She's even managed to find a pair of shoes made of some sort of clear material. After I photograph them, Todd does a credible imitation of the Scarecrow giving directions to Dorothy. Linda laughs when a bit of straw escapes his sleeve and lands in her hair when he swings his arms around to point in both directions at once.

Then Todd takes the camera and shoves me forward. I stand ramrod straight, saluting Carol, who is standing in the “We Can Do It” poster pose, flexing her arm with a determined expression on her face. After he's done, I check the camera. There are only two shots left, so I set everyone up for a group shot, then grab Jim Chapman to take the last couple of pictures. With luck, they'll come out all right. I run the camera back up to the dorm, then we all head into the dance.

It's actually sort of fun, having Carol as a date rather than a random draw. Of course, it helps that she and Linda are friends, so that the two of us are sticking pretty close to Todd and Linda throughout the evening. Todd is clowning around, trying to dance like Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, and swiping the toy dog Toto out of Linda's basket and declaring his undying love for it. Carol, meanwhile, is strutting around, even as we're dancing, grinning about having the most comfortable feet at the dance, at least among the female half of the population.

Of course, I have to admit, for all I'm enjoying myself, I wish things were different. It hurts to watch Knox and Chris together, or Nuwanda and Ginny, or Amy and Pitts, or Tina and Meeks. Because they can be with the ones they care about, and I can't. Not in public, anyway, not here, not now. Maybe not ever, and that thought hurts more than anything. It's crazy of me to be feeling like this, I know it is, but I can't help it. I'm jealous. Jealous of our friends that can show off their feelings. And even a bit jealous of Linda, simply because she's the one dancing with Todd tonight, and I can't be.

Eventually the evening ends. We escort the girls back to the Henley Hall buses, saying our farewells under the watchful eyes of Dean Nolan and Dr. Hager. Once they're aboard for the trip across town, we head back inside to get out of our costumes.

“I'm glad this night is over,” Todd sighs as we shut the door of our room behind us. “This hay is itchy!”

“I'll help you find it all,” I offer, tossing the uniform hat onto my desk and loosening the tie.

He smiles, then grabs the tie and pulls me close. “Carol was right about one thing,” he murmurs. “There really is something about a man in uniform... do you know why I was being such an idiot tonight?”

I shake my head, my hands moving to pull the hat from his head. “You were just having fun, I thought... playing the part of the Scarecrow.”

He wraps his arms around me then, pressing his hips against mine. “I wanted to make sure Linda didn't think this,” he shifts slightly, letting me feel his arousal, “was for her. I've been wanting to drag you off somewhere private ever since we got dressed up. By clowning around, I managed not to dance especially close with Linda.”

“Oh,” I manage to breathe before giving in to what I've wanted to do all night and capturing his lips with my own.

We pull apart just long enough to undress, then we fall back into each others' arms. I chuckle as I hear the distinctive sound of creaking bedsprings from next door. Someone's been affected by his date to the point of taking matters into his own hands, as it were. So much the better, actually, if anything is heard from our room, people will assume that one or both of us is doing the same thing.

I start nuzzling Todd's neck, licking at the spot that I know drives him wild. He retaliates by leaning over to take me into his mouth. I barely contain my moan, twisting around to do the same to him. We haven't dared this too often here at school, but we both seem to need the reassurance of being together, after our dates tonight. Todd's hips start to rock against my face and I know he's close. Daringly, I reach around, caressing his backside, then letting one finger drift along the split, just brushing over his opening. That gentle touch is all it takes to push him over the edge, and his reaction triggers my own.

He turns once more to snuggle into my arms, kissing me gently. “I love you, Richard,” he whispers.

“And I love you, Todd,” I whisper in reply, my breath gently stirring the hair by his ear. I press a soft kiss to his temple as we both relax. “We should write to the Captain tomorrow,” I mumble.

“Mmhmm,” I think I hear as sleep overtakes us both.
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