Roll With It
A sheet of applause drew over the gathered crowd. On stage and dressed in a decorated muscle shirt, some random guy waved the first place award over his head and went to rejoin a group off to the side.
Looking all around, Dean saw he was back to normal but the others were missing.
Wide-eyed and panicking, he called out, "Lodi! Melodie! Lodi! Nick! LODI!" without an answer.
Fighting his way through the seated crowds, he dashed to the lobby and saw not a single familiar face. Mashing the elevator button, he panted as he arrived at their rooms. The room for the others was empty, pristine, and unused. Their room just had some of his bags and some regular items spread out over the sink. None of Lodi's things.
Falling to his knees like the strings holding him up had been cut, Dean shut his eyes and covered his mouth. When the terror became so great that he couldn't think, he dry-heaved over the toilet. Sinking against the wall of the bathroom, Dean looked up at the ceiling and asked, "Is this my punishment?" It gave no answer.
Taking a long moment to think, he fished around in his pockets and found the die at the bottom. It appeared freshly-polished, better than it had been when he first found it, with an added sparkle like a gemstone. Clenching his teeth, he focused on it and asked the same question. It too was silent.
Hoarsely, he begged, "Bring...her...back."
He squeezed the die and felt that sensation like it planned to do something. It was the same feeling right before he rerolled reality over and over, right before he DMed his friends into fantasy creatures, and right before he flipped their genders. But it was like the whisper of a match warming before being snuffed out.
No matter what he asked for, no matter what he pleaded for, nothing changed.
Angrily, he chucked the die to rattle against the wall and settle at his feet. It landed on five, Lodi's number. Five. Five amazing friends he'd made thanks to her. Gone. If this wasn't his punishment for breaking the die all those years ago, reality's inevitable reckoning, then he didn't want to imagine what might follow.
Eventually, he had to get up but he didn't do anything but stare at his bed, the covers only ruffled on one side. He wanted to bury himself in them.
In the middle of the silence, his parents called his cellphone and he did his best to sound normal for them.
He endured the not-so-subtle questions about if he ran into anyone nice on his trip. With a lingering sigh, he considered saying nothing. But, instead, he mentioned Miranda and her strange similarities to himself and her compassionate, congenial husband, Nick. He talked about Suzy, who looked like she just needed a boost in confidence to get over her preoccupation with just going along with what everyone else said. He spent a decent amount of time on playful Clair without bringing up her young age before segueing into her demure but polite best friend, Pearl. And he quipped about a bold, tomboyish blond named May who made an amusing amount of trouble for him over the weekend. But, he finished on a remarkable young woman named Lodi, whose laugh could bring light to the darkest places and whose determination could rewrite lives. He noted she was stringy and nearly his height but unabashedly-sexy in ways he'd never even considered before. Strong but sweet, willing to break his arm but also hold him gently.
Of course, his mother's first question was if he got any of their numbers, especially this last girl.
Sighing his familiar sigh, Dean confessed, "I messed it up. Maybe I never really had a chance. I just tried to convince myself that it was possible. But it's over."
His mom sounded a little confused but didn't grill him. She backed off and just sent him her best and told him to have a safe trip home.
Home. But it wasn't home, he told himself.
He looked at that cold and empty bed and considered whether he should try to sleep forever and not worry when he woke up or check-out early and get a start on pre-boarding at the airport. He really didn't care either way but leaving won out.
Packing up his bags and feeling the lighter load, he stared at the die still on five in the bathroom. After thinking for a minute, he finally picked it up and deposited it back in his pocket without a consideration for the case or the bag. Ambling down the hallway to the elevator, he slipped inside and hunted for the right button.
"HOLD IT! HOLD UP!"
His head snapped up at the cry of a sharply-familiar voice. Bounding and bouncing towards him in the hall was a blond with several large bags on her shoulders. It was May.
Laying his arm over the door, he waited for her. It was absolutely May, even down to the same sort of clothes she'd worn for the weekend (blue, buttoned top with a cartoon chicken wearing a tie and the words, "HENTAI FOR LIFE"), along with the top buttons undone to show off some of her abundant cleavage. With a sigh and a pant, she glanced at Dean as the doors shut. He looked away.
She smirked and fluttered her sleeves. "I don't mind gawking. See anything you like?"
He cleared his throat and apologized. She leaned against the wall of the elevator with her leg stretched out. "No need. It's Vegas. I won't tell. Floor?"
"The lobby", he told her swiftly. She slowly pressed in that button and turned to look him over. He kept his eyes on the wall.
Silence passed between them but Dean wondered. After biting his lip, he quietly inquired, "Simon?"
The blond flashed an eyebrow. "Simon Says? Good game. What do you want me to do?"
Dean waved his hand and said it was nothing, admitting, "You just remind me of someone."
"Ohhh? Hmm. Simon, huh? Sorry. Not a Simon. The only Simon I know is Joe Simon, co-creator of some pretty famous comics. I work at a shop."
Dean nodded eagerly and apologized again. The blond continued, "If you want my name though, it's May Raley." She stretched out her hand. Dean carefully shook it and introduced himself in turn.
The elevator paused at one point but didn't open for passengers. Dean quietly prayed that they wouldn't be stuck.
May tapped her lip with her finger and proposed, "Simon Says though...if I could play a Simon Says on you, I would say Simon Says turn into a pretty girl from one of those animes playing here all weekend." She flashed some teeth and folded her open arm under her bust.
The teasing didn't let up until they got to the lobby. Dean wanted to escape, run to the front desk, and just leave this nightmare behind for another but May followed behind him. Before he could say anything, she called out, "HEY, LODI! I'M OVER HERE!"
His heart literally felt like it stopped. He searched fervently in the crowd. And there, laden down with bags she was desperately trying to muscle through, was his wife. Well, not his wife. Not anymore.
Lodi Baker puffed and strained. Out of reflex, he helped her with a large bag and immediately apologized. Lodi raised an eyebrow but soon gave her familiar laugh, joking that he was either sweet or the dumbest thief, since she could break knuckles. He wanted to smack himself with how he addressed her with more awkwardness than when they were first dating. She didn't seem to mind. May receded quietly and said she was gonna grab a drink before their shuttle to the airport.
He learned Lodi had come here for cosplay at the convention, of course. She'd lost but they soon started talking about other things. He knew her likes and dislikes as though they were his own but he took a breath and talked to her calmly but still with the same verbose, frantic nerves that made her smile. They shared the same shuttle and spent a long while gaming on their Switches at the airport. Though, they weren't booked in seats next to each other on the plane, they took every opportunity to visit.
Almost waiting till the last minute, Dean managed to get Lodi's number. She didn't live far from him. Eventually, they met up at the same shop where May worked and liked to mess with all the boys, telling them about the kind of girls they would be if she just managed to get some magical powers. He learned May had an antagonistic relationship with a buttoned-up, serious anime fan who Dean immediately recognized. From there, came a game night including two guys Lodi knew: a large, cheerful man who tried to make everyone smile and his hesitant friend who always tried to agree with others a bit too much.
It wasn't long before he asked Lodi out on a proper date and things felt ever more familiar from there.
He'd kept the die since that day, putting it back in its case (set to March 29th, 2013, the day he met her). It still looked about the same, maybe a little brighter, and it finally felt like it used to. But he was too afraid to test it. Still, he missed the old days and the fun they had around the gaming table.
But not yet.
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Bio: I'm MajorKerina and I love to collaborate creatively with a group of friends to make tales where people have their genders, identities, and very realities questioned, contorted, and turned upside-down. I like slice-of-life with a spicing of the supernatural, strange, or surreal. Reality with a scent of the impossible. You can find me on DeviantArt, Twitter, ScribbleHub, and other places.