Ellowyne’s Wedding

After the news of the discontinuation  of Ellowyne Wilde and other proprietary Tonner/Wilde dolls, several collectors on the popular Ellowyne’s Ennui message board, http://members7.boardhost.com/EllowyneEnnui/ , wrote what a good send-off for our favorite girl might have looked like. One envisioned a Wilde Weekend with a theme of fulfilling Ellowyne’s dreams, while another was inspired to come up with a Wilde Weekend that saw Ellowyne’s launch as a fashion designer and her squad signing on in various capacities in her new business.

My gift is telling stories, so it I decided to write a story, one inspired by Robert Tonner’s beloved Tyler Wentworth. Nearly eight years ago, Robert married off his iconic Tyler at the annual Tonner convention. It was a lavish event with actors who portrayed the new Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill and other members of the wedding party. It was the great send-off of a doll so many collectors loved. So, perhaps a wedding might be an appropriate finale to Ellowyne’s canonical story. By the way, I am not stopping writing my stories. The Ellowyne Wilde line is discontinued but the creativity inspired by these dolls is not.

Rating M for coarse language and minor adult situations

Ennui and the Bride

“Ellowyne! Get up already!” Prudence, the maid of honor and Ellowyne’s best friend, shouted. “I’ve been up since six and I did cardio and Pilates. I begged you to come with me but you didn’t. Now you’re groggy and not even close to being ready for your own wedding!”

Ellowyne moaned. “It’s not until four this afternoon. Ugggh. I had a hard time sleeping last night so let me be!”

“You have to get up so we can get our makeup, nails, and hair done. We’ll stop by Starbucks and get you a vendi mocha. With extra whipped cream,” said Lizette.

Ellowyne rolled her eyes and then rolled out of bed. “Fine. I’m up.” In spite of going to bed earlier than her friends, Ellowyne had a hard time getting to sleep. She tossed, turned, fidgeted with her cell phone, and tried to read a little but to no avail. After she had gone to bed, she overheard a conversation between her three girlfriends not meant for her ears and she could not get it out of her mind.

On the way to the salon, Amber noticed Ellowyne’s somber mood. “Today is your wedding day. But you look so worried and sad.”

Pru said, “You do seem a little reluctant, Ello. What’s wrong? Cold feet?”

Lizette agreed with Pru. “Every bride gets cold feet. It’s normal.”

However, Amber disagreed. “OMG, Ellowyne! Don’t tell me you’re letting ennui spoil your wedding day.”

Ellowyne shrugged. Maybe it is ennui, she thought. She loved Penn, didn’t she? And she thought she wanted to marry him but could not care less about planning the wedding. Picking out the dress, sampling wedding cakes, hiring a band and caterer for the wedding—none of it was even remotely enjoyable. Then there was that nagging, gnawing feeling deep in her heart warning her that she was just settling for Penn. She once read a magazine article in one of her mother’s old Cosmopolitan magazines. The author made a case for settling, to stop looking for Mr. Right and pair up with Mr. Not-So-Bad. Penn was a nice enough guy but Ellowyne didn’t feel like she was really was in love with him. She didn’t feel a toe-tingling, pulse-racing, butterflies in the stomach when she was with Penn. She had felt that way once, but it was too late to cancel the wedding. Her father paid all the wedding expenses and she didn’t want to see his money go to waste.

Moreover, she had a couple of nagging reservations about Penn. Sometimes he seemed angry and frustrated when she need to change plans because she was simply too tired or melancholy. But if she didn’t marry Penn, who would want her? Of course there was Rufus, but, since he agreed to be Penn’s best man, she assumed he was no longer interested. Marrying Penn was the most logical choice she could make. And if she was dispassionate about wedding planning, it had to be ennui ruining her life again.

Or was it something else?

Ellowyne and her friends arrived at the stylist’s salon. She stared into her mocha—the third cup of the day—and played with the whipped cream while her favorite hairstylist coaxed her hair into thick, beachy curls. Her thoughts went back to Rufus. Why did he come back? Pasadena, where he was doing graduate work at Cal State, was nearly a six-hour drive one way. He didn’t come home very often because he was immersed in his studies. She could not remember which one of her friends —Pru, Lizette, or Amber—brought up that Rufus had been in love with Ellowyne. Why didn’t one of them tell her? It didn’t matter. She was marrying Penn that afternoon. She wondered if she would have accepted Penn’s proposal if she had known how Rufus felt.

Meanwhile, Penn and Rufus, who stayed overnight in the hotel where the reception was going to be, were feeling the effects of an alcohol fueled bachelor party. “Dude, why did you let me drink so much?” Penn asked.

Rufus, who was nursing a headache, shook his head. “Shush, shush, shush. Don’t talk so loud.”

Penn ignored him. “You promised the most epic bachelor party ever. And you did it!”

Rufus groaned. “Thanks, I guess.”

Penn wondered how Ellowyne’s bachelorette party went. Prudence would have taken her friends to a hot yoga studio, and Lizette would’ve insisted on dinner at a fine restaurant, maybe one that served Cajun or Creole food. And Amber. Oh, Amber. She would have dragged everyone to a bar, maybe even one with male strippers. He could never understand why Ellowyne, Pru, and Lizette even hung out with Amber, since she was so rowdy. Then again, Penn, Rufus, and the other groomsmen had gotten rather rambunctious themselves.

Rufus looked at the alarm on the clock radio. Suddenly he was awake and shouted, “Dude! It’s almost noon! You’ve got to get sober before the wedding!” Rufus threw Penn in the shower and turned the water as cold as possible. He called room service to bring up some espresso and then he called a nearby Thai restaurant to get a couple of orders of drunken noodles, his favorite dish when hung over.

When Penn and Rufus arrived at the church, they bore no signs of the previous night’s debauchery. Indeed, they looked dapper in their tuxedos. Rufus made sure he had Ellowyne’s wedding ring in his pocket. He took a sharp breath. Maybe agreeing to be Penn’s best man wasn’t such a great idea. It was meant to bring him closure but he wasn’t over Ellowyne at all. He could hardly wait until the festivities were over and he could return home to his studies—the only thing that made him stop thinking about her.

The wedding could not be more splendid. Orchids and white roses decorated the altar and were carried by the bridesmaids. The groomsmen and Penn wore white rose boutonnières. Before he escorted Ellowyne down the aisle, her father noted how miserable she looked. “Are you okay, Honey?” He said, “I know you have trouble being happy but you look so sad. At least you should be a little happy on your wedding day.”

The string quartet played Pachelbel’s Canon in D as Ellowyne and her father walked down the aisle. She thought about her deceased mother and how overjoyed she and Father looked in their wedding pictures. Maybe I’m never going to be happy, she thought. She looked at Penn, who beamed seeing her in her wedding gown. She sighed and wished she could be as elated as he. She looked at her bridesmaids, who looked beautiful and radiant. She then looked at Rufus, who stood stiffly. He refused to look at her, and his usual smile was replaced by a cold, stony countenance.

The wedding ceremony went by in a blur. Penn’s smile was broad and his eyes sparkled as he recited his vows. And suddenly it was time for her to recite her. Looking into Penn’s eyes, she said, “I, Ellowyne, take you, Rufus—“

Everyone at the church gasped, especially Rufus, who was so shocked that his mouth gaped open, his eyes nearly popped, and his cheeks burned.

Penn’s face reddened with anger. He pulled away from her and asked, “What the hell, Ellowyne?”

“I’m sorry, Penn. You are a wonderful man but I don’t think we’re meant to be together. Especially when I think I might have feelings for Rufus.”

“Are you serious? You think you have FEELINGS for him? When did you figure that out?”

“This morning, I guess. Last night, after I went to bed, I overheard Liz, Pru, and Amber talking about how Rufus has been in love with me for years. I’m sorry, Penn, but I can’t marry you because I’m not in love with you. I love you but as a friend, not as a fiancé. I think I might be in love with Rufus.”

“YOU MIGHT BE IN LOVE WITH HIM?”

Penn shook his head and glared at Rufus. “Is that why you came back? You son of a bitch. Ellowyne would never have known if you stayed away.”

“Dude, I’m sorry—“

“Sorry isn’t good enough!!”

“Penn, he has nothing to apologize for. This is all on me,” Ellowyne said softly. “I am so sorry that I have hurt you. I guess I thought the reason I was so half-hearted in planning the wedding was ennui. But now I realize that ennui had nothing to do with my disinterest. I really can’t marry you when I think I might want to be with Rufus.”

Penn raged at Ellowyne. “So you might want to be with another man. Fine. Whatever you want. You know what? I’m glad to be rid of you. You and your damned ennui. You don’t want to go to a baseball game because you think it’s boring. You can’t go to a new restaurant because you live on whipped cream and nasturtium. You don’t want to go dancing because you’re too tired. I can’t spend the rest of my life with you and your issues.”

Rufus took her wedding ring out of his pocket and Ellowyne removed her engagement ring. As they gave the rings back to Penn, he sneered and said, “Good luck, Rutter. You’re going to need it. You know, I think the two of you deserve each other.” Penn stormed out of the church and shouted, “I hope you’re both HAPPY together.”

Ellowyne’s father ushered the guests out of the church and invited them to the reception, where a sumptuous buffet awaited them. When everyone had left, her father approached Ellowyne and Rufus, who were sitting on the altar stairs. “Honey, you did what you had to do. Ennui didn’t ruin your wedding. It was your heart, telling you that, deep down inside, you didn’t really want to marry Penn. He’s a nice enough fellow but I don’t think he was the right man for you.”

As her father walked away, Ellowyne turned to Rufus. She felt her toes tingle, her pulse racing, and butterflies in her stomach. Then she smiled.

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Guests at the Wedding

Rating: M for Language and Mild Adult Theme

Rufus had a grueling day in the emergency room. It started with the attending physician yelling at him for an error made by a different medical student and it progressively got worse. The first patient he saw was a little girl with a Lego brick shoved up her nose. She was cooperative, even calm, as Rufus removed the piece but her mother was out of control, sobbing and shrieking until he was done. The next patient was a charming, elderly gentleman who came in complaining of vague symptoms and malaise. Rufus was taking his history when the man’s eyes rolled back and he became unresponsive. Rufus called a code and did chest compressions before the code team arrived. Sadly, their efforts were fruitless and Rufus had to choke back his tears when he and the attending gave the family the bad news. Next up was a patient suspected of seeking narcotics. When Rufus tried to explain that he was a medical student and could not give her any medication, she punched him in the face, resulting in a black eye. And before lunch, members of a nearby sorority came in with symptoms of food poisoning from eating raw cookie dough. One of the women tried to flirt with him and then threw up on his scrub suit and new tennis shoes. When he went to change, he decided to take a break for lunch and he found that the bento box Ellowyne made for him had been stolen so he had an energy drink and cookies from the nurses’ station. In the afternoon, he saw a man with a self-inflicted gunshot wound and another man who had an accident with a chain saw. A woman came in with complaints of abdominal pain and swelling. She had no idea that she was pregnant until she was in labor. The last patient of the day was a woman who tried on her best friend’s new engagement ring and could not remove it. After trying soap, petroleum jelly, and cooling off her hand, the ring remained stuck. Finally one of the doctors suggested cutting the ring and the engaged woman said she would rather have her friend’s finger cut off! After the problem with the ring had been resolved, Rufus was off duty. But as if to add insult to injury, when he went to the staff parking lot, he found that someone badly dinged the door of his red Subaru. He could barely wait until he got home.

When he got back to the apartment he shared with Ellowyne, he smelled drunken noodles, his favorite Thai dish, wafting through the hallway. From his texts, Ello knew he’d had a rough day and she greeted him with a kiss and a Scotch on the rocks. She asked, “Tough day, huh?”

“The worst. God, I hate this clerkship. There’s an unending stream of patients and you can’t take care of them in a timely fashion. And you don’t get a chance to get to know your patients. It’s almost like an assembly line. Patients come in, get released or transfer, and as soon as they’re out, someone else comes in. And the staff! After the alleged drug seeker punched me, the nursing staff called her a GOMER. Do you know what that means? It means, Get Out of My Emergency Room. Yeah, I’m pissed that she hit me but—I don’t know. Every person should be treated with respect, even the ones who are pretty obnoxious.”

Ellowyne looked at Rufus’ black eye and gently touched his face. “Honey, you have quite the shiner. Let me grab a washcloth and some ice. You lay down for a little bit while I finish supper.”

Rufus groaned. “Yes, doctor,” and stretched out on the couch. Sybil, their cat, jumped on his chest, kneading him and purring. “Sybil, are you trying to make me feel better or are you just an opportunist?”

About ten minutes later, Ellowyne was close to finishing cooking and called Rufus to the kitchen table. As she ladled drunken noodles onto their plates, he looked through his mail. There were a couple of bills, a catalog, the New England Journal of Medicine, and an envelope that looked suspiciously like an invitation. He stared at the sender’s name on the return address. Gwendolyn Wilde. He hadn’t heard that name in years. He opened it and found indeed that it was an invitation—to her wedding.

He asked, “Did you see this, Ello?”

“Yes. Uh, is that the girl?”

“Who broke my heart in college? Yeah. That’s her. And look. She’s marrying that ‘handsome’ man she said was more her type. And I’m invited. Oh, joy.” He sighed and shrugged. “She told me wasn’t attracted to me and that she’d rather be with Penn. I could have been okay about it but then she said, ‘even the homeliest doctors get dates plenty of dates.’ God that hurt!”

“That was rude and mean. I think you’re handsome. I love the way you look. You are catnip to me.” Just then, the cat rubbed Rufus’s leg and purred. “See? Sybil thinks you’re catnip, too!” Ellowyne stroked his hand. “So, do you think you’ll go?”

“Probably not. I haven’t kept in touch with her. I really don’t get why she even invited me. To make me feel like a loser like she did in college?”

“Maybe she’s offering an olive branch because of the way she treated you.”

“And maybe it’s just a gift grab.”

“Get them a gravy boat. Now, is this a plus one?”

Rufus looked at the invitation again. “You know, it is.” He smirked. “Hmm. If I go, who should I ask?”

Ellowyne laughed and made a face. “You better be nice to me or I’ll never make Thai food again!”

He grinned and said, “Okay, okay. You win. I think I have a three-day weekend then. And it might be fun to meet up with some of my college friends. Can you clear your schedule?”

“I think so. I do my presentation in my qualitative methods course a couple of days before the wedding so I won’t have that hanging over my head. And a weekend away from the ivory tower might be just what the doctor ordered.”

Rufus grinned. “Would that doctor be a future MD like me or an aspiring PhD like you?”

“Watch it buddy. You keep picking on me and I won’t give you any of the cocoanut sorbet I got today.”

“I give up! Woman, you are not my equal. You are my superior.”

“Don’t forget that!”

When they got to bed around 11:00, Rufus had trouble falling asleep. Memories of Gwendolyn swam through his head. was restless and could not stop thinking about her. She shattered his heart and threw it on the floor, leaving tiny shards that unexpectedly cut him long after she rejected him. He thought about happier days, to the time when they first met at State. They were in the same orientation group the week before their freshman year began and were paired together as orientation buddies. Rufus could not believe his luck. Gwen was the prettiest girl he’d ever known and he was immediately smitten. She had a soft but clear voice, an eclectic style, and a sense of vulnerability that made him want to protect her. As their semester went on, Gwen introduced Rufus to three of her sorority sisters: Amber, Prudence, and Lizette. They had several classes together and frequently studied with each other. By the end of the first semester, Rufus befriended Liz, Pru, and Amber—and he realized his feelings for Gwendolyn had morphed into love. The three friends tried gently to dissuade him because they knew Gwen wasn’t romantically interested in him and they didn’t want him to get hurt. But in the end, he was hurt anyway. Badly.

In her junior year, Gwen met Penn, who recently graduated from State. They only had a few dates but she thought that he might be the ‘one’. In the meantime, Rufus changed his major to pre-med with a minor in neuroscience. He was so focused on his studies that he didn’t notice that Gwen was seeing someone. When he was done with finals, he asked Gwen to meet him at a coffee house close to the campus. He decided to tell her how he felt about her. He told her that he loved her but she seemed uncomfortable. She had to tell him that she loved him as a friend, nothing more. She also said that she simply wasn’t attracted to him and found Penn  more attractive. Gwen tried to tell him gently that he would someday find someone else, she said that even the homeliest doctors manage to get dates. Rufus was mortified and did not speak to her the rest of the time they both were at State.

From that point on, He threw himself into his studies. He didn’t date anyone in college—he didn’t have the time nor the inclination. He was accepted to the medical school of his choice, which was about a four-hour drive from State.  He would have happily gone to a med school even further away from State—and Gwendolyn and Penn—but this one was the best. And then he met Ellowyne.

Still unable to sleep, Rufus looked at Ellowyne, who was sleeping soundly. The moonlight danced on her flawless skin and he gently brushed her cheek. He thought about the first time they met and he remembered their conversation verbatim. He met her at The Hub, a popular coffee house near the campus. It was crowded and she tried in vain to find an empty table. Finally she saw a man about her age who was engrossed in a thick, important looking text and she asked him if she could share his table. Without even looking at her, he muttered, “Sure. I‘m leaving soon anyway.” and she put her hot cocoa and backpack down.

Eventually, Rufus looked at his tablemate. She was reading and taking notes on several scholarly journals, Feminist Review and Women’s Studies Quarterly. His interest piqued, he asked, “Are you in gender studies?”

“Good observation,” she replied curtly. Little did Rufus know that Ellowyne expected him to respond the same way nearly every other man did about her academic aspirations. Some belittled her interest and called her names like ‘feminazi’ or worse. Others told her she was too pretty to be a feminist and others assumed she had to be stupid because of her pretty face and blonde hair. She even tried to go without makeup and wear thick black horn rims so she’d discourage unwanted male attention but was told she was cute in a hipster way. She absolutely expected Rufus to make an inane remark like most of the men she met.

Instead, he said, “You know, the field of gender studies is almost more important today than in the past. It sounds like a great field of study and I wish I knew more.” Then he looked at her. smiled, and extended his hand. “By the way, I’m Rufus Rutter.”

Ellowyne shook his hand. “It’s nice to meet you. So, Rufus Rutter, what do you study? Are you a neuroscience student?”

“I started out with a neuroscience major in undergrad but I didn’t like the grunt work. We were expected to put rats or mice in stressful situations, kill them and the control group to see if there were differences in the brains between the two groups. I’m too much of a wuss to kill any animal so I switched my major to pre-med and minored in neuroscience. I’m a first year med student, hoping to be a neurosurgeon or neurologist. And you?”

“I’m Ellowyne Wilde, first year PhD student in gender studies, hoping to teach at the college level.”

He was dumbfounded. Wilde? WILDE? That was Gwendolyn’s last name! Was Ellowyne a sister, a cousin, or something? Trying his best to sound casual and uninterested he said, “I did my undergrad at State and I, um, knew a young woman named Gwendolyn Wilde. Any relation?”

Ellowyne shook her head. “I don’t have any sisters and none of my cousins went to State. My family is pretty small. It’s only my father, grandmother, little brother, and me. They live out in San Francisco. It’s a great place to live and I’d like to move back when I finish my program. But for now, I’m here because it’s got a kick-ass gender studies program.”

Rufus was relieved. No relation. He could relax and enjoy this conversation. He asked, “Have you decided on your topic for study?”

“Not yet. There are so many amazing fields out there. One of the topics I’ve mulling over is looking at heterosexual love through a feminist lens”.

“From the biological perspective, falling in love is associated with areas in the brain that cause the release of dopamine. Drugs and chocolate also stimulate activation of the brain’s ‘pleasure center’.”

Ellowyne took a sip of her cocoa. “Chocolate? Really?”

“Absolutely. And studies suggest that skin-to-skin contact with someone you love increases oxytocin, which brings about a deeper sense of love. So I guess we can say that love is nothing more than hormones.”

Ellowyne laughed. “Interesting! You know, I think I’d like to know you better, Rufus Rutter.”

They put away their books and talked until closing time. They exchanged phone numbers and became Facebook friends. He walked her to her car and was struck by an almost irresistible urge to kiss her. But he didn’t, at least not the first time they met. Soon they were meeting several times a week, texting each other daily, and thinking about each other constantly. He remembered their first kiss, the first time they said “I love you” and the first time they made love. That was when he gave her a silver necklace with the chemical symbol of oxytocin, which she wore almost every day. Eventually they moved in together. Sometimes they discussed marriage, but decided to not get engaged while they were both still in school.

Rufus gazed at his beloved Ellowyne, who was still asleep. He gently lifted Sybil from her usual perch between their pillows to the space by their feet. He stroked Ellowyne’s cheek and kissed her lightly so not to disturb her. She was indeed a beautiful woman but she wasn’t a trophy to display to other his peers. He loved her for her brilliance much more than her beauty. It’s funny, he thought. We both had issues with the way we look. Rufus was self-conscious about his appearance until Ellowyne told him she loved the way he looked. She was often dismissed because she was pretty but he helped bolster her confidence to ignore anyone who didn’t take her seriously. They believed in each other and were a team. And while he was hopelessly infatuated with Gwen and put her on a pedestal, what he had with Ellowyne was real, healthy, and reciprocated. His mind and soul at rest, he snuggled against her and quickly fell asleep.

Several weeks later, Rufus was done with the clerkship from Hell and he’d start a new one the next Monday. Ellowyne finished her presentation and made progress on her next paper. Both were delighted and relieved to have a weekend off with no school obligations whatsoever. The wedding was a lavish, elegant affair, complete with a string quartet and an opera-quality soloist. The meal was exquisite and the champagne flowed freely. Rufus introduced Ellowyne to Amber, the maid of honor, and the bridesmaids, Prudence and Lizette. Then Gwen and Penn came over to greet them.

Rufus extended his hand to Penn and congratulated the newlyweds. Gwen looked a little uneasy, and she blurted out, “I am so sorry I was mean to you. I said things that were unkind and I hope you can forgive me.”

He hugged her the way a brother would and said, “Hey it’s all okay. I put you on a pedestal and didn’t listen when you tried to tell me my feelings were unrequited. I’m sure that was tough for you.”

Gwen relaxed. “I‘m glad you both came. I invited you to my wedding so I could apologize to you.” She grinned. “Well, that and the gravy boat!” Everyone laughed. “And Rufus, thank you for being gracious.”

“Thank you, Gwen,” he said as he gently kissed her cheek in a most brotherly way. “I wish nothing but happiness in your lives together.”

“And the same to you,” Penn said, shaking Rufus’ hand again.

The evening was enjoyable, with free-flowing champagne, a delicious meal, and dancing well into the night. At the end, Rufus and Ellowyne exchanged pleasantries with his college friends and walked back to their hotel room. Ellowyne said, “I think Penn thought we were married or engaged or something.”

“Yeah, I got that impression too.” Rufus pulled a small box out of his jacket pocket. “Maybe we need to rethink our time table.”

My Brother the Pyromaniac

Rated K+ Suitable for general audience five years and older

“Oh no you don’t! Don’t come near me, Rufus Rutter! I’m not letting you kiss me when you’re eating an Atomic Fireball!”

Ellowyne’s giggles and shrieks were so loud that Freddy could hear them through the closed door of his upstairs bedroom. He rolled his eyes and sighed. It was bad enough when Rufus the Doofus moped around the house, pining for his sister, but once the two of them started actually dating, they became insufferable. They shared private jokes, stole kisses when they thought no one was looking, and had the most disgusting pet names for each other. Ellowyne called Rufus her “Rubear”, while he nicknamed her “Bae”. Freddy was so tempted to tell Rufus what bae really meant, at least in Danish, but for now he decided to keep it to himself and snicker whenever Rufus uttered this term of endearment. Ello’s squad thought that she and Rufus were perfect for each other and called them the Ellefus, a portmanteau of their first names. The whole thing made Freddy gag.

Freddy was thirsty and wanted a soda or an energy drink. But he would need to walk past the Ellefus on his way to the kitchen. He hoped that his sister and the Doofus would not notice him but of course they did.

“Hey, Li’l Bro! Want some?” Rufus pulled a couple of small red jawbreaker from his pocket. “Can you believe your sister is forcing me to choose between her and these?” He tossed the candy at Freddy, who popped one into his mouth. It was hotter than a wastebasket fire and he immediately spit it out.

Freddy moaned, “What’s in this thing?”

“It’s nasty,” Ellowyne answered, wrinkling up her nose. “It’s cinnamon and capsaicin.”

“Don’t listen to her, Li’l Bro. It burns a little at first but after you eat enough of them, they don’t seem so hot.”

“He’s lying, Freddy. It’s always that hot, even when it’s secondhand.”

Freddy was confused. “What do you mean, secondhand?”

Rufus grinned. “It means she’s kissing someone who’s eating a fireball!” With that, he leaned over to Ellowyne, who was giggling, and kissed her on the lips.

Freddy made a face, got a bottle of water, and went back to his room. He thought again about the hot red candy and the burning sensation it left in his mouth. He and Ellowyne subsisted on a rather bland diet at home since neither Father nor Grandmother Emily liked hot, spicy food. Ellowyne had been exposed to more diverse fare by going out with her friends and, of course, Rufus. Freddy also knew that his sister’s protests about the fireball kisses were just for show. Why, he watched Ello scarf an entire plate of nachos with jalapeños more than once, even when the Doofus wasn’t around! Freddy gingerly opened another fireball and put it in his mouth. His lips and throat burned, yet he swore he would not spit it out. But the candy proved too much for him. He spit out the fireball and took a drink of water, which made it even worse. Why would someone voluntarily eat something so hot, much less enjoy it?

Freddy got his answer a few days later when Ellowyne’s entire entourage came over. He usually ignored their banter but when he heard them talk about food, he decided to listen. Rufus, Penn, and Prudence were talking trash about each other and it became clear that they were engaged to do some kind of eating competition later that day. Intrigued, Freddy ventured downstairs, sat on the second lowest step, and listened.

Penn saw him first and called out to him. “Hey, Fred! Wanna watch me beat these so-called chileheads to a pulp?”

Rufus chuckled. “Yeah, right. You’re the one going down in defeat, Penn. And Pru, too!”

“As if!” Prudence shook her head. “Don’t listen to these two, Freddy. I’m going to prove that I can take down the hot stuff better than either of them. They’re so full of themselves…”

“And soon all of them will be full of blazing hot chicken wings!” Lizette exclaimed.

So Freddy joined his sister and her friends to witness the great hot wings contest. Lizette and Amber rode with Penn while Freddy and Pru rode in the back seat of Rufus’ red Subaru. It was kind of nice to sit next to Prudence because he had a slight crush on her.

The ride was over sooner than Freddy would have liked. When they walked into the restaurant, they were given a special table so that every patron in the place could watch the competition. Pru, and Rufus were seated together and were given glasses of beer, soda, and milk.

“Why the milk?” Freddy asked. “I’ve never seen any of you drink milk. Hot chocolate, maybe, but milk?”

“Well, Fred, the fat in milk counteracts the burn from capsaicin—that’s the stuff that causes the burning feeling.” Prudence said.

“Like in Atomic Fireballs?”

“Exactly,” Pru answered. “And that’s why water doesn’t work. There’s  nothing in water to diffuse the capsaicin. Sugar helps sometimes and a few people like beer but milk is the best thing to drink.”

Freddy saw the server approach their table. “Oh, look, here come the wings!”

Three plates, each containing six wings coated with a devil’s potion of habañeros, Scotch bonnets, and the dreaded Carolina Reaper, the hottest chile in the world, were brought to the table. The goal was to get through six wings without drinking anything in ten minutes or less. The victors would receive t-shirts declaring they won the challenge, their photos on the Wall of Winners, and a gift card for another visit. The losers would also get t-shirts but they were emblazoned with a cartoon chicken and the words, “Dumb Cluck”. Their photos would also be put on display on the Wall of Wimps.

Freddy watched intently as the three tried to eat their wings. Pru’s eyes watered, Rufus’ face was flushed, and beads of sweat formed on Penn’s forehead—all before any of them finished their first hot wings. Amber nudged Freddy and whispered, “I heard that the kitchen staff has to wear gas masks when preparing the sauce for those wings.”

Penn finished one wing and put the second one down on his plate. He guzzled his milk and said, “I’m out. I can’t handle another wing.”

Rufus, who had also finished one wing, looked over at Penn and decided to admit defeat. “I thought I could do this but I can’t. Wall of Wimps, here I come.”

Prudence bested her rivals by eating two whole wings but she dropped out of the competition as well. “I’m done. But at least I finished two wings, unlike the two of you!’

“Just curious. Why do you torture yourself like this? It seems kinda silly to me,” Freddy said.

Rufus wiped the milk mustache from his face. “Do you know what endorphins are, Li’l Bro?” Rufus asked.

“Yeah, I heard about them in school,” Freddy answered. “Pain increases the body’s endorphins and makes a person feel—well—-high.”

“Exactly,” Penn said. “Have you ever heard about runner’s high? It’s the same thing. Eating hot food triggers the production of endorphins the same way running does. It can be painful to eat these things but the high is so good. It beats using a substance to get a buzz!”

“And it beats running,” Rufus added. Everyone laughed because they all knew Rufus preferred sedentary activities like playing video games or fixing things over athletic pursuits.

After the aborted competition, everyone at the table ordered wings and things that weren’t quite so pungent. Freddy got the mildest wings on the menu but even they burned his mouth. He started to cough and Prudence gave him her glass of milk. Freddy didn’t mind drinking from her glass! Alas, Pru rode back to Ellowyne’s in Penn’s car. Freddy was disappointed and, to entertain himself, he looked up capsaicin on his phone. He read about the Scoville scale and learned that the noxious sauce that felled Pru, Penn, and Rufus was hotter than some forms of pepper spray.

His interest piqued, Freddy decided to learn more about hot sauces and spicy food. His obsession with building wastepaper baskets and setting fire to random bedroom slippers ebbed as he nurtured his new passion—building culinary fires in his mouth. Sometimes he’d talk Rufus and Penn into letting him come on some of their man dates, especially if the were going to a restaurant or food truck that served peppery, piquant cuisine. Freddy quickly graduated from pico de gallo to roasted habañero salsa at Mexican restaurants and from mild green papaya salad to Crying Tiger at Thai places. He even bested Pru, Penn, and Rufus in a hot wing-eating contest, winning him the t-shirt as well as a placement of his picture on the Wall of Winners. He planted a small garden of various chiles, holy basil, and Mexican oregano. He watched cooking shows on television and YouTube and practiced cooking hot dishes for Ellowyne and all her friends. Even Father and Grandmother Emily were nudged out of their bland food comfort zone. They were thrilled that the only fires Freddy made anymore were on the big gas stove!

When Freddy graduated from high school, he went to a prestigious culinary institute and apprenticed at a Michelin-rated restaurant. He on one of his favorite TV food completion shows. With his winnings and financial backing from friends, family, and a celebrity chef, Freddy started his own place, Pyromaniac’s, which quickly became one of the HOTTEST eateries in San Francisco.

The Lonesome Loser: Prologue

Rating: M because of course language and non-explicit adult themes

This story is based on the official Ellowyne canon in which Ello, Pru, Lizette, and Amber share the same birthday, October 31. Ellowyne hosted a party to which Amber was not invited. A new friend named Penn joined the party. He is mentoring Freddy, who had a dangerous preoccupation with setting fires. Ellowyne’s grandmother insisted that Penn stay for the party and she gave Rufus and him masks to wear. They barely donned their masks when Amber crashed the party. She was dressed in a risqué version of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, complete with a short blue gingham jumper, a low-cut blouse, and sparkly red stiletto heels. Amber then grabbed one of the masked men and kissed him aggressively, thinking he was Rufus. When Penn removed his mask, Amber slapped him for taking advantage of her. She then stormed out the front door of Ellowyne’s house and walked right into a slightly squishy pumpkin. She kicked the pumpkin aside and everyone at the party laughed at the spectacle Amber made of herself.

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Story:

After Amber left the party humiliated and disgraced, Ellowyne, Lizette, and Pru turned their attention to this new guy. As they girls gushed over Penn, Rufus quietly slipped out of the house. He got into his decrepit red Subaru, a car held together by dozens of bumper stickers, sheer faith, and Rufus’ knack for fixing almost anything that was broken. Anything, that is, but his own breaking heart.

He looked into the rearview mirror and started berating himself. “God, you’re such a dumbass. Ellowyne was never yours. You were too shy, too scared, and too stupid to tell her how you felt and now she’s crushing on some guy she’s just met. He’s gonna fall in love with her—who wouldn’t? She’s beautiful, intelligent, and sweet. They’re gonna end up together.”

Rufus sat in the darkness of his car and thought carefully what to do next. Putting his key in the ignition, he asked himself, “Wait a minute. What’s so special about this guy Penn anyway?” Then looked into the rear view mirror again and frowned. “He’s handsome. He’s already done with college and has a great job, probably a great apartment, too. He’s everything I’m not. How could I ever compete?”

Find out what Rufus does when he’s confronted with the reality that Ellowyne may have found another guy! Please feel free to say in the comments section which ending you prefer.

 

The Lonesome Loser: Ending One

Although Ellowyne had just met Penn, it was clear to Rufus that she was interested. She never looked at him the way she looked at Penn. Blinking back the hot tears welling up in his eyes, Rufus got in his car, plugged in his phone and headed home. From the time he left the party to the time he pulled into his driveway, Rufus tortured himself by listening to love songs that reminded him of Ellowyne, from Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing to Led Zeppelin’s All of My Love. Breakup songs like Love Hurts, Love Stinks and Lonesome Loser gave voice to his feelings of loss and despair. When he heard a familiar tune by Cee Lo Green, he sang along. “I see you driving ‘round town with the girl I love and I’m like ‘Fu—‘“

The sound of tapping on his car window interrupted Rufus’ private sing-along. It was his mother, Mary Sue. “We saw you sitting in your car so long. Honey, are you okay?”

“I don’t know, Mom. I feel like someone has reached into my chest, pulled out my heart, and stomped on it.”

“Ellowyne? “

“Yeah.” Rufus could no longer fight his tears. Mary Sue embraced and consoled her son and together they walked into the house.

Janet, Rufus’ other mom, hugged him, too. She offered up comfort, cocoa, and freshly baked chocolate cookies as they all sat around the kitchen table.

Rufus began to tell them with Ellowyne and how she reacted to Penn. “I feel like an idiot. I’ve never told her how I feel and now she seems to be into this new guy. I can’t compete with him. He’s already out on his own and he’s got a great job. He’s confident and knows the right things to say. ” Rufus shrugged. “And he’s handsome. Of course Ellowyne was attracted to him.”

“First of all, you’ll have a great job when you graduate,” Mary Sue pointed out. “You’ve been accepted at Cal Tech and MIT for grad school and when you finish, you’re going to have a great career as an engineer.”

“You’re smart and you’re funny. And, not being biased since you’re my son, you are one of the kindest people either of us has known,” Janet added.

“And we both think you’re handsome!”

Rufus smiled weakly. “I guess instead of having a face only a mother can love, I have a face that only TWO mothers can love.”

Mary Sue stroked Rufus’ hand. “Sweetie, listen to us. If Ellowyne hasn’t seen what an amazing man that you are, she isn’t worth your time. I know it hurts, but someone is going to figure out what a great guy you are.”

When his moms went to bed, Rufus grabbed his laptop and a few more cookies. He then sat in the chaise lounge in the living room to check his email. One was from MIT. He had been awarded a prestigious fellowship in engineering. He read the email again and he shouted so loudly that he awakened Janet and Mary Sue. “You aren’t going to believe this! I’m getting a full ride at MIT!”

Suddenly, it didn’t matter to Rufus anymore that Ellowyne flirted with Penn. For once, he decided to do what was right for him and not build his life around someone who couldn’t reciprocate his love. Goodbye, Ellowyne. Hello, MIT.

The Lonesome Loser: Ending Two

Although Ellowyne had just met Penn, it was clear to Rufus that she was interested. She never looked at him the way she looked at Penn. Blinking back the hot tears welling up in his eyes, Rufus plugged in his smartphone and sat in his car, feeling too numb to drive home. He tortured himself by listening to love songs that reminded him of Ellowyne like Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing to Led Zeppelin’s All of My Love. Breakup songs like Love Hurts, Love Stinks and Lonesome Loser gave voice to his feelings of loss and despair. When he heard a familiar tune by Cee Lo Green, he sang along. “I see you driving ‘round town with the girl I love and I’m like ‘Fu—‘“

The sound of tapping on his car window interrupted Rufus’ private sing-along. It was Lizette. “Hey. What are you doing out here? “ she asked.

Rufus sighed. “Just listening to some tunes. I didn’t want to be in there, not with Ello throwing herself at Penn.”

Lizette nodded. “Yeah, total flirt alert. Hey, are you okay?”

“Not really. It sucks to see Ell throw herself at this douche when I’ve been here for her all along”.

“I dunno.” Lizette said as she climbed into the passenger seat of Rufus’ red Subaru. “Maybe it’s because Penn is a novelty, someone new in her life”.

“Or maybe it’s a matter of familiarity breeds contempt”.

Rufus poured out his heart. He told Lizette how he fell in love with Ello the first time they met back in middle school. He confessed that, over the course of the past several years, he brought her flowers, candy, stuffed animals, and even a vintage snow globe.”

“I remembered that! She obsessed over it, asking herself—and the rest of us—what it meant.” Lizette gently stroked Rufus’ hand. “You know, Ello is not the most observant person. I think she’s a fool for not even noticing the sweet little gestures you’ve made over the years.” Lizette got closer to Rufus, twirled hear hair and looked into Rufus’ eyes. “It’s a shame she friend zoned you all this time. You really have a lot to offer a woman.”

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Rufus furrowed his eyebrows. “Are you kidding me?”

“You’re kind, sweet, and funny. You’re a total brainiac. And you have a gentle face and beautiful eyes.”

“Seriously?’

“Yes! Ellowyne is clueless. One day someone, maybe one of her closest friends will figure out wow amazing you really are.

Rufus smiled weakly. “You really think so?”

“I know so.”

“Hey, thanks, Liz. I’m glad we had this talk. I’m not going to give up on Ellowyne.  I have more work to do at her house and maybe I’ll bring her some chocolate truffles.”

Lizette got out of Rufus’ car, shook her head and rolled her eyes. Ellowyne was not the only one who was clueless.

The Lonesome Loser: Ending Three

Although Ellowyne had just met Penn, it was clear to Rufus that she was interested. She never looked at him the way she looked at Penn. Blinking back the hot tears welling up in his eyes, Rufus plugged in his smartphone and sat in his car, feeling too numb to drive home. He tortured himself by listening to love songs that reminded him of Ellowyne like Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing to Led Zeppelin’s All of My Love. Breakup songs like Love Hurts, Love Stinks and Lonesome Loser gave voice to his feelings of loss and despair. When he heard a familiar tune by Cee Lo Green, he sang along. “I see you driving ‘round town with the girl I love and I’m like ‘Fu—‘“

The sound of tapping on his car window interrupted Rufus’ private sing-along. It was Prudence. “Hey, why did you leave the party?”

“It got kinda weird watching Ellowyne flirt with Penn.”

“I thought so. You were giving off a dull yellow aura, which means you’re jealous. I can give you some green apatite or green aventurine to help you .”

“Hey Pru,” Rufus said. “I appreciate your help but I need to be alone right now.”

“But if we get your chakras in balance—“

“Thank you, Pru but really, no.”

Pru, the last of their friends to leave the party, got into her Mini-Coop and drove away. She was only a few blocks away when she realized she left her phone at Ellowyne’s house. She noticed that Rufus’ car was still there but Rufus wasn’t in it. Quietly she opened the door and retrieved her phone. To her utter shock, she heard Ellowyne and Rufus fighting in the kitchen.

“What the hell, Ellowyne? I was standing right there!”

“God, you are so jealous”, Ellowyne retorted. “I would never have agreed to this if I knew how jealous you are.”

“I’ve told you that you can date other guys. I just don’t like you blatantly throwing yourself at someone when I’m around.”

“You can date other women…”

“When do I have time for that?”

“Oh my God, Rufus. Are you going to blather on about how engineering is such a tough major while my English lit major isn’t?”

“We’ve had this fight before. I’m sorry I said anything.”

Prudence stood by Ellowyne’s front door, torn between slipping quietly through the front door and staying to hear the argument. She decided to continue eavesdropping.

Rufus spoke first. “I’m not sure about our relationship. It’s worked for me but lately it’s been more difficult than ever. You know that I love you…”

“And I love you, too, but as a friend…”

“Don’t patronize me. You’ve strung me along. I hoped our little arrangement would bring us together as a real couple.”

“But we agreed to not get emotionally involved”.

“No. You agreed, Ellowyne. I didn’t. Do you know what you are? You’re a commitmentphobe. You’re afraid of getting involved.”

“Isn’t what we have good enough for you? We’re friends—“

“That’s the point. We’re FRIENDS with benefits. You’re not being my friend when you flirt with some new guy while I’m standing right there!”

“I think you need to leave, Rufus. This is ridiculous.”

“Fine. But when I go out the front door, our friendship is over.”

Prudence hurried out the door before Rufus could see her. Back in her car, she wasn’t sure what startled her the most: Ellowyne and Rufus being friends with benefits or the intensity of their argument.

No sooner had Pru gotten into her car when she got a text from Ellowyne. “I need to talk to someone. I might have made the biggest mistake of my life.”

Before she could answer, Pru received a text from Rufus. “Hey girl. I just did something stupid and now I think Ellowyne hates me.”

Prudence sighed. She was close friends with both of them and she didn’t want to take sides. Before she drove away, she turned on her car radio.

       Clowns to the left of me, jokes to the right

       Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

Indeed, Prudence thought. Indeed.