Phoenix walks into our interview wearing perfectly fitted jeans and an army green t-shirt that pulls tightly across his chest and wide shoulders. He sits on a stool opposite my folding chair.
Phoenix, I want to thank you for letting me interview you once again.
He nods, staring at me. I know he’s not being rude, he’s simply waiting for me to begin.
In THE COUPLING, you and Ronnie are separated for a bit. Want to elaborate?
Phoenix exhales audibly and leans forward, resting his elbows on his thighs. He clasps his hands together, shaking his head. Then he sits up straight and leans back in his chair. When he does, he suddenly seems to have control of everyone and everything in the world.
(He nods at me, his blue eyes fixed on me.) That’s not something I’m proud of. I—I… (He runs his hand through his tousled hair and then comes to stillness again.) I let passion and pride and jealousy and…anger rule me. (He shakes his head) I shouldn’t have.
How did these emotions rule you?
I have always protected Ronnie. Always. And when she sacrificed herself to save us—me and Brooke and those girls she loves so much—damn. (He sits back again) I was lost. I didn’t know what to do.
Didn’t you tell her, and I quote, “You have done the one thing I cannot save you from—and may not be able to forgive you for…”?
(Phoenix nods, swallowing a lump in his throat.) Yeah.
And what did she do in response to that statement?
This is Ronnie. She did it anyway, because she thought it was the right thing to do. The only thing to do. She did it to save me.
And you hate that?
Yeah, I hate that. (His voice is louder and his body language more aggressive. He relaxes with his next answer) It’s my job to protect her.
But you two were able to reconcile?
As far as the reconciliation, was there anything in particular you said to her you can share with us?
I said, “The stupidest thing I have ever done in my life, Veronica Billings, was to let you go.”
Last time we spoke, you kept your feelings for her private and in check. Has that changed?
What Ronnie and I do is between us. And only us. But how I feel about her—that’s no secret.
How do you feel?
Like she is my reason for living.
Love is not a great enough word for how I feel about her. I will do anything for Ronnie. Anything. And I will keep her safe, always. No matter what.
What’s next for Phoenix and Ronnie?
We’ve got a reconnaissance mission to HopeLess World.
Where you’ll face your greatest enemy yet.
And why will that be a challenge for you?
Because he’s Ronnie’s biological father.
But that’s what’s next for your journey. What’s next for Phoenix and Ronnie?
That’s…probably nothing I’m gonna share.
Well, can you tell us where you left off?
We have some things to work out…
(He stares at me in an unnerving way) Like…we both have some issues with…uh…control.
You mean, who’s in charge of your relationship?
There’s no one in charge. We’re in it together. But sometimes tough decisions have to be made and then—(he stops abruptly)
And then what, Phoenix?
Well that’s what we’re working on.
But you think it should be you in charge—when those tough decisions have to be made.
Damn right—but only when her safety is at stake. But we’re in it together. Completely. (Phoenix gives me the first smile I have seen from him this interview)
What have you learned from all this?
I’ll never let anyone come between us ever again.
What if someone tries to get between you two?
(Phoenix looks up with his piercing eyes, smoldering) I wouldn’t want to be the man who tries it.
Suddenly Phoenix stands.
I need to go check on Ronnie. We leave for HopeLess World in just a couple of hours.
Oh, okay. Thank you for the interview, Phoenix. And, good luck.
The way he smiles, I know Phoenix doesn’t need my luck. As long as he has Ronnie, he has everything he needs.
Ronnie wears a black tank top tucked into a pair of fatigues and an army jacket. Her long black hair hangs loosely down her back. She sits on the same stool Phoenix sat, only moments before.
This is my second time interviewing you, Veronica, thank you for your time.
You’re welcome. And call me Ronnie, please.
Okay, Ronnie, can you tell us what a Coupling is?
(Ronnie takes a deep breath) A Coupling, in our world, is a required action between two people with matching blood types. The goal is to produce offspring with that coveted blood type. The Couplings began with Farnsworth Sr. as a way to secure more blood for the Lettings.
In The Coupling, you make some tough choices. One in particular is the toughest choice you’ve ever made. Tell us about it.
That’s funny you call it that—a choice, I mean. To me, I was forced into a situation from which I saw no way out. I made the decisions I did based on my love for Phoenix and the girls. And even Brooke.
But now, in retrospect, would you do anything differently?
Phoenix and I have gone over this many times. (She sighs) I understand he never wants me to put myself in jeopardy again, and I have to trust sometimes he has answers that maybe I don’t…
That’s not really an answer, Ronnie.
I’m supposed to say yes, I learned my lesson—I would never sacrifice myself for him again. But, truthfully… (She looks up at me, her dark eyes smoldering) He is the promise for our future, you know?
Are you saying you would purposely go against Phoenix’s wishes?
I’m saying…I prefer not to comment on that. (Her eyes drop down, and she picks a piece of lint off her fatigues.)
Phoenix says his job is to protect you.
(Ronnie looks up and then turns away and speaks softly) He has a journey so much bigger than protecting me. I hope he never forgets that.
Sounds to me, Ronnie, like you are willing to sacrifice yourself for the greater good.
What I want is to be sure I am not a distraction for Phoenix.
Distraction? Because of your relationship?
Yes. I don’t want him to focus on me and not the others.
Speaking of relationships, how would you categorize your relationship with Phoenix?
I don’t know if there is a category…
I am the night, and he is the day. He makes me feel loved, and cherished, and protected.
Wasn’t Phoenix your enemy?
Yes. We were on warring sides—me, the ultimate authority and him, the greatest of rebels.
And those two enemies have bonded?
(She smiles her response)
What is your plan?
We’re heading to HopeLess World to face our enemy, my father.
I mean, for the two of you…? How bonded have you become?
Oh, I… I think I’ve said everything I need to say about that. (She smiles) But thank you for the interview.
Suddenly, I see a figure lurking not far from our makeshift interview area. I turn to look outside the tent—it’s Phoenix.
I heard you were through. I came to see if Ronnie needed anything…
It’s obvious he wants to be with her, always. Without another word, Phoenix wraps his arm protectively around Ronnie’s waist. I can see the sparks of electricity ricocheting back and forth, between them. Before they exit the tent, I ask one last question.
Ronnie? You never answered my question. What is your plan for the two of you?
My hope is we’ll be together.
(Phoenix turns to me then) Always. We’ve survived…so much. There’s nothing that can separate us ever again.
As I watch them exit, I know Phoenix will never let anything harm her, ever. Not even death could be a force strong enough to separate them.
About the Author
Given my love for cities and all that is gritty, my new obsession with trees really has me stumped. (Sorry.) Maybe it's because trees are the inspiration behind my new YA/NA novel, THE LETTING.
Whatever the reason for my new infatuation, some things remain constant -- like my love for: coffee (although sadly, it's now decaf); yoga; Luna bars (I am petitioning for them to bring back Chocolate Raspberry!); running in my neighborhood; Hemingway; Bukowski... and, above all, my husband and my girls.
I am the author of the bestselling novel, Sleeping With Mortals: The Story of a New York Mistress, and I'm also a playwright. I have my B.A. in English and my M.A. in Theatre.
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