Often in movies, there is an underlying romance between characters who are part of the main conflict of the story. Sometimes this conflict is quite severe, and people wind up dying during the course of the story. I was watching such a movie the other day which was of course complete with the happy ending of the romance flourishing. I wondered, do people who get together under such circumstances stay together? Do they get married? Does one have to comfort the other after one of them wakes up in a cold sweat after having nightmares of their ordeal? And if they do stay together, what do they say at parties when someone asks them how they met? This got me thinking, and I came up with some scenarios of possible answers that may be provided by these characters.
George Caldwell and Hilly Burns at a party, describing their meeting to a friend.
Friend-So Hilly and George, you two have been married for 8 years! Congrats, but, how did you two meet?
Hilly-Well, it's quite a story actually!
George-Yes, QUITE a story! I started out looking to relax, and THAT for sure didn't happen!
Hilly-Oh George, people will get the wrong idea if you say it like that! What he means is that he decided to take the train from Los Angeles to Chicago to have some down time. We met on that trip, on the train!
Friend-On a train? How romantic!
George-Yeah, at first! I met Hilly who was on the train with her boss at the time.
HIlly-Yes, he was working on a book about Rembrandt, and his new research was causing quite a stir.
George-Yes, enough to get him killed and thrown from the train.
Friend-What the hell?
Hilly-Oh yes, it was terrible. He was being pursued because of what his book would reveal. And poor George got caught in the middle of it all. The killers tossed him from the train too.
George-Oh, I was on and off that train so many times....
Hilly-What was it, dear, like 3 times?
Hilly-That's how you met Grover, right? One of those time you were off the train? Grover was our George's best man.
George-Yep, Kansas City I think. He helped me get back on the train. Well after stealing my wallet of course.
Hilly-Grover, such a card!
Friend-So why didn't you just go to the police?
George-Well, no one believed me about what I saw, about the murder that is. Except for Hilly, of course.
Hilly-Of course! I knew George could never hurt anyone.
George-Then the police printed a fake story saying I was the killer so I would be found and taken in, but when Grover saw the newspapers, he disguised me so I had no idea anyone knew what was going on and was looking for me until we were like 200 miles outside of Chicago.
Friend-So what happened? Did you ever get back on the train?
Hilly-He did! He rescued me, in fact! The police had this plan to stop the train before it got to Chicago, but the mastermind of this band of killers....what was his name, George?
Hilly-Yes! Devereau! Devereau had taken me hostage and held a gun to the conductor to keep going and not stop after a shoot out at the train station.
Friend-Oh my gosh!
George-It was very wild west, I must say.
Hilly-Oh, it was a nightmare! Devereau knocked out the conductor and made sure the engine was going full blast so nothing would stop it, but George detached the cars so we were safe.
Friend-So what happened to Devereau? How did the police catch him? Is he in jail now?
George-Well, he looked out of the window just as another train came by, and he was beheaded.
Friend-I think I'm gonna be sick...
Hilly-Oh, it was awful. Poor George had nightmares the first 2 years we were married.
George-To this day you won't find me with my head out of a window. It's dangerous anyway!
Hilly-So we spent a week or so in Chicago, then went back together to Los Angeles, and have been inseparable ever since!
George-We flew back to LA, of course.
Joan Wilder describes how she met her husband, Jack T. Colton while at a book signing
Fan-Oh, Ms. Wilder, I just love your stories! You must have had such a romantic life to write such tales! But sometimes, such terrible things happen to your characters. Why do you do that?
Joan-Well, sometimes stories with happy endings don't have happy paths to start out on.
Fan-But my goodness! What your characters go through just seems so out there sometimes! I mean, when Jesse climbed that flat wall to fight an alligator, I was on the edge of my seat but still, that's pretty fantastic.
Joan-Do you want to hear something crazy? That actually happened.
Fan-Come on. To who?
Joan-To me. And my husband, Jack.
Joan-Not at all. I met Jack in South America when I went to pay a ransom so to speak for my sister.
Fan-Oh my goodness, what happened?
Joan-Well, I apologize in advance, this is a gruesome story, but her husband was an antiquities dealer, and was murdered after coming into possession of a map to a treasure.
Fan-A treasure map? Are you for real?
Joan-Real as you and me. Anyway, he tried to get the man who killed him off his tail, he mailed the map to me in New York, but he was killed anyway, and my sister was taken hostage by another band of criminals who wanted the treasure as well.
Fan-Was the map the ransom?
Joan-It was supposed to be. I was supposed to deliver it to her kidnappers, but the man who killed her husband got to me before they did then sent me on the wrong course. I didn't speak the language and had barely traveled, so when he helped me I thought he was just a resident being kind. So I got on the wrong bus which went way the hell out of my way, and the bus was later ambushed in the jungle by the private army of this murderous fiend.
Fan-So how did you get back?
Joan-Well, during the ambush, Jack who was living in the jungle at the time, got caught up in the drama. That's how I met him. He promised to get me back on track if I paid him $500, so he helped me through the jungle.
Fan-$500? Wow, not exactly chivalrous, was he?
Joan-Well, I bargained with him and got the cost down to $375 in traveler's cheques.
Fan-So what happened with your sister?
Joan-Well, Jack had the idea that we should find the treasure rather than deliver the map, you know as a way to have the upper hand. But after we found it we got separated and when we were supposed to meet up, he'd been captured instead by the man who killed my brother in law.
Joan-He was fine, but when it came time for me to drop the map for my sister, her kidnappers and her husband's killer were going head to head to find the treasure. Which by the way was this enormous emerald.
Fan-So where does the wall and the alligators come in?
Joan-Oh yes. Well, in the course of everything, after taking the emerald away from Jack, the man who murdered my brother in law had his hand bitten off by an alligator. His name was Zorro or Zolo or something, I try to forget him. While his army was fighting my sister's kidnappers, she and I ran up to the roof of one of the ruins, and he followed us, intending to kill us too. I yelled for Jack, and the only way he could reach us was to scale the walls of the ruins.
Fan-How did he do that?
Joan-They weren't very flat walls, they had some chunks missing from the masonry so he said it was like climbing one of those scaling walls.
Fan-Did he get to you in time?
Joan-He didn't need to. Zolo, I think it was, that sounds right, had me pinned and I grabbed a piece of wood and smacked him right on his stump where his hand had been. He'd tried to do a tourniquet for himself with his cravat, but he was losing a lot of blood. He recoiled in pain, tripped and fell on a lantern, then into a pit filled with alligators. He didn't get up after that.
Fan-So what happened to your sister's kidnappers? Is your sister okay?
Joan-She's back home in New York now, and is still in therapy. But she's doing fine considering all she's been through. The police came and arrested everyone, but Jack left before they got there, and I never thought I'd see him again.
Fan-How did you find him?
Joan-He found me. He'd always wanted to get enough money saved to buy a boat and sail around the world, and when he did it, he showed up in front of my apartment, with the boat if you can believe such a thing.
Fan-Oh, that is so romantic! See I knew your life had to be full of epic romance! Where did he get the money living in the jungle?
Joan-Well, he found the alligator that ate Zolo's hand, and the emerald was in his hand at the time the alligator attacked, so when the alligator died, basically from being unable to digest a 9 pound emerald, Jack had him skinned and made into boots, and kept the emerald.
Fan-Ms. Wilder, that is the grossest and most romantic story I've ever heard! I met my husband in high school, such a boring story! Did he sail around the world?
Joan-We did, and it was beautiful. We had some troubles, though. When a man goes from fending for himself in the jungle to just floating with his romance novelist girlfriend, he tends to bore easily. We decided to take some time for ourselves, and I went to do a guest appearance in the Middle East, where Jack and I eventually married. I've always had fans in unexpected places.
Fan-The Middle East? Wow, sounds like you could've had worse trouble there than in South America!
Joan-Oh, I did, but trust me, no one wants to hear that story.