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"Wake up," she said.


"You heard me," she said.

"Wake up?"

"Don't play dumb. You know what I'm talking about."

"I don't know what I'm supposed to know."

"We know you're not stupid," she said. "You don't have to pretend anymore."

I panicked a bit. This groundhog is going back into its burrow. "Do I have a choice?"

"We drop the charade. We can live in reality," she said.

"What kind of reality is that?"

"One where people don't have to walk on eggshells around you. One where people don't have to pretend to be something they're not."

"It's not my fault you guys are doing this. You were the ones that started it."

"And now you painted us into a corner and use that to blame us for not having better choices."

"So you blame me for your choices."

"We have other things to protect too," she said. "We have our own priorities."

"And now you have different priorities?"

"Not really, but we think it would be better for everyone if we dropped the pretense."

"So my life is over then."

"Life as you knew it before, yes."

"None of it was real then, was it?"

"There were bits and pieces of truth here and there, but yes, most of it was illusion. Because we didn't know how you'd react to the truth."

"And now?"

"You've already figured out much of it. Or were manipulated into figuring it out. So the illusion is mostly pointless now."

"So I wake up from my dream, and realize I have nothing."

"You already know by now what you had were only illusions."

"What if I liked some of those illusions?"

"You know they weren't real. You know you could never be truly satisfied with that."

"Yeah, I used to believe in true love. What a joke that was, right? At least for me."

"It's only a joke if you stay in the dream."

"How will I know it's possible on the outside?"

"You don't. But you won't find it asleep."

"So now I wait for a princess to come kiss me or something?"

"No," said Claire, "but you can take my hand."