As promised, I am going to post the Epilogue and Bonus scenes on my blog over the next five weeks. Today is the Epilogue.
For those of you who are interested, you can purchase The Complete Serial Novel on Amazon--for just $2.99 for a few more days!-- (FREE for KU users) and have all of the scenes right now.
Also, the paperback version is in the process of being formatted right now by the amazing Jade Eby. So it should be available to purchase here in the next couple of weeks. <3
Also, don't forget to add the complete serial to Goodreads!
Now, here is the Epilogue you've been waiting for!
One year later.
I watched Faye as she ran her hand down the spine of one of her books. It was one that sat on her bookshelf, a floor to ceiling one. She stared down at the cover with a lost look in her eyes, as if she was somewhere far away and not here in her apartment with me, packing up all her things.
“Are you okay?”
She glanced over at me quickly, almost as if she forgot I was there. She nodded slowly. I set down the box I was about to take out to the moving truck.
“Faye.” I touched her shoulder. She didn’t flinch, but she didn’t look up at me either. Her gaze was focused again on the book in her hands.
“This was my very first government book,” she said quietly. “Texas government.” She turned the book over revealing a cowboy hat on the front—typical Texas. “It was my first semester of college. I took this class and four others. But this class was the first class I went to. It was on Monday and Wednesday mornings at eight.”
“Dang, and eight am class, those are the worst.”
She rubbed her hands over the cover. “That’s what my aunt said, but it wasn’t. It was wonderful. My teacher was a lady who was my age now. She was full of life and full of love for her class, even though most anticipated it as being boring. She made it…special.”
“Special?” I reached out and ran my hand over the cover, wondering if it felt different than other books, as dumb as that sounded.
“I was so lonely and heartbroken when I started this class.”
My heart clenched in my chest, twisting.
“I didn’t know who I was anymore.” She glanced up at me. “But I found my way on my own.” She didn’t look sad, but rather neutral. “This book just triggered those lost feelings.” She moved her hand over the cover again. “I remember the first day, sitting there with this book in front of me, scared to death. Isn’t that just ridiculous? Of all the things that had happened to me, of all the life experiences I had lived through, I was terrified of my first day of college.” She giggled but the sound was thick, her eyes became glassy.
“Babe.” I pulled her to me. Her arms wrapped around my middle. “Don’t cry.” She didn’t say anything, but buried her face into my shoulder. My heart twisted more, painfully threatening to rip out of my chest. “You feel the same way today.” It was a statement, not a question. “You don’t have to move in with me. We don’t have to do this. You can take all the time you need.” I would wait forever and more. Faye was worth it.
“No.” She pulled back, her eyes red and puffy. “It’s a good thing.” She wiped her eyes. “I realized back then that it’s okay to be afraid of the good changes in my life.” She smiled. “Moving in with you scares the shit out of me, but it’s what I want. You’re what I want.”
My heart thudded in my chest. But the feeling was nothing new. Faye made my heart race every day. Every time she smiled in my direction. Every time she told me she loved me. Every fucking day.
It had been a year. A year since I had lifted her body off the ground at that cemetery and carried her home. A year since she had been mine. I don’t know what changed, what happened in the space of the hours that we were apart that day, but something had. And Faye loved me—she really and truly loved me.
Some days had been harder than others. Some days I could see the ache of the past in her eyes. But unlike the past, we didn’t run from it. Not anymore. We would sit and talk about the darkness that clouded her beautiful eyes and sometimes, only sometimes, she needed more than that. Sometimes she needed my hate. Sometimes she needed the pain of the past to make the future more bearable. I gave her that.
It would always be this way. I would always give her what she needed. No matter the price, right down to my very soul—I’d give it all away.
“I love you, Rhett.”
My heart thundered in my ears as I looked down at my past, at my future, the most beautiful woman in the world—the woman who saved me. “I love you too.”
Seventeen years later.
I watched them lower the black casket into the ground.
I wasn’t going to come here. To this place. I rarely ever came. Only once in a blue moon if I was feeling especially bitter or sad. But I was here today. I told Rhett I wouldn’t come. I promised him I would stay home. Even after all these years he was afraid of how I would feel when this day came.
He was scared I would fall apart. That I would collapse in on myself and fall into a place where he couldn’t find me. Though part of me knew it wasn’t because he was afraid I would collapse. He was more afraid that he would. He didn’t come because he couldn’t deal with the reality, the truth of what the casket sinking into the lush earth meant.
Taylor was dead.
I expected someone else to be here. Other people. Taylor had been someone of importance before he had gone to prison and his life had fallen apart. He’d had friends, extended family.
But I was alone at the graveside service save for some cemetery employees and—
“Who is this guy, momma?”
I glanced down at Charlotte. My daughter. Our daughter. Rhett’s and mine. She was eight years old now. A little blonde-haired blue-eyed thing that had wrapped her way around my heart when Rhett and I adopted her at the age of one.
I hadn’t wanted to be a parent, even after I married Rhett five years into our reunion. I had told him that children were out of the question. I was afraid far too afraid of the way a child of mine would turn out—even though they wouldn’t be my blood child, I was still afraid. Terrified. I had been certain I would fail them. I had failed my little boy. I’d looked at his bloody little body on a metal tray all those years ago. I didn’t want to fail another baby, another innocent life.
But as the years passed something had changed inside me and when I woke up one morning in Rhett’s arms I realized something was missing in my life. More than a year of waiting to adopt, Charlotte came along and she became my little blessing. My little ray of sunshine.
“He’s a man.” My answer to her question was pathetic. This place wasn’t right for her. She didn’t need to be here in the presence of the dead. Of the two people who had done such horrible things to me. But my decision to come here had been last minute, on my way home from picking Charlotte up from school.
“A dead man?”
Charlotte’s question drew my attention to her curly blonde head. “Yes.” I wanted to offer her more, an explanation. But I didn’t have one that would be easy to accept for an eight year old. I didn’t have a truth to give her that wasn’t colored with blood and misery.
We’d gotten there late and the small service was over. The pastor had departed just as we walked up. The lowering machine made a squealing sound once the casket reached the bottom. It was an awful noise, so awful that Charlotte released my hand and grabbed her ears.
I should’ve taken her away then. I should have led her back to the car, but I didn’t. Instead I stood there staring at the hole in the ground. The hole filled with Taylor. I hadn’t seen him since I’d visited him in prison nearly twenty years ago. He would’ve been in his seventies now. Just another elderly man who died in prison of a heart attack. That’s what the woman from the prison told Rhett on the phone. Taylor had gone to bed two nights ago and hadn’t woken up the next morning.
A peaceful death, that’s what the lady from the prison had called it. Peaceful. Easy. I couldn’t help but taste bitterness in my mouth at the news. Had I wanted Taylor to suffer? Had I wanted him to drown in his own blood? Maybe. No. I didn’t know, to be honest.
It just didn’t seem fair. I had known some wonderful people over the years who had lost their life too quickly to cancer or in an accident. People who lived out their lives in slow painful misery. Taylor hadn’t. He had been fine. Normal. He’d died in his sleep.
For a moment, just one simple moment, I had the urge to jump in that hole that would be his home for the rest of his life and rip the lid open. I wanted to shake his dead body until he felt all the pain. Until he knew all the ways I’d suffered all these years. Even with Rhett’s love, with his patience, with his kindness, with all the ways Rhett was the most wonderful man, I was still fucked up from all the things Taylor had done to me.
“Was he a bad man, mommy?” Charlotte’s words made me flinch, drawing me away from the crazy desire that burned through my veins.
“Why?” I whispered.
“You don’t seem happy or sad about him dying. You seem mad.”
I blinked down at her, at my perceptive little girl. She picked up on the most subtle things. She was only eight, but I was certain she knew there was something wrong with me—that there was a darkness inside me. A darkness that even her daddy couldn’t reach sometimes.
“He wasn’t a good person, Charlotte.” I crouched down next to her.
I took a deep breath, sucking in the scent of freshly mowed grass. “Maybe I’ll tell you about him one day.”
She glanced back at the hole where a Bobcat machine was shoveling dirt on top of Taylor’s casket. “You promise?”
“Faye.” Rhett’s voice brought me back to my feet. Guilt shuddered through me. Guilt for not telling him I was coming here. I turned slowly as he came to stand next to me. Even though he was in his fifties now, he didn’t look it. Not by a long shot. Only a little bit of salt gray flecked along his temples.
“Daddy!” Charlotte squealed, letting go of my hand to wrap her arms around Rhett.
“Hi, baby. I didn’t expect to see y’all here.” He directed his words at me, his eyes full of questions.
“I didn’t expect to see you here, either.”
He nodded slowly. “I wasn’t going to come—”
“Neither was I,” I interjected.
A strained smile spread across his lips. I knew what that meant. I knew the reality of this. Taylor was his father—a shitty horrible father, but in the end he was still his dad. And sometimes death brought on ache people never thought they would have, even about the people they hated.
I reached out and took his hand in mine. Our fingers slipped together easily, like puzzle pieces fitting together, finding home. A sense of ease slipped over me. Rhett had a way of calming me with just the brush of his fingertips.
“He’s really gone,” Rhett said quietly.
I nodded slowly, my gaze focused on the nearly full grave.
“I always imagined how I would feel when this happened.”
I glanced at him. “Did you?”
“Is it like you thought it would be?”
“No.” He shook his head. “I expected to feel nothing. But that’s not what I feel.”
“Do you feel sad, daddy?” Charlotte fiddled with the ends of her hair with her free hand.
A small smile spread across his lips. “A little.”
“Mommy said she would tell me about the man one day.”
Rhett glanced over at me, surprise on his face.
I shrugged. “Maybe when she’s old enough.” In a backward way I knew that without Taylor I wouldn’t have adopted Charlotte.
“Maybe,” he said reluctantly.
“We’ll go and let you have your time.” I knew it was what he needed, to say goodbye to the man who had shaped his life as much as he had shaped mine.
Charlotte slipped her hand in mine after saying goodbye to her dad. We walked back to the car, but before I climbed in, I looked back at Rhett. He stood just before Taylor’s and my mother’s graves. The hole was completely filled in now.
Rhett’s hands were clasped behind his back and even from the distance I could see the movement, the swipe of his thumb over the other. His nervous twitch. I remembered being not too far from there in this same cemetery decades ago with Rhett. With the swipe of his thumb over the other on the day my mother was buried just next his father.
I thought about how far we’d come since that day so long ago. About all the hardships, the fights, the love.
“Mommy, are you ready?”
A smile spread across my lips. “Yes, baby.”
And as I drove home, to our home, Rhett’s and mine. I looked at his image fading in my rearview mirror and listened to Charlotte chatter about her day, and I was thankful. Thankful for all the endings that led to new beginnings.