AN: Sorry I haven't updated in a while folks….I've been…..preoccupied…….anyways, read and review this final chapter!

                                                                                                                                                           

            For the next week I continued going to her every evening after dinner, once in a while sneaking a dessert in that I'd bought for her at Tibby's. She told me about Chicago, about her friends, and about singing; in return I told her about my family and my friends here in New York. And every night I went back to the lodging house and sat down with Specs, stumbling through sentences until I didn't need him to say every other word for me.

            I never expected it to happen that night.

            I walked in and sat down, and she looked as happy as ever as she put her book aside.

            "Hey there." She said, her voice weaker than usual. "How was selling?"

            "It wasn't bad today. Da headlines weren't dat great, but dat was easily fixed."

            She nodded and sat back, coughing a little before continuing.

            "I…I'll be dead by morning."

            I could feel my heart sink into my feet as she stared ahead at the wall, unwilling to meet my gaze. That wasn't common for her- being unwilling to look me in the eye.

            "How can ya be so sure?" I asked, my voice sounding too high and awfully pathetic.

            "I can just feel it. I just know." She turned to look at me, and I realized that she was crying. I hadn't seen her cry since I met her. "I guess I may be a little scared."

            I put on a fake smile, not really sure what to say or how to say it. "It's okay ta be scared. I would be too."

            "How do you know?"

            "Well, I…I don't."

            She laughed, which quickly turned into pain and coughing. We remained silent for another minute or so, and I finally had to say something. Anything.

            "I'm gonna miss ya."

            Geez, Skittery…how pathetic can you sound? The only thing you can think of is 'I'm gonna miss ya'?

            "I'm glad someone will. I wanted to thank you."

            "For what?"

            "For coming here every night. For talking to me. You've been…a great friend."

            "Dat goes both ways."

            She smiled. "You know, if things had been different, I would've hoped to marry you…you're the nicest guy I've ever met."

            "I couldn't have afforded an engagement ring."

            "Since when did that matter?"

            "Um…I don't know…" I muttered. "But if it had been different…I woulda been on one knee five minutes ago."

            "You mean that?"

            "Every word."

            She tried to take a deep breath, but couldn't. I suddenly realized that there were tears rolling down my cheeks- I hadn't known I'd been crying. She took one of the books off the top of the stack and held it out to me with shaking hands.

            "I want you to have this." She insisted, and I took the book from her, carefully sounding out the title inside my head. Romeo and Juliet. She put her hand over mine on the book, struggling to make out words. "I left a note inside it…and on the inside cover…cause I wasn't really sure if you really did learn how to read…for me…or not."

            "Aw…ya don't trust me?"

            "Of course I do. I just…knew it would annoy you to…think I didn't."

            She started coughing again, and I set the book in my lap and pulled her into a tight hug as she recovered.

            "Sing for me."

            I looked down at her in confusion. "What?"

            "Sing me…a lullaby."

            If it had been anyone else, any other situation, I would've definitely said no. But as I held her in my arms and felt her entire body begin to shake, I couldn't say no.

            I was surprised I remembered the words to the lullaby my older sister used to sing to me. And as I softly sang to her, I barely noticed Medda open the door and stand in the doorway, watching and listening.

            But I definitely heard the last thing this girl ever said to me. It was in a whisper, and I could just hear it as I sang.

            "You have…the voice…of an angel."

            And then she relaxed in my arms, and I let the song drift off. I don't remember how long I stayed there. I just remember Medda helping me lean her back onto the bed, and then I picked up the book and stumbled to the door.

            "Skittery!"

            I turned around and Medda was holding out my pocket watch to me. I took it and smiled at her, and then started to make my way back to the lodging house. I didn't want to have to mess with spending an hour deciphering her messages, and I figured she wouldn't mind if I had Specs read them to me as long as I finished learning how to read eventually.

            I knew it was long past curfew, but I pulled out my pocket watch and flipped it open to check the time anyway. And there on the inside of the cover, engraved in the simple gold were five simple words.

            Though death part us, have eternal hope.

            I smiled and closed it, even forgetting to check the time as I slid it back into my pocket. Kloppman didn't say anything as I made my way back into the lodging house, only giving me a discerning look as I made my way up the stairs. He can always tell when you have a good enough excuse even if you don't say a word.

            "Specs?" I asked gently, and he looked up from the game of poker they had going. He immediately knew something was up and handed his cards off to Dutchy, who was already panicking at trying one hand.

            "Specs! I can't play two hands at once…I can't even play one at once…" Dutchy whined, and Specs just laughed.

            "Yeah?" he asked as we sat down on his bunk. I pulled the note out of the cover of the book and handed it to him as I said, "Could ya read this ta me?"

            He looked down at the first sentence and burst out laughing.

            "What's so funny?" I demanded.

            "Sorry. Can't read it for ya. Not past da first sentence, anyway."

            "Why not? What's it say?"

            He turned his attention back to the note and smiled as he read the first line. "It says, 'Get da lazy bum ta read da note himself'."

            "It does not!"

            "Would I lie to you? It says right here, black and white, you gotta read it all by yourself!"

            I grabbed the note back from him and mouthed out the first line. By the time I was done I could already feel a blush creeping across my cheeks: it did say that. I looked up to say something to Specs, but he was gone, back at his poker game and relieving Dutchy of his unbearable burden.

            I looked back down at the note and sighed heavily. She knew me too well. I would just have to read it alone. I jumped back up to my bunk and laid down on my stomach, concentrating on the neat script below the first line.

My friend,

            Sorry about the first line. I really didn't mean to call you a lazy bum…I was just getting my point across.

            If you're reading this, I'm probably already gone. I can only hope that you were there for me…I promised myself I wouldn't let go without talking to you one last time. You've been the greatest friend I've ever had, even if it was in my last leg of life. You're an intelligent, respectable, handsome young man with a bright smile and an even brighter future. And whoever you find to share your vows with will be the luckiest lady on the face of the Earth.

            I'm going to miss you, even in heaven. And I know that at times it may seem like the world is against you, and that you have no hope left…but keep going. Just remember that you'll always have your friends, and I'll always be watching over you. I cared in life, and I care in death. And when we meet again, I promise you…the first thing I'll do is steal your hat, just to annoy you. Just because you're very cute when you're mad.

                                                                                  All my love, for all eternity

            I folded the note back up and put it back in the cover, almost forgetting the note on the inside of the cover. My eyes were hurting after all this reading, but I knew that if she wrote it directly in the book, it had to be important.

            "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet!"

            I didn't really understand it, but I got the general idea of it. It was just like she had said, only in a whole lot fancier writing.

            Are names really all that important?

The End

                                                                                                                                                           

AN: Voila! Alright, review before I send Skittery to beat you with a very large stick! Not really….cause if I had Skittery, he'd be staying right here with me! * snickers evilly *

Oh, and the whole marriage thing in the middle? My friend told me it sounded like romance, but I thought it sounded more like two really good friends trying to find a way to say how much they're gonna miss each other and not really knowing how else to put it…maybe it's just my weird mind at it again…yeah…I'll shut up now…