So here it is, the end of the story. I must say this has been quite a journey that I will be greatly sad that it's over. I'll always treasure all the kind words I've recieved and I would like to thank each and every one of you that reviewed and kept on reading. I must admit, when I started this I thought no one would even care. How wrong I must have been. I would never have guessed so many would be interested in what I had to say. I hate to finish it almost. I hate to have to say good-bye. But the end truly has to be the end. I guess I'll leave it up to this to explain everything. I'm not in college mind you and I won't be getting a ring anytime soon. The song for this story was originally " Remember When It Rained" by Josh Groban, a truly perfect song if there ever was one. If you listen to the song and reflect all that's happened, I think you'll understand just what it all means in the end. So, I suppose this is the best way I could end this, with a few great memories and an open heart. Enjoy. Till we meet again...

Remember When It Rained

By: Rini

Chapter 13: Remember When It Rained

Three Years Later

" Must you really leave?"

" You know I have to."

" For how long?"

" Just two months. Once I'm there I'll get settled into the apartment and have everything sorted out. My job is only a few blocks away and so is the school."

" Will I get to see you again?"

" My Serena," Darien cooed as he took my chin in his hands and kissed me tenderly," How could I ever keep away from you?"

I tried to smile, I honestly did, but it was just too much of a burden to bear. I tried to look away, doubt clouded my eyes and I knew he'd be able to see right through it. He wouldn't let me though. He wouldn't allow this moment to fade away. All he had right now was this moment. He wanted to savor it.

" Serena you know I love you."

" I know," I replied through a few tears that managed to fall.

Darien wiped them away with the pads of his thumbs.

" I'm sorry. I promised myself I'd see you off with a smile. I promised I wouldn't let the last time you saw me be with tears. I failed."

Darien held me close," Hardly. I wouldn't have this moment play out any other way."

" Can't you just stay here? With me?"

" Serena. I'll only be in New York City. Once I get settled into the apartment my father paid for it'll all be easier. You know my new job is out there and so are the classes I'm taking. Just nobody gets hired down there like I did. This is big for us. Besides, I'll call you every moment I can. It'll get so bad you'll wish I went away farther."

I laughed. He always did that to me.

" Look on the bright side. New York is only 5 hours from here. It's like a hop, skip, and a jump away. You'll be able to visit me anytime you want."

" I know."

" What about you? My big time writer over here. You only have 2 and a half years left and you can get that degree you wanted."

" It just won't be the same here without you."

Darien hugged me," Just two and a half years left. Then you can come with me and we can start a new life together."

Darien pulled out of his coat a small black velvet box. My eyes widened as I felt a wave crash over me. He opened the box to reveal a stunning sapphire heart shaped stone set in a ring of white diamonds on a golden band. The ring looked expensive and absolutely beyond gorgeous, but it was what the ring was that made me shiver. Darien took the golden ring out of the box and slipped it on my ring finger.

" Together. No matter what becomes of us, we will always have each other. Always and Forever."

I held the hand with the ring over my heart and smiled through tears that were too happy to fall.

" Together. Always and Forever."

We embraced and kissed passionately as we refused to let each other go for just one more moment. Soon enough, the announcement called out in the airport for Darien's flight. I let go of him and the wave of euphoria was quickly evaporating.

" I guess this means good-bye."

" Not good-bye, just see you soon."

Darien kissed my forehead and hugged me one last time. He grabbed his stuff and went to make his way through the boarding gate. He swiftly turned around though and stopped.

" Remember Serena, a promise."

I held my ringed hand in the other.

" No. A guarantee."

Darien smiled and went through the door. That was the last time I saw him. Before long, the plane was completely boarded and airborne. The once massive aircraft became a small dot on the horizon. The only lasting feelings behind were sadness and loss.

I looked down at the ring on my hand, but a voice from my side startled me.

" Excuse me miss?" a elderly woman asked.

" Yes?"

" I saw you with that young man earlier and I couldn't help but see him give you that beautiful ring. May I be the first to congratulate you?"

" Why yes. Thank you."

" You know I met my husband like this. He left for the city and before I knew it, I was there with him 20 years later and with kids. Time goes by so fast."

" Yeah," I breathed," It sure does."

" Well, congratulations on your relationship."

" Thank you very much."

The woman smiled brightly and walked away, taking the hand of a handsome elderly man with hair as white as snow. They waved at me as they left to board their own plane. I stayed just long enough to watch their plane take off as well, silently waving good-bye to them.

I left the airport with a heavy heart and drove for an hour before I made it back into my hometown. The familiar streets seemed empty and desolate when you have no one to share them with, no one to bump into with. I looked down the long road leading home and decided on making a right instead. I drove through hidden trails and groves before I made it where I needed to be.

I parked the car and made the well-known journey to the top. I gazed out into the valley that was everything to me once from a place I had been too far too much, but oddly not enough times.

This was our place. This was our lookout. This is where Darien first said he loved me.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath of the country air I've known all my life. I'm already 19 years old. I've been in college for a year and a half already. My college is the same one Travis went to for English as well, him as a teacher and myself as a profession. Our school was only 2 hours away from home. Travis, Lita, and myself rented an apartment together and are spending our college days there. Lita went to a different school from ours, but it was only across town so it was like she was always there anyway. She studied art and sciences. Travis and I took most of the same classes together, so we were always with each other.

Andrew decided on a school not far away either. He went for athletic health care. He wants to be a sports doctor. It was always his dream to mix his love of sports and medicine. My brother already graduated from college for culinary and moved out to buy a place with Andrew. Those two plan on leaving to Seattle once Andrew graduates in a few more years.

Darien, he was different. He went to school for business. He decided to follow in his father's footsteps after so long. He applied for classes here for two years and the rest at a place in New York. Once he finished his courses and got his degree, he'd join his father at the corporation where he worked.

Which is what left me where I am. Darien finished his classes a month ago, but it felt like only yesterday he told me he'd finally decided to go to school. He looked so happy then. I was so proud of him. He finally started to make plans for a future.

" A future together," I spoke aloud.

Four years. It's already been over four years, but it feels like a dream. Never have I ever been so happy in my life before. This has been simply perfect. I almost have to laugh. I sure have seen my fair share of bumps along the road. This has been anything but easy. It's been anything but perfect.

Looking back on it now, I can see that it not being perfect is exactly what makes it just that. Perfect. I remember all those feelings that I refused to feel and the ones Darien refused as well. I look back and suddenly the road seems so much longer. Was it really four years ago that I felt alone and unwanted?

Four years. Saying it over and over makes it feel longer and longer. I remember how I looked then. I tried to hide myself behind frames. I believe that eyes are the windows into your soul. I honestly believed that if anyone looked into my eyes, they'd see the despair and emptiness behind them. I had never felt more alone in my life before. So many issues that went unresolved. Things left unsaid. Things I should have had the courage to do.

It all changed when I stopped thinking of me, and thought of all of them. I was so worried and lost in myself that I forgot about the people that truly mattered. I never let myself grow up because I never allowed myself to think out of myself. I was always trapped within a gilded cage, a bird desperate to fly. I worried so much over my own problems that I forgot that this world wasn't only about me. Once I finally let myself love, I set myself free.

I look back on all those pictures of myself. It seems I never grew out of that shy, quiet, loner persona I had been branded with. I truly allowed myself be branded that because it was my own perception of myself. Sure, I acted differently around different people, but for the most part, I was the same. I realized in my most fulfilled moments, the only one who can ever brand you is yourself. I chose to let myself think I was the quiet girl, not because I believed I was, but because I believed that's what they wanted of me.

Look at me now. I have more friends than I can ever imagine myself having four years ago. I let myself go out and laugh and smile. I don't need to be afraid any more. Why should I? People need to feel. Why should I be afraid of someone seeing me smile? Why should I fear letting myself go? After all, we all need to fly once and a while.

I always remember the one thing Lita told me. Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. I used to laugh every time she said that. I thought it was nonsense, but she was right, as always. We all have to get old, but only we can decide for ourselves to mature and develop. Sure, I'm not so short any more and I've grown out, but I still see the same old Serena as before. I still see the girl who argued over a cloud and had more klutz attacks then 100 people put together.

When it's all said and done, I'm still me.

Sure, the clothes changed and so has the address, but I'm still the same girl at heart. I still stay up a lot later than I should. I still eat way too much junk food. I still laugh at all the silliest things. I smile when I listen to people. I overreact when I shouldn't. I know all the lines to all the movies. I still swoon over shoes. I still put on glasses when I go to read. I'm still the Serena they all knew.

Only better.

I'm not afraid of feeling anymore. I'm not afraid to say what it is I need to say. I don't hide anymore. Life is just too short. I let myself cry when I need to. I smile just because I can. I love being with the people I love. They don't judge me. They just love me.

As for my unresolved problems, I'm working on them. I sat down with my dad one night and worked through all the feelings left behind after all the battles we fought. Sure, we both have a lot of battle scars and they will take time to heal, but at least we wear them with pride. We talked for hours and hours and got everything we needed out on the table. Maybe it isn't all solved, but now we know at least we tried. We even made a promise, as long as we both have each other in one place together, we'd spend one day a week just the two of us.

We've never missed a day yet in over 4 years.

As for Mina, we had a conversation of our own. I told her what I thought of her and, a tissue box later, we got through all the barriers we put up in the past years. She admits to being jealous of me for some time, being with Darien and all, but it wasn't that she was jealous of alone. She was jealous that I found a way to make myself happy and beautiful on the inside and out. I never realized how unhappy she was deep down. I guess I learned just how the other half lives. To think, I was always jealous of her and here she was hurting.

I also worked through my issues with Krystal, Dawn, and Jennifer. One long sleepover together made us as close as sisters. Yeah, they are a state away and much older than I am, but since when has that ever stopped me before? We started to spend quite a lot of time together.

This year, we all went to Florida. Next year, it's Cancun for a week.

Just the five of us.

Travis and Lita. Those two I swear are my soulmates. I have never met two people who understood me even better than I do. Those two will be my family for as long as I live. After that night with the picnic, I listened to them. I wanted to change. I wanted to be able to accept things as my responsibility. Who better then your best friends? Sure we had some rocky moments, and Travis still says it's a lion, but you never forget the important things. You never forget the long stormy nights of tears and confessions.

Besides, we all need someone to fall back on.

Did I fail to mention it wasn't a lion, it was a bunny?

I laid out on the grass and looked up at the sky. It was a bright spring day. Spring break was only two months away. Two, excruciating long months until I get to see the love of my life. Remembering the past, I always find myself right back at Darien.

Meeting him, I once considered my greatest downfall. He was rude, never appreciated me, and ignored me, but through all that, I loved him. I loved him despite his faults, and trust me; there were a lot of them. I loved him even if he would never love me back. I knew I would continue to love him and hold a place in my heart just for him for the rest of my life. Even if he never knew.

Darien always had a way of opening me up, be it anger or joy. I remember all the times when he would be with my brother at the house and say something that would make me laugh. I'd try to cover it up, but I just couldn't hide the grin. I remember the times he teased me, even the times he just looked at me and made me smile. I remember them because they are so uniquely Darien.

There sure have been a few moments when I thought this would never happen. I'll admit, for a while there, I thought these days would never come. Sure I hoped it would, but I was really losing faith for a moment. Leave it to him to make me believe again. Leave it to Darien to make a dreamer out of an angel. Leave it to him to ride up on his white horse and save his beloved.

That night of the picnic doesn't go by a day without us thinking about it. We made a vow that day, that we would make this work. So he hides things because he's afraid to admit them, but he brings the faith out of me that knows we can work through anything. He gives me the passion I need to get through the days and work for what I dream for. He always told me I was a dreamer. To that I replied, he was always my dream.

He has seen me in some of my weakest moments. He came with me one day to put white roses and lilacs against the tree my mom and I would always picnic at. I placed them there with him one fall day when the leaves were vivid shades of orange, red, and yellow. He told me this would be the best way to make peace. I told him I would never forgive her. He just nodded and let me go. The moment I placed those flowers on the ground, I cried. That large burden I carried for so long was finally gone.

But then again, so is the power of forgiveness.

I know I will never forget and I know I can never forgive.

But I'm one step closer to letting it go for good.

I sighed as I opened my eyes and let the petals of flowers glide on the wind pass me. I sat up and just looked at the town. Who would have guessed I'd be sad to leave it one day? My best and worst moments have been here. Things I'd like to forget and things I know I never will. This will all be branded on my heart. The smell of the trees during autumn. The feel of the fresh grass between my toes. Long walks at night. The bruises as a kid at the baseball park where I spent so much time as a kid growing up.

" Man, what a sap I've become."

But I had to laugh. They always called me Hurricane Serena for some reason. I laughed some more. I guess I really am a whirlwind of emotions.

Be it the parties, the picnics, the dances, the songs, or the memories, there are just some things you never forget. There are just some moments that are too precious to ever let go. I know when I'm old and gray I'll look back on all these times and smile like I did then.

I can't forget the people who made me who I am. I can't forget the moments that defined me as a person. I can't lose the times where I remembered what's worth fighting for. I can't let go of the stolen kisses at twilight and fantasies of a child. I can't let go of the fights, follies, or joys of a person discovering herself as best she could.

But, there will always be the one moment that I will cherish most. There will always be the one time I'll reminiscence of. There's always going to be that one moment that started it, that caused a chain of reaction that will never stop. The moment that makes me smile, cry, and laugh all at once.

I know that no matter what happens, no matter what becomes of Darien and I, no matter what future we hold together, I will always….

Remember When It Rained.