So, more than a year later, here it is: the conclusion to A Fool Such as I. A lot has changed in the past year and a half for me… I now live part-time in DC, where I go to school. I have two jobs. I assume if you're reading this, you've either stuck it through with me, or a new reader who saw this update on the main page and decided to start from the beginning. In either case, thank you for reading.
Suddenly, a gust of wind blew my hair in front of my face. Behind me, I heard a quiet crash, a thud, like something falling. Then I heard Marilyn's voice.
"Oh no!" she cried, and even though I had been trying my hardest not to look, to focus my attention elsewhere, I turned…
And saw as the big, black car hit Marilyn, her face caught in eternal surprise. Her body fell to the ground, crumpling. There was less blood than I had expected, and for that I was thankful.
One second. Two. One of her friends shrieked her name. Another one screamed for help. From her limp hands blew the paper she had rushed to retrieve. The black car pulled away. He whipped around the corner, and I looked into the face of the person who killed her.
I caught his gaze for only a moment, but the blue-gray eyes shot through me with an intensity that stripped me bare. The man's dark hair was hidden in the shadow of the car, and his young face was sad.
Then the car sped away.
I shifted back home. It finally worked. I opened my eyes to the faded, occasionally cracked, tile of the coffee shop bathroom. My head throbbed, and I rest my forehead against the cool glass of the mirror for several minutes, until I could see straight. Tears still leaked out of my closed eyes.
I hadn't killed her. I wasn't the one behind the wheel, the One who didn't—couldn't—slow down when He saw the girl dart out into the street. I did what I had to do. One life for the lives of millions. Hell, God told me to stand back.
So why did I feel like I'd just plunged a knife into Marilyn's chest?
After I was reasonably composed, I slipped out of the bathroom. A few people were sitting at the tables, engrossed in their laptops or the San Francisco Chronicle, and didn't notice me. I didn't really notice them. A barista looked up at me with a curious look on his face, but I gave a weak smile and slipped out the door. A glance at my cell phone told me very little time had passed. It was 3:30, the same day that I had shifted.
I stopped at the corner, and looked at the street that now rushed with SUVs and sleek sports cars and mini-vans, on their way to pick up kids from school. A somewhat macabre thought came to my head. Do these people know that a girl died on that street? That a life ended right there? That a young woman's blood leaked over the pavement until there was no longer enough left in her body for her heart to pump, no longer enough oxygen to sustain her cells and organs?
"Susannah?" Jesse came up behind me, and laid a hand on my shoulder. "Susannah, what is going on? Are you all right?" I turned away from the traffic to look at Jesse. He saw the tear tracks on my cheeks, and his frown deepened. "Susannah, what's wrong?" He paused. "You were going to shift back, weren't you? To 1959?"
And suddenly I realized. Jesse and Paul didn't know what happened. When I went back the second time, to correct my mistake, it precluded them from following me and shifting. They never met Marilyn or the young Father Dominic.
"You did what? You shifted back? But when I realized what you were planning, I followed you. You were only in the bathroom for five, ten minutes. I was about to check, see if you were still there, when you burst out. You didn't see me, just rushed out to the street."
"Oh, Jesse. I went back, but I was there for days. You came, and so did Paul. But we got stuck, and couldn't come home." Jesse's face remained impassive, but his eyes belied his calm demeanor.
"Susannah, but you were only gone for a few minutes. Not a few days. Are you feeling all right? Querida, maybe we should talk to Paul… he might know what happened." The fact that he was suggesting we talk to Paul showed how worried he was. But I knew what happened. There was someone else I needed to talk to.
"No. Can we go back to school? Father Dom should be there… I need to tell him some things." Jesse agreed, wrapped his arm around my waist, and led me to his car.
"Good afternoon, Jesse, Miss Simon," the receptionist said with a smile. "What are you two still doing here?"
"Hello, Lianne," Jesse said politely, his hand holding mine protectively. "Is Father still here?"
"Yes, he is. He might be on the phone, but you two can go right back. He's always pleased to see you." He thanked her, and then we passed her desk and knocked gently on the wooden door, opening it when a muffled voice called to us to come in.
"Susannah, Jesse. I wasn't expecting you. Is there a problem?" he asked. I looked over his face, lined with age, searching for the handsome visage of the young man I'd recently met. I was glad that I could find it.
"Father, Susannah had a strange shifting experience… she wanted to talk to you."
Father Dominic frowned, displeased. "Susannah, you know how dangerous that is. Why would you do such a thing?" He sighed. "Maybe we should get Paul; he knows more about this than I do."
"No, I need to tell you something," I said, finally speaking. He gestured to the chairs, and Jesse and I sat down. I took a deep breath before starting my story. "I went back. To when Marilyn died."
"Susannah! Why… oh, no, you didn't!" Father Dom said, stunned. "But, then, why haven't things changed?"
"It's a long story," I said, then I launched into it. My audience listened silently. Jesse had his arm around my shoulders, watching me attentively, while Father Dom wasn't looking at me. He was staring blankly at one of the religious pictures on the wall of his office. But I knew he was listening.
And so I told them—about shifting back, about saving Marilyn and preventing her death, and introducing her to Dominic. About Jesse and Paul's arrival, about not being able to go back. How we kept meddling, and kept being held back. Father D's face changed, from wistful, to nostalgic, to sad, to an expression of bittersweet acceptance.
However, the big part was coming up… the part I was most concerned about sharing. I know this particular audience—two people who can see ghosts, one of whom used to be one—wasn't going to start hauling out the straightjackets, but still… I didn't want them to call Bellevue on me.
"Jesse, you don't remember any of this, do you?" Father Dom finally asked, when I hesitated.
"No, I don't. I found Susannah on the street, about five minutes after she had intended to shift. I never went, and there was no way she was gone for as long as several days."
"That's because I shifted back. Again. From May 5 or whatever to May 1 again, before Jesse and Paul came, before I had saved her. I locked the bathroom door, to keep the other me, the first me, from getting out. Then I… didn't do anything." The guilt returned, and a few tears slipped from my eyes.
"Oh, Susannah," Jesse sighed, thick with sympathy and understanding. He eased himself closer to me and rubbed soothing circles on my back. Father Dom looked so sad, so broken, I didn't know how to continue. How he could ever look at me again. I had just told him that I had, essentially, killed the love of his life.
"Susannah… why would you do that?" I flinched at his words, but he backtracked. "I mean, why did you choose to do that? You were so set on us together… what made you shift a second time?"
I sighed, and bit my lip. Jesse squeezed my hand encouragingly.
"I… I spoke to God." Two sets of eyes flashed to my face, shock evident in both. "I know you think I'm crazy! But seriously. It wasn't like a booming voice from a cloud, or a burning bush or anything. I was pulled into Shadowland, and there was a man there. He was young. And we talked." Neither of them said anything. I groaned. "Please, no straightjackets. I'm serious. Please trust me."
"I do, Susannah," Father Dom said solemnly, over his shock. "I admit, you aren't the first person I'd expect to have an interview with God, but I don't doubt your encounter."
"Please, Susannah… what did you talk about?" he asked, almost pleading.
"He showed me things in the future. Or maybe it was the past. I'm not sure. But do you remember a student named Michael? From the mid-70s?" He looked perplexed.
"Susannah, I couldn't possibly remember all the students I had named Michael 30 years ago."
"Well, he really liked you. You made him like science. So then he became a teacher, and did the same thing for someone else, who is going to cure cancer, or something."
"Well, not cure it, but develop a new treatment. If you hadn't become a priest, you would've sold insurance, or something, and that never would've happened. And that man in the confessional—the one who was going to bring a gun to the shelter." Father Dom's eyes popped.
"Susannah, what… why… how do you know about that?"
"God told me, remember? If you weren't a priest, if you weren't there that day, a ton of people would have died. And babies, too." His eyes shone, and I had a feeling he was holding back tears. "And after Marilyn died, Mrs. Edwards returned to church, and became a counselor or something." Then I scooted as close as possible to his desk, leaving Jesse and his arm behind. I looked at him intensely, trying to make him understand why I had failed to save Marilyn. And, as I explained, I began to accept. "And Father Dom, listen… if I had saved Marilyn, you guys would've been happy. Really. You'd have had five kids and a long life, and a happy marriage. But the man I spoke to—God—said something about how being meant to be and soul mates aren't the same thing… that you and Marilyn were soul mates, but not destined to be together. And then He made me go back and fix things. Because even though it wasn't fair to either of you, to have her die early and you lose the one you love, it saved, like, millions of lives, and made a lot of people happy in ways you probably would never even know."
The room was silent, save a gentle tick of a wall clock. Tears were streaming down my face, and I noticed Father Dom's cheeks weren't completely dry either. Jesse had reclaimed a hand of mine, and held it in two of his own.
Father Dom cleared his throat, then said, hoarsely and hesitantly, "I… thank you, Susannah. I've wondered my whole life if this was what I was supposed to do, or if it was just an extreme reaction to a tragedy. I've tried to trust that I've been following God's plan, but this… Susannah, just… thank you." He stood, walked around his desk, and laid a hand on my shoulder for a moment. "Now, I think I'd like some time alone."
Without another word, he left his office.
A little while later, Jesse and I were laying together on his bed, holding hands and staring at the ceiling in silence. We hadn't said much since we'd left the school, both of us still processing what had transpired.
"There was something else," I said suddenly, turning my head to look at Jesse. He did the same, his eyes questioning. "The guy in Shadowland—I feel so weird calling him God—said that the two of us, we're really rare. That soul mates and people who are meant to be aren't usually the same. But we are." Jesse smiled, and moved his hand up to gently caress my cheek.
"I know, Querida. That is something I've been sure of for a long time. Well, not the 'meant to be.' It was hard to convince myself of that when I was a ghost, as much as I wanted it to be true. But that night, when you brought me back… once my soul was reunited with my body, I knew we were both—you were my other half, and my destiny."
We stared at each other, my eyes tearing again, our gazes never straying. It was too intense for words. So, with a watery voice—
"Wow, Jesse, way to cheese it up." He laughed, and pulled me closer to him, so I was curled against his side, my head on his shoulder and my arm across his chest.
Where I was supposed to be.
Thank you, again, to all my reviewers. To the people who stuck with this story, who gave me a reason to finish it. I hope this ending is worth the wait.