I don't know what to say. I don't think I have realized it really is over, yet. If I had, I'm sure I'd be crying my eyes out, because this story has become so much more than I expected it to.
When I started writing Of Love And Shadow, in a boring Sunday at my mother's house, I wrote three pages I and thought they were a lot. I laugh now, because in the middle of the story I started to write nine-page long chapters, and even those look small right now. What I mean is that I never thought it would become so big, and I never thought I'd dedicate this much time to it. It's been an amazing journey, and doing it with you guys just made it better.
I have an enormous list of people I have to thank, but not too much time. So first of all, I'd like to thank the three people who acted as my beta-readers since the beginning of this fiction: Roxy (Thank you, my love, for your brilliance and support towards everything I do. You're an amazing girl), Katie (I have no words. You are my inspiration and my support, my treehouse girl and one of the most talented people I know. I could not have done this without you) and Kayla (my dramatic girl, who is so spectacularly talented in everything she does! Kayla, your last minute betas and your support will be in my heart forever).
There are a few more people I'd like to mention, that have played a part in my life and served as an influence for this story and for myself. Ceci, my girl, you mean the world to me. I couldn't have done this without you either, because you were the first person to review this fanfiction and one of the few people who got to have some real influence in it. Your reviews gave me the will to go on, and I can't thank you enough for being who you are in my life. Clarisse, you are amazing. You wait for me to update, nudge me and still have the patience to go through my chapters when I don't have a beta. I don't know what I'd do without you, girl. And I will always remember how much we laughed together when I was writing the first skate sex scene. To my Skate Family, the hardcore old-school skaters, my people, my home. Even though most of you guys aren't here anymore, you deserve to be mentioned. You gave me the support I needed to start this fiction and to keep it going. It's to you I dedicate it.
To everyone who reviewed, you made this happen. And I'm sorry some of you didn't stick to the end, and thankful that others did and endured my constant lateness and moaning about how my life sucks. You're the ones who make it suck a little less.
In two words: Thank you.
(Here's the second part of the Chapter. I hope you guys like it as much as I do. The sequel is on it's way, being planned and I wanted to try and start it before easter, but I'm not sure. Well, you'll see it in it's due time. Once again, thank you for walking me through this journey. It was one hell of a ride.)
Chapter 29 – Part II
Kate stared at the scene in disbelief, her features frozen. She couldn't react, she didn't know how to. Sawyer was in a gurney, dead. Christian was calling his time of death, and Kate could hear him clearly.
"Time of death, 2.56pm"
Time of death. Time of death, time of death. Those three words rang a bell in Kate's head, getting mixed with the feelings she'd had five years ago. Time of death. She had heard Christian call Tom's time of death five years ago, and now here he was, calling Sawyer's. But it couldn't be real, right? Because Sawyer wasn't dead, it should all be a bad dream.
Kate purposely clenched her fists, forcing her own fingernails into the skin of her palm. Damn. It hurt like hell, so it wasn't a dream. And no, it wasn't reality, it couldn't be reality. Sawyer couldn't be dead, could he? He couldn't possibly be gone from this world.
Kate watched the scene for a moment, and saw it as the coroner, who seemed to be friends with Christian pulled the gurney to the car and closed the door. "No." Was the only word Kate was able to mutter while she witnessed the disappearence of the body inside of the car.
In a sudden movement, Kate brought her hand back to her face and felt it wet. She was crying. Why would she be crying? It wasn't real, was it? It couldn't be, so it would be silly of her to cry. Right? It wasn't reality, it was some kind of mind trick her brain was getting into, and that she didn't want to endure.
Kate raised her eyes to the mirror and saw her pale face, her expression begginning to crumble. No, no, it couldn't be happening. She couldn't cry, she wouldn't cry because it would make it real and Kate didn't want it to be real. But it was. And the reality of the moment struck her like a lightning bold, making her shiver.
"No. Don't leave me." She muttered, allowing herself to start crying. "Please."
Looking forward again, Kate saw Christian, and he recognized her car, preparing to move towards her. She didn't want him to, she couldn't allow him to. If Christian told her he was dead, there was nothing more she could do, there would be no more dreaming, no more illusion. No more pretending it was an alternative reality, no more pretending it was all a hallucination. And no. She would not be brought back to reality.
Pressing her feet against the pedals in a swift move, Kate started the car and moved past Christian in the street, trying hard to keep her eyes open and to see what was in front of her, with all the tears. Driving furiously through the streets of Boston, Kate took a turn to the beach road, the one thay had planned to take on their way to the South. Soon she was all alone, with Ella sleeping on the backseat and nothing but the sound of crashing waves on her right side.
Without knowing exactly how she did it, Kate drove for over an hour without thinking. It was sort of a defense mechanism, a way she had to cope, to react with a delay that allowed her to put things in perspective even before she had time to feel them. It only happened when the shock was too much for her to bear, when she knew she wouldn't be able to cope. When she knew she would probably be tempted to take her own life over the grief she was feeling.
So she did, she drove in automatic pilot for a while, not thinking about anything, until the moment it hit her. It wasn't like she expected it to hit so soon, or so strongly, but she knew it was inevitable. It came in the saddest way possible, the memory, the rememberance of him. She felt his hands on hers, on her neck, his lips on her shoulder as she drove. She would never have that again. She would never have him, his hands, his scent. She would never feel him pressed up against her like she had felt him two days before. She wouldn't feel him again.
Hit the brakes, stop the car. She pulled over and stopped the car in a deserted area, two steps away from the beach. Ella was still asleep, there was no one around. No car in sight, no houses in sight. The beach was deserted, in the chilly afternoon of that autumn day, and Kate felt the wind on her face as a rebound of energy on her body. She opened the window a bit and locked the car, leaving the sleeping figure of her daughter inside. She would only take a minute.
Kate walked clumsily towards the sand, approaching the ocean. Her steps were erratic, like a child who had just began to walk. And in a way, that was exactly what she was, a toddler, learning to take her first steps in a world she didn't exactly recognize or want.
"Why did you do this to me?" Her voice was low, determined. She was beyond the state of shock now, she had passed on to the anger of having him leave her without a warning, without a chance to say goodbye. And suddenly, the low voice wasn't enough. "Why did you do this to me?" she was screaming now, repeating these words like a mantra, trying to make her voice overcome the sound of the waves, and failing miserably. "How could you leave me alone?"
"Well Freckles, if I intended to do that I wouldn't be here right now, would I?"
Her head turned, and her body followed. He was there. He was right in front of her, standing in the sand. His shirt was ripped in the shoulder, with what seemed like dry blood coming out of it. He had a smile on his face, the usual dimpled smile that drove her crazy.
He was there, in front of her. And suddenly, the same sense if alterative reality that had hit her when she'd seen his dead body was brought back to her mind. He wasn't really there, was he? It was her mind, this time. It really was her mind.
"You're not real." Kate took a step back, her features frozen. "You're dead."
Sawyer looked confused. "You didn't talk to your father-in-law?" He took a step towards Kate and she felt herself freeze. His hands grabbed her arms and the materiality of him hit her as a punch. He was real. He was touching her. "Son of a bitch! He didn't tell you what was going on?"
"You were dead." Kate shook her head, unable to stop staring at his eyes.
"Yeah, that's what everybody else was supposed to believe, not you." his words were ragged and low. Sawyer was slowly starting to realize how she had felt, how she had felt his death. It was overwhelming. Her eyes were swollen from the tears, and she was shaking all over; her hands were clenching his arms like she was holding onto him for the sake of her own life and in a way, she was. "Listen, I'm here. I'm alive, Kate, and I'm right here." He didn't know why, but those words were the hardest he had to say in a while.
"You were dead." He laughed a little, pulling her into his arms roughly and kissing the top of her head.
"I'm more than alive, shortcake." He whispered into her ear, and heard a sob as the response. "That Christian guy, though... the man has contacts!" it had the desired effect. Kate raised her head from his chest and looked at him closely, trying to control the dry sobs.
"What was all that, Sawyer? What were you and Christian doing?"
"Well, Freckles, remember when he faked your death, five years ago? Well, he had to fake mine too." Sawyer turned her around, so she was staring at the sea, and embraced her from behind, placing his chin on top of her head. Kate was still clinging to his hands with a strenght he didn't know she had, and it made him feel somewhat powerful. Damn, he belonged to that woman, in the same way she belonged to him. "Kind of pull a Romeo and Juliet on you, you know?"
He could feel her smile. "Romeo and Juliet? How come?"
"Well, we'd pretend I was dead and I'd get into the Coroner's car. The Coroner is a friend of his, and apparently is the same guy who pulled it off for you, kid." He moved a bit, not knowing if he was comfortable enough to touch that issue yet. "Christian would tell you what was goin' on, so you wouldn't be scared when you'd get there. Hell, he must have forgotten that part."
"He must have." Kate wasn't in the mood to discuss the possible ramifications of Christian's actions. Actually, she wasn't in the mood for anything but Sawyer. His presence, the physical form of his body against hers, that she thought she wouldn't feel again was now invading her senses, and she was starting to accept it as a reality. The previous two hours seemed to be no more than a bad dream now.
"So, the Coroner brought me to a place close down the road, where I had a new car waiting, and Chris told me I'd find you here. Hell of a work to spot you, Freckles, if it weren't for your car I wouldn't have seen you." Kate turned around in his arms and brought her hands to his face, touching it lightly.
In a nearly sensual way, Kate brought his face down to her and kissed his lips lightly, revelling on the feeling of his arms around her, on his masculine scent, the mix of cigarrette smoke and after shave. "I'm glad you found me."
"Damn, I'm glad I found you too." He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and smiled. "Christian told me we have some things to do. We gotta burn your car, get rid of the evidence. We have new lives, new identities, we can't hold on to the old stuff."
"I know." Kate smiled a little, looking away. "Hi. I'm Katherine Smith, but everybody calls me Kate." She stepped away from him and threw one hand in his direction. He shook it and smiled.
"Hi there. I'm John Smith, but ever since high school everybody calls me Sawyer." He shrugged when Kate laughed at the name. "Christian said Ella gave him the idea." He withdrew a small paper from his back pocket and smiled. "And by the looks of it, we're married."
Kate opened her mouth and laughed. "No way! He didn't tell me that!"
Sawyer pulled the paper away, not letting Kate see it. She jumped to him like a girl, stretching out to catch it. "Well, looks like he didn't tell ya everything, Freckles."
"Let me see it!" he sighed dramatically and gave her the paper, while she smiled at what it said. She raised her eyes to him again, to find him looking out to the ocean. "Mr and Mrs Smith. How fitting."
"Well, I guess we won't have to worry about spending money on the wedding, right?" Kate nodded at him and took a step closer, kissing his neck slowly.
"But we won't have to skip the honeymoon, will we?" she asked, and he replied by pulling her feet off the ground and taking her in his arms, kissing her deeply.
"Hell, no." He let go of her, and Kate touched his face lightly. "Let's move. We have a car to burn."
It was ready. The car was empty, they had already transfered everything to Sawyer's car. Ella had woken up shortly after they'd arrived at the car, and had rejoiced at Sawyer's presence. Her very own Jonh Smith was with them, and she loved his presence. She had been babbling non-stop until they reached the spot where they would burn the car, and then push it down to the water, where it would hopefully be lost.
Kate had taken some time to explain Ella what was going on. They were starting a new life, and the burning of the car would be like a ritual, a mysterious way to get good luck. Being a firm believer in magic and other divine arts, Ella had found no problem in believing it was actually an enchantment for luck and prosperity, and had been the more excited of the three. At the moment, she was wearing the angel wings she had managed to find amongst the boxes and running around the car, waving her little hands at it like she was commanding an invisible army of fairies, who would be dancing around the vehicle.
Kate looked at her and then at Sawyer, who was observing the little girl with a smile on his face. He was leaning against his car, a hand on his pocket and the other one holding a cigarrette, looking more peaceful than she'd ever seen him. The wind was blowing through his hair, and the playful smile on his mouth brought to Kate such an overwhelming love for those two human beings, that she just felt like holding them both.
Moving towards Sawyer, she leaned against him and allowed him to put one arm around her, pulling her close. She rested her face on his chest and inhaled his scent, loving every bit of it. "Sawyer."
"Yeah." He said, so low she could barely understand him. "What's up?"
"Nothing." She snuggled in closer to him, resting her forehead against his neck. "I just wanted to say your name."
Sawyer swallowed hard and pulled her closed, kissing her forehead. "Wanna do the honors, Freckles?" he passed her the box of matches and the piece of wood they would send into the car.
"Nah, you do it." Kate called Ella to her side and picked her up from the floor. "It's going to start, bug. You ready?"
"Yes!" Ella put her arms around Kate's neck and they took a couple of steps back, getting away from the car. Kate and Ella watched as Sawyer set the piece of wood on fire and threw it to the inside of the car, previously filled with gasoline. He ran to Kate and Ella, pulling them both close to himself. Ella looked at the fire and, distractedly, put her other arm around Sawyer's neck, hanging between the two adults, who shared a look of intimacy and pride that would be hard to erase for many times to come.
"Here we go, girls. The show is about to begin." Sawyer said, placing one hand on Kate's back and pulling her closer to his body.
The car burned down as they watched. The small explosions of provided a show that Ella had considered rather exciting, letting out small screams and giggles. Sawyer smiled through most of it, while Kate saw her life in front of her, what she was made of. For the second time in her life, fire was erasing her mistakes and the realities she wanted to avoid. This time, though, it was different. She was starting over. She was about to start a new life, a new time, a new era. She was finally going to be happy, be alive, be safe with the people she truly loved.
As the fire started to die out, Kate and Sawyer put Ella in the car and told her to hold still while they pushed the car into the dark emptiness of the ocean. Sawyer and Kate took a glance at each other before they started, and while Kate pulled the sleeves of her shirt up, Sawyer gave her a hungry look.
"Hell, never thought you'd look so damn hot doing that." she blushed a little, looking away.
"Pervert." She said with a sly smile.
"You love me like that." she smiled lovingly at his words, and the look in her eyes changed almost immediately.
"I do." He stared at her for a moment, through the yellow light of the late afternoon. She was even more beautiful in that light. And he thought she couldn't be any more beautiful than she already was.
"I do, too." The look they gave each other only lasted a minute, and it was all they needed. It was a look of abandonment, of commitment. They were linked, eternally connected to one another in a deep, irreversible way. There was no going back now, no looking back. Boston was over, the road was ahead of them and they had a journey to make; this journey wasn't just the one they made by car to the place where they would live. It was the journey of their lives, the family they were starting together. The thought of that was frightening and exciting at the same time, like a roller coaster ride they couldn't get enough of. In that look, they both assumed it wouldn't be perfect, it wouldn't be easy. They were both flawed and fierce in their positions, and they knew they'd have to break each other into living a peaceful life. But what mattered in that moment wasn't the difficult part. They had both had enough of that. What mattered was the sense of promise, the new life they had ahead of themselves. The redemption they had been looking for, and that they believed to be found only in each other's arms.
With a mutual nod and swift moves from both sides, Kate and Sawyer pushed the car until it took it's own way down the cliff and fell into the water, being swallowed by it within seconds. They gave it a last glance before turning around and heading to the car, where Ella was waiting with her nose splashed against the glass. Kate laughed and touched her nose form the outside of the window, making the girl move and giggle, and walked around the car to take her seat.
Sawyer took the driver's seat and the wheel, starting the car. "Are you ladies ready?"
Kate took a glance at her daughter, who was smiling while she watched the sunset through the window. "What do you say, Ella? Are we ready?"
"Yeah!" The girl's voice was joyful and childlike, and made Kate turn to the front with a smile on her lips.
"Then I'm ready too." She placed her hand on Sawyer's face, stroking his cheek slowly and touching one of his dimples. "Let's go."