Author's Note: Hey all! I've just finished reading The Pact and like many of you I'm hooked. Anyway, if I were Jodi Picoult I'd insdert this "chapter" within THEN September 1997 of Part II: The Girl Next Door. More specifically I would insert this section right after Emily's failed abortion, on page 206. The title is Latin for: The ending crowns the work.

I hope you all enjoy! Please review. . .

October 1997

Emily loved autumn. Seeing the yellow leaves of the aspen trees sway, and the willowy branches of a poplar creak in the breeze always managed to perk up her interest after a long day at school.

Everything dies in fall, She thought dismissively, her calico skirt brushing against her bare legs, thighs. Yet no one mourns, since they know spring is just 'round the corner.

She knocked on the art room door- which was rather pointless considering Ms. Kenly expected her. The art teacher always caused Emily to evoke thoughts of the qualities all teachers ought to have. Even now, as Ms. Kenly was sculpting a handsome urn, she merely turned her face toward Em's in greeting. No words were spoken. Their bond was so intimate that words were unnecessary; anybody would- and should- be jealous.

Em knew she would miss Ms. Kenly.

Emily settled herself behind her favorite easel. She ran her calloused hands over and around all the grooves and smooth arcs- her strokes were as tender as a lover's caress. This simple- a bit anomalous ritual was how Em started her work for the day. Em wasn't necessarily superstitious but she believed that the tools and other implements one would use to perform a task deserved a certain level of reverence and care.

It had taken her a month to finally get the skull right. Emily had looked everywhere for a good cranium as a model: the plastic skull Mrs. Bertrand used when she taught her freshmen Hamlet, Mr. Harte's medical diagrams, and even the figure in Kate's Biology text. Nothing seemed to work. Everything was too damn perfect. Em had run her hands over her face and scalp many times distractedly as if hoping that her fingers were x-rays and that she'd be able to project a accurate representation of her own skull on the bare stretch of wall. She remembered learning in Psychology class last year how this man named Gall had developed a pseudo-science called phrenology. Basically, one could determine another's character traits and personality based on the shape of the head. Gall had determined dozens of "organs" for various qualities such as, secretiveness and self-esteem.

Emily wondered often if Chris, in all his explorations of her body, could read her skull. She wondered if he could detect a swollen secretiveness point. Was there an organ for wickedness- a separate portion for a bad girl like her for turning Him on? That was one of the reasons why Em couldn't stand Chris touching her. He claimed he already could read her like a book; imagine what he could find out by simply touching her!

In the end, the skull she used as her model was one she had seen on video while in Anatomy and Physiology. She had asked Mr. Gardner to permit her to sketch the skull during her free, and she was immensely pleased he had granted her permission. It was (for lack of a better term) a lovely skull. It wasn't smooth all over, rather it had smooth contours and faint bumps near the top. Em guessed that this skull was as close as she was ever going to get to her own skull, without carving her own cranium out of her head.

Em yawned deeply. Her father had made her watch TV with him last night in an effort to launch a father-daughter bonding session. They were showing a Quincy, M.D. marathon on cable that night. Em lazily doodled in her notebook, as each episode progressed, but it wasn't until the fourth episode at eleven-thirty that her interest level spiked. The latest victim was a women who had a god-awful hairstyle from the '70s. This women had committed suicide. The character on Quincy had simply held a shotgun to her temple and pulled the trigger. Em felt like she was one with the women on Quincy. When the motive behind the suicide was explained on the show, Em felt more sympathy and understanding towards a fictitious character than she had ever felt towards a real person, expect Chris.

Sketching the skull's sharp jaw, Em pondered why most people chose to kill themselves by shooting themselves in the head. Maybe they thought it was peaceful; you never felt a thing. Em remembered seeing the Quincy victim laying on a gurney. For a moment it didn't seem like she was dead, rather it looked like she was merely asleep or comatose. It was only until the camera focused on the hole by her temple, a frayed circle surrounded by dried brown blood, that you knew the woman was dead.

Em had watched the news reports of people in far-off Boston or Concord slashing their wrists or dying of carbon monoxide poisoning. That method of death wasn't for her. If Em had lived in her own place, carbon monoxide or popping pills would have been an ideal method of killing herself (she always hated the word suicide; she didn't knew why but she could never use it whenever she thought of killing herself)- because no one would find her and save her. Or, in the case of the carbon monoxide poisoning or turning on the stove, she's was scared she hurt her parents or dogs.

No! Em thought furiously. I want to be master and commander of my death. I'll die by my rules: clean, simple, and pain free for me.

Now done with her skull, Em squirted tiny blobs of red and brown paint on her palette. She wasn't planning on adding paint any time soon, but she wanted to decide what shade of scarlet would look the best. It has to be one-hundred and ten percent perfect. Even though I'm less than zero percent perfect . . .

She pulled out a white index card with a smear of red on it. Her own blood. She had cut herself with a paper clip until she had drawn enough blood for a sample. In the baggie with the card Emily pulled out the leaf of her favorite tree- the October Glory which grew just down the lane from her house. This tree, her mother explained, was diseased due to old age and paracites. Therefore it would be chopped down before Thanksgiving. When Emily heard that she wept. She cried and cried, and couldn't stop.

They don't understand, she thought now, unconsciously wiping her eyes with the back of her palm. They don't get how much that tree means to me! Can't they prune off the sickened portions? Can't they let the rest of it live?

The leaf of the October Glory was the most brilliant shade of crimson she had ever, ever seen. It was so lovely, ripe, full and rich that she had to add a combination of brown and gold paint to the palate to match the leaf's color. Then, after blending the mixture, she added a bit of her own blood. There!

Now it's just perfect . . .