It was hot for Boston, even for June. I was sweating as I walked across Harvard Square, but the heat was the last thing on my mind.
The air conditioning enveloped me as I pulled open the heavy door and stepped into the library. Normally, I would have made a beeline for my usual study spot, a cozy armchair in the third floor room that housed the majority of the American History books. But finals were over, all of my papers turned in, and today, I was on a mission. I passed the circulation desk and headed up the back stairs to the reference room.
I didn't spend much time in the reference room, but I still knew my way around. I'd practically lived in the library during my first two years at Harvard, and by now, there was very little I wasn't familiar with. Still, as I neared the shelf I needed, my pace slowed. Was I really ready for this? Did I even want to know?
I had spent virtually every waking minute for the last two years, since I arrived back home in September 2007, trying not to think about William Tavington. As he had been involved in virtually every memory I had from the time I had been gone, that basically meant I didn't allow myself to think about any of it. But I couldn't keep my life back then—or William—out of my dreams. And maybe it was stress, but lately I had been having more frequent, and more intense, dreams about him than ever. I had the oddest feeling, like something between us wasn't quite settled; and, impossible though I knew that to be, I couldn't shake it.
I stood for a moment, looking at the rows of shelves and twisting the ring on the fourth finger of my right hand—I hadn't been able to bring myself to stop wearing my wedding band, though moving it to my right hand generally prevented awkward questions. "Come on, Jess, get a grip," I muttered to myself, and walked forward into the stacks that contained the Who's Who books. As I pulled out the volume containing the T's, I let out a breath I hadn't known I'd been holding.
Part of my rationale for looking William up now was of a pragmatic nature: I was studying abroad in London for the next academic year, and I wanted to see if there was any sort of memorial to William's family in England that I could visit, though I knew that was highly unlikely. And the other part…I thought that maybe, if I saw his name on a page (something I had steadfastly avoided in my academic reading—a difficult task, as I was an American History and Archaeology double major), it might make him less real to me. Easier to let go of.
I flipped through the book, glancing at the names on top of the pages to guide me. Talleyrand…Tapley… "Tavington," I breathed, willing myself to look down at the page below and absorb whatever kernels of information it gave me.
Taking a deep breath, I looked down and began to read, savoring each word. "Tavington, Sir William." Sir? Well, that was obviously a mistake. I'd have to write in to the publishers. "Born 1752, Liverpool, England." At least that part was right. I looked down at the next words, and my heart nearly stopped.
"Died 1833, Shropshire, England."
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AN: Well, there it is. After more than a year and well over 100 000 words, this story has come to an end. I hope you've enjoyed it, and I want to thank you for your encouragement along the way. When I started writing, I never envisioned that this story would go anywhere past the first couple of chapters, but you all gave me the motivation to continue, and I appreciate it sincerely.
As was probably evident from the epilogue, I am planning to write a sequel, though not immediately. I would appreciate any sort of constructive criticism you might be able to offer—anything you liked about "The Colonel's Lady," anything you didn't, what might have been unclear, characters you might want to know more about.
On a related note, before everyone starts flaming me for making Bligh a time-traveler seemingly out of nowhere, allow me to say that he has been a time-traveler from the moment his character was created, and I've tried to drop in subtle hints along the way, but not so many that it would be obvious; if you look back at some of his scenes, perhaps you'll find some anachronisms about him. I hope I've succeeded in surprising you! (And now that I've had my say, you may flame as you see fit.)
Finally, I have to thank TTT, purveyor of plots and faithful beta, who has been there from the very beginning and without whom this story would simply not exist; and SSS, whose turns of phrase and general support have assisted me throughout. This last chapter is dedicated to Lieutenant Bligh, Lieutenant Lawrence, and Ensign Sir Henry Milner, fine gentlemen all, who have impacted the story (and my life) in ways I could never have foreseen. To you, good sirs, I say: Huzzah!
Catch you all on the flip side :-)