Epilogue - Posthumous
"Here you go, Mr. Helton."
She feigned a smile. Six weeks had passed since Wyatt's death, and the only times Melinda seemed to smile were when she served her customers. Piper had gone on a vanquishing spree before temporarily retiring to the comfort of her home with a still-grieving Leo, and Chris, Chris spent most of his waking hours at P3, managing his woes away. While the rest of her family stayed frozen in grief, Melinda had moved on, as had the rest of the world. The spell was reversed, she had gotten her job back, and Chez Trois bustled as it always had.
"Excuse me, miss."
Melinda turned, forcing another smile. "And how may I help you today, sir?" A middle-aged blond sat in a booth just as pompously as Mr. Helton had, only he was not seated alone. Across the table sat a younger, humbler soul, dressed in a simpler fashion, who Melinda assumed to be either his lover or sibling.
"A Boeuf Bourguignon for me and a Coq au Vin for Kirk here." Melinda scribbled the order.
"Will that be all?" He nodded. "Alright then, sir. Your meal will be ready in about twenty minutes." Another nod, followed by a "thank you" from Kirk. Melinda walked back to the kitchen, handing a chef the order and undoing her apron. "I'm just stepping out for a breath of fresh air, Joe. Buzz me when the food's ready."
She stood in the back-alley now, awaiting her routine rendezvous with her divine savior who was forever at her service. A familiar stench flooded her senses, making her eyes water and her nose twitch. She flinched as she felt a hand on her shoulder, but didn't freeze anything just yet.
"Okay, how do you do that?" Melinda asked. "Why don't you just orb in seen like most Whitelighters do?"
"Keeps me hidden from the pesky Muggle eye. Think of it as an advanced form of cloaking," Jett explained, "Magic really has evolved since your mother and her sisters–"
"Yes, I'm well-versed in my family history. I know what they've done for us all, the infallible Charmed Ones."
"I see that you're still bitter about being 'normal'," Jett said. "I thought you'd know better by now. And they aren't infallible. Melinda, it's not your fault that he—"
"We go over this everyday, Jett," she spat, glaring at him through teary eyes. "I should have known better. I should have waited. Casting that damn spell was the worst mistake I ever made. N'Ghala said it herself. She would have attacked sooner or later, whenever I fully came into my powers. I made it sooner!" She was yelling now, breathing harder than ever before. "Chris doesn't let me forget it. He blames me and he's right. Mom and Dad barely say anything about it, but they know that it's my fault that he's gone."
Once she had stopped, Jett placed his hands on her shoulders to calm her down. He looked into her deep brown eyes as she continued to hyperventilate for a few more seconds. Once she was stable, he waved his hand across her face, drying her tears with the warm golden glow that emanated from his palm.
"You need to understand that it takes time to heal," he said. "You might go on to be the most powerful witch in the world, but at heart, you'll still be human. Along the way, you'll make mistakes, you'll fall; the spell was just the first of many. But that's why the Elders assigned you a Whitelighter. And if you ask me, I've done a darn good job being your guardian angel." He smiled genuinely, emanating a healing glow that wasn't magic, but his own.
It worked. She smiled back.
"Can't argue with that," Melinda said. "Although… I'll probably need to give your bosses a call about this hobo getup you have going." She pinched her nose and slapped the air around her lightly. "I don't understand why you still need to keep it going. You're invisible for Heaven's sake! And I know who you are."
"I suppose I like being in-character," he chuckled.
"Well, your character needs to take a shower… or five," Melinda said, looking at the time on her wristwatch. "Anyway, I've got patrons waiting on me." She turned away, then looked back. He was gone. "Thank you," she mentally whispered, returning to the restaurant.
Melinda walked out of the kitchen with the Coq au Vin in her left hand and the Bourguignon in her right. She approached the booth occupied by the two blonds with a smile and placed the plates on the table. "Enjoy your meal," she said.
"Thanks. Do you mind taking a picture of old Hiram and me?" asked Kirk.
"Sure," Melinda replied, reaching out for the camera. The instant her fingers grazed the smooth metallic surface, a jolt of electricity ran up her spine and evoked a gasp out of her. Images sequentially flooded her mind, telling her the story of what was yet to happen. Melinda opened her eyes to an appalled Hiram and a concerned Kirk. The latter was her innocent.
"Are you alright?"
She feigned a smile.
A/N: So that's the "end" of this. Melinda finally finding some sense of resolution, even though it's open-ended. I do have many tales to tell of her, and her sibling(s), and cousins, but I'm not sure whether or not I have the time to do so. I am still writing "Torn", but the release dates are indefinite. Anyway, on to the thank-you list.
To Phoenixlighter and (the late) Lady Reyn (aka Tash) for being my soundboxes when it came to this story.
To Active Engaged, for being the verging-on-stalker fanboy and friend he is, for never giving up on this universe, and sticking through.
To Amanda, if you're alive. PJ's the new you! But thanks for sticking with the story.
And to all of my other readers who that have stayed all these years. Thank you for sticking with this story for all these years.
Your feedback is what motivated me to continue writing (and finally finish) this tale. You all truly are special.