We stayed in the hospital for a month.
During that time, Iggy got used to his newfound sight, Nudge helped him learn to read, Gazzy went stir crazy and nearly blew himself up, and Angel and I just did whatever we pleased, but it was hard to enjoy myself with the knowledge of death on my shoulders. Caesar's Palace wouldn't ever leave me alone.
We borrowed a car and took two vans back to Mom's house is Mesa, Arizona. The car trip was silent, with no one really having anything to say. It was all too surreal. I was in Stella's car along with Fang and Angel, who looked at least a bit happier than myself.
As we passed by a shopping complex, I saw they had a Dollarama. "Can we go in there?" I asked, not to sure why I wanted to go in there.
Sure enough, minutes later I found myself in the dollar store. Everyone else was waiting in the car, and I fingered the crisp five-dollar bill Stella had given me.
I went through the rows of stuff. Most of it was junk and would break easily, but near the back I found the section I was looking for.
The blank journals stared at me. Some of the journals were sparkly and had ponies and others had trucks- but near the edge of the row was just the one I was looking for. It was brown leather and made with surprisingly good quality. It had a blank cover, and a piece of yellow ribbon hung from the top of the spine to mark the owner's place.
Grabbing it, I walked over the cashier. A teenaged boy with slicked-back hair asked, "Is that all?"
"Yeah," I said. "Thanks."
I slowly opened the door to my room, and closed it behind me just as quickly. How long had it been since I had truly relaxed in here?
It was sunset, now, and light came through the window behind the bed. The bed was done up, which I found curious. I laughed- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was lying on the bedside table. It was the book I was desperately trying to read before this whole mess started. It had been really good, too; I would try to read it now that everything was…done.
The desk on the right side of the room was still there, also cleaned off, devoid of anything on the surface. Knowing Ella, the mess would all be stuffed in the drawers.
Ella herself was still at Lucia's friend's house. Mom was going back to pick her up and apologize for leaving her there. The rest of the Flock, having arrived at the only place we knew as home, had scattered to their respective rooms.
The journal, still in my hand, was then thrown onto the desk. I sat on the chair and stared at it, then opened the desk, not exactly sure what I was looking for.
Something at my door caught my attention. I held my breath, practically waiting for it to come crashing down and someone come rushing in, asking for my help to save something. I was wrong; the person knocked again.
"You can come in," I called nonchalantly, turning to my visitor. It was Fang. He looked...older than usual.
"Hey," I called, as he came up behind me. He put his, warm, strong hands on my shoulders.
"What's this?" he asked softly, gesturing to the journal. I had hidden it from him when I had gotten back into the van.
I shook my head, trying to rub out an annoying knot in my hair. I decided to tell him the truth. I picked it up and flipped through the blank, lined pages. "I don't know- I just had a whim to buy it."
"I think I may know." He gently plucked the book from my fingers and leaned casually on my desk. "But there's no way I'm telling."
For some reason, that didn't bother me one bit.
"This whole thing's been extraordinary," I whispered, not really directing it to him.
"No kidding," he said, and put the book back. "Max, maybe the book can help. You know, with everything."
I didn't meet his eyes. I couldn't.
But no, Fang lifted my chin with his hand. "Think about it," he said, kissed me softly on the lips, and was gone as the light shifted through the window.
I looked at the leather-bound, black book, no bigger than my palm. How could this thing hurt me? I breathed in and out slowly and opened up the desk. I pulled out one of Mom's best pens; a gold ballpoint that wouldn't come off of anything, an idea slowly coming around.
On the cover of the book I wrote in a neat, tidy, script. I leaned back to examine the work. It was one word to sum everything up: Conundrum.
What else could I put? A conundrum was a complex problem that required a lot of hard work and tough thinking to get through.
I was pretty sure I qualified in that area.
The next step was both the easiest and the hardest.
Outside, the wind blew against the house, the trees swaying. And they always would- that much, I knew for sure. I was sad beyond belief at the recent events, which I still refused to think about. But I would eventually confront them, defeat them, and move on.
Perhaps Fang could help me with it, and I could take some ideas from the planner Fang had found in Jeb's pocket.
For now, though, I just needed to think.
As the light continued filtering through the window, the birds swooping outside in the summer's last rays, I began to write. I creased open the first page, grabbed a new pen, and took a deep, satisfying breath.
"Well," I said to myself. "Here goes!"
And I wrote:
In the end, you could say the whole experience would change the Flocks' lives forever.
Well, this isn't the end, now, is it?
This is the beginning.
And the beginning we will start at.
A/N- If you don't understand the end, go back to the beginning.
A humongous thank you goes to disneydork who has put up with my hundreds (literally) of phone calls and emails concerning the story. This story was completely un-beta-d, but many ideas went by her first, as did every scene that didn't feel right.
Another thank you goes to YOU, the reader, for putting up with my procrastination. This story, with author's notes, is 282 pages, which is novel-sized. If you've stuck through with the story since the beginning, a sincere congrats, seeing you've just finished a novel. I promise to respond to every review for this chapter/epilogue. Honestly. Truly.
I find it funny that after posting chapter 33, my word count was 102, 102. Sick.
I have two MR story ideas that will be posted eventually, and a story in a different fandom that will be uploaded soon as well.
Go check the new chapter names. It's taken from chapter 27, and it also explains why I needed 34 chapters exactly.
Again, thank you, and I guess this is goodbye.