(Disclaimer: I am not actually Lemony Snicket.)
It would be futile to warn you not to read this story, because if you clicked on the title of this tale – and I seriously hope you did not – then there is a good chance you have already read the thirteen volumes of A Series of Unfortunate Events, and if that is the case, I can only assume you are a glutton for punishment, a phrase which here means "someone who chooses to read dreary, repetitive books instead of Lewis Carroll's poetry." So I will not bother with a warning and will start to get around to the point of this story.
The night was freezing as I trudged home from the remains of my favorite café, where I had been digging through the ashes for pages of coded menus. While gulping a half empty cup of wormwood tea, I looked up at the stars, which were like thousands of eyes staring back at me with disdain, like the VFD symbol that has haunted me since boyhood and will continue to haunt me for the rest of my days.
Above my upturned eyes, a pinpoint of white light suddenly jumped from one constellation to another. I'm sure you have seen this phenomenon before, and if you haven't, then with all due respect, you should get out more often. This phenomenon is commonly known as a shooting star, but it is not a star at all. It is simply a grain of detritus from outer space that has had the misfortune of floating into our planet's atmosphere, where it instantly burns into thin air, adding to the exceedingly long list of things that end in fire.
Some people think that if they make a wish right after seeing a shooting star, it will come true. But a grain of space detritus can't grant a wish any more than a Lachrymose leech can whistle Row Row Row Your Boat. So as I stared at the sky, I did not wish to see the Baudelaire siblings and discover the answers to the mysteries entwined in their unlucky lives. I did not wish that my niece were relatively safe from the world's treachery. I did not wish to know the location of the sugar bowl. I did not wish that a hot meal were waiting for me when I came home. And I did not wish that my beloved Beatrice had survived the fire which destroyed her mansion, even though that was the one thing I wanted more than anything in this weary world.
Eventually, I arrived at my centipede-infested apartment on Lousy Lane, and when I flipped on the lights I was ambushed by about two dozen people who yelled, "Surprise!"
Each person was familiar, from a woman who resembled Justice Strauss, to three young people who appeared to be the Baudelaires. But the biggest shock came when a beautiful woman in her forties (a phrase which here means 49) stepped out from the group. Her eyes, glowing with passion, locked onto mine, and at this point I spilt my tea and dropped my commonplace book.
"Impossible. You're dead," I said, too stunned to say anything more elaborate.
The woman who looked like Beatrice Baudelaire tenderly held my hand. "No, I'm here. I survived the fire, and I've found you after all these years."
"No," I said wretchedly. "You're an actress sent by the other side of the schism."
"I'm on the noble side of the schism," she insisted. "I want to continue where we left off before I wrote that book explaining exactly why I couldn't marry you."
"I don't believe it." I pulled my hand away. "The real Beatrice was a better actress than you are, and she was much prettier."
The imposter's face turned as red as an agama lizard when it is angry. For a moment she glared, lips pursed and nostrils flaring wide.
"I was right not to marry you after all." Turning to the group of people who had invaded my home, she said, "Stay if you like. I'll wait in my car." Then she stormed (a word which here means "stomped dramatically") out of the apartment.
"Why did you say that?" asked the young girl who appeared to be Sunny because of her sharply pointed teeth. "That wasn't nice."
"You of all people should recognize my mother," said the young woman with hair hanging in her eyes. She hesitated. "You are Lemony Snicket, aren't you?"
"He looks like Lemony Snicket," said a man who I'm almost certain was Jerome Squalor, "but I can never be sure because he always uses the Veiled Facial Disguise technique."
The youngest person in the room gazed beseechingly at me. "Please," she said, "you're my only surviving relative. I wanted our first meeting to be special, so I planned this surprise half-birthday party and invited our most trusted associates."
"I prepared oysters on the half shell for the occasion," said the girl who may have been Sunny, sweeping her hand toward the table, "and a half white, half carrot cake for dessert."
"And we brought you a present," said Quigley (unless it was Duncan), thrusting a gold cube-shaped box into my trembling hands.
"I think Mother wanted to watch Lemony Snicket open his present," said Sunny (possibly) with a razor-sharp frown.
"No, don't hesitate!" urged a man who absolutely must have been Captain Wittershins, unless he had an identical twin, but it's highly unlikely that he ever did. "Open it now, aye! He who hesitates is lost!"
"Or she," added a young woman who was surely Fiona.
If you have been paying attention throughout A Series of Unfortunate Events, you may have noticed that I have a curious and inquisitive nature. Naturally, I lifted the lid, and if I hadn't held my breath in case the box contained the Medusoid Mycelium, I would have gasped in surprise. In the box, nestled in tissue paper, was a white ceramic vessel, a phrase which here means...
"The sugar bowl!" I let out my breath in this exclamation of wonder. With great care, I lifted it out and turned it over to see the VFD eye.
"It seems authentic," I said.
"Oh yes," said my alleged niece. "I verified that the clay is from the Stricken streambed, shaped on an electric wheel, obviously, fired to about nineteen hundred degrees, glazed with high gloss china white number five, and fired again."
Silence covered the room as the supposed Snicket lass stretched her mouth in a pleased smile.
"You certainly know what you are talking about," I said finally. "I hope I don't regret saying this, but I think I can trust you...Beatrice. You're really Kit's daughter?"
Beatrice Snicket nodded.
I shed my first joyful tears in 36 years.
"May I call you Uncle Lemony?" asked the young girl.
"Of course," I said shakily.
"May I hug you?"
"Well, I got a nasty note tapped on my back the last time someone hugged me, but perhaps..."
Young Beatrice wrapped her arms around my waist, and I cautiously patted her on the back until a certain hook-handed man asked, "Aren't you going to open the damn sugar bowl?"
"What? Oh, yes." As Beatrice Snicket withdrew her arms, I took the lid off the sugar bowl, pulled out a laminated paper, unrolled and unfolded it.
I turned to my niece again and asked, "Is this what I think it is?"
"I'm a sculptor, not an architect. But I'm pretty sure it's the blueprint for the new VFD headquarters."
I stood for a moment, overwhelmed by this unbelievable aggregation (a word which here means "collection," as you probably know) of fortunate events, trying to figure out the fatal flaw in it all.
Then I shouted, almost triumphantly, "You've been deceived! Don't any of you realize that the woman who stormed out a few minutes ago is not Beatrice Baudelaire? You must know she can't possibly have survived the fire."
Klaus narrowed his eyes. "Do you think we don't know our own mother?"
I sighed. "It has been a long time since any of us have seen her. It's possible that your memory has been distorted over time."
"I remember her." Sunny clenched her jaw. "I remember her taking off her shoes and splashing in the Fountain of Victorious Finance when I was less than a year old. And I don't like her sitting in the car in this freezing weather."
She stormed toward the door, but before she could open it, the woman who claimed to be Beatrice Baudelaire strode back through the doorway.
"Lemony, I realize you must be very confused, and you might not have meant the things you said. So I'm giving you one more chance."
"I didn't just fall off the turnip truck, as they say in Tennessee," I said. "You probably want to get your hands on the sugar bowl and its contents."
"No, we want you to keep it." Then she added in a quieter voice, "And anyway, Quigley already made a copy."
I threw my hands in the air – but carefully, because I still held the blueprint and sugar bowl. "Then what are you after? The Baudelaire fortune?"
"I own the Baudelaire fortune!"
"Yes, you probably own it fraudulently. You may have fooled everyone else, and if that's the case, then perhaps you are as good an actress as Beatrice was. But there's nothing you can say or do to convince me that you are Beatrice."
"Oh, isn't there? There is one thing I haven't tried yet. She encircled her arms around my neck and planted a wet kiss on my lips. Then she smiled, eyes bright.
"Beatrice was a better kisser than you."
The imposter's face darkened (a word which here means "became red with anger again like an agama lizard") as she put her hands flat on my chest and shoved ferociously. She was stronger than she appeared, and the force of her shove sent me falling bottom first into the half-birthday cake. Without another word, she stormed out of my home for the final time, and Sunny whisked behind her. The older Baudelaire siblings took a step toward the door, then hesitated, looking at Beatrice Snicket, and then at me.
Jerome shuffled his feet and scratched his neck. "Well, this is awkward. I'll just grab an oyster and take off, if you don't mind."
A/N: This fic was born out of my frustration and disappointment over The End's lack of resolution. I made myself laugh a few times while writing this story, which is always a good sign. I hope you enjoyed it too.