A.N - Er, hi, remember this? Last updated about ten months ago?
I'm totally taking all the blame here - not all of it, of course. Hectic school year can be blamed partly. But it's absolutely not Millie's fault. Anyway, I appreciate that you may not be able to remember the actual plot but, seeing as this is the epilogue, most points should be covered. But, if you wanted to re-read it, feel free. :D
Hope you're all still with us here. We promise, no more tag teams for a while. We always seem to take forever on them. :/
-- Moonlight Silhouette
Epilogue: The Happily Ever After
Ending – noun – 1. A bringing or coming to an end.
2. The final or concluding part.
One Year Later
"Te amo, Marta," I spoke to my sister's grave in Spanish. She'd always loved the language, more so then any of the rest of us, and it felt more private this way. It felt like a secret conversation between my sister and me, like when we were younger and my other sisters were too young to understand what we were saying. "Ahora, y por siempre."
Straightening slowly, I blinked back tears as I looked down at where my sister lay. I was probably being selfish, feeling as I did of the unjustness of having my sister cruelly taken away from me when I did, and not remembering the other families who have suffered as my own has.
The Petersons, for example.
After his arrest, Beaumont had been interrogated profusely until he gave up the exact locations of the four other girls he'd kidnapped and murdered. Taylor's body had been recovered and given to her parents: The absolute worst kind of gift imaginable.
"Jesse." Susannah's musical voice chimed in my ear as she curled her left hand around my arm, sensing when I needed her in that special way of hers. "Your mom wants us back at the house, remember? Come on, it's time to leave."
Silently, I glanced down at the slender, feminine hand that belonged to my querida. Her ring finger bore two pieces: a simple, plain gold wedding band and, above that, the silver diamond ring I'd used to propose to her with. We hadn't been married long – only two months now.
"Jesse?" She asked again.
I placed my hand on top of hers, noting my own wedding band glinting in the sunlight blazing overhead. "Okay, querida. Let's go."
We left the cemetery hand in hand and walked the short distance back to my childhood home in silence, as I didn't know what to say and Susannah knew not to push. She was perfect for me and she always reminded me of it.
Every time I see a picture of Paul Slater, or hear his name over the radio and in the news, I mentally retreat to the wealth of images I had built up of the two of them together, courtesy of the Paul Slater Case.
And every time my grip tightens on Susannah – no matter how imperceptible – as a reflex, she'll roll her eyes and stretch on her toes to whisper into my ear, "Without that case, Jesse, we'd never have met."
For that much, at least, I felt a vague sense of gratitude to the man, though I still resented him for having kissed her and thrown their dates in my face.
At least the rings on her finger proclaimed to the world now that Susannah was my wife, my girl. It was quick, yes, our marriage, but that was in part due to my newfound realisation that someone you love can be taken away from you before you're ready. I didn't want to waste a moment with Susannah.
"Oh good," mi madre greeted us as we let ourselves in the house. "You guys made it in time." Her smile was wide, but forced, and the glimmers of unshed tears danced in her eyes.
"You know we can't resist your wonderful cooking, abuela." Susannah's teasing was well placed; it had my mother brightening instantly.
"Of course, of course," she flustered. "Come in, sit down." My mother turned a hard glare on me. "How dare you make her walk so far in her condition?"
"It wasn't far, mama," I rolled my eyes. "Susannah is still perfectly capable of walking, at the moment."
And it was true. You could hardly see the slight rounding of her stomach yet.
"Jesse," Susannah's voice took on the pleading quality it did only when she wanted something. I glanced over and, sure enough, her emerald eyes were wide and innocent, gazing in my direction.
"Yes, querida?" I asked.
"Can you get me some food?" I arched an eyebrow at her. "Please? Your baby is hungry."
I felt a smile take over my mouth. She could always get me with that one. Well, for the next six or seven months, at least. Nodding, I walked towards the kitchen and heard the click of the television being turned on and the newsreader announce the latest headlines. Something about a man in his mid-twenties being found murdered late last night. The police had no leads at this moment.
"Hey, Jesse," she nudged me. "That could be our next undercover op. We could crack that case in no time."
"No." I handed Susannah the plate that I'd made up of her favourite foods and settled in beside her on the sofa, my arm curling around her waist to rest on her stomach. "No way. You're not going on any more missions. It's too dangerous."
"Jesse," she told me calmly. "It's my job."
"Maybe," I replied in the same tone of voice. "But that's my baby."
Susannah 'hmpf-ed' but I knew she'd relented her point, the sly smile she was trying to hid kept creeping over her expression. "You only care about your baby?" She questioned. "What about me?" Her lower lip jutted out in a pout.
Many a time have I given in to that delicious pout.
"You know I care about you too, Susannah." I whispered. "I love you."
She smiled. "And don't you forget it."
Chuckling, I settled down, watching the news in blissful silence until Paul Slater's face flashed on the screen, at which point I felt the old insecurities crawl over me again.
"Jesse," Susannah kissed me quickly. "I love you. I'm wearing your ring. I'm your wife and I'm carrying your child. So, I kissed him a few times for my job – and felt absolutely nothing, by the way. It was ages ago. Get over it."
"I suppose you have a point."
Susannah nodded and turned up the volume so we could hear what was being said.
"Paul Slater makes his big-screen comeback this weekend, following some time out following the false allegations of murder he was accused of one year ago." Susannah's guilty expression matched my own, I was certain. "These claims have since been disbanded after the real murderer was arrested and jailed for life five times over – one life sentence for every girl he murdered. Paul Slater showed up to the premiere of his new movie last week on the arm of an unidentified young blonde. Rumours have it; the couple have been seeing each other for a few months now. Do you hear wedding bells?"
"Are you happy now?" Susannah teased. "He's off the market anyway." She frowned. "There goes my plans to marry him, divorce him, steal half his money and set up our children with the best possible chances anyone can give."
This was a test, I could feel it. I'll prove to Susannah, finally, that I no longer view Paul Slater as a threat to our relationship.
"Children?" I arched my eyebrow. "As in, you want more then just this one?"
"Of course," was her response. "Don't you?"
"Yes," I stated seriously. "I was just checking. I love you, Mrs. De Silva."
"Gracías, Jesse!" I groaned at my mother's input, my cheeks burning with embarrassment even as Susannah failed to hide her giggles in my shoulder. "I love you too." She paused. "And you, Susannah."
Susannah was laughing outright now, one hand clutching her stomach as the other rose to brush away tears. She waited until she'd sobered up before she said her next words. "I love you, Jesse. That Paul Slater case was the best thing to happen to me – I met you."
"I love you, too." I murmured against her lips before capturing them, and kissing my wife thoroughly. "Good things happen when my cousin gets hit by a car."
I knew that if Maria had heard that, I'd have found myself whacked across the head with a magazine, but as she wasn't here the only response I received was Susannah's giggles and I caught her lips once again with my own.
There was a time when I once questioned whether I'd be true to my job or my heart, Susannah.
Now, there was no question. I'd give up my job in a heartbeat – give up the title of 'the best in the business' – if it meant that I'd have Susannah exactly where I now had her:
In my arms, kissing her, as my wife.