A.N - Okay, you guys are going to totally hate me but it had to be done. I have given you fair warning over the past few chapters that the ending of this story will not be happy. It's more bittersweet.
The reason it is posted now - and is probably more angst-ridden than I intended - is because I need to use it as a way of release, if you get me. Let's just say that my mum wasn't exactly helping me deal with what's going on in my crazy soap opera life today.
So, yeah. That's another warning for you guys. It's sad, angsty.
But I quite like the way it turned out.
And if you feel ready to kill me - as many probably will - can you please remember the ending of Titanic? Or Moulin Rouge!? They both end tragically, yet I feel like it doesn't ruin the story that's being told.
It was as hard for me to write as it may be for you to read. If you even decide to read at all.
I will never forget that day for the rest of my life. It was supposed to be happy; supposed to be the day that Jesse took me away from Paul Slater and married me.
Instead, it will forever be the day that I shot a man - that I killed a man.
Jesse had been shot, the resounding crack as the bullet left the gun echoed in my ears for days afterwards.
I watched in horror as Jesse collapsed backwards, even whilst keeping the rest of us safe by rendering Paul useless.
The man with whom I was in love lay on the ground with his hand over his stomach, and I could see the effort it took him to breathe. The man who had put him in that position was uncaring, moving to push himself off the ground and retrieve his weapon.
I couldn't let it happen.
So, I did what anybody would do in my situation – assuming anyone who wasn't me could find themselves in this situation at all – and I picked up the gun myself.
"Susannah," Paul muttered from his position frozen on the floor, leaning on his hands as he moved to stand. The gun was pointed at his chest and my clutch on the hilt tightened. "You don't want to do this Susannah."
I think it was the use of my name – Susannah – that pushed me. Susannah was the only name that Jesse would call me, besides querida. To everyone else I was just plain 'Suze'. I was Jesse's Susannah. He, and he only he, reserved the right to speak my full name.
My eyes fell shut and a tear escaped my fallen lids as I finally pulled the trigger towards me, the barrel of the gun aimed steady at Paul's heart. The resulting bang drowned out my cry of Jesse's name before, finally, through the fog that had settled over me I heard the thump of a heavy body falling to the floor.
Opening my eyes, I saw what I had done. Paul Slater was lying on the floor, his eyes wide open in shock, as his mouth leaked blood and the scarlet pinpoint on his white shirt grew ever wider.
I forced myself not to suffer for the crime I'd committed. Paul, he deserved to die. Jesse, he didn't.
His tan face shined with sweat, the sun glinting maliciously off of his forehead, and his complexion was considerably paler beneath his skin.
He was shaking; I noticed when I reached his side.
My hands moved of their own accord to cup his face, tears welling up in my eyes as I saw the pain and the fear that he tried to hide.
"Jesse," I whispered and saw the flicker of love in his eyes that showed me he was listening. "I love you."
He winced then, in what I can only assume was the worst pain that anyone would ever feel. Besides what was breaking in my heart.
I took his hand in mine, the blood sticking to my skin in a ghastly form of keeping us together.
"Suze," Jake shook my shoulder to garner my attention. "Suze, you have to let the doctor see him. Quickly, move."
My head shook in a resounding 'no' as I kept my eyes locked with Jesse's. Another tear fell from my cheek and onto his stained shirt.
"Suze," Jake shouted. "Move."
His hands grasped me around my waist and physically pulled me away from my would-be-fiancé.
Tears cascaded down my cheeks now – in spite of how determined I was not to show Jesse my fear.
Only, Jake was too strong and our hands separated with an ugly sucking noise as if the blood washing both of our hands regretted the loss also.
The doctor moved quickly and noiselessly, attending to Jesse's wound – an effort I hoped wouldn't be in vain.
Then Jesse's body shook viciously, rejecting the pain, and his eyes fell shut.
And remained shut.
"No!" I screamed, thrashing against the tight grip that my eldest stepbrother held me in. "Jesse!"
"Suze," he soothed, his voice whispering in my ear quietly. "It's okay."
"Okay?" I countered, my voice coming out shaky. "How is it 'okay'? That's Jesse! He's your best friend!"
And I loved him.
"Suze, look." His finger pushed its way into my line of sight, pointing towards Jesse's chest. "He's breathing."
He was. Jesse was breathing. It was hard to see, almost imperceptible, but it was there. The shallow movements of his chest moving steadily up and down in its fight for air to keep Jesse's body alive.
My words were mumbled into Jake's chest where he had crushed me tightly. His shirt was soaked in my tears but I don't think that neither of us could find it within ourselves to care.
Jesse was breathing. He was going to be alright.
The day was cold – unusually so for California – and the wind was forcing my hair out of its prison and was instead whipping me angrily.
Cemeteries always creeped me out.
The hand that held my own tightened in support and I glanced up to see the supportive face of Jesse De Silva.
He had been alright, just as I'd said.
Underneath the shirt he wore, there were white bandages criss-crossing his abdomen, protecting his wound from infection.
It had taken days for him to wake up again.
The doctor had claimed it was perfectly normal – the body was going into a state of shut down in order to repair itself.
But it still didn't ease my fear that his eyes would never open again.
When they had, I was with him. My hand clutched his own as it had done whenever I had found myself at his side – which was with alarming regularity.
My eyes had been captivated by the dark, rich brown that held my gaze as his hand weakly twitched in my own.
The tears had started up all over again – born out of relief instead of the grief that forced tears from my eyes right now.
Both times it was Jesse's thumb that moved to wipe away the offending drops of salty liquid.
"We therefore commit his body to the ground." Father Dominic spoke gravely, his voice echoing around the haunting scenery we found ourselves in. "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life."
"It's okay, querida." Jesse's voice whispered to me. "It'll be fine. It will." He stressed the final part, willing me to agree.
I nodded quietly.
"We commend to you, our Lord," Father Dominic continued. "The body of our brother-"
"Be strong, querida."
Jesse's whisper whipped through the trees.
"Hector 'Jesse' De Silva." The pause was long and tears raised, unbidden, to my eyes. "May he rest in peace."
My 'Amen' came a beat after the rest of the congregation's, and I found myself pinned by several regretful looks.
I remained silent, staring at the plot of ground where the body of Jesse – the love of my life – now rested.
The hand in my own squeezed it supportedly.
"Come on, Suze," It was Jake. As always. Reliable Jake, always there for me. Everything I had imagined Jesse doing had been Jake. Jake had supportively gripped my hand and wiped the tears from my cheeks. He was strong, but his bloodshot eyes betrayed the fact that tears of his own had been shed. "Let's go home."
I untangled my grip from his and gestured him away.
"In a minute," I pleaded. "I'll follow on."
After a moments hesitation, he nodded and left me alone at the gravesite.
He'd never opened his eyes again.
The fear I had felt, waiting with Jesse every day – The fear that I would never again see his eyes – was just.
Just three days after his eyes had first fallen shut – taking the bullet to protect me – his breathing had stopped also. His pulse had died shortly after.
The Doctor said that there was nothing he could do.
Two days after that, I was here, standing at the grave of my love and clutching the vibrant red rose I had to lay down for him.
When I finally did, the ring that will remain forever on my right ring finger – the one that Jesse had given to me – glistened cheerfully.
I took it as a symbol of Jesse's love, that he was still with me. And always would be.
That way was easier than seeing the ring and being reminded that I would never again see his face, hear his deep voice or his rich laugh.
I heard his voice again then, ironically enough.
"It'll be okay, querida. It'll be fine. It will." I smiled at his persistance. "Be strong, querida."
My eyes fell shut, trying to do what he'd asked of me.
Then a new whisper found its way into my head.
It was his voice still. It was a request that I couldn't deny.
Unintentionally, my eyes flickered across to where Paul lay buried – my shot had killed him after all.
It wasn't long before my gaze found its way back to Jesse's headstone and my fingers raised to trace the inscription there.
"Here lies Hector 'Jesse' De Silva, Beloved Brother, Son and Friend"
"I love you, Jesse." I whispered, tears steadily falling onto the pale gray stone, staining it a darker colour. "And I always will."
The wind died down and the sun peeked out from behind the dark clouds that covered the sky as the crash of a wave broke the shore.
I shut my eyes, savouring everything nature had to show me before kissing my fingertips and watching as I placed them onto the carving of Jesse's nickname.