(A/N: Ok here it is – the final chapter! I apologise for spending so long to get this too you all. I've been writing and re-writing this chapter for months and I finally think I covered everything I want to. I'm still thinking of writing a sequel to this story so look out for it and I'll post the first chapter ASAP. I'm intending on calling it 'The Measure of Life Itself' so keep a look out for it else you can add me for authors alert if you are interested. Thank you so much for the great reviews and the amounts of hits you've made on my story I'm really flattered that you would take the time to read and review. So enjoy and let me know what you think. TKAMB aka Becky)
Hours turned to days, then to weeks and before she knew it a month had flown by. The month had been a dull one to say the least. She had spent the majority of it alone either confined to her bedroom or walking alone through New York not knowing where she may end up. She wasn't sleeping like she usually would, often finding herself up all night hardly eating anything either. She was on a new course of medication also which was making her have problems with headaches. Luckily it was only headaches she was suffering from now which her doctors were happy about as the rest of her health was improving but her sleeping and eating habits combined with being alone and her headaches concerned her family. Jane had left to be with her family a week after Nicholas had left which hit Amy hard. Not only had she lost Nicholas she now lost the one person near her age that she regarded as a sister.
"So this is it honey, I'm really going to miss you" Jane said as she held Amy close. The two girls were crying softly not wanting to let go. They stood outside the Life Cafe, Jane's suitcases around them
"Do you have to go?" Amy asked wiping her eyes
"I wish my family were close by Amy but I have to go to them. You understand how family is important; I need to be with them now. I'll be going to Italy in a couple of months to join Nicholas I'll try with all my might to bring him back Amy I promise you that but I can't work miracles. I will try"
"I know you will"
"Here, it's your birthday present. I know it isn't until the beginning of August but since I won't be here I want you to open it now" Jane handed Amy a large box. Jane held it in her arms as Amy lifted the lid and gasped. Inside was a beautiful jade coloured dress with cap sleeve that cut off at the knee. It had an A-line silhouette and a black belt to nip in at the waist. "I saw it and thought you would look perfect in it. I know you've had trouble finding clothing because of your back. That doesn't mean you can't be in style honey. All you need are a pair of heels, a pretty little bag, tie up that hair, throw on same accessories and you'll be ready for the red carpet"
"Thank you so much I love it! See I need you around to show me these things!" Amy commented which brought the reality of Jane's departure back to them.
"I know but I have to go" the girls hugged once more as a taxi pulled up beside the two. Together they put the bags into the boot of the taxi in silence. As Jane opened the door she turned to Amy with a serious look on her face.
"Amy, when I see Nicholas, do you want me to tell him anything?" Amy thought for a moment
"Just tell him ... thank you for everything and I'm ok" Jane nodded and climbed into the car and Amy watched the taxi drive off into the distance not dare moving until it had disappeared from view.
The sound of her mobile phone ringing stirred Amy awake. She rolled over onto her back and blindingly reached across the bedside table feeling around for her mobile. After a moment she finally located it and brought it to her ear. "Hello?" she asked wiping her eyes which were still closed
"Where are you?" it was Roger sounding concerned
"I was sleeping at home if that's alright?" she answered sitting up
"Well you need to get down to the Life Cafe; you should have been here an hour ago. I've been calling every five minutes" he explained and she looked at the clock.. It was 6pm and she gasped. She had fallen asleep just after lunch due to one of her headaches.
"Sorry daddy, I'm not feeling all that great. Make my apologises to the guys I'll be there soon" she hung up grabbed her things and rushed out of the door. She totally forgot that the gang were getting together for a meal and was seriously running late. She thought perhaps Roger would call her back as she travelled but the phone call never came. Silently she travelled across the city occasionally closing her eyes as her headache worsened from the noises of the trams. Despite the fact that it was hot on the subway trains she kept her leather jacket on clung close to her body. She opened the door of the cafe and stepped inside.
"SURPRISE!" Amy took a step back in shock and looked about the room. It was full of her friends and family who were clapping and cheering at her. She saw at the back of the room over the stage was a banner that read 'Happy 16TH Birthday Babycakes'. She looked around the room confused as Roger approached and hugged her.
"I don't understand. My birthday isn't for another two weeks" she said hugging him
"We wanted to get a smile on your face" he explained and she responded with a soft smile
"I guess you got what you wanted"
"How's your head honey?" Mark asked hugging her
"Like I have just had a screw jammed into my temple and someone is slowly rotating it. It's better than it was earlier" she explained softly and soon looked around confused again. "Why are you doing this?"
"We told you honey, we wanted to get a smile on your face" Maureen explained
"You're lying" Amy replied and went to the bar. "Hey Carl, a diet Coke when you're ready and do you have any aspirin?" she asked sitting heavily onto a chair, rested her elbows on the bar and put her head in her hands. Everyone around them went back to the party and was having a good time but Amy didn't notice. She felt as if she and her father were the only ones in the room. "I'm grateful for the party and everything but I know there is something else going on. Tell me please" Amy asked as Roger settled down next to her and she turned to look at him. Without saying a word he pulled out an envelope from his pocket and settled it on the bar in front of her.
Without having to look too closely to the handwriting on the cream envelope she knew the handwriting was Nicholas's. It was addressed to Roger which surprised her. "When?" she asked looking up at him from the envelope
"It arrived three days ago. I haven't replied. I think he just needed to talk to someone so he decided to write to me. He told me everything about what happened between you two. Why didn't you tell me?" Amy thought back to Tom's funeral as Carl the barman settled down her drink and two tablets on the bar in front of her.
"I needed to figure things out for myself daddy. Don't I get to have a piece of privacy?" she asked before swallowing the tablets with a sip on her drink.
"Yes you are entitled to your privacy but when what you are hiding is slowly tearing you apart there is a point where you have to let it out ... He really misses you. He wrote to me because he wanted to know if you were ok. He said that I was the only one who would understand. I couldn't keep this from you like how you kept it from me"
"Don't do that! Don't make me feel guilty because I refuse to" she explained stubbornly. "It is my burden to bare so let me bare it in my own way. That way at the moment is curling up in bed and going to sleep"
"It's not the answer though kiddo" he explained
"It was yours at one time" she added which she instantly regretted it knowing he was only that way after Mimi died, a situation far different from the one she was in. She closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. "I'm sorry daddy ... I just feel so ... angry, alone .... And I'm afraid" she confessed and felt him pull her into a hug.
"Now I know you can have your present because it is time for you to choose" He pulled out a thin box that was about the length of a pencil case out of his back pocket which had a ribbon wrapped around it. She opened the box and saw her passport inside.
"I don't understand"
"You are old enough to know now that you need to decide what happens to you. What your destiny is, so this is your cross road. There comes a point in everyone's life when they need to make a decision that could change everything. This is your cross road. So are you going to go to him or not?"
"But I ... I can't go. I have to stay here. I'm needed here and I'm sure Doctor Barks won't let me go with these headaches and there is also –"
"Also what exactly?" Roger asked crossing his arms and she fell silent unable to answer his question. "I think you are the reason why you won't go. You're too afraid to listen to your heart. Trust in it and decide ... so what will it be?"
Standing in front of Neptune's fountain on a beautifully clear day Nicholas couldn't help but feel a little sad. Although his art course around Italy was going well and being in the peace and quiet of the Italia countryside where he was saying did help him deal with his issues. However every now then he would suddenly think of Amy and how he would want her to see what he was seeing and then he was filled with sadness. He watched her walking bare foot through wine vineyards, having coffee under an umbrella at an outside cafe or reading a book on a swing under a beautiful tree, the beautiful Italian architecture behind her.
Being at Neptune's fountain was the place where he felt the worse. He had debated going to it knowing he had made a promise to Amy to photograph or paint it for her. He had made up his mind not to go but every moment he would hear her voice asking for him to go. Now being there was well worth it. He understood why Amy must love the thought of the fountain and marvel at its beauty. The fountain wasn't as busy as he had expected but he had arrived in the middle of the morning which was when the tourist would be beginning to fill the area. He didn't want to take the picture without any people there as he felt that an aspect that made the fountain so wonderful was the people who flock to look at it. He took a few pictures to test the lighting and smiled at the people around him. There was a man selling ice cream, a child running around the pigeons making them fly up into the air and couples walking hand in hand through the streets. He watched a couple as they walked by and smiled softly as the man stopped and bought a rose for the girl from a flower salesman. He continued to watch as his cell phone began to ring in his pocket.
"Hello?" he asked answering it not breaking his gaze upon the couple
"Hey ... it's me" he instantly looked away from the couple hearing Amy's voice. "I wasn't sure what time of day it was over there. Can you talk?"
"Of course I can, I've wanted to talk you to for so long. How are you?" he blurted out before he could stop himself
"I'm ok ... I've been having these really bad headaches lately. The doctor changed my medication and I'm feeling the side effects. Are you alright?"
"I'm doing better now thanks. I've had a lot of time to think. What time is it in New York?"
"Um it's about four am I think. Time has sort of gotten away from me of late" she explained saddened
"Amy are you alright?" he asked concerned. She was silent for a moment and he heard her beginning to cry
"I don't know! I'm sorry for acting like this it's just hearing your voice again it's made me realise how much I've missed it"
"Happy birthday Amy" he replied softly
"What? It's my what?" she asked confused
"It's 1st August, it's your birthday" he added concerned as he had never heard her sound confused about an aspect of her life that was important
"Already? God how did that happen? I could have sworn it was still June! ... I want to thank you for my present it is beautiful. I wish I could tell you that in person. It was perfect; you didn't need to change it at all"
"You wouldn't believe how relieved I am to hear that" he smiled as the flower salesman approached him. He began to ask Nicholas something in Italian to which Nicholas responded also in Italian refusing his sale
"Nicholas, where are you exactly?"
"I'm in Rome taking your picture of Neptune's fountain. I did promise you after all"
"Thank you so much ... I truly don't know what to say. I just wish I was there. It must be beautiful"
"Oh it is. I know you would love it. The architecture is so stunning you have to see it to believe it" he heard her giggle softly which instantly made him smile. Although it was soft and almost silent it was a laugh that filled his ears and stirred memories in his mind
"I wish I could see all the different aspects of Italy. The people sat drinking coffee, an old man sat on a bench eating an ice cream in front of the beautiful architecture ... or perhaps a little girl in a white dress covered in red poker dots running around with other children feeding the birds"
"Yeah well I wi-" he began but stopped as a little girl in a white dress covered in red poker dots came into his view. He watched the girl break of pieces of bread in her hands and toss them to the birds. In shock Nicholas felt his legs go weak so he sat on the edge of the fountain and looked around the area annoyed that tourists were getting in the way of his view
"Or perhaps a girl whose is older but still with a spirit of a child within waiting for someone all alone at the fountain side. A stranger perhaps? Or maybe a friend who she is desperate to see at the fountain where she is waiting?" slowly he turned his head and looked around at the people sat on the fountain. He looked at each and every one of them then froze. One girl was sat with her back to him wearing a Jade dress. Slowly she turned her head and looked at him over her shoulder, soft tears flowing down her cheeks. "Hello stranger" she said softly down the phone. The amount of time it took for the two to stand up and walk towards each other felt somewhat like an eternity. On the way both hung up their phone ending the phone call they had both wanted to have for months. In those minutes of conversation they had both said in their own way everything they had been bottling up all year. Nicholas couldn't help marvel at how beautiful she looked in the dress with black shoes and her hair up in a bun. She looked more stunning then he had ever seen her before.
"Before you say anything I need to say something first. I don't know what is going to happen between us just as I don't know what is going to happen tomorrow but I trust you so I trust that no matter what happens we are going to be ok. So if you are going to stay here in September I'm ok with that but I need to know that you are ok with me and everything so we can move on. So are you ok with that?" he smiled softly and pulled her into a passionate kiss. For several minutes they remained that way, her arms up around his neck his arms around her waist. When they parted she smiled broadly. "I'll take that as a yes" they both laughed
"How did you get here? I thought you weren't well enough"
"I had a talk with my doctors and they approved it. Anyway that is something we can talk about later. I want to hear about everything I've missed and once Jane arrives we won't get a minutes time alone!"
"Well let's not waste another minute" he said and kissed her softly once more
I'm not too sure when you will get this letter but when you receive it rest assure that I am safe and well and loving the beautiful Italian landscape. I want to thank you for making me realise that if I didn't take control of my destiny I could spiral out of control. I know I hurt your feelings when I said how lying in bed all day worked for you when Mimi died and I regret it every second of the day. I want you to know that I love you and that I am eternally grateful for this gift you have given me. The Italian climate seems to fit me well. I have hardly any headaches and I am having so much fun with Nicholas and Jane. She was so shocked when I surprised her at a restaurant in Venice. Perhaps one day I will return but it will suit me until I return in September for the new school year.
Nicholas asked me to add that he is thankful that you spoke with me also. He said it confirmed to him your character and answered the questions in his letter to you. He also says 'I guess you kept your promise' whatever that means. He won't tell me what he means but I know you will and I hope somehow it will bring you comfort. As you have probably guessed Nicholas and I are officially a couple. I hope you approve of this one this time and I promise you can kick his ass if he breaks my heart (Nicholas would like to add that even he would approve of such a beating if he somehow did that!).
I have good news, Nicholas has decided to return to New York in September along with me and Jane so you can expect all three of us at the airport. I can't think of anything else to say except that I love you with all of my heart and I will see you at the airport on 1st September. I have included some photos from our trip and will show you the others on our return.
Send my love to everyone, stay safe and know that even though I'm far away from you my heart is with you always. All my love
Roger couldn't help smiling at the letter. It was the first time in months he could sense her true joy even though they were written on a page rather than spoken. He flicked through the photographs taken by the three and smiled at the sight of Amy smiling. One picture near the end of the collection caught his attention which would not turn away. It was a picture of Amy and Nicholas taken at arm's length by Nicholas and was up close to their faces. Both were laughing and Amy had her eyes closed as she laughed her face pressed up against his. It instantly reminded him of the photo of him and Amy's mother Sarah when they were the same age. At last he was safe in the knowledge that he had made Sarah proud of how he had raised Amy as she had someone she loved and trusted in her life and was worth holding onto for the rest of her life. A value that Sarah always wanted for her daughter and she could now rest in peace knowing the wish for her daughter had come true.