I don't own "Angel" by Sarah McLaughlin. That's all I'm going to say.
Roger woke up extremely early on the morning of Collins' funeral to find Melanie's side of the bed cold, but slept in. Frowning slightly, he rolled out of bed and left the bedroom. He stepped slowly, softly down the stairs, squinting when light from the kitchen hit his eyes.
Melanie was sitting at the kitchen table, her head in her hands. But he could see she was awake.
"Baby, what are you doing up?" Roger asked, walking over to her. "It's two a.m."
Melanie jumped. She had not heard him come down.
"I can't sleep," she said. "I'm thinking about Collins. I don't know if I'll be able to make it through today."
"Why not, baby?" Roger asked.
"Burying him makes it real. It means he's really gone."
Roger sat across from her and took her hands in his. "You don't have to be strong all the time," he said.
Melanie started to cry. "But if I'm not, what will the kids think? I don't want them to see me like this, Katie or the others, either."
"Baby, you can't carry the weight of the world on your shoulders like that," Roger said. "The kids will think you lost one of your best friends and Katie and Mark have each other. You gotta take care of yourself, too."
"What about you?" Melanie asked. "You knew him even before me. I don't see you... being like this."
Roger shook his head. "Believe me, I have been," he said. "I just calmed down recently. You remember our conversation from the roof, don't you?" Melanie nodded. "You are experiencing now what I was then. Mark and I talked a while ago. We have to stick together and work through this together."
Melanie nodded again. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "You guys have so much going on right now, yet you're worrying about me."
"Why shouldn't we be?" Roger asked. "You are just as affected by Collins' death as we are."
Melanie nodded. "I guess you're right," she said. She wrapped her arms around herself. "I just hate hurting so much." She stood up. Roger watched her carefully. "I think I'm gonna go get the boys ready for the day."
Roger could see Melanie was clearly exhausted and not thinking straight; she had never handled such stressful situations, like deaths, well, and quite often needed help coping with the stress and pain. Roger vividly remembered two instances when Melanie seemed to have lost it: when her late older brother, Brian, had died during Melanie's junior year of high school, and when Melanie had become overwhelmed at the idea of originally marrying Roger after high school graduation, due to her becoming pregnant with Brianna. Roger wasn't soon going to forget them; he would do anything, if he could, to prevent such traumas from ever happening again.
"Baby, don't," he said, taking her gently by the arm. "It's two a.m. You haven't slept hardly for three days now. You need to come to bed with me. Please come to bed? Come on, I'll join you." He smiled mischievously.
Melanie rolled her eyes and laughed weakly. She loved how Roger's dirty mind could cheer her up so easily, even when she felt so lost.
"But hang on just a second," Roger said, holding up his index fingers in a pausing gesture. He went over to one of the highest cupboards that Melanie could never reach, opened it as Melanie watched curiously with one eyebrow cocked, and he took out a bottle of stoli and two shot glasses. He grinned mischievously again, a playful glint in his eyes. "Collins wouldn't let me tell you he put these up there. He knew you couldn't reach, so you would never find them. If you did, he knew you wouldn't approve."
"What? Oh, no way, those aren't really—?" Melanie asked, surprised.
"Yes, they are, the last surviving stoli bottles of Thomas Bartholomew Collins," Roger said, nodding and grinning.
Melanie couldn't resist; in spite of herself, she laughed. "Oh, my God."
Roger laughed and poured a shot for each of them. He raised it.
"A toast to Bohemia? To Collins?"
Melanie grinned. "Actual reality, act up, fight AIDS."
They drank to Collins, then Roger put away the bottle and shot glasses and took Melanie into his arms. "Feel better now?" he asked.
"Yes," Melanie said, nodding. "Thank you."
Roger sighed, relieved, and nodded wearily. "I love you," he said to her.
Melanie leaned against his strong chest. "I love you, too," she said.
Roger leaned down and kissed her. She deepened the kiss, running her fingers through his long blonde hair. Each felt as though they were patching a hole in the other's broken heart.
At Collins' funeral, each Boho laid a rose on Collins' casket; Melanie first, then Katie, Joanne, Mark, Maureen, Roger, and finally Sam last of all, as he was closest to Collins. Maureen walked to the altar to sing the funeral song. Sam, holding Collins' cap, wiped away her tears. She did the same for him moments later, then Sam went and sat down in the front pew next to Katie and Mark.
Maureen took a deep breath as the piano accompaniment began to play, before opening her mouth and singing.
Spend all your time waiting
For that second chance
For a break that would make it okay
There's always some reason
To feel not good enough
And it's hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction
Oh, beautiful release
Memories seep from my veins
Let me be empty
Oh, and weightless and maybe
I'll find some peace tonight
In the arms of an angel
Fly away from here
From this dark, cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You're in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort here
When Maureen finished singing, there was not a dry eye in the church. Even Mark was crying, holding Katie and his beautiful twin girls close for comfort.
Leo looked up at his mother and whispered, "Is Collins gone, Mommy?"
Melanie looked down at her son, still so young, only five, not sure if she herself wanted to hear this said for real.
"Yes, sweetie, Collins is gone," she replied. "He went to Heaven. Do you know what that means?"
Leo shook his head. Melanie had expected this, but didn't know how to explain it to him in a way that he would understand. They had never had pets, so she couldn't use that as an example so he understood Collins was never coming back.
"Sweetie, Heaven is the place where... people go when they get too old or sick or hurt to be alive anymore," Melanie said gently, tears cascading down her cheeks. Explaining such a concept to her son reminded her vividly of Brian and his death. The feeling of despair was almost overwhelming for her. She leaned heavily against Roger for support. She knew without looking that he was watching her.
"And that's why you're sad, Mommy, because you miss him, since he's not here anymore?" Leo asked.
"Yes, baby boy, that's why Mommy's sad," Melanie said, "because Mommy misses Collins. But I won't be this sad forever."
Leo nodded. "Good, Mommy, because I like you better when you're happy."
Melanie smiled and held Leo close, kissing his silky golden hair.
"While we are sad due to Collins' parting this life, we may take comfort in knowing it is not forever until we see him again," the priest said.
Melanie nodded silently, agreeing. The priest was right. No matter what happened to them in the next twenty, thirty, forty years, they would always have each other and know true friendship, bravery, and love. That alone was sustaining enough.
This is the end of The One That Got Away. I wanted to use "Angel" by Sarah McLaughlin for Collins' funeral song ever since I knew Collins was going to die in the story, in reference to Angel, Collins' one true love, despite what the song's real message is (coincidentally, it's about a heroin addict who overdoses in a hotel room, I believe?) I also wanted the conversation between Melanie and Leo to be with Leo specifically because I have felt that Simon has overshadowed him quite a bit in the story and he needed his moment to shine. It made sense to me. I spent several hours today thinking on how Melanie could explain death to him properly and it turned out exactly as I'd hoped, for which I'm grateful.
It's with a bittersweet feeling that I end this story. While I've enjoyed writing most of it, it's also been a long road and I'm ready for something new, or to take a break for a while (I know, I know, famous last words...) My beta, katetastic, has a surprise challenge for me awaiting the update of this epilogue and the finishing, completion, and closing of all my open stories (this and a Due South fan fiction, titled Someone to Watch Over Me, which I finished tonight!) I can't wait to see her challenge. I have no idea what she has planned, not even the category. So that's what I have planned to write next. It will not be posted until it is fully written, to prevent lack of updates or slow updates, especially if my back injury (which I've been dealing with since September) acts up to various degrees of pain. That's my main excuse for slow or no updates these days.
This chapter is dedicated to my faithful reviewers, chocolateluvr, broadwaylover07, and especially, my amazing, talented, beautiful beta, best friend, and partner-in-crime, katetastic, who helped me so much with writing this chapter. I could not have done this story without you. You are the only person who always is there to listen to me whine, complain, vent, and bitch (which is a lot of the time, even you gotta admit, LOL.) You are amazing. :) Thank you so, so much. I cannot say that enough. This story is for you.
I think that's pretty much all I have to say (as usual, really long author note, LOL), so please don't forget to review. I love feedback. Thanks. Look for some Twilight one-shots (and maybe a story or two) from me in the future. I'm also thinking about delving into the world of Harry Potter fan fiction, too. We'll see how much time I have and what persuades me first.
Until next time, lots of love,