What do I win? But first, what do I lose? by planet p

Disclaimer I don't own Change of Heart or any of its characters.

Author's Notes Claire and June Nealon's POVs. An extension of the novel's epilogue, not dealing with Claire's newly acquired abilities.


PROLOGUE: 2007

The way I see it, either my body wins and I reject the heart – or I win.

And become who he used to be.*


CLAIRE

I used to think, that if my body – if I – did accept the new (only slightly somewhat used) heart it had been given, that would be like losing – like losing big time! I used to think that if that happened, then I would change, become less like me and more like him – Shay Bourne, the man who'd killed my father and 7-year-old half sister, the man who'd taken away half of my reason for living before I'd even been born, the man, because of who, I'd never had the chance to meet my father or half sister, Elizabeth.

Home is not a place, not a real place anyway, not a place you could run to and stand and admire the view, or jump up and down in circles, or scream, but a place in someone else's heart – a place where you are loved, and where nothing bad can ever happen to you, where you'll always be remembered and thought upon fondly – in the end.

I kept the heart – Shay's heart – but I didn't become Shay. If I had, I think that would have been like dishonouring my mom's heart – dishonouring my home – and sometimes I wonder what I would have done if I had become like Shay, if I would have killed myself, if I would have said no to organ donation: This heart goes nowhere but in the ground – to rot! Live and let live, die and let die…

Shay's real name was Isaiah. It means God is my salvation in Hebrew, so I've read. When I write about Shay in my diary, I call him Izzy, so mom won't know who I'm talking about if she ever reads my diary (accidentally, of course).

Sometimes I feel I have to write the things I write to Shay, or else I will become him; sometimes I think this is my way of staying me, of keeping me, despite the alien heart that beats within my chest. It's my heart now! I want to shout until my lungs won't shout anymore, but instead I write in my diary. I start with, Dear heart, or Izzy, because I can put dear in front of a word like heart, but not in front of Shay's name.

Shay's heart might keep me alive, but I have my own heart, and it's nowhere Shay can find it, or harm it! And it's nothing Shay will – could – ever understand!

I have friends now, because of this heart – his heart, Shay's heart. My heart, which is not a place, not a real place, but a sentiment, has friends, whom it loves and cares for – because of Shay's heart. Because of Shay's heart, I can love mom and Dudley, my pet dog, just as much as they've always loved me.

It's not a debt that I have to repay. I don't look at it that way. I haven't looked at anything that way since I received Shay's heart. I don't like the idea of debts, see, per se. They somehow make things all wrong, make things and people frustrated and angry. And angry is the side of love I like least.

I'm not angry at Shay – not anymore. It would be rude wouldn't it? Not because he gave me his heart – because he had to die – and I got to live, not because he repaid the debt, but because he's dead – he's dead, he's buried in the ground somewhere, feeding worms – and it's rude to hold grudges, to continue to hold anger against the dead.

I mean, I know someone who believes in an afterlife would probably tell me he's moved on – to the afterlife – and that, though his mortal body is dead, he – what made him who he was – is not dead, but alive – but I'm not sure whether or not they would advocate holding grudges against someone in that case.

I don't believe in religion. Once, I thought maybe I did, maybe I would, but that's not how it turned out. I don't need someone to reiterate what they've read in a book – or what their local priest told them last Sunday – to believe in love and goodness and kindness, and also hatred and horribleness and thoughtlessness and ruthlessness. I can feel that myself, with my own heart. And I don't need religion to believe in those things, to believe that there is something – somewhere, unknown, inexplicable – that draws us to one another, that draws life together, that connects us all, and binds us all.

But I do think it's polite – and it would be rude not to – acknowledge and accept that other people might feel differently, and that they are entitled to their own beliefs in that regard (all being good citizens and our actions within the law). I would never tell someone else that what they believe in was wrong – was rubbish – and that they had no right to believe in it: Which is why it's a good thing Shay Bourne is dead – if only in body!

Because if he wasn't I might have told him just that!

And it's that sort of thing that makes me angry. And sometimes I write it in my diary.

When I go out with my friends – like I am tonight – I try not to think about the things that make me angry, and try to think about the things that don't – the things that make me happy.


JUNE

Claire is happy and healthy. What more can I want! What more can I want? For her to have a father, a sister! For her to have a proper – a real – family! For Shay Bourne never to have happened!

Sometimes I wish he'd never been born. If he'd never been born – if he'd never taken Kurt and Elizabeth away from me, from us – then maybe Claire would never have needed his stupid heart to begin with!

But mostly I tell myself this is the wrong thing to think. I don't want anything to happen to Claire's new heart – her new lease on life – and if anyone truly believes that just because that man is dead, that he has no influence, that he can't do anything – can't hurt anyone – anymore, then I wish that person never gets into a discussion (argument) with me, because I'd have a thing or two to tell them about how Shay Bourne hurts someone – hurts two people – all over again everyday when they wake up, their hearts crying out to the lost loves and the loves they never had the chance to know and feel.

Shay Bourne is not innocent – he was not innocent then, and he is not innocent in death – he is guilty – and I hope to God that he never has another chance to hurt anyone again they way he hurt me and Claire (and how many others who believed him innocent, wrongly accused, redeemed, a messiah).

I watch my daughter sitting with her friends at a table in the food court of the local mall – only for a moment, before I will walk away, back to the Jeep parked in the parking lot – and my heart swells for her, for her life! She is alive!

Right now she is sipping a blue Slurpee – what a colour for a drink! – and laughing and gossiping with friends. She is safe – with her friends – and I turn and walk away. And now she's free! Now she can be a normal teenager – like any other teenager, like Elizabeth never was – and, at that moment, I want that for her more than anything else in the world! Because that's what she wants, because that is what makes her happy!


CLAIRE

Sometimes I cry for stupid reasons (well, for no reason at all) and I have to stop myself from closing my fist and beating my chest, and from yelling at my heart – at Shay Bourne – to stay the Hell out of my life. That's what it is – my life! And that's what this heart is now – my heart!

I want to shout at him, or at no one. It's mine, you can't have it! It's mine now! You can't have it back! I'll never give it back! But I always settle for a few lines in my diary: I never asked for it, but you gave it to me anyway. You can't have it back now. You can't live through me. I won't allow it. Let go. Move on.

And sometimes, before I go to sleep, I'll read the same picture book I've read a thousand times… though I don't know if this is for Elizabeth or for Shay, or maybe it's for them both, which sometimes makes me angry, and sometimes makes me happy.

I don't want to hate anyone, and mostly I don't.

I don't know why Shay Bourne killed my sister or my father, or why he did what he did, but I know that he wasn't the first (and only) person to hurt someone else – he wasn't even the first person to hurt someone else and feel nothing, or say that they deserved it – and I know that I'm not the first (and only) person to feel pain either, but I'm not going to hate Shay Bourne, and I'm not going to let anything I learn about him – if I ever do – in the future encourage me to hate him, because maybe that's just what he wants, because maybe he just wants to lord it over me: Look what I did for you, Claire? I died for you. I died so that you could live. And how do you repay me? You hate me! You still hate me!

I won't help anyone harbour or grow their bitterness and hatred, and I won't do it myself. I'll get angry, and then the anger will be gone – only, in Shay's case, that will only be until the next time, which might have made me madder (if I was someone else), but only makes Shay all the more childish.

I don't know – who does? – maybe I'm mad, maybe I'm mentally ill, or maybe there's some perfectly believable medical explanation for my sudden mood changes and it's nothing to do with Shay at all!

But I'll always still write in my diary.

Because if I don't believe in Shay, then I can't believe in dad and Elizabeth.

And I want to believe that my love – and mom's love – will help guide them to something else, something better, something that is not just the memory of dying, and Shay Bourne living.

And maybe one day, they'll find out that Shay died – eleven years later – but that he too died, and even though he got what he thought was a happy ending, he still died, and now who thinks of him, now who loves him?

When I'm in a bad mood, this thought comforts me, before I pull out the picture book and read it a third time before going to sleep.

And I write in my diary:

Dear heart,

Wake up! Get a life! Move on!

And sometimes, after that, I can sleep without nightmares.


Sometimes (more often than you think), I wonder if Shay ever had a girlfriend, for the exact same reason I didn't want a boy's heart in the first place.

Sometimes, I'm scared that I'll wake up one day and I'll like girls. I don't have anything against girls who like girls, or boys who like boys, that isn't what I mean, I mean that I didn't like girls before – I liked boys like Johnny Depp, or David Wenham – and I want to keep on liking boys.

One day, you see, I'm going to have a daughter, and I'll name her Elizabeth, or Liz, and one day, I'll have a son, and him I'll name Kurt, or Kurtis.

And one day, I'll forget about Shay Bourne. And then when no one no longer thinks about him, maybe then he'll truly die, or he'll truly move on.

And everyone will have won (even though someone had to lose first).


* Excerpt taken from Change of Heart copyright (c) Jodi Picoult, 2008.