Chapter Name: Sabrina Dies At The End – Chapter 8
Notes: Thanks to reviewer pink-strawberry-lemonade. It's kinda funny how what was originally intended to be a short silly little sex comedy type fic turned into this. I hope you enjoy the last chapter.
Sabrina knew John was up to something. He had a mischievous glint in his eyes as they talked about how the ceremony was to proceed. When the students broke away and moved to sit with the rest of their class, in the white chairs in front of the stadium bleachers that the families and friends were sitting Freddie had agreed with her assessment.
"He's going to propose." Freddie had taken their loss especially hard. He blamed himself. It took six months before he even spoke to her again, fearing that all he was doing was reminding Sabrina that if it wasn't for him, that Jamal would still be here.
Time had hardened his features, wrinkled his skin, grayed his hair. Dulled the spark of life. He looked 10 years older than the 50 odd he actually was.
"I hope so. We'll tell them to hurry up with the grandkids. That goes for you too Tim."
The teenager blushed. His considerably less uptight girlfriend sitting alongside him laughed.
Freddie was right. Of course.
The Dean stopped his speech about the class of 52' after announcing John's name, and let him onto the podium. Of course, you wouldn't disrupt a college graduation without permission.
He stepped up to the microphone.
"Hi everyone. I'm sure you are probably surprised about this interruption, but if you bear with me I'm sure we can quickly get back on track. Karen.. please come up to the stage."
All eyes scanned the seated students, until Karen stood up with her hands on her head. As she made her way up to the stage she turned to look at her mother, sharing a smile with each other. After stepping up onto the platform, she kissed John on the cheek, asking him quietly what it was about (although in her heart she knew exactly what was going to happen).
Instead of answering, he stepped up to the mic again.
After a few nervous moments looking out into the crowd he started talking, strongly and proudly, "This woman standing here, Karen, she has been my girlfriend for about five years and my best friend for over fifteen. Standing by my side throughout so many different periods of my life. Happiness, grief, pain, anger, jealousy, fear, self-doubt and ecstatic joy. Whenever I couldn't cope, she was there. Whenever I needed strength, support and love Karen was there. We share a bond, it's been there since the day she moved in next door to me. We were even born in the same hospital, only two days apart. After a period apart in our childhood, we grew up together as teenagers and adults. We share our entire lives together. I'm not the man I would be today without her in my life. I think you can all tell where this is headed so I'll wrap it up."
The dean helpfully pulled the microphone out and held it down, as John went down on one knee. He pulled a ring out from underneath his graduation robe.
"Karen Olivia George, you are my soul-mate, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you do me the honor of taking my hand in marriage?"
The crowd awwed, and Karen screamed, "YES!"
He slipped the ring onto her finger and kissed her long and hand. The crowd erupted in applause and cheers.
The dean put the microphone back into it's slot, "This is one of my favorite parts of my job, seeing young men and women come into my care, into my guardianship, and watching them as they work and live and love and join society. I wish the two of you the very best."
The crowd clapped again, and the Dean then continued with the rest of the ceremony as Karen and John kissed behind the stage.
Sabrina thought about how things work out. Karen and John got married in the same church that Marissa and Carly had their funerals. And now Karen was lying in the exact same bed that Sabrina had after giving birth to her.
"Hello there little one, come to grandma," Sabrina cooed as she held the tiny baby in her arms, "Aren't you just the cutest thing."
She showed the baby over to Freddie, who took his finger and placed it in the palm of her hand. Sabrina cradled the baby in her arms, wrapped in a blanket.
"She's got Carly's eyes." Freddie turned away and sat back down in the chair against the wall.
Sabrina looked at her daughter, who nodded and took her young child back, letting Sabrina to sit by Freddie's side.
She took her hand and placed it on the top of his leg, "I'm sorry Freddie."
"It's been nearly 8 years and I'm still reminded of her every single day. I hear a laugh that sounds like her. I see girls on the street that look like Carly did when we were younger. I still get emails from people talking about how they found iCarly online all over again and how much fun it was for them. It's not like I can throw my pictures of her away. I can't fix the hole in my heart. It's never going to stop hurting."
"I know how you feel."
"No you don't." He whispered.
"Freddie don't do this to yourself."
"I can't stop hating myself. I always look back."
Karen lying in her hospital bed and John sitting next to her looked down, actively resisting the feeling of having their child rejected by it's grandfather. They knew it wasn't that simple.
Sabrina sighed then thought to herself for a minute as Freddie moped in his seat. It was soul destroying seeing the friend she'd known for decade upon decade still hurting so badly. Maybe he needed to look forward for a moment instead of back. The idea flashed into her head and she took action.
Sabrina stood and walked over to Karen. She kissed her daughter on the forehead and held her arms out. Karen took the signal, and gently passed her baby to her mother.
Sabrina gingerly walked back over to Freddie, taking her seat once more. She held the baby just in front of Freddie.
"Look at her."
Freddie closed his eyes and sighed.
Freddie turned and opened his eyes, but stared through Sabrina rather than looking down at the baby.
"That's not Carly. This is Janet. She is your flesh and blood. Carly is part of her, just like I'm part of her and Jamal and you are. This is your grand-daughter Freddie. Look."
Freddie tore himself from his upright viewpoint, and forced himself to look down.
"Carly is in your heart and that will never change. But his little girl, can you live with the idea of not letting her into your heart as well?"
"Tell me. Tell Carly in Heaven watching down on us right now, that you refuse to open your heart again."
"It's her eyes."
"Her eyes aren't all she is or all she will ever be. Freddie."
Freddie looked beyond her eyes, pulling back to take in the whole of the tiny life in front of him. Her tiny clump of black hair. Her cute dimpled cheeks. Freddie picked her up out of Sabrina's hands and held her against him.
"Hey there Janet. I'm Freddie. Grandpa." He said as he gave her tummy a tickle with his finger.
Janet gurgled and smiled.
"You like that huh?" He did it again, and got the same reaction. Now it was Freddie's turn to smile. A wide, genuine smile that his son and daughter in law both shared.
"She's beautiful. You two, I'm really happy for you. I'm proud of you son." Freddie said to John and Karen as he continued to play with Janet. After a few minutes he sat up and took her back to Karen. He gently placed her back down into her mother's hands.
"Carly would be proud of you both. How much you love each other. How much you care. How you are building your family. I love you all."
"Love you too," John and Karen both replied at the same time.
When Janet and Karen both yawned simultaneously, Sabrina decided it was time to leave the room.
"Freddie, it's time."
Freddie brought his wrist up and checked his watch. Visiting time was ending.
Freddie shook his son's hand, and Sabrina kissed the two of them on the cheek.
"We'll be back tomorrow. Sam, Spencer and the kids will be here, their flight gets in at 7am."
"Dad, they didn't have to come all the way from Australia. We could have setup a webcam easily."
"You know what Sam is like. Stubborn as a mule."
They all made their goodbyes, took one last look at the baby, and left for the evening. They drove back home in the quiet Sunday evening. Only the soft hum of the radio broke the silence. When the two arrived and exited, Sabrina thanked Freddie for taking her to the hospital.
"No problem, we were both going, saves on the gas and parking."
"You're welcome still."
"Thanks." Sabrina hugged Freddie, and started down the driveway to head back to her house.
"Sabrina wait." Freddie stepped over to Sabrina and this time he pulled her into a close hug himself.
"Thank you. For everything. For putting up with me and helping me through everything. You've been a better friend than I deserve."
"We both deserve the friendship we give each other Freddie, so don't sell yourself short."
Sabrina felt a tear run down Freddie's cheek, "Freddie.. I'm sorry."
Freddie broke the hug and stepped back, wiping his face, "It's okay." Even as he said the words his voice broke and the tears started again. Sabrina took him by the hand and they went inside his house.
"I'll make us some tea. Then we can talk. If you want."
Sabrina stood in the emergency room of the hospital with the 7 year old Janet by her side. Karen had called her from the hospital, to tell her that Freddie had been brought into the emergency room after collapsing at a mall. It was all Karen knew at the time as she was working in her Ophthalmology department.
Now they both waited again. That same damn waiting room. One of these days it was going to be her on the other end. First Jamal and Carly, and now Freddie. She said a silent prayer for his soul.
The doctor came in, and knowing Karen, took her off to the side. There it was again. Maybe Karen didn't even realize it. No-one had ever died under her care. She'd never have to give that light touch on the shoulder. They conversed for a couple minutes before he left.
Karen's eyes wavered. Her body shook. Eyes downcast, she managed to clear her throat and whisper out, "I'm sorry mom... It was a myocardial infarction. A heart attack. He's gone."
After a few seconds of silence she spoke again after running her hand over her face, "I need to call John." He was in England on company business.
"You go.. I'll call Sam." Sabrina spoke, as her mind started asking herself what time it would be in Australia as a distraction. Then she wondered what she'd say to her. Would she want to tell Melanie herself? It hurt badly, but she'd have to wait to mourn. Not until his friends were informed.
His broken heart finally caught up with him.
As the connection clicked open and Sam said "Hello".
"Sam.. it's Sabrina."
"Hey, how's it going?" Sam asked brightly on the other end.
Her happiness made Sabrina's heart heavy, "I've got some bad news."
As she watched the graduation ceremony along with Karen and John and Timothy, the only thing running through her mind was that finally, her family had got through a graduation ceremony without it being disrupted by one of their offspring.
They never figured out how Tim had managed to paint so many sheep bright blue without someone noticing they were gone.
Janet came up to them, beaming with pride.
"I can't believe it's over!"
"Believe it honey. I'm so proud of you." Karen hugged her daughter tightly with John coming in as well
"It's not over just yet darling. You've still got college. I'm proud of you too." Sabrina said.
As they made their way back to the car Tim strode alongside his niece.
"Janey," He said, using his pet name for her, "I've got a surprise for you when we get back home."
Sabrina rolled her eyes, Tim had usurped her role. The grandparent was the one who was supposed to spoil their grand-children sweet.
But not even she could compare to Tim's extravagance. He was a successful stockbroker, but despite trying, couldn't make a long term relationship work. Without a family to support, he put his resources into giving Janet the best of anything she needed.
Thankfully, Karen and John had raised her to not be expectant, to be grateful, to not take without asking.
When they pulled into their street, it didn't take long to realize exactly what he had done. A bright red car sat in the Benson's driveway, a large ribbon on top.
Janet leaped from the car and immediately ran her hands down it's sleek body.
"You really didn't have to do this Uncle Tim. It's too much.. even if it's sooo good."
"Nonsense. You need a car to get to and from college. The last thing I want is seedy boys giving you rides. Or you spending an hour a day on dirty public transport." He took the keys out of his pocked and chucked them to Janet.
"Mom.. Dad, can I keep it?" She asked gingerly. Janet wasn't convinced by Timothy, and asked her parents for guidance.
"Tim.. you can afford this right? It's almost as good as my car!" John exclaimed.
"Don't sweat it bro. It's all paid for, insurance is set, special assistance if it breaks down, extended warranty. The works."
John turned to his wife and shrugged. It was up to her.
"Fine. But on one condition." She asked of her younger brother, "You finally ask Becky out."
John laughed loudly when he heard the condition.
"What? Are you serious? We're just friends!" He was indignant, but a red blush covered all the way from his neck to his forehead.
"Yes. I'm serious. I'm tired of watching you two flirt and cuddle and play kissy feet under the table like a couple of teenagers whenever she comes over with you for dinner. You two are perfect for each other. I want my own nephew or niece, and I want it soon. No more excuses." Karen stalked over to him and jabbed him in chest.
Tim looked at John for support.
"Sorry bro, I'm going to have to agree."
"Of course, she's your wife," He said, rolling his eyes.
"Yes, but I'm tired of hearing about how every single guy she's with isn't good enough for her."
Janet interjected, "You are so in love with her. Call it women's intuition but I think she likes you back."
Exasperated he brought his hands up surrender, "I bought you the car and you're picking on me now? And since when did you have women's intuition?"
"I call it like I see it. Thanks! Bye. Be back later!" Janet ripped the ribbon off and left it lying on the ground, gunning the engine, she reversed the car perfectly. With the window down she thanked Tim again. John called out for her to be careful.
"Now that's over, inside young man. I'm going to be standing right beside you when you call her."
Her life was now comprised of a single room. The final room. Luckily for her, it wasn't because her mind had degraded. No, it was her body that was failing. She hated watching Spencer succumb to Alzheimer's disease. After a year he couldn't even remember the names of colors. Sam died of natural causes in her sleep half a decade after Spencer had, at the age of 82.
Sabrina lay still in her hospital bed. The room was tinged a gentle orange. It faced the sunset, and today of all days a beautiful sunset was in the process of occurring. It was a private room, even after all these years, Jamal's career had set her and her family up for a very good life.
Her frizzy orange hair had turned white years ago. Most of the handful of machines in the room had been disconnected and turned off weeks ago. Their beeps silent, their monitors blank, their connections to the nursing desk were all disconnected.
Not even the advanced medical technology of the day could prevent the inevitable.
"Mom.. mom?" A man in his 70's sat by the bed. His body had fared much better that his mother. The advanced technology had helped him improve his life far better than it had for Sabrina. He had an artificial kidney, a powered leg replacement and a set of digital eyes to replace ones lost to glaucoma. It was likely he'd live another 50 years. His children and grand-children could live to 150 years or longer. His hair was still dark brown. The voice was cracked with age however. But it still had the intonation of a boy lost at a mall finally re-united with his parent.
Sabrina opened her eyes, "I'm not dead yet Timothy. Just resting my eyes." Came the terse reply.
"Mom." He replied with a sigh. It was the word yet that was hanging on everyone's minds.
"I don't want to lose you." His voice cracked, his eyes closed trying to prevent tears from falling.
"Time catches up with us all."
"It's not fair. I don't want to be alone."
"You aren't alone. You still have Becky. You still have a family. You have Janet and her kids." Sabrina meekly raised her hand to indicate the teenage girl sitting in the corner of the room. Silent. Watching a grand-parent and great-grandparent having a conversation like that would induce silence for anyone.
"It feels wrong. Like I shouldn't be here either."
"It's survivor's guilt. The Lord works in mysterious ways. He spared you, and took Karen and John to live with Him in eternity. No-one can know what purpose it held until you stand before Him." Sabrina thought back to the horrible accident, how Tim survived without a scratch, but Karen and John died instantly.
He closed his eyes, and stepped away as his resolve started to break, "I"m sorry Mom.. I'll be back later. I need some air."
As he hugged his mother she whispered, "It's okay."
Tim stepped towards the door, and the teenager stood to follow.
"It gives me some time to talk to Ally."
The girl stopped and turned to Sabrina who smiled.
She hesitated, but slowly made her way to stand next to Sabrina. Sabrina raised her hand and gently caressed her cheek.
"You've grown so much Allison."
"Give grammy a hug. Tell me how everything's going at school dear."
They chatted for 20 minutes, talking about school, their family and Ally's plans for the future. It was only after she brought up the idea of having to leave her best friend, Michael that the tone became more serious. He was smart. Really smart. Ivy League smart. Far away from Ally's first choice in Oregon, close enough to her family in Seattle to not feel too homesick, but far enough to still give her a full college 'out on your own' experience.
"You don't want to leave him?"
"Of course not. He's my best friend. But we're just friends. We're growing up. It's time to be apart." At that moment she recognized the same look she'd seen a few times before. Denial.
"Honey, you know I don't have long for this world so indulge me with the truth."
Allison looked down into her lap, the idea of lying to her great-grandmother at this stage in her life was sobering. When she looked back up again, she couldn't hold herself back from telling the truth.
"I like him as more than just my best friend. He doesn't know. When we talk about college, he keeps saying that even though we're best friends, that we can't stop each other from going after our dreams. He doesn't want me to miss out on the soccer scholarship."
"Do you think he might feel the same for you? How many girlfriends has he had?"
"A few. They didn't really last long. He hasn't had a girlfriend in a year."
"Is he happy with that?"
"Sometimes.. but other times, if he hears a certain song, or I make him watch a romantic movie, I feel like he's crying inside. He turns to me and I think he's about to say something massive, but his mouth clicks shut and he turns away from me. It hurts so badly grammy, not knowing what's on his mind."
"Is it because of you?"
"I just don't know.. I don't want to wreck things for him. He's worked so hard, done so much, and he's going to a really really top school. I'd just drag him down. He needs to leave without me." It broke Sabrina's heart to watch her little grand-daughter's emotions boil away inside. The way her lip quivered, the way her voice shook. The defeat in her eyes.
Having started her down on that path of self-doubt, Sabrina decided it was time to bring her back from it. Using the last bit of strength she had in her for the day she gathered up her thoughts for a moment then looked at Ally face to face.
"Listen to me child. You'll never drag anyone down. I'm going to tell you the most important thing I've ever learned in my life. Ally, it's love. Take it and hold and grab on to it and never ever let go of it. No-one knows how long a life will last. I've seen friends die 40 years before their time, gone in an instant. It hurt so much. It never stops hurting. But what keeps us all together, this family, everyone who stays behind, it's always been love. Tell him. Ask him. Hold onto his love. If there's a chance you both feel the same way, don't let anything or anyone stand in your way."
As Ally took in the strong message Sabrina was telling, she continued, "I've loved and lost. Ask your grandfather about how much his sister loved her husband, and how much he loves your grandma Becky even after so many years. Ask him about Karen and John's graduations. Timmy was there with me for both of them. College and High School. If you were around when your mom and Matthew first fell in love you could see why they still do. Ask your sister about how nothing will ever stop her from loving Robyn. Love conquers all."
"It's love Allison. That's the key." She breathed out hard.. it'd taken a lot out of her. She felt tired once again. Her eyes started closing, "Tell him when you get home. Go find him. You never know when you are heading towards your last day. Don't hesitate."
Sabrina yawned, "Tell everyone I love them, I'm going to have a sleep. Tell Michael as well."
Before she fell into the inky blackness of sleep, she heard Ally whisper, "I promise."
It was time. It was obvious. Not much longer was left. Despite everyone being prepared for this moment, it was still heartwrenching in it's inevitability. Her pulse grew weaker, her breathing ragged and shallow. The nurses called the family and there they were.
Sabrina looked over 3 generations of her offspring. Her family. They each had their moment alone with her to say their goodbyes. Even Michael, who explained that Allison hadn't asked him to come, but that he wanted to be there, and to thank her for what she said to Ally a week earlier. Chloe came with her partner Robyn.
Her goodbye to Timothy ended with the phrase, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Timothy took the chair next to the bed, holding her hand. Rubbing it through to give her warmth. It was cold, even though her head was telling her it was mid-afternoon on a summer's day. She was so tired. Her hand was already numb from lack of blood and nerve endings having ceased to perform as they should. But she could still feel his touch, and that was a measure of comfort.
It was a struggle to breath. A long wheezing breath sapped the last of her strength. This was how it feels to die. In her chest she could feel her heart failing. There was no pain, the doctor had made sure of that.
Her lungs filled one last time. Her eyes shut involuntarily. Sabrina's eyes fluttered open one last time. With one last look, maybe from lack of oxygen or the medication, her eyes were playing tricks on her. She could see Jamal, her parents, John and Karen standing beside Freddie who was holding onto Carly, and even Sam and Spencer. All the people she'd loved and lost, standing just beside her living family.
Waiting for her. To take her with them to Heaven to spend Eternity together.
With a smile on her face she exhaled. At that point her eyes shut again, her vision swimming with pure brightness.
The doctor waited for Timothy to pull back from his mother. The rest of the family hugged each other, tears streaming down their face. Janet looked away, crying into Matthew's shoulder. Ally slipped her hand into Michael's, her fingers intertwined so tight they turned white.
In a soft voice he whispered to the nurse standing alongside him, "Time of Death, 4:30pm, Friday, September 27th, 2097."