For Sue, Mary, and Anne.

"It always ends. That's what gives it value."

Neil Gaiman


four days later...

"Are you sure you're ready to do this?"

It was the first time Edward had spoken since we'd left the hospital with Carissa. He was nervous; I could tell. And if I were to be completely honest with myself, I was, too.

"Does my answer matter? I mean, it's not as if I can go back to the hospital if I'm not."

"True," he conceded. "But I could get you help–"

"You're all the help I need."


"Yes—provided our next-door neighbor doesn't bang on the walls while we're trying to get Carissa to fall asleep. In that case, I won't need a nanny, but I might ask you to hire a hitman."

"You don't have to worry about that; there won't be any banging."

"How do you know?"

"Because...uh...I'm your new next-door neighbor."

He had to be kidding.

"You're what?"

"I bought the other twin. Now before you get angry with me, let me explain. I know how much your house means to you, that you bought it and fixed it up without help. You're proud and independent, and I'd never ask you to change. I'd don't need to support you; I just want to be at your side." He reached across the center console and touched my knee. "And having a dishwasher wouldn't be the worst thing."

We turned onto our street, and I saw what he meant. Where there'd once been separate entrances to separate dwelling units, there was now a double door. He pulled the car into the driveway, and turned off the motor.

"There's still a lot of work to be done," he continued. "I figured you'd want input on the interior, so most of the improvements I'd made were structural—wiring and ductwork. For example, my house has central air-conditioning, which it would be more than happy to share with your house, if you'd like. Anyway, I hope this is okay; I'm starting to panic here." He let out a nervous laugh. "Please say something."

"There's a tire swing in our yard."

"You once told me you loved the one you had as a little girl. I don't know, maybe I got a little ahead of myself–"

"I love it."

"Are you sure?"

I nodded, blinking back tears. "It's perfect."

Walking into my house with my family, I doubted I could ever be happier. Oh, Edward had been right when he said there was a lot more work to do before the two units would function harmoniously as one, but that didn't bother me. If I were to be completely honest with myself, there always would be. It would be overwhelming at times, but I didn't doubt it was worth it. There wasn't anything in the world I wouldn't do for my husband and my daughter. At that moment, I knew. I knew without a doubt.

I might not be perfect, but I was nothing like my mother.

It feels like the end of an era, and I don't doubt I'll be crying later.

The three ladies who won this as part of Fandom Gives Back (Serendipitous, Ingenue Fic and ARFalcon) have been patient beyond all reasonable expectations, and for this I can't thank them enough.

If someone had told me two years ago the short story I was kicking around my head set in the Philadelphia Museum of Art would grow into over 390k words covering over thirty years, I would have asked her to share whatever drugs she was on. To those who took this crazy journey with me from start to finish, thank you. It means more to me than you'll ever know.

'Til we meet again,