A/N: This is it! This is the final chapter, this is the epilogue! Its been fun writing Despite Our Struggles and having this story get a rather large fan base! (: There will be no sequel to this story, I'm sorry, but there is no way to have a sequel to this story, plus it'll feel like I'm dragging the story along. :P Anyway! I'm still gonna write even when this story is finished, I have ideas in my head which should be published on fanfiction soon, so favorite me as an author or have me on author alert so you can see the new story!
ALSO! I saw one person (pho1297) ask about other characters and since they are briefly mentioned here, I'll just tell you their fate-
Jenna & Bianca: The two are still together, although they always have an off/on relationship despite that Jenna wants to get married.
KC: KC wound up marrying Jess - yeah she caved and went back to him for the sake of having a boyfriend, they had a baby together, although, KC was a horrible parent to their child so Jess divorced KC and took their baby with her. Since then, no one has heard from KC.
Adam & Fiona: They are still in heaven with a little girl they adopted named Arielle due to her flaming red hair, they love her and each other to bits and pieces - they are the true happily ever after in this story.
Drew: Drew is a major cliffhanger - you never know if he is alive or dead which I already told you guys. So there isn't much to say on Drew.
So now, this is the epilogue! This takes place eight years later since the last chapter. This is purely in Eli's POV. Please enjoy! (:
I could feel the long heated beat of rays of sunshine on my back as I slowly awoke from my surprisingly good night of sleep which is weird of me to even receive, I hadn't gotten a good night of sleep since-
"Daddy! You woke up!" The little girl with long reddish brown curls and wide blue eyes exclaimed as she jumped on me with enthusiasm and I groaned as she placed all her weight on my legs which caused a shooting pain down my spine as she did.
"Yeah.. Daddy woke up, Sage." I mumbled as she quickly climbed off of me and soon had sadness in her eyes.
"I jumped on your legs Daddy. I'm sorry. I always forget." Sage whimpered as she started playing with her long curly hair and I smirked at her in a comforting way.
"Its alright, sweetheart. You were never the reason, Daddy has bad legs okay?" I reassured her and Sage nodded as she grabbed her stuffed bunny and clutched on it closely and I cocked my head to the side.
"Why are you even in here, Sage? I thought you were gonna sleep in your room last night, like a big girl." I reminded her.
Sage had this erratic fear of sleeping alone in her room, after always putting her in her room to sleep, she always somehow found her way back to my room and I would wake up to her whimpers and cries and I'd cave in and allow her to come into my bed. But the thing was, she always did this, she was five, almost six years old, she should be able to sleep alone now, but she says she has nightmares, at times I feel like explaining to Sage, how I have nightmares as well to reassure her, but I can never find the guts to tell her.
"Bad scary dreams." Sage murmured as I saw her blue orbs start to water and I sighed, grabbing my daughter and softly placing her in my lap as she leaned against my frame as I ran my hand soothingly through her long curly hair. "Will they ever go away, Daddy?" Sage whispered as she grabbed my hand and started playing with my fingers or comparing our hands like she usually did.
"Yeah sweetheart. One day they'll leave and never bother you ever again." I murmured as I placed a loving kiss on my daughter's head and she turned around to look at me and she smiled.
Her smile looks just like Clare's. Just like Clare's.
Just like whenever I bring up Clare, or think of Clare, I get that pang in my chest and I could feel my heart grow heavy. This was why I avoided talking about Clare or thinking about Clare, but Clare's always here it seems, like she's living through our little miracle, Sage.
The reason Sage was such a little miracle, was because Clare and I never planned to have her, what with Clare having HIV, it put me at huge risk of catching it and also if Clare got pregnant, the baby would surely get it as well.
We were just newly married kids, fresh out of high school and already married, I knew I had to marry Clare as soon as she was out of high school, by then Clare had four years left and I needed to spend each of them with her, and we did spend the first two years of marriage with each other and each birthday scared me even more,
I was lucky to not have caught HIV from Clare, it was a one time deal, us making love, I wore a condom, we went through the whole process of making love slowly and full of love, both of us scared that the condom would break and I would surely catch it. I remember after we were done and I was proceeding to take the condom off.. It was broken already, I knew I had to tell Clare which I did and it devastated her to the core and she demanded I get tested, blaming herself for this huge mess. Its like I can still hear her constant cries and apologies to me after seeing the broken condom, I had no idea what to say to her other than to comfort her - her sobs still haunt me to this day.
Testing for HIV took a good six months before the results came back and after at least four months of waiting, Clare was starting to become sick - sicker than she usually was, this time throwing up and not wanting to eat at all, not only did that worry me as well, but her fever would rapidly go up and down at times. I knew I had to take her to the doctors in hope that she'd get her medication upped, but instead we were congratulated on the news of Clare getting pregnant after they took her blood sample and tested it.
That news scared the living hell out of us, Clare being pregnant whilst being just 20, she had months before she turned 21, by then she'd be pregnant and could be lost.. She could be lost at any day then. Clare and our baby could die in any short time span.
The doctors had assured us that Clare would receive a shot that had a 80% chance of preventing the baby from getting the disease through the umbilical chord.
But still.. There was that chance the baby could come out diseased and Clare didn't wanna abort the baby or put it up for adoption, she was just scared. Scared for her life. Scared for me. Scared for our child.
"Eli.. This baby.." Clare murmured one afternoon as we sat on our couch in our home, I had my arm around her shoulders, softly squeezing her shoulder as I did so and she looked at me with tear stained cheeks and puffy red eyes. "This baby could come out like me.. I don't want that.." Clare whispered as she softly placed her hand on her baby bump which was evident under he stretched blue shirt and I sighed as I looked at her.
"Clare.. If this baby does come out being diseased.. I'll take care of him or her no matter what." I promised Clare and Clare looked at me incredulously.
"You'd just wind up losing him or her, Eli.. Maybe its best if we do abort it-" but I quickly cut Clare off.
"No. No abortions. We're gonna have this baby and we'll raise this baby. No matter what, Clare. Even if this baby does have your disease, I'll raise him or her with so much love, Clare. This is our child and I'm not gonna let you destroy him or her." I explained to Clare, Clare just merely nodded as she leaned her head on my shoulder, I could hear her break out into sobs and I sighed leaning my head on hers and pressing a loving kiss to her head.
Clare just didn't understand - I wanted Sage so badly, Sage was going to be the last reminder of Clare to me, I didn't care if Sage came out with HIV or with three arms or two heads, she'd be mine and Clare's and that was enough for me.
Luckily months later, I had received my tests back, I had gotten a negative test, meaning I wasn't diseased, which pretty much brightened somewhat of Clare's sad and dark blue orbs when I told her, but she was still worrying over our son or daughter. I couldn't blame her, I was worrying too, I didn't wanna get attached to someone only to lose them so many years later, I didn't wanna go through all of this all over again.
When Clare's 21st birthday came and went, I was on edge. Clare was nine months pregnant, her low days were happening frequently, she was constantly having fevers and even at times would throw up as well, only making me regret having her keep our baby. I regretted that all up until Clare's water broke on September 10th.
"Come on baby. Just push. Just push." I encouraged Clare as I looked at her sweaty and feverish face, she had a fever that day and was going through a low day when her water broke in our living room. Great.
"I.. I'm trying! I can't! Eli I can't!" Clare screamed as she arched her back in pain and squeezed my hand even harder, I looked over at the doctor at the end of the bed."Is the baby almost out?" I shouted, I didn't wanna see Clare in anymore pain than she was in and this birth was killing her.
"Almost out! One more push, Clare! One more push!" The doctor shouted as he looked up at Clare and she nodded quickly, and soon let out a piercing scream which was soon joined by a new screeching wail.
I quickly looked over to see the doctor was indeed holding a bloody baby in her arms, the baby was screaming and moving around in the doctors arms and all I could do was stare in wonder at mine and Clare's creation.
"It's a girl! Congrats!" The doctor cheered as she placed the squealing bundle of joy in the nurses arms to clean up, I smiled brightly at the thought that Clare and I had a daughter, a freakin' daughter. I quickly turned around to face Clare.
"Baby we-" but I never finished my sentence once I saw how pale Clare was, her fever was bright red on her face and she had tears welled up in her blue orbs.
"We.. We did it." Clare croaked as she had a hand on her now small stomach, I could feel my stomach flip as I did allow my eyes to wander to Clare's midsection to see blood spreading across her stomach.
"Uhm.. Doctor! Oh God, Clare!" I shouted as I could feel my hands tremble at the sight of blood spread across her stomach, the nurses quickly came to my aide and started to push me out the door.
"Sorry young man. You need to wait outside." The nurses advised me as more swarmed around Clare, leaving a lone nurse alone with our daughter as she started to sooth the crying girl in the bundle of pink blankets.
"No! No! I need to see Clare - Our baby! I can't - Clare!" I screamed as I felt more nurses push me out the door and soon the door was slammed in my face, I desperately tried to get inside, my stomach as flipping crazily as I saw the nurses swarm around Clare's bedside, carrying the bloody sheets in their arms, I could feel the blood drain from my face as I saw a glimpse of Clare's pale body on the bed, she was trying to breathe, but only more blood was coming out her stomach, I could only claw insanely at the door as if it'd knock over and I'd run over to Clare, help her, but I couldn't.
I was separated from Clare.
Turns out, the birth had really drained Clare that day, the birth caused some tearing at her sensitive stomach lining which caused the bleeding. I still remember waiting in the waiting room like a crazed man when a nurse came out to tell me that I was allowed to see Clare, that she was asking to see me, on the way to her room, the nurse explained what happened to Clare and when I asked her if Clare was gonna be alright, the nurse sadly shook her head.
"No.." The nurse trailed off and it felt like my heart had been torn in half.
"No?" I exclaimed and the nurse sighed.
"Today is Clare's last day, Mr. Goldsworthy. The birth.. It pretty much killed her." The nurse said simply and I took in a deep breath of air and I looked at the short nurse."Can I see my wife now?" I asked her in a small voice and the nurse nodded before opening the door to Clare's room, I retreated inside to only hear my heart break even more when I saw how horrible Clare looked. Her hair was damp from sweat, her skin was pale - paler than before, she had multiple tubes inside of her and she looked up at me with shiny blue orbs.
"Hey.." Clare croaked and I couldn't respond to her, I collapsed in the chair by her bedside and rested my head by her arm on her cot and started sobbing hysterically, Clare didn't say a word, she softly ran her hand through my thick hair, after what seemed like a good twenty minutes of crying, I rose my head to see Clare had been staring at me the whole time.
"Please don't go." I whimpered to Clare and I saw as a tear rolled down her cheek as she softly touched my cheek."I have to.. Eli you knew this was gonna happen.." Clare whispered. I could only shake my head feverishly and groan.
"I can't.. I need you with me.. This is gonna kill me, Clare. I can't live without you - please!" I pleaded with her in broken sentences. I didn't even know what I was saying anymore.
"Baby.. Listen to me." Clare began and I shook my head as I looked away and I felt Clare had a weak grip on my chin as she forced me to face her, her face serious.
"Listen to me, Eli Goldsworthy." Clare began and I gulped. "You're gonna raise our daughter with so much love." Clare said and I nodded, I already knew that. "You're gonna find her a Mommy." Clare added and I looked at her in a bit of shock and Clare nodded. "She's gonna need a Mom, Eli. Every little girl does." Clare shortly explained and I shook my head.
"But you're her mother, Clare. You'll always be her Mother." I told Clare sternly and Clare sighed.
"You're not gonna be hung up over me forever, Eli. Eventually you'll find a woman who will make you and our daughter very happy. Promise me you will." Clare demanded and I sighed heavily, looking at Clare with glassy eyes and I nodded.
"I promise you babe." I whispered as Clare wiped away one of my tears before asking me.
"What's her name gonna be?" Clare asked. "I wanna know before.." Clare trailed off, not able to finish the sentence and I was happy she didn't.
"Sage. Sage Rachelle Goldsworthy." I told Clare instantly as those names came to my mind instantly and Clare let out a forced giggle.
"I love that name." Clare whispered.
I smiled down at my beautiful mess of a wife and slowly leaned in, knowing this was the last kiss I'd ever receive from her and when I was inches from her lips, she barely whispered.
"You know, Eli.." Clare began as she licked her chapped lips. "Despite our struggles.. We made it baby." Clare concluded before I sadly smiled at her and pressed my lips to hers, feeling the passion through the kiss, feeling the bliss, feeling all our emotions, especially feeling the love through the kiss.
As I softly pulled away, a nurse walked into the room sadly.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Goldsworthy. But its time to leave. Say goodbye to your wife." The nurse stated and I looked down at Clare with painful eyes and she mirrored the pain, but quickly asked.
"Can Eli flip the switch?"
I looked down at Clare like she was crazy, she was asking if I could take her off life support, like I could even do that. I could barely find my legs to walk out this room.
"Well.. Family does always ask that. If its okay with Mr. Goldsworthy, the switch is right there on the grey machine. Its yellow. Just flip the switch and.." The nurse trailed off and I looked at her sadly.
"Eli please.." Clare begged. "My last wish.. Please." Clare asked, I sighed and nodded. I looked over at the nurse who nodded and left the room quietly and I looked at Clare with sad eyes.
"I love you baby.." I whispered to Clare and Clare's blue orbs gathered up with tears.
"I love you too baby. Forever and ever." Clare whispered, as she latched onto my hand, I sighed and looked at the grey machine, I lightly placed my hand on the switch and quickly closed my eyes as I slowly flipped the switch off.
I didn't open my eyes for what seemed like hours, but I slowly did open my eyes when I felt the grip on my hand loosen and fall, I looked down to see Clare with her eyes closed, her body still - for once in her life - she looked peaceful.
After Clare's death.. I was a mess - worse than a mess, I was dealing with it all horribly, I felt like the first few months that Sage was here in the world, I was a horrible father, it was hard to take care of her when all I could think of was Clare everytime I saw Sage and her exact blue orbs that belonged to Clare.
During what Jenna liked to call my "deranged months" she was the one to always take care of Sage, who grew to like Jenna, Sage even likes Jenna's girlfriend, Bianca, something that always baffles me, but they're happy with each other and Jenna already told me how she's considering proposing to Bianca. Which is a great idea for the two. I never suspected to find myself ever befriending, Jenna Middleton, but I did, after all we went through, its best to start over fresh.
I looked down at my ring-less hand and noticed that it had taken me years to take off my wedding band and officially declaring myself single, I still have the wedding band of course, but I can't wear it when I'm no longer married to Clare, even though Clare was buried with her wedding ring on, I'll hope to buried with mine whenever its my time to go as well.
"Daddy. You're doing it again." Sage whined and I looked down at the un-amused five year old confused.
"Doing what darling?" I asked Sage and she rolled her eyes in a way that Clare always use to do.
"Always zoning out. That's why Jenna calls you a weirdo." Sage informed me, I looked at her with wide eyes.
"Really now?" I asked Sage and she nodded as her curls bounced as they did so.
"Hmm. Daddy is gonna have a nice little talk to Jenna then." I teased Sage and she giggled as she hopped off the bed and stretched her little hand out for me to take.
"Come on Daddy. Lets go make breakfast and watch TV!" Sage chirped excitingly and I chuckled at her eagerness.
"Daddy's gonna be making breakfast soon okay? Plus I was thinking we could visit Auntie Darcy today." I told Sage and her blue orbs lit up like a Christmas Tree.
"Does that mean I can play with Emily when we get there!" Sage exclaimed, obviously talking about Darcy's daughter, Emily who was around Sage's age, just a bit older.
"Yes that means you can play with Emily. But first Daddy has to make breakfast. So just wait in the kitchen for Daddy okay?" I asked Sage and she nodded quickly as she ran out of my room and I shook my head at how much a ball of energy that kid can be.
I slowly got out of bed, feeling the pain in my legs once more, I knew these legs were gonna be the death of me. Yeah, I'm no longer paralyzed, but my legs have never quite been the same, I've gone through a handful of slips and falls when my legs give out and its just hell.
I slowly walked over to my dresser, feeling the heaviness in my legs as I did so, I gripped onto the dresser's side and looked at my drawn face, which didn't have bloodshot eyes or bags underneath them for once.
I looked down at the picture sitting on my dresser as well, a picture of me and Clare on our wedding day and hanging on the edge of the picture was my wedding band which I haven't gotten around to finding a box to place it in, I sighed and kissed my fingertips and placing them gently on the picture on Clare's face.
"Good morning, love." I whispered before dragging myself out of my bedroom and out into the kitchen where I was hoping for a good day.
"She's gotten so big." Darcy murmured as she looked over at Sage playing around with Emily's Barbie dolls and I smiled at Darcy as I leaned into her couch.
"She has." I agreed as I continued to watch my daughter play around with Barbies, as she changed their clothes, brushed their hair, occasionally she'd look up at me and smile before returning to brushing her doll's hair.
"How has she been doing?" Darcy asked and I snapped out of my reverie as I looked at Darcy who was stroking her baby bump, I had forgotten her and Declan were expecting a baby boy.
"She's been doing good, she loves school, has made some friends. She's been doing very good. She's just .. growing up so fast. Soon she'll be in first grade.. Damn." I told Darcy surprisingly and she nodded as she looked back at Emily and Sage.
"So she doesn't.. she doesn't have.. HIV?" Darcy asked in a hush voice and I sighed and shook my head.
"I got her tested and the results came back negative. She's clean. Healthy as ever. I just hope it stays that way." I told Darcy with a half smile and Darcy sighed.
"Kids get sick, Eli. You about had a heart attack that one time, Sage had to be picked up from school, because she was running a fever and was throwing up. The whole time Sage had just caught the flu and you were worrying yourself to death over nothing." Darcy reminded me and I cringed remembering that day.
"Well.. It just reminded me a lot of what happened to.. Clare." I shyly told Darcy. "Clare got sick like that a lot and you know that, it just really scared me. I'm just glad she isn't like Clare though." I told Darcy relieved and Darcy nodded.
"But she looks just like, Clare." Darcy murmured and I sighed.
"Spitting image of her mother. She's the only thing I have left that reminds me I had a girl like Clare once." I admitted to Darcy and she smiled sadly my way.
"Have you met anyone yet?" Darcy asked me and I swallowed a lump in my throat, I might as well tell, Darcy.
"I'm sort of.. Seeing Sage's teacher. Miss. Imogen Moreno? I met her during a parent teacher conference and we hit it off." I told Darcy with a shy smile and Darcy broke out into a grin.
"That's great, Eli. Honestly. What is Imogen like?" Darcy asked and soon I found myself babbling about Imogen.
Talking about how she's loving and caring about Sage which really make me feel like Sage is safe with her, that she's an amazing teacher, a smart woman, she's beautiful and has a shining personality.
"Sounds like someone is falling for someone." Darcy hinted as she nudged my arm and I rolled my eyes.
"I'm certainly not falling for Imogen. I like her and I'm dating her. Nothing big." I reassured Darcy and Darcy rolled her eyes."Sure. You said the same thing about Clare. Remember?" Darcy reminded me and I snorted.
"That was an obvious lie though." I reminded Darcy and Darcy giggled.
We sat there in silence for a while before Darcy sighed."I miss Clare." Darcy whispered and I immediately nodded.
"Sage should have met, Clare. I wish that happened." I murmured and Darcy sighed before placing a hand on top of mine. "I wish she did too, Eli. But at least now you and Sage are happy. You have Imogen.. And does Imogen know about Clare?" Darcy asked and I shook my head.
"Not yet. I'll drop the baggage off to Imogen when the time is right ya know?" I reassured Darcy and she nodded, agreeing with me.
"Clare had a bucket list, Darce." I told Darcy and Darcy looked at me oddly.
"Bucket list?" Darcy asked confused."It's a list people make when they know they are gonna.. Pass away. Clare had one and on her bucket list she wrote how she wanted three things to happen before she died. One of them being she gets her first kiss." I informed Darcy and Darcy winked in my direction when I told her, knowing I was Clare's first kiss. "Second one being she got married." I told Darcy and Darcy smiled sweetly at that one. "Third one being to change a bad soul into a good soul. She never got to accomplish that one." I informed Darcy sadly. "I tried so hard to try to fulfill that one for her, but she said it was okay, that I didn't need too. I just don't know why I couldn't have fulfilled that one for her." I told Darcy frustratingly and Darcy sighed, adjusting herself to were she was facing me, one hand on her baby bump as she looked me directly in the eyes.
"She did." Darcy admitted to me and I looked at her confused.
"She did? When?" I asked Darcy with wide and curious eyes and Darcy smiled as she removed her hand off her baby bump and grabbed my hand, before placing it over my heart and I looked at her oddly, before Darcy smiled and murmured.
"It was you."
"Tomorrow afternoon? I can't, Imo, Sage has her ballet classes." I said sadly into my phone receiver as I was on a call with Imogen who had called abruptly while I was sitting through another one of Sage's kid shows - shows that I couldn't stand, but I watch them anyway, if it made Sage smile, it made me smile.
"Oh.. Then Tuesday night? We can have dinner? I've been dying to see Sage anyway." Imogen gushed over the phone and I chuckled.
"Imogen, you saw her on Friday." I reminded my forgetful girlfriend and Imogen giggled.
"I know, I know, but she's grown on me, Eli. I love her to death." Imogen admitted and if I bet her cheeks were blushing as they always were when she was even slightly embarrassed.
"That makes two of us." I murmured as I turned around expecting to see Sage sitting on the sofa watching her kid show, but she wasn't there and that only made my heart skip a beat.
Sage was always where she needed to be, she knew better than to leave somewhere without telling me.
I could barely hear what Imogen was saying over the phone as I searched the living room for my little girl, hoping that she was messing around and was trying to scare me, which she always seemed to do.
"Eli?" Imogen asked warily. "You okay?" Imogen asked, more concern laced in her high voice.
Right when I was about to answer Imogen, I heard the sound of Sage shouting,
"Daddy! Some man is at the door!"
My eyes widened at the fact Sage was at the door with some strange fucking man. I could feel chills all over my entire body at the mere thought of someone snatching my little girl - the only thing I had left, someone snatching her and stealing her from me.
"Imogen? I have to go. Sage needs me. I'll call you tomorrow though alright?" I breathed into the receiver.
"Yeah of course, Eli. Bye." Imogen said softly before I hung up my phone and raced to the door, hoping Sage was still there, which she was.
I quickly scooped Sage up in my arms and looked at her frustratingly.
"Sage Rachelle, you know better than to answer the door when Daddy isn't there to do so." I scolded Sage, she nodded sadly as she looked back at whoever was at the door.
"But look, Daddy. This man, he said he knows you! Oh and Daddy look, he brought me a friend!" Sage said giddily as she looked at the small boy in the man's arms who waved at Sage, who waved back.
I didn't have time to see what the boy looked at, but I looked at who was carrying the small boy and my heart stopped.
I couldn't believe it, this couldn't be happening, this isn't happening.
A/N: That's it! Its over! This has been amazing and fun to write! Thanks to all of you who have read it all from the first chapter and for reviewing! (: Means a lot guys! Also I have a new story out called 'Freeing Faith' it'll have Eli/Clare in it, so if you wanna see it, please check it out! Please send in your last reviews please! :)
Love, Risa (;