"It can and will get better. There will come a day, I promise, when your thoughts of your son or daughter or husband or wife will bring a smile to your face before it brings a tear." – Vice President Joe Biden on Memorial Day

Chapter Thirteen – Ready

The ride home is quiet. It's not a comfortable silence but it isn't tense either; we're just too exhausted from our middle-of-the-night emotional trauma to do much talking. By the time we reach the Kimishimas' house I'm still trying to get over the fact that Gabe might not be a horrible person.

He turns off the engine and for a few seconds we just sit in the darkness. Part of me doesn't want to leave, but another part really needs to sleep. With slow movements, I open the door and look at Gabe. He's looking at me. We're still looking at each other when I'm outside and the door is closed. Neither of us moves for a moment, and then I watch him drive away into the night.

The front door opens before I'm even up the stairs. Doctor Kimishima stands tall in her sleek black pants and her arms are crossed over her ruffled white blouse. Her silver hair is tousled but her icy blue eyes are alert. It seems that even at five in the morning she is ready for anything.

Stopping in front of her, I wait for her to say something. Her keen eyes study my face carefully like I'm another one of her mysteries. I expect her to just move aside, but she wraps her thin arms around my shoulders and pulls me in. Suddenly I'm swamped by the smell of Vanilla. Before I can react, however, she steps away and is standing in front of me again with those calculating eyes. I don't know why people keep hugging me tonight; maybe I look like I really need it.

"You're always welcome here," she says gently and a small smile breaks her stony expression. "Just as long as you keep treating Alyssa with respect and compassion."

She says the last part a little more on the threatening side and I feel my face grow hot as I eagerly nod. I didn't think she knew about her daughter's and I…uh, new relationship, but Doctor Kimishima seems to know everything.

Satisfied, she turns around and walks into the house. She slips back into her bedroom and I continue down the shadowed hall to the guestroom. Even in the darkness I find comfort in the familiar smell and feel of the house. Already my emotionally wrecked body is finding relief here.

When I reach my temporary room I find Alyssa sitting on the floor right outside the door. Despite being woken up in the middle of the night her russet hair is smooth and shiny. Her legs are curled up underneath and she's wearing my sweatshirt again. She looks at me with tired green eyes.

"Hey," I whisper after a moment of hesitation and I sit beside her.

"Hey," she replies in a quiet, shaky voice.

"What are you doing up?" I ask as my knee brushes hers, and the contact makes my heart flutter. I hadn't realized how much I missed her.

"I couldn't sleep," she replies. Leaning into me, she rests her head on my shoulder and mumbles, "I also wanted to make sure you got home safely."

I've felt a lot of emotions tonight, but this is the first time I feel guilty.

"I'm sorry I made you worry," I whisper while sliding my fingers between hers.

"If you run off again I'll probably punch you," she whispers casually.

Smiling, I reply, "And I'll deserve it."

Slowly, she leans away from me so we can both look at each other. The darkness casts her face in a dull blue light but her emerald eyes are bright again. Her lips twitch into a sad smile and she whispers, "I'm just glad you're safe."

The fact she cares is enough to make me smile too.

My hand still in hers, I ask casually, "Hey, you want to go out some time?"

Her pink lips turn up into a genuine grin but she doesn't say anything. Silent, she stands up and I follow her movements while trying to not be confused by her lack of response.

She stands unusually close to me and that enigmatic smile is still gracing her face. With her hands on her hips, she whispers teasingly, "I thought you'd never ask."

And then her hands tug on my jacket collar just forcefully enough to bring our lips together. Maybe it's because I've been up all night or because I am an emotional wreck, but her kiss stuns me and I forget my name. I can feel her fingers brushing my neck and it sends shivers down my spine. It takes me a few seconds to register what is going on before I can wrap my arms around her and actually kiss her back.

Once I saw Doctor Kimishima kiss Little Guy this way; she yanked him by his tie and they kissed for just a moment. I thought it would be painful for Little Guy, but now I understand why he doesn't complain.

The sound of an opening door breaks through the silence and reminds us that we're not alone. Terrified at the aspect of Doctor Kimishima walking in on this, we both separate and I rush to occupy myself. Acting on instinct, I kneel to tie my shoe…only to find I'm not wearing shoes. Damn it.

"Joshua," Doctor Kimishima says skeptically. "What are you doing?"

"I-I'm…" I stutter and glance nervously at Alyssa. "I'm…itching my foot. I mean, scratching my foot…cause I have an itch."

"Yes, well, it's five in the morning so I suggest you both get back to bed," she commands but she doesn't sound angry.

Standing up, I nod as she turns back around and walks to the bathroom. My heart is still pounding once she's out of sight.

Alyssa and I look at each other, studying the other's stunned expression and red cheeks, before grinning together.

"See you in the morning," she says sweetly and takes a step towards me. She quickly kisses my cheek and then walks down the hall towards her room.

"Uh-huh," I reply intelligently but she's already gone. The feeling of her kiss lingers on my lips, and if I weren't so exhausted sleeping would be impossible.

Retreating to the guestroom, I'm simply glad that there is at least one person who will stay with me.

Most teenagers spend their Saturday mornings sleeping in till noon or having breakfast with friends. Some are too hung over to do much more than groan, and others gradually wake themselves by watching T.V. Me? I spend it at a graveyard.

I've been sitting against my mother's tombstone for almost half an hour. Twirling grass around my fingers, I simply admire the lush green trees and smell of freshly mowed grass. I brought her flowers this time – beautiful and brightly colored with soft petals and a sweet smell to help cover the strange odor of earth and death. The sun warms my skin and songbirds fly between the graves. After a terrible winter, it's nice to finally witness spring.

Sometime last week I decided that I'd be a better son by visiting my mother more often, and I'll always bring her a gift. When I'm here I don't talk to my mom's grave and I don't sink my face into the soil as I sob (though sometimes I want to do that), I just sit with her. I like to think that she's enjoying this day with me.

Sighing, I rest my head against the smooth stone and close my eyes. The grass tickles my fingers as a warm breeze plays with my uncut (suck it, Collins) hair. Through the singing birds and rustling trees, I hear the soft murmur of approaching footsteps. Opening my eyes, my heart skips a beat when I see a tall blond man approaching me. The incredible calm I was just feeling lingers and keeps me from strangling him right then.

He stops a few feet away from me and doesn't step on my mother's grave, though I still don't like him so close to it. Everything about him is how it usually his –golden hair and a crisp black suit – but his face is far from flawless. His right eye is black and pussy, so much so that I can barely see his blue iris, and his nose and mouth are bruised red. A thin cut ruins his once perfectly high cheekbones. I just hope there are more wounds underneath his clothes.

Seeing him hurts. I had been hoping I'd never be reminded of how I was deceived by somebody I thought was my friend, but now all I can think about is the night when I found the will, and I begin slipping back to those despondent feelings. This time, however, I feel more angry than weak.

"I'm leaving today," he says in a soft, dejected tone as he places his hands in his pockets. For once he isn't gesticulating wildly.

"Good," I reply bitterly with a glare.

"I came to talk – "

"Fuck off."

His mouth falls open and he blinks twice while I feel incredibly satisfied, though I do wish I were the one who gave him the black eye.

"Let me – "

"No," I strongly interrupt, my hatred growing with each word. "I'll do the talking, and you just fucking listen."

"I will not be spoken to in such a way," he rebukes but I talk over him.

"You lied to me, you manipulated me, you almost ruined my chance to have a family, you used me for money – "

"It wasn't all about the money," he adds in quickly but I just shout over him.

" – And you don't even need it!" My breathing is heavy as I stare up at him, confusion mixing with my rage. "I-I don't get it. Why did you want that money?"

"That's what I'm trying to tell you," he says eagerly in a much calmer tone. He kneels beside me and I want to give him another black eye, but for some reason I just can't. Hopeful, he continues, "It wasn't all about the money – "

"You expect me to believe that you dropped your life in California to come to Maine for a kid you've never even met before? And that money had nothing to do with it?"

"You believed it before," he says matter-of-factly.

"That's because I was desperate for somebody to talk to and I didn't know about the will a-and I…" my words fail me as I try to compose myself. I hate that my heart feels like it is going to beat out of my chest and my eyes are heavy with unshed tears. I hate how just talking to him makes me weak from his betrayal.

"You were supposed to be my son, not Gabriel's," he whispers affectionately with a small smile and compassionate blue eyes. "Even though we never met, I felt like I knew you – "

"And the money didn't matter?" I ask in an anxious rush of words. The shakiness of my voice scares me.

"Joshua," he coaxes. "All that mattered to me was you – "

"Tell me the money didn't matter," I demand as I try to stop my shaking hands.

He hesitates. Dear God he hesitates.

"The money didn't matter," he repeats.

"You're lying."

"No I'm not – "

"You're lying," I repeat with more strength while my fingers dig into the moist dirt, preventing me from beating him to a pulp.

"O-okay, so the money did interest me," he confesses hastily. "But I only cared about you – "

"I heard you talking on the phone to him," I cut him off, the words spilling out of me in a shaky, uncontrollable wave. "To my grandfather. How come you got to meet him but I never did?'

"Uh…" is his intelligent reply. It's the first time I've ever heard him speechless.

"Why didn't my grandfather want me?" I ask again, trying to keep the hurt out of my voice.

He sighs heavily and leans back on his heels. His voice is surprisingly sympathetic and gentle as he explains, "Lisa's parents and my own were very close. They were business partners, you see, and it was for business matters that our parents planned to have us married. When Lisa decided she did not want to marry me, however, they disowned her. After her death, your grandfather regretted not talking to her after all these years. I believe he always wanted to reconnect with her, but he's a very prideful man. Once Lisa died he knew he was too late, he decided he wanted to connect with you, but he wanted you back as my son and not Gabriel's. He's very ill though, so time for him is short. He thus created the will in hopes that it would give me further reason to connect with you."

I've never met my grandfather, but I'm kind of glad I didn't. Just hearing about him fills me with disgust.

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I ask uneasily, "If my grandfather wanted me back so badly then why didn't he just come for me himself?"

"Your grandfather is very stubborn and refused to see you until you were my son, not Gabriel's," Collins repeats in the same calm tone, which is getting on my nerves.

My fingers dig deeper into the moist dirt. My grandfather sounds like a rich stubborn baby, throwing a fit whenever he doesn't get what he wants. I really hate people like that.

"So that's why you told him that I looked just like my mom instead of Gabe," I state bitterly.

He nods.

"But he would've realized you lied once he saw me," I remind him with contempt. "Great plan you had there."

"Well…" Collins begins unsteadily. "You see, your grandfather had a stroke a while back and it left him blind. So he actually would not be able to see you…"

I'm stunned.

We stare at each other for a few seconds; I'm speechless with shock while he simply waits for a response.

"Are you telling me," I say slowly and incredulously. "That you lied to a blind and dying man to get money?"

"But, Joshua," he whispers with affection. "I lied for you – "

"Oh don't get started on that crap again," I cut him off with a roll of my eyes. "You said so yourself: he created the will to be your incentive to connect with me. And if money didn't matter then you wouldn't have lied to him."

"The money was seen as just another perk of being with you," he repeats hastily.

"Bull shit," I interrupt with a huff.

He releases another deep breath out of his nose, his nostrils flaring, and his perfect smile dips into a frown.

"I wouldn't drop my very successful life in California just for money," he admits so quietly I don't think he intended for me to hear it. With a sigh, he falls back on his butt and crosses his legs. His shoulders drop like he has the weight of the world pressed on him. Seeing him sitting that way without perfect posture almost makes him look normal.

I watch his still body while I try to decide if what he just said is sincere. The sound of singing birds and rustling leaves fills our silence.

"Do you know how old I am?" He whispers, his voice like the breeze, and he won't look at me. "I'm forty two. Forty-two and I'm still completely alone. I don't have a wife or children. People tend to stay away from me because I'm controlling. And…and I really miss Lisa. I never realized how much I loved her until it was too late. There are so many things I would have done differently… And the way I acted was wrong, yes, but I did it because…because…"

"Because you were lonely," I finish.

His shoulders shag as he releases a deep breath. An ant crawls along his polished shoe but he doesn't notice. I've never seen him look so miserable and weak before now.

When I discovered the will I thought that Collins bought all his fancy crap because he wanted what Gabe didn't have, but maybe I was wrong. What if he buys so much useless junk because it's his way of filling some kind of emptiness inside of him? Maybe he's greedy because he's lonely.

"How many houses do you have?" I ask.

"Five," he says without looking up.

"And how many of those houses are empty?"

His hands stop moving and he becomes still. I wait for him to respond but he remains silent. The ant crawls along his knee and he stares it at but does not flick it off. He watches another crawl along his ankle, just a little black dot where it shouldn't be.

For the first time I pity Collins because I see him for what he really is: an aging, lonely man. He was so desperate for company that he went through so much trouble just to connect with a boy he never even met. It's pathetic really. So pathetic that I no longer think hitting him is justifiable. Damn it. I was really hoping I'd get to beat him up and feel no remorse, but now…. Ugh, sometimes I hate my good morals.

Sighing, I grumble, "Go home, Collins. Return to your job in California and move on from all this. Socialize a bit more and try not to be so perfect. Be honest…to yourself and everybody else."

He still won't respond and he just stares at the grass. I may pity him enough not to beat him, but I definitely don't want him around anymore.

After some time he brings his head up and I'm surprised to see tears in his cobalt eyes yet a small smile on his face. For the past month he has looked at me with affection, but this time I actually feel it.

"Honestly," he says in a strained voice. "I hate swimming. I know I told you I loved it but I absolutely hate it…. And Lisa and I didn't get along perfectly when we were children. It was actually rather awkward. And I hate lobsters."

I just nod in approval, glad that he's being honest.

His smile falters and he looks back down at his hands. With a deep breath, he adds, "I came here to try to convince you to let me adopt you so we could both get the money, but I doubt you'll want to do that now…"

He looks up at me, tears still in his eyes, and I shake my head.

"I suppose you'll want to hit me, too," he mumbles with slight fear.

Ugh, why do I have to be the better person here?

"No…" I sigh almost bitterly. "Though I was planning on it. Who already hit you?"

"Gabriel," he grumbles and winces at the thought. "He came to get your stuff and then he said he had some unfinished business, which is when he hit me."

"I'm not gonna lie, I'm glad he did it," I say boldly, and I kind of wish I had been there for that fight. Being in the army, I bet Gabe was awesome.

"You…" he says almost in a whimper, and it only adds to how pathetic he is now. "You really hate me, don't you?"

For a brief moment I consider lying to him, but then I change my mind and say bluntly, "Yep."

He nods and I imagine he is used to people hating him.

With a deep breath, he stands up and brushes the ants off of his pants. I follow suit so we're face to face. I gladly notice that I'll be taller than him in just a few years.

He says remorsefully, "I must be going soon, but I owe you an apology for all the trouble I've caused. I…I wish you and Gabriel the best of luck. You'll make a good family."

"Thank you," I reply with forced civility.

"I can only hope that one day you'll want to talk to me again – the real me – and if you're ever in Las Angeles, Chicago, Boston, or New York City, let me know and I'll let you stay at one of my houses," he adds and his blue eyes are misty with unshed tears while I wonder if this is another one of his ploys, like he is trying to guilt me into working with him.

"Uh-huh," I grunt just like my mom used to when she was pissed with somebody, though he doesn't seem to pick up on the hostility.

He then puts his hand out, and I know it doesn't seem like much but the fact that he did it rather than me makes me feel older somehow. Not really older, but wiser and respected. Collins has always been the judging one, but now he wants my approval, and the realization lifts some of my suspicions. It makes me hopeful that maybe he'll change, but I'm still too skeptical to fully believe this. Nevertheless, I shake his hand. His fingers curl tightly around mine but my grip is stronger.

"You are becoming a remarkable young man," he says proudly, which catches me off guard. "I know it's going to be difficult, but you and I both need to let go of the past. All of it."

I'm not sure what he means by all of it, but as I watch him walk down the line of tombstones, I think I understand.

Once he's completely out of sight, I take a deep breath of clean spring air and say goodbye to my mother.

A Few Months Later

"So your sister is Sofia but she likes to be called Sophie, and she has three daughters, all of which are under twelve," I recite as I watch the passing landscape. With my feet propped on the dashboard, my hand hanging limply out the open window, and my seat reclined as far back as possible, the three-hour drive to Montpelier, Vermont should be comfortable but I'm queasy with anxiety.

"And the daughters' names?" Gabe quizzes from the driver's seat. The warm summer air rushes in from the open windows and whips his long green hair around. He only has one hand on the wheel while the other is resting on the door.

"The oldest is Sarah, Bianca is ten, and Isabella is six," I answer easily. "You're mother is the super Italian one who everybody calls Nona and your dad is the guy who probably won't leave his chair and everybody calls him Ed. His side of the family is small but your mother's side is enormous."

I don't mention that the number of family members frightens me. My entire life it had just been my mom and me – nobody else – but now I'm driving to a family reunion where I'll probably make a huge fool out of myself. And to make things even more stressful, Gabe insisted that we keep our arrival a surprise. Everybody knows that he left my mom and me, but they have no idea about what's been going on for the past few months, so I guess seeing me will be a big deal.

The one thing I am excited for, however, is that most of them are really Italian. I wouldn't have guessed it by looking at Gabe (I guess he takes after his father), but that does explain why my middle name is Leonardo. If I could just get past my fears I'd love to learn about my heritage...and then complain for having the longest name ever.

Taking a deep breath, I begin reciting the long list of extended family that I've been memorizing for the past three hours, "Your aunt – my great aunt – is Clarissa and she has a limp from when she successfully fought off a thug. Her husband, Georgio, will tell his war stories whenever he gets the chance but they're really boring. Your other aunt, Vera, is in a wheelchair and her husband died of cancer a few years back. Your cousin Nathan has a huge mustache that nobody likes and…"

I go on for another ten minutes listing all the information easily. Meanwhile, Gabe yells at the driver in front of him but I'm a good student and easily focus on the information. Even his rude gestures to other drivers don't deter me. When I'm done, however, I'm out of breath and even more terrified than before.

"With a memory like that I have no idea why you need summer school," Gabe says proudly with a crooked grin. "It's definitely the deep sulcus in your brain."

Rolling my eyes, I repeat something we've gone over a thousand times, "There is no evidence that a deep sulcus means greater intelligence…and it is still creepy you saw my brain."

"Why do you and RONI insist on crushing my dreams?" he groans with fake pain (at least I think it's fake). "And it was an MRI exam, so quit worrying…. Jesus Christ people! If you're slow then get into the right lane! Why does everybody suck at driving?"

I chuckle at his impatience and we fall into a comfortable silence, which is occasionally broken by Gabe's angry grumbling. For a while I focus on the blur of pine trees as we travel through the mountain pass, but I can't stop worrying. Without realizing it I am muttering all the names of family members like a crazy person.

"Calm down," Gabe says gently, and the sound of his voice startles me out of my trance. "They are all really nice people. They're going to like you, and if they don't they'll be too drunk to remember why."

"Oh, that's comforting," I reply sarcastically and sink deeper into my seat.

"Hey, if you mess up I'll make a yo mama joke and that should redirect the embarrassment onto me," he offers with confidence.

"Please don't do one of those jokes," I practically beg, my face already turning red at the thought of it. "We aren't gangsters. We're skinny white guys with green hair. Big difference."

"Big difference between a U-Haul and yo mama – "

"NO!" I cry out before he can finish the terribly bad joke though he just cracks up. Gabe usually isn't embarrassing, but those jokes make me want to bury myself under a mountain.

We pass a sign that reads Welcome to Montpelier and I think my limbs have turned into jelly. Heart pounding, I observe the town with increasing dread. The small brick houses and thick green trees seem too perfect to be real so there is bound to be some psycho murderer running around. We pass by a lake (which is probably where the killer lives) and I really want to go swimming, but we drive by. We just drive and drive until we come to a street that is lined with cars.

We park behind a SUV and Gabe cuts off the engine. I think I'm going to be sick.

"Hey," he says softly and rests a hand on my shoulder. I turn to look at him while trying to fight off the queasiness. With a reassuring smile, he adds, "As long as you be yourself they'll instantly love you."

I'm not sure how to respond because he sounds so sincere. Even though we're living together as family we rarely have these kind of heart-to-heart moments, so I'm not used to him being compassionate. Honestly, I've never seen him be kind to anybody other than me.

After a few seconds of comfortable silence, he says with some excitement, "I got you something."

Removing his hand from my shoulder, he reaches into the backseat and grabs a small package wrapped in green tissue paper. With a grin, he hands it to me and says, "Happy birthday."

Surprised, I hesitate before taking the gift. We had celebrated my birthday last night with the Kimishimas and Gabe had kind of gone overboard with the gifts. He already got me a new phone and a pet fish (which I almost named Fishy, but I tried to be more creative and went with Eggplant instead), what else could he have done?

I can feel him watching me as I slowly pull the paper apart. Once the green wrapping falls away I'm left with a thick leather bound book. Curious, I gingerly flip through the pages but it isn't a book, it's a photo album. There are pictures of my mom and Gabe, both younger, and then pictures of a baby with ochre eyes and an awed expression. Every page there is a photo of her warm smile and shining brown eyes. There are even a few pictures of Gabe holding me as a baby, and he actually looks happy in them. Fishy appears once in a while, too. Instantly I'm overwhelmed and the present doesn't seem real, but my heart feels lighter as I smile at my stupid expressions and my mother's laughing face.

I open my mouth to thank him but I'm at a loss for words. Running my hands along the edge of the page, all I can think is how amazing it is to have my mother's life so close. Each picture is labeled in elegant handwriting that I can only assume belongs to her. Things like first date and new baby Joshua are scrawled under the photographs. I already know I'm going to look through this a million times, and I'll quiz Gabe on the photos, all of which hold a story.

Finally, I look up at him but I'm still speechless. He just smiles though because he understands how special this is.

"Come on," he urges. "We've got a party to attend to."

He exits the car but I can't move. For a few seconds I merely stare at the picture of my smiling mother, gluing it to my memory, and then close the album. With a deep breath, I step outside and walk towards Gabe.

Even though hugging isn't our thing (the only time we've done it was the night I ran away from Collins a few months ago), I have no qualms about it this time. I hold him just long enough to say, "Thanks, Dad" before stepping away and walking down the street. He keeps up with me but we don't look at each other, trying to play it off like it's no big deal. I can only assume that he feels the same joy and comfort I have from my casual use of the word dad. It's the first time I've called him that, and using it makes this all feel official, like we won't let this fall apart without a fight.

We're not perfect together. I hold grudges, he's irresponsible, we both sleep through our alarm clocks, I have slight trust issues, and he's often rude to everybody, but we're working together. Despite my mixed feelings for him, Collins was right when he said I had to move on from all of the past, not just my mother's death. We're both scarred from everything, but we've accepted our faults and will work with it, not against it. And if I can remember that then maybe I can stop being so scared to meet my relatives.

As we walk closer and closer to the brick house I can see people in the window, and some of them have green hair. I tell myself to remember this moment. I focus on the feel of the album's rough leather in my hand and the smoothness of the pages. I focus on the sun's warmth, the singing birds, Gabe's footsteps in time with mine, and an overall feeling of happiness and belonging. I focus on all of this because there were many times in the past few months where I wanted to simply give up. Everything had felt like shit and I'd thought I'd be trapped in that Hell forever. I make myself remember this moment where everything is all right so that when I feel like the world is crashing down on me again, I can remind myself that things will change. People will change. We'll get hurt along the way, but there will always be something that makes it better. Right now that something is a father at my side, a huge family waiting for me, and a photo album to remind me of everything I love.

We stop in front of an elegant white door. For a few seconds we listen to the sounds of laughing children and chatting adults with Italian accents. I can smell a blueberry pie and smoked sausages, reminding me of how hungry I am.

"Ready?" Gabe asks with a confident grin and his amber eyes are bright.

Taking a deep breath, I return the smile.


Authors Note

Whoa…I'm done. Snap.

So sorry this took so long but this was possibly one of the hardest chapters to write. Endings have always been difficult for me and I restarted this six times. I also was gone for the month of July in New York, so that really held me back. I'm really so sorry this took forever to post! I bet everybody has forgotten about this story and gave up on it, but if you haven't then thanks for sticking with it! :D

And of course a big thanks to Tell Her This for helping me out yet again. As usual you were incredibly helpful and always know how to make a story better.

The quote I threw in the very beginning is from Joe Biden's (U.S.'s vice president) Memorial Day speech, which was incredibly moving and beautiful. The speech is about 20 minutes long, but if you've lost a family member or somebody you love then I urge you to listen to it because it's really touching.

On another note, I have no idea where Gabe is from but I went with Vermont. Also I know Gabe doesn't look Italian but I just really liked the idea of him having an Italian mother and a huge family. Sorry if you hate that.

So now I'm going to go into some acknowledgements, so feel free to stop reading if you don't care.

"There's a consensus that writing is a solitary act, but it took a village to grow this book" – author Swati Avasthi (I love this quote)

My biggest thanks go to Tell Her This who is the only but still coolest Scottish person I know. She had offered to help me with my story and I'm so grateful for that because she has really been a fantastic beta reader and helped make this story into something better than I had expected. She's also been a great friend and somebody who I really enjoy talking to. So thank you so much and I'm sorry I can't pay you cause if I could I would!

I also want to thank everybody who has read and stuck with this story even though it took a year to finish. You have all been so incredibly supportive and helpful that I really don't know how to repay you. Thank you Canada Cowboy, TCGleek, Indochine, EmilyAndDixie, magikid196, ADarknessInHeaven, Tell Her This, Orwell is watching-xoxo, SheiBakelly, StarStarStar, cheesetomacaroni, Yaku-R, Liliafax, chibi-chinita, ElizabethStiles, Clarissa Gavin, and risefromgrace16 for all of your amazing reviews throughout this story. YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME!

I'm sorry this AN is so long but I'll draw it to a close now. Thanks so much for reading and I really hoped you enjoyed this as much as I did! I'd love to hear what you thought of the conclusion because writing endings is one of the most difficult things for me. I know it's not a full resolution but I was going for an American Modernist style conclusion, where there's a hint of a resolution. So please give one last review to make me super happy.

For more information about An Old Blue Fish or upcoming stories from me, please see my profile.

And there will not be a sequel to this story! (but there may be a prequel…)



P.S. from chapter one's AN: "This is my newest story where it is kind of like a ficlet, because I'm not making it as super intense as my other chaptered stories." Hahaha funny joke cause I actually tried so hard!