A/N: It took six months but I finally updated (and finished) this fic. Thanks to everyone for your patience. I was going to go in a completely different direction for this one but ultimately decided to end it on this note. Outside of how Étienne develops in this story, I'd like to think that how Anna is portrayed in this chapter reflects how she might have changed after the book (when this chapter would take place). Hope you enjoy it!
After our meal, we all head our separate ways. Anna goes to meet her parents, and I go back to my room at Lambert. We both agreed that it's best to wait until graduation, and not before, to do formal introductions. Personally, I can't wait for her to meet mum, but I understand where Anna is coming from. Her parents are quite different from my own.
I continue the arduous task of packing up my things that I started weeks ago. All the tattered books, the Oxford English Dictionary, the well-worn shirts and trousers. They'll all get shipped away tomorrow. I set aside the prints mum made of London, the drawing Josh did of me as Napoleon, and, of course, my favorite hat. Those will go with me on the aeroplane this weekend.
It's odd, but among all of these things and all these memories, I don't feel alone. I mean, sure, physically in this moment, I am totally alone. But I know who I am now and what I want – and whatever I haven't figured out yet, I know at some point I will. And that's something I've never had before.
Around 10 there's a slight knock at my door. "Étienne," she whispers. "I'm back."
I open the door slowly, letting her in without a sound. We might be out of here permanently in a few days, but there's still no need for my neighbours to know my personal business.
She closes the door carefully behind her and kisses me. "How did it go?" I whisper.
"Not bad," she says. "They were behaving much better than they did at Christmas. They were so happy to see me. Graduation might not be so painful after all."
"Perhaps they're waiting to take it out on me tomorrow," I say, laughing.
"I know they'll like you," she says, smiling. "Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not the week after. But they eventually will."
"Hey," she says, wrapping her arms around me. "You know what I mean. It's going to be really different for them, just like it's really different for me. None of us are used to this."
"You better get used to it, banane," I say, kissing her cheek. "I plan to be around for a while."
She smiles back at me. "I know you do," she says, holding me tighter. "And I do, too. But they'll think we're moving too fast. I know how they are – the whole summer visit to San Francisco might be asking for too much."
"There's adult supervision, a free guest room in the heart of the city, and your best friend as your tour guide," I say. "What more could they want for you?"
"Knowing that you won't sleep with me," she says matter-of-factly.
"Well, that's not true," I say.
"Étienne!" she says, blushing.
"It's cute you still blush at that," I say. "Really, it is."
"I don't want my parents to know about, you know…"
"No, please, enlighten me," I say. "I don't quite get what you're saying."
"That we've had sex," she finally whispers, scowling.
"Correction," I say. "That we have sex. I mean, I hope it's still in the present."
"I think it is," she says, walking us back slowly away from the door. "I mean, I hear you're good at it."
"And who told you that?"
"Oh, you know, someone," Anna says. "She says you're always charming her and that you'd do anything for her. She says you're even moving thousands of miles away just to be with her."
"C'est toute la verité," I say as we reach the frame of my bed.
"Pourquoi?" she asks.
"Because I love her," I say. "More than she even knows."