This is the 14th and final chapter of Life Ain't Always Beautiful. Uncle Jack says goodbye to the children and his brother because he must return home, and then Scout is allowed to return to school. The story ends on a happy, content note, I promise.
Scout settled down into her father's arms and sighed. They fell silent for a few long moments and then she asked,
"Are you mad at me, Atticus?"
"No, baby, I was just worried. You scared me half to death," He said, resting his chin on top of her head. "I'll be okay in a few minutes," Atticus added, just needing to hold his daughter for a few more moments.
When Atticus relinquished his grip on her she eased back and then kissed him with all her might. "Love you, Atticus," She said, and he smiled at her.
"Love you too, Scout,"
The next day, Uncle Jack was scheduled to leave, but not until after Jem came home from school. He packed all day, and Scout helped him since there wasn't much else to do. Atticus had gone to work, and Dr. Reynolds still wouldn't let her return to school. Her teacher would stop by and bring Scout her work, and both Atticus and Uncle Jack would help her complete it, and Jem would return it.
Sometimes her teacher would stay for a little while and teach Scout some of the things they were learning in class. With all of this, Scout was staying up-to-date with the class happenings. Sometimes Cecil Jacobs would stop by and tell her all of the gossip and who fought who, but that was pretty rare. He wouldn't be caught dead being nice to a girl who could beat him up.
Jem came home from school, and helped Uncle Jack put his luggage in the car. Atticus came home soon afterwards, and Scout ran to meet him, as usual. He swung her into his arms and kept walking.
"When can I go back to school, Atticus?" She asked him, and he was so stunned he stopped moving.
"I thought you were determined to stay out of school forever," Atticus said as he continued to carry her to the house.
"Well, it's better than staying home all the time. With Uncle Jack we could play games and read and everything, but since he's leaving I'll be so bored,"
"You'll have Calpurnia," Atticus reminded her.
"I know, and she's a lot of fun, but she's busy during the day and I don't want to bother her. Helping her to cook is fun, but I can't just do that all day long," Scout complained, and Atticus laughed.
"I'll work something out, Scout, don't worry," He said as he climbed the steps onto the porch and let Scout down.
They sat down to dinner a few moments later, and then Uncle Jack said goodbye to Calpurnia. He then went across the street and bade farewell to Miss Maudie, who actually gave him a hug. Then she proceeded to shove him onto his backside when he got down on one knee and proposed to her for the umpteenth time.
"One day she'll say yes," Uncle Jack joked to Atticus as he came back across the street, wiping the dirt off of his butt.
"Yeah, whatever you say, Jack," Atticus said, shaking his head at his younger brother. They all climbed into the car and headed off to the train station.
When Uncle Jack had his luggage loaded onto the train, he turned back to his brother. "Take care, big brother," Uncle Jack said, giving him a hug. Atticus nodded as he hugged Uncle Jack tightly.
"You too, little brother,"
Then Uncle Jack turned to Jem and shook his hand before hugging him. "Don't get yourself hurt by playing football, you hear?" Uncle Jack said sternly, and Jem rolled his eyes.
"I won't, Uncle Jack,"
"Yeah right," He snorted, and then turned to Scout who had a sad expression on her face and she wouldn't take her eyes off of the ground. "Are you going to tell me goodbye?" Uncle Jack asked, kneeling down in front of her.
"Bye Uncle Jack," Scout said finally, and then flung her arms around his neck. "I don't want you to go," She said quietly, and Uncle Jack rubbed her back.
"Hey, remember what I said? I'll be back before you know it, for Christmas," He said soothingly, and Scout nodded.
"All right. You promise?"
"Cross my heart, hope to die," Uncle Jack swore, and Scout grinned at him. "I'll miss you, baby," Uncle Jack said and kissed her forehead as the conductor announced,
"I suppose that's my cue. Goodbye!" Uncle Jack said as he hopped on the train, and waved to them. Atticus raised his hand in farewell, while Scout and Jem waved until they couldn't see Uncle Jack hanging out of the window anymore.
In the car ride home, Atticus glanced in the mirror at his children in the backseat. "Why are you two so quiet?" He asked, and neither responded. When he took a closer look, he realized that they were both asleep. Atticus drove the rest of the way home with a slight smile on his face.
He pulled into the driveway and parked the car, getting out and carrying Jem inside to his bedroom, tucking him in and turning the light out. Then he went back for Scout and carried her inside, laying her in her bed and tucking her in. He kissed her cheek before turning the light out and heading for his own bed.
Scout was allowed to return to school more than a week later, and she hurriedly ate her breakfast before kissing Atticus on the cheek and dashing off with Jem right behind her. When she came home that night, she was happy but kept complaining about school all over again.
Atticus came home an hour or so later, and when she jumped in his arms she was chattering about what happened in school and about how she never wanted to go back. Neither Jem nor Scout could figure out why Atticus was grinning.
In truth, it was because everything was back to normal. Uncle Jack was back home, Scout was trying to find a way out of going to school and Jem was obsessed with football and kept talking about it. And Scout and Jem were bickering and fighting all the time again.
Though one night, after Jem and Scout had gotten into a small fist-fight, he took Jem aside. "Now I know that Scout started the fight, Jem, but you have to be the bigger man here. Scout is still injured, and if she reopens her wounds then it could be very bad. Do you understand what I'm saying, son?"
"Yes sir, I understand," Jem said, though the next time Scout wanted to fight, it was hard for him to not give in. He just walked away, leaving Scout pouting.
A week after Scout was allowed to return to school, Atticus got home to find Scout was the only one running to greet him. "You have to come see, Atticus, you have to come see!" She said excitedly, grabbing his hand and pulling him down the street. Atticus just laughed and let his daughter pull him around to the back of the house.
He saw Jem standing there, and he walked up to stand next to him. "What're we looking at?" Atticus asked, glancing down at his son.
"That," Jem said reverently, pointing across the yard. Atticus looked up to see the sun beginning to set in one of the most brilliant ones he had ever seen. Atticus bent down and scooped Scout up, and then laid an arm around Jem's shoulders.
Scout burrowed into his arms and Jem rested his head against his side as the family of three watched the sun go down. The big ball of light slowly sank below the horizon, but not before giving off a spectacular show of reds, oranges, yellows, pinks, purples and many other colors.
Atticus knew that if he lifted up his daughter's shirt, he would see the ugly scars left behind by Bob Ewell's kitchen knife, a lasting reminder of how close he'd come to losing her. And he also knew that if he looked at Jem's arm closely enough, there were small reminders of how Bob Ewell had attacked his children and broken them.
However, Atticus knew by looking at the sunset that the ugly things in life weren't the only things that deserved attention. There were remarkable things in life that needed to be focused on, and he couldn't just focus on the terrible and the what-ifs in life. Yes, Scout could have died, and Jem could've died as well. In fact, there were many instances in which Scout could have died. Atticus lived in fear for a long time that she would die. If truth be told, he was still scared. He was scared when she ran off to go to school, when she ran off to play with her friends. She became even more breakable in his eyes after the attack that autumn evening.
Atticus could feel Scout's heart beating against his chest. He knew she was alive, and he also knew that she was a strong person. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and that was absolutely true in Scout's case. Scout fought like hell for her life, and she deserved a break. Sure there were many ugly things in the world that could hurt or even kill his children.
But Atticus refused to focus on those anymore. Yes, life was not always beautiful, and it would never be truly beautiful the way it should be.
But it is a beautiful ride.
And now we have come to the conclusion of this story! I want to thank all of you lovely readers and reviewers who saw this story until the end and kept me going with your encouraging reviews, I love you all! I hope you have enjoyed this story, and thank you so much for reading!