He couldn't believe how easy it had been. He'd expected it to be clumsy and awkward, that he'd fumble for the right words and make a fool of himself. Instead, their conversation had flowed very naturally, as if they were old friends greeting one another after some time apart, which in a way was exactly the case, although she'd had no idea that it was.

His mind drifted back to a point in time many years before to a place where he'd arrived as a result of a choice he'd made. Another choice that had followed had led him to where he was now.

"Sydney Carton? I wasn't expecting to see you here for another twenty years." The tall Being glowing with light seemed genuinely surprised to see him.

So it hadn't been the end, after all. That was something he'd always wondered about, whether or not it really was the end. Eventually, it had ceased to matter. Lucie and her happiness had been all that had mattered.

"I came here in place of a friend, sir. He...was badly needed on earth."

"I see." The Being looked thoughtful. Quickly He checked the book which He held in His hands. "Ah, yes. Charles Evremonde, also known as Charles Darnay." He closed the book. "Why'd you do it, Sydney?"

"I did it for love, sir. She's the only thing in the world that matters to me, and the only thing I care about is that she's happy. I willingly gave up my own life so that the one she loves could remain with her."

The Being gazed at him. "You're a very unusual man, Sydney Carton. Such a selfless act deserves a reward."

"Is not heaven itself the reward for those who've lived virtuous lives?" asked Sydney.

"In most cases, yes. In your case, you have a choice to make."

"What kind of choice, sir?"

"You had strong romantic inclinations toward Mademoiselle Lucie Manette at one time, did you not?"

"Oh, yes, sir!"

"Yet she did not reciprocate your love, as another had claimed her heart. One of higher status and more virtue than yourself."

"Yes, sir."

"The choice I offer you is simply this: You may enter heaven twenty years prematurely and enjoy eternal bliss, or you may return to earth at some time in the future, after the one she loves has passed over himself. What I am prepared to grant you is a second chance to win her love."

He'd had to return under a different name, of course, and his previous appearance had been altered somewhat, but many things about him were still the same. He was now a teetotaler, and he also took more pride in his appearance and always strove to look his best.

Even after all these years, she'd still looked much the same to him. As soon as he'd seen her again, the old longing and desire had returned with as much fervency as ever. He couldn't help but wonder what her reaction would have been if she'd immediately realized his true identity. The look in her eyes as they'd parted had given him hope that this time, things would be different.