Final Epilogue: Promise of Reunion

The book that she had been working on for months had finally been published. Since then, it had become famous practically overnight, making bestseller and must-read lists all over the country in less than a week, and it was currently in the process of being translated into several different languages.

Sitting at a bench in the park, Ib lays back and yawns loudly. "I need a break." She thinks out loud to herself. Over the past several days, she had been in and out of planes, appearing on talk shows and various book signings. She had just come back from Los Angeles, where she had discussed with a producer a film adaptation of her book. She walked out of that meeting with a bad taste in her mouth. But that was for another day. Finally she had time to herself, and she decided to spend it with her beloved daughter.

"Be careful, sweetie!" Ib called out. Ib had been playing with her daughter for an hour and needed to rest, but her daughter is constantly full of energy. The little girl spends her time running around on the jungle gym. As Ib watches over her daughter, she smiles. After all Ib's been through, she's happy just to be with her.

At that moment, a hand reaches out and rests on Ib's shoulder. "Having fun, Ib?" A man says from behind her.

Ib turns around to see none other than her husband of 10 years. He's wearing a blue suit and carrying a briefcase. His lavender hair is slicked back; a style that she'd always disliked but he found impressed his clients. "Garry!" Ib yells excitedly.

"Hey there, beautiful." Garry says, smiling.

Ib pulls Garry down, nearly hurling him over the bench, and kisses him. She hadn't seen her husband in what seemed like an eternity and their first kiss after all that time was like a breath of fresh air. It's one of the many things she'd been looking forward to upon her return. She wants it to last longer. They both do. But eventually Garry pulls away.

"Easy there, hon." Garry says as he sits down next to Ib. "There are kids around, and you know how she gets with the PDA."

Ib links arms with Garry. "I can't help it," she says, with a tone that makes it clear that she regrets nothing. "I haven't seen you in days! I was thinking about you two every day I was gone and it was killing me!" Ib closes her eyes and rests her head on Garry's shoulder. "I missed you, Garry. I missed you both so much..."

Garry smiles softly. "I missed you too, Ib." After another brief kiss, he turns to look at his daughter from afar. He whistles a familiar tune to the young girl, who turns to see her parents nestled together. With a big smile on her face, she waves at both of them and they wave back before she resumes playing.

Garry places his briefcase on his lap. "So I passed by a bookstore on the way here," He says as he opens up the case. "And guess what was on display in the window." He takes out a regular-sized hardcover book. On the cover is a little girl with her back turned, facing a painting of a woman wearing a red dress. The title reads The World Beyond. Garry takes a moment to admire his wife's work. "I heard it's a good read."

Ib shrugs. "It's a bit too real, if you ask me. The author seems so immersed in the world she's writing about to a fault." She says in a criticizing tone. "If you ask me, I think she's delusional."

For a moment, Garry is speechless. Then all of a sudden, he bursts out into laughter. "That shouldn't be funny at all!" He manages to say.

Ib laughs a little with her husband. "Honey, you're getting hysterical!" She exclaims, although she really doesn't mind. It was a while before they could really laugh about it. They were both happy to able to do so now. After a while, Garry finally begins to calm down.

"So how was the trip?" he asks. "Are we gonna see a movie any time soon?"

Ib grimaces at the thought. "I don't think it's gonna." she replies. "The direction they want to take it, it sounds like a cheesy horror film. The story's a little unsettling, sure, but I don't want it to be super scary."

"A lot of fans are expecting something. You think they'll get mad?"

"Oh, don't worry," Ib says confidently. "I'm just exploring my options. I was thinking about making it into a video game! What do you think?"

Garry looks at Ib, one eyebrow raised. "You think people will play a game like that?" he asks.

Ib kisses Garry on the cheek. "Anything's possible."

"Anything's possible, huh…" Garry takes another moment to examine the book. He opens it to the first page, which has a dedication written out to Ib's parents, him, their daughter, and an old writing professor. He turns another page to the first chapter. "So I guess you decided against the 'Based on a true story' thing, huh?"

Ib laughs. "You think anyone would believe me?" she asks.

"Guess not..." Garry turns back to the book and reads the first few sentences out loud. "She held the handkerchief loosely in her hands, admiring it. It was beautifully made, and it even had her name on it. It was softer than any fabric she'd ever felt before. The handkerchief was a gift given to her by her parents for her birthday, and it immediately became one of her most treasured possessions. This day couldn't get any better."

Garry closes the book and reads the cover again. "The World Beyond…" He contemplates the title. When asked about her inspiration to write the book during interviews, Ib always kept it a secret. Including her, there are only two people in the whole world who knew that secret. "It seems like so long ago." He says, flipping through the pages.

Ib joins her husband in skimming the book. "It has. Almost twenty-five years…"

"I remember it like it was yesterday." He says, holding up his hand, revealing the slightly faded scar of a large cut across his palm. "And I've got the scar to prove it. It's the only proof we have anymore…"

Ib takes Garry's hand and runs her finger across his scar, then kisses it. "It's all the proof we need. It's proof that you and I met each other in a completely different world, and went together on a life-changing journey." She kisses the scar again. It always makes Garry embarrassed, which is half the reason why she keeps doing it.

"If you call a series of mild heart attacks a life-changing journey, that is." Garry says, chuckling.

"It was worth it, right? Because of that, we met. We became best friends…and eventually, we fell in love." Ib slips her hand in with Garry's, and they both hold tightly.

"Yeah…for all its ups and downs, I wouldn't change a thing about it." Garry smiles. Her hand is warm against his. He remembers when his scar would hurt when it was still fresh. All Ib had to do was press down on it, and it would start to feel better. It doesn't hurt anymore, but the touch of Ib's hand instantly makes him feel better, without fail. "And now here we are."

Ib nods. "That's right. We have nice jobs, we're both happily married…" Ib pauses for a moment, she turns to their daughter, picking flowers from a bush. "…And we have a beautiful little girl."

"Yeah…" Garry trails off as he looks on with Ib. "Who would've thought, right?"

"I told you that anything's possible." Ib says with a smile.

"Yeah, but this…this is…"

Ib and Garry look into each other's eyes. They smiled, both knowing that the other was thinking the same thing. They remembered everything about their journey beyond the painting and they realized early on that there was one thing that they truly regretted. They smiled now for the same reason.

Ib turns back to their daughter. "Mary!" she calls. "Come on back, it's getting late!"

"Get on over here, kiddo!" Garry calls.

The little girl turns to her parents. Despite her parents' different hair colors, hers was a perfect blonde. Bright blue eyes shone through her face, which was smudged with dirt. She wore a bright green dress and what looked like a flower in her hair. And she was holding something in her hands, which she kept hidden behind her.

"Mommy!" she yells in excitement. "Daddy!" Without skipping a beat she starts running toward them, being careful to hide her hands behind her back. "Daddy, you're finally back from work!"

"Good to see you, sweetie." Garry says before he kisses her forehead.

"Oh! Mary, look at you!" Ib exclaims, looking at her daughter's dirty face. "You're filthy! Come here." Ib sticks her hand into her pocket, pulls out a handkerchief, and wipes Mary's face clean.

"Ack! Mommy, that tickles!" Mary yells through short bursts of laughter. "I'm fine, really!"

"I won't have my precious little girl walk around with her face covered in dirt." Ib says with a smile.

Mary frowns. "But it'll ruin your favorite handkerchief!"

"Oh don't worry about that, I can clean it anytime. If it's for you, I don't mind getting it a little dirty." As Ib wipes Mary's face clean, she notices the flower in her hair. "Oh, that's a pretty flower, Mary!"

Mary chuckles. "I found it in a bush! Isn't it neat? I never knew there were yellow roses!"

"It looks good on you, sweetheart." Garry says.

"I got roses for you, too!" Mary says excitedly. She removes her hands from behind her back and reveals two roses to her parents, one in each hand.

Their jaws drop. Their eyes widen. Ib and Garry stare speechlessly at the two roses that their daughter, Mary, has just presented to them.

"The blue one's for Daddy…" Mary says as she hands the blue rose to Garry. "And the red one's for Mommy!" Then she hands Ib the red rose.

The two remain stunned as they both stare at Mary's gifts to them. After a moment, they turn to each other with the same look on their face.

Mary takes in her parents' expressions and frowns. "You…You don't like them?" she asks, nearly on the verge of tears.

Ib and Garry continue to stare at each other. They look into each other's eyes, remembering everything. They remember the first moment that they met and the candy Garry gave to her. They remember the violent paintings of woman and the malicious statues. They remember the room filled with red-eyed dolls (To this day, they argue about whether or not they were cute). They remember talking to each other and laughing together in the library and under the fake sunlight to try and distract themselves from the world around them. They remember being separated by stone vines and having to leave each other, and the sadness that overwhelmed them in that time. They hold each and every one of these memories close to their hearts…memories of the horrifying, wondrous, otherworldly journey that the two of them…that the three of them…took together. They smile, both knowing the answer to their daughter's question. A tear rolls down Ib's cheek and they turn to their daughter.

Hand in hand, Ib, Garry, and their daughter Mary begin to walk home together. Ib and Mary both wear their roses in their hair and Garry has his rose nestled in the breast pocket of his jacket. Mary has a big smile on her face. "Daddy's home from work and Mommy's back from her trip! The three of us are finally back together!"

"This calls for a celebration!" said Ib. "How about I cook up your favorite tonight, sweetie?"

Mary says as she jumps up and down in excitement. "Yay!"

Garry smiles and nods. "Sounds good to me." he says.

Mary holds on tightly to her parents' hands. "I love you guys soooo much!"

Ib and Garry look to their daughter and smile. "We love you too, Mary." They say in unison. Then they exchange looks with each other and kiss. The three continue to walk together, each with their own special rose and smiles on their faces. Everything was all right.