Well, here it is – the last chapter. I hope you all enjoy it! After this I can finally concentrate on my other stories more (although this was my favourite one to write).
The next couple of weeks were full of frantic packing. Barney helped Rowan cram her things into a suitcase she had dragged from the store, stuffing them in frenzy while he complained that the smell of paint was giving him a headache.
'We didn't finish it!' Barney suddenly realised, when he was in between piling the books off Rowan's bookcase and sorting them into boxes.
'Oh…' Rowan glanced up from where she was trying to stuff her Elvis album into her bag. 'We'll finish it. I'm nearly done with this, anyway.'
So on the last week, instead of organizing flights and suitcases, Rowan abandoned her bags and opened up the remaining pots of paint. They had very nearly finished by now; the snowscape was beginning to look pretty good. For extra effect Rowan had run sparkly silver paint along the bottom of the walls.
After the week had gone by all that needed filling in were the trees on the walls. Barney offered to do it while Rowan sorted out the boxes (unhelpfully labelled Fragile, Not Important, Extremely Fragile, Wouldn't Be the Worst Thing If They Broke, along with KITCHEN STUFF and BOOKS).
'Oh, my god!' Rowan screeched, scaring Barney so much that he jumped and streaked brown paint in the wrong direction on the wall. He disguised it as best as he could with the blue paint, though it looked a bit strange. 'What?'
'I can't believe…I don't even remember taking this with me!' Rowan stuttered, pulling out an old book with a faded and ripped red cover. 'I wrote my first story in this!' she told Barney as she flipped through the pages, reading her enormous lopsided writing.
Barney looked over her shoulder, scanning the childish scrawl and grinning broadly. 'Interesting,' he said.
'I was only little,' Rowan said defensively, noticing the glint in Barney's eyes. 'Don't pretend you haven't hid anything from when you were younger.'
Barney pulled an I-can't-believe-you-just-said-that face, rolling his eyes so dramatically Rowan burst out laughing. 'You know…like the fact that you had brown hair when you were eight?'
'Dark blonde,' he corrected.
Rowan rolled her own eyes, knowing how stubborn he could be, even when they were just messing around. When Barney went back to his smudged painting, she turned and started sorting through her things again. Her hands suddenly came across a slippery cover of a CD.
'Well, that's the last one.'
Rowan was swamped with bags and suitcases, her hands not even being visible beneath them. 'Here goes.'
Barney opened the door for her, feeling a pang of regret that she was going so soon, wishing that they could have had more time together. But she wasn't going forever, right?
They got out of the cab, a cold breeze in the air stinging their faces as they walked into the airport. Barney clutched Rowan's hand tightly as they made their way to the stand where Rowan was catching the plane.
Don't leave me, he thinks longingly, knowing that it's useless. No one would give up their dream job to stay with someone you've only been dating a few months. It doesn't work like that. Just look at what happened with Ted and Victoria. They dated, and then Victoria got a new job offer in Germany. She and Ted tried long distance, which crashed and burnt when Ted cheated on Victoria with Robin.
Barney swallowed as they reached the stand. The woman behind gave them a bright professional smile, her bright blonde hair tied up in a high ponytail. Her lips were covered in ridiculously pink lipstick. She reminded Barney of a Barbie doll; her smile too plastic and fake to be genuine. Her name tag read Hi, I'm Tara! He saw Rowan roll her eyes when Tara wasn't looking.
Rowan turned to Barney.
Barney held her close, kissing her softly. Rowan's eyes closed as they kissed for the final time, clutching his dark suit nearer to her. When they broke apart they simply stared at each other, until they pulled each other into a tight hug.
Last goodbye, Barney thought.
They let each other go when the blonde woman gave a subtle sigh, indicating that the last passengers would have to board the plane soon.
'I want you to have this,' Rowan whispered, pressing a CD into Barney's hand. He took it, examining the cover. It was a plain white disc, obviously a copy, with the words Walk On scrawled across in blue pen.
'Walk On?' He held it up in his hand. 'Are you trying to tell me something here?' he joked.
'It's a song,' Rowan smiled. 'It was my favourite when I was a kid.'
'Miss, the plane is going to be setting off soon. We need the last passengers to board now,' Tara said in an overly friendly voice, holding out her hand for the ticket. Hesitantly, Rowan handed it over, turning to kiss Barney one last time. Then she was gone, gone to board a plane flying to her dream job. Barney watched her get on, feeling both proud and sad.
'Well, kids, that's all you really need to know. Rowan moved away to her new job. Your Uncle Barney stayed here, of course.'
'But Mommy, I don't want to move!' A little girl of about seven pulled her mother's arm impatiently. 'I liked our old house! I don't like it here.'
'Don't be silly, Chloe,' her mother told her sternly. 'You've never even seen it. But I have. It's lovely, white walls, and we'll paint your bedroom your favourite colour...'
She fumbled with the keys, fitting them into the lock and turning it with a click. The door swung open, almost dramatically, and the little girl who had been complaining suddenly stopped and smiled happily.
The walls could have been white were now multicoloured. Whoever had lived there had obviously given the apartment a makeover. Against the blue background, huge, tall trees painted carefully with browns and greens loomed above the snowy ground. One tree was bizarrely floating, a pair of angel wings on the trunk. Snow was falling and someone had run silver paint across the bottom of the wall which sparkled when the light was turned on.
'Oh Mommy, look at the snow! Isn't it amazing?' The little girl pulled her mother around the room. 'Mommy, can I have my room like this? Please? Please, Mommy?'
Almost a year later…
There was a knock at Barney's door. Barney stood up and opened the door, and was promptly handed a small package. 'Delivery for Mr Stinson,' the man said gruffly.
'Um, thanks,' Barney said, confused. When the man left, he went back into his apartment and opened the box quickly.
There was a book inside.
The Adventures of Violet Brightside by Rowan Hailwel.
Inside his apartment, music played.
Walk on, if we should meet
Walk on, on down the street
Walk on, and don't even look
Walk on, close up the book.
We don't want the world to see us like we are
We should never have even gone this far
Quickly brush away that teardrop
Walk away, darling, don't stop
Don't look back for me
Baby, walk on.
Walk on, don't turn around
Walk on, to higher ground
Take the love we've shared together
Keep it in your heart forever
Don't forget me
But, baby, walk on
If you ever loved me