I'm so sorry this story has taken me so long to finish :/ But I'm on holidays now... So, if I write another story - which is certainly within the realm of possibility - it should be updated far more frequently! Anyway, here's the end ;)

Chapter Nine

Spending an entire evening in an airport awaiting an 11pm flight gave one a lot of time to think - too much time, Assumpta thought, especially when trying to hide from one's problems. She'd bought a book, three trashy magazines and a copious amount of junk food, but nothing could serve to distract her for long. Slumping down in her grey plastic chair, she sulkily tossed away the rubbish from the family sized bag of peanut m&ms which had miserably failed to quell the gnawing feeling in her stomach. She closed her eyes and succumbed to the thoughts which had been crowding in on her mind for hours.

The scene from that morning, at Peter's mother's house... She remembered every single word. They were permanently etched onto her brain like a tattoo, and she couldn't scrub them off, no matter how she tried. Thinking of them, she felt her face burning red.

Her own voice rang in her ears, "You betrayed me". That part was fair, she told herself; as far as she knew at the time, he had betrayed her. But then... Assumpta bit her lip as she recalled Peter's face, his big eyes so hopeful when he told her that it had all been a misunderstanding. He had never slept with Jenny.

The jealous bitch had cooked up that story to tear them apart, so she could have Peter to herself. Well played, Jenny, Assumpta thought resentfully, It looks like you've won.

Yes, Jenny had won. Assumpta had walked out on Peter, left him behind, exhausted and all out of words.
It was his words that echoed in her head now.
"I love you, Assumpta."
"Don't do this, Assumpta."
"We've been as happy as the stars are bright..."
'As happy as the stars are bright.' Assumpta smiled sadly. Such a typically, beautifully Peter thing to say.

But had she listened?

No. She had continued to storm and shout, in perfect Assumpta fashion, professing feelings and thoughts which were not her own. Did she really believe that she was nothing more than another notch on Peter's belt? Another toy to be thrown away when he got bored? Of course not. If she was honest with herself, she had never believed that, not even for a second. She had feared it, yes, but never truly believed it.

But she couldn't just tell him that. She couldn't just let him win. She was angry and worked up and stubborn, and she had to fight. Besides, she reasoned with herself, he had still wronged her. He had kissed Jenny, and he'd kept it from her.

More words replayed in her mind – Henrie's simple statement.
"Jesus says we should forgive those who sin against us."

How was it, Assumpta wondered, that a five-year-old seemed to understand more about love than she did? Wasn't that love, after all? Looking past the stupid mistakes, the thoughtless words, the past... forgiving.

Okay, okay.

Assumpta ripped open a packet of crisps and began stuffing them into her mouth, hoping the action would make her remorseful tears forget to fall.

So she should have forgiven him.

She almost had. She had been so close to surrendering to his whispered pleas... But she was Assumpta. She had to fight; she had to storm off. Didn't he understand that?

As Assumpta looked around at her cold, white surroundings, a memory tugged at her heart. The last time they had been in an airport... the coffee, the muffin... the overwhelming feeling of security as she'd realised how perfectly Peter knew her. If he knew her so well, why hadn't he come after her? Why hadn't he known that she'd only left because she wanted him to chase her, to fight for her just a little longer? Why had he just given up, watched her go with a defeated "Fine"?

Maybe it was silly; maybe it was childish; but there it was. She needed him to come after her, to prove his love. Stupidly, she looked around her, thinking he might come running through the airport like Hugh Grant in some Richard Curtis film. But this was life. He didn't come.

When it was finally time to board the plane, Assumpta did so with a heavy heart and a bellyache from too much comfort food. Her seatbelt clicked at the same time as the realisation that her obstinate, dramatic ways had gone and cost her the one real thing she'd ever known. The middle-aged businessman in the next seat shifted uncomfortably, as Assumpta leaned her head against the window and at last began to cry.

Stepping off the plane in Dublin, the air was cold. Assumpta's half-dried tears stung her face in the icy breeze. She felt gross in her jeans and flannelette shirt, all crumpled from the waiting and the flight. She stared self-consciously ahead as she entered the terminal, trying not to see the other passengers' joyful reunions with their loved ones.

Shifting to avoid the affectionate scenes all around her, Assumpta's tired and awkward gaze eventually fell on a lone figure standing apart from the rest. He was wearing jeans, a navy knitted jumper, and a nervous, crooked smile.

He was holding a takeaway cup of coffee and a white paper bag.

Assumpta dropped her hand luggage and ran at Peter with such fervour that she actually launched into the air. He had to let the coffee and muffin fall to the ground so that he might catch her. With her arms around his neck, his tightly around her waist, and her feet still not touching the floor, they clung to one another. The knots in Assumpta's stomach turned to butterflies as she breathed in Peter's comforting scent through his jumper.
'You came,' she mumbled softly into his chest.
'Of course I came,' Peter replied, setting her down on her feet.

He stepped back, taking her face in his hands.
'I hate to break it to you, Assumpta Fitzgerald, but I am never going to let you go.'
He ran his fingers through her hair, and was so thankful to see her smile in response.
Assumpta looked up into his eyes, and said earnestly, 'I'm sorry, Peter'.
'I'm sorry too.'
A smile flashed in Assumpta's eyes as she thought of Henrie, of love, of all that she had to learn.
'Well, I forgive you,' she said steadily.
Peter brought his forehead to rest on hers.
'I love you,' he whispered.
'I know you do,' she assured him.

And he kissed her softly, and he took her home.

Mark's booming voice carried up the stairs.


Carefully laying down her storybook so as not to lose the page, Henrie sighed. Personally, she wouldn't mind all the interruptions, but Johann the bear was growing rather impatient to hear the end of the tale she was reading to him.

'Yeah?' she called back.

Leaving Johann to learn a lesson in patience, an intrigued Henrie thundered down the stairs. Taking the receiver from her father's hand, she asked, 'Who is it?'
'You'll see,' said Mark, smiling.

'Hello, Henrietta speaking.'
'Hi, Henrie.'
'Assumpta!' she squealed.

'How would you like to be a flower girl?'

The End