Chapter 22 - Epilogue

for grabadietcoke, 4eva

"It is never too late to be who you might have been." – George Eliot

Sometime in the future…

I'm currently sitting in the classroom I'm occupying this semester at the University of Montana, preparing my lecture notes. Mount Sentinel, with it's giant white "M" erected in it's side, keeps watch over the Main Hall building, and I find the beautiful scenery cause for distraction. I've seen more of the United States than I ever imagined I would, the new and different landscapes get me every time.

I'm a lucky man.

I've driven on the famed Route 66. I've witnessed a traditional Native American Rain Dance. I've fed the homeless in Detroit. I've met people I would never have crossed paths with otherwise. I feel blessed in a way my privileged upbringing never showed me.

Life with Bella is…well it's interesting. Every day my girl has me on my toes, whether she's trying to make me do yoga on the California sand or learn how to blow glass in a mill located in Pennsylvania. We've made slow, easy love under giant redwoods and fucked frantically outside of a grocery store in Reno.

I take joy in her energy, I feed off of it. I've experienced life in a way that I never knew was open to me, and I like to think that she's learned some from me too. That wearing boots in the winter while in North Dakota is probably smart and that when you're out in the middle of the New Mexico desert, living in a luxury RV instead of a dilapidated camper doesn't suck.

Soon after reuniting in Missouri and spending time in Denver, we went to California where I completed my law program and received my Juris Doctor degree. I then obtained my Masters in education, which I was able to do online. I've been fortunate to be offered a few guest professorships teaching law and ethics at various Universities and Community colleges. This works out well for us, as during the fall and spring, we can settle for a while wherever I've accepted a teaching position, and in the summer we can travel around to wherever strikes Bella's fancy. Sometimes the locations coincide with a music festival or some other type of fair, and sometimes she just chooses what sounds interesting. Here in Big Fork, she's started a program that will last a few months, teaching children pottery at the local community center.

On weekends, Bella comes to listen to me play in whatever little bar or coffee shop that will have me. She sits in the front row and sways, trying to keep her off key voice down and I just laugh, taking delight in everything about her.

Rosalie gave birth to a very healthy and beautiful baby boy. When Emmett saw the half Asian child resting upon his glowing wife's stomach, his first words, according to Rosalie were, 'I can't wait to teach our son how to surf!' A few weeks later I received an email of the birth announcement, introducing Michael Edward McCarty to the world. Mom and dad smiling like goons down at their child like no one had ever had one before. I was thrilled when I received the call from Eloise that she had accepted a position as the McCarty's new housekeeper and nanny.

Upon getting the news that Eloise was leaving their employment after almost thirty years of service, my mother was forced to open her eyes. She finally came to understand the distaste Eloise felt in regards to how they treated me, and learned that she had stayed on with them only because I had still been in their lives.

My mother also learned the truth about what my father had done. She claims not to have known the extent he went to in the past, and apparently he kept our last discussion to himself for days after I left until he realized I would tell her my version. She stands behind him in her outlook that I've thrown good opportunities away, and has tried to embrace the fact that I'm no longer that man. She says all she wants for me now is whatever will make me happy. I choose to believe her. We have formed a tenuous relationship and we speak every few weeks.

I have not had a single exchange with the man who I probably owe my happiness to. Without him and his manipulations, I'd still be there, hating a world I didn't really fit into. I hope someday to be able to introduce my children to him, but the relationship will remain one of a careful guardedness, and will be on my terms.

A few months ago, I was flipping through the channels with Monkey on a lazy day outside of Seattle, waiting for Bella to get back from something called a Zumba lesson when I landed on CNN. I was not entirely surprised to see Tanya, smiling and resplendent in her Chanel suit. She was on the arm of her new husband, Governor elect for Alabama, Michael Newton. A certain gold shamrock was absent from her neck, and all I could hope was that she was happy. She had gotten what she wanted.

I've gotten my happy ending.

Stumbling across Bella, barefoot in Texas, was nothing I thought I wanted, and everything I could've hoped for. I've found a peace within myself with her I never knew I could achieve. Being with someone that was made for you is the most precious thing, and I wish that everyone in the world could find what I've found.

Knowing and loving Bella gave me the truest gift of all. The need to discover who I truly was, the hunger to find out what I really wanted, and the ability to go for it.

And if Bella wants to get married at some weird Burning Man ceremony or some Slavic ice ritual, my neck might itch, but I'll do it with a smile on my face.

- The End -

I don't want to bore you all and drag this out with a lengthy a/n, but I do have a few things to say, if you'd be so kind to give me a few more moments.

First of all, to be accepted as an author in a fandom I love as a reader has been one of the best gifts of my life.

I love every single one of my reviewers. From the ones I heard from sporadically, to the ones that were there every chapter. I enjoyed every single one of your reviews, and if you didn't get a reply back, you might've been signed in as "guest". That does not mean I didn't appreciate you. The love you showed for my story is phenomenal, and my gratitude to and for you is beyond measure. I can't call out just a few of you, you all are #1 in my eyes.

To the girls on Facebook who really pimped me and cheered and cried, you've made this experience truly unforgettable.

To the kids on Twitter who answered my questions and put up with my own pimping and silly trivial facts, I hope you'll continue to let me annoy you.

Rochelle Allison and Coldplaywhore, I cannot thank you enough for your support, friendship, and the advice you've given me as a first time author with nothing behind me to prove myself worthy of your attention.

Caren and the ladies at The Fictionators, Evilnat and the ladies at The Lemonade Stand, I had no idea going in that my dream of being featured on your sites would ever come to fruition, especially more than once. Thank you for your pimping and support. Blows me away.

Grabadietcoke. What can I say to you? You are my soulmate, my 4eva, and this entire thing would never have happened if it weren't for you. You made my words pretty and you made me confident.

OK sounds like i'm writing my own memorial service or Oscar speech or something. Sorry. I'm done. :)

Put me on author alert if you'd like to be aware when I post my new story! That's right, I'm at it again.