Hey everyone

Patrick was waiting for me in the living room. I remembered how Zack used to wait in his car out in the parking lot, like he didn't want to deal with my family. But Patrick was the opposite. Sometimes I had a hard time dragging him away from talking to Corey or playing a soccer video game with Ian.

Which is what he was doing right now. I walked out, ready to go. Patrick's head snapped up.

"You ready?" he asked.

"Uh, yeah." I said. I went and stood behind the couch he and Ian were sitting on, playing games.

"Okay, one minute." he said as he turned back to the TV screen.

I rolled my eyes. "You are so immature."

Patrick paused the game long enough to look at me, faking shock. "Me? Immature?" He reached out quick and grabbed me around the waist. He pulled me over the back of the couch, me yelling at him to stop.

Ian was watching us with mild interest. Patrick tossed Ian his controller.

"Sorry, man. I'll have to finish this later. We're going to be late."

"Okay." Ian said. He restarted a new game. Patrick pulled me up off the couch. As he passed Ian he ruffled his hair.

"See ya."

"Bye." Ian answered.

"Hold on a second, Liz." Patrick told me. "I thought I would go ahead and give you that birthday present."

"What?" I asked.

"Your birthday present, remember? I had a really good idea for a birthday present but I wouldn't tell you."

We had Ian's attention now. He had paused the game and was leaning over the back of the couch to watch.

"Well, okay." I said.

"I just couldn't wait." he said.

For the first time I noticed there was a flat, square package wrapped in the funnies section from the newspaper by the front door. I glanced curiously at Patrick.

He grinned. "We didn't have any wrapping paper."

I smiled. "Can I open it?"

"No, you just have to stare at it." he said sarcastically. "Yes, you can open it."

I grabbed the package and brought it to the kitchen table. I started to carefully take of the newspaper.

"Liz, rip it." Ian said from the couch.

I ripped it. Inside was the painting Patrick had done of him and me in the photo booth. I smiled at it a moment before I sprung up and wrapped my arms around Patrick's neck. I kissed him while Ian faked a gag and turned back to his game.

"Hmm," Patrick groaned while I was still kissing him. "Maybe I should give you presents more often…"

"Wait right here." I told him.

Then I ran back into my room, pulled open the secret board in my closet, and took out my painting of us. I had finished it that night after hearing about Al Anon. I ran back out with it awkwardly behind my back.

Patrick smiled as I handed it to him.

"There you go." I said. "Now we're even."

--

Patrick was taking me to my first Al Anon meeting. I told my dad about it and he thought it was a very good idea. I also told Ian. Ian had been having the dreams. I finished my painting, true, but the dreams still came. I wanted them to. I know I can't escape my past. But I'm not running from it anymore. I'm welcoming it with open arms. You have to face the past. It might not go away, but at least it won't scare you anymore.

Ian seemed interested when I told him about Al Anon but he didn't want to go. Not yet anyway. I have a feeling he might someday. I also asked my dad why we stayed so long with my mother.

"You know I loved her right?" he told me. I thought about this a moment. I tried to imagine what it would be like if Patrick did drugs. I knew I wouldn't be able to run away. I would believe I could help him, even if I couldn't.

"But what about when she started…well…when I started being alone with her."

"I was waiting." he said.

"For what?" I asked.

He sighed. "She had aids." he told me. "And I thought the least we could do was stay until…well…"

"Until she died." I finished.

He nodded. I thought I saw tears in his eyes. But I couldn't be sure.

"I think she left because she figured out why I was staying." he said. "I think she left so we wouldn't have to watch her die."

"So," I whimpered unintentionally at this point. "So, she did it because she loved us?"

He nodded, put his arm around my shoulders, and pulled me against him. I listened to his heartbeat in his chest, just like I used to when I was little. "Yeah. Yeah, she did."

--

Our Al Anon cell leader's name is Rachel. She seems nice enough. Patrick told me I didn't have to talk tonight. Since it was my first night it would probably be best to watch. I was okay with that. I didn't think everything had sunk in enough for me to talk about it.

Patrick didn't talk either. But it felt good to know there were others. Many in the group had worse stories than mine is. Rachel taught us about the difference between empathy and sympathy that night. Sympathy was what most people had for us. They were sad that it had happened and felt bad for us.

But the best part about Al Anon was that everyone there could have empathy for us. Empathy is when a person has been in your shoes, and can really feel what you're feeling. I appreciate sympathy but I think I prefer empathy.

Patrick dropped me back off at home after it was done. Ian asked me lots of questions. I just told him that it went well and that I listened to some other stories. I told him he should come sometime. He didn't tell me what he thought about that but he did come into my room that night and ask me to sit by his bed until he fell asleep.

After he fell asleep I went back into my room and got out some stationary. I sat at my desk, my pen poised just above the paper for a long time. I wasn't sure what to say exactly. Finally I found somewhere to start.

Dear Mom,

I haven't talked to you much in the last couple years, so I just thought I would catch you up on a few things.

I went on to explain about how Corey, Ian, and Dad were doing. I talked about the pool and Susan and Meredith. I told her about Nina and Sophia. I told her all about Patrick. I even gathered up all the pictures I had of Susan, Meredith, and Patrick. I slipped in some recent pictures of Corey, Ian, and Dad. I promised to put in some pictures of Nina and Sophia when I got them. I told her about Meredith's Aunt Julia and about Kindred Spirits. When I was done the letter was five pages long. I even took the photo of Patrick and I off the wall and put it in the envelope. I had his painting now; I didn't need the photo.

I'm not sure if my mother is even alive anymore. I like to think that she got some help at a clinic and is living in our old apartment, dealing with aids. I know those things happen. I told her in the letter that I hoped that was what was happening.

Finally I came to the end. But I didn't know how to end it. I made a whole list of endings on a separate sheet of paper. I could put 'love' but I wasn't sure I loved her. I could put 'from' but that sounded too plain for all the feelings I had. I could put 'your daughter' but I didn't think that fit in since she hadn't acted like a mother since I was four. So I did the only thing that seemed to fit.

Sincerely Yours,

Lizzie

--

Hey there! It's finally complete! I'm not sure if any of my readers are Death Cab for Cutie fans but if so, give the song 'What Sarah Said' a listen. This ending with Liz's mom having aids and the family waiting for her to die came from that song; it's really a touching message. That was just a little side note if any of you were curious about music to listen to for this novel. I have an entire play list of music for this novel as I do all my other books. I'll post the complete play lists on my personal website (can be located on my profile) soon. Thanks for reading and please keep reviewing!

My newest novel has been completed (finally), 'Objects in the Mirror' and I will be posting it on Fiction press soon! I hope you give it a look. To all of those that I promised the deleted scene with Caroline and Liz's new friends I'll be sending that out over the summer hopefully.

KeitaWolf: Yeah, the whole bit with the addictive parents is taking it to an extreme, isn't it? But I always knew that for this story to be complete I needed Liz to become involved in a group that would help her deal with her mother. I also knew that I wanted Patrick to be part of the recovery and this seemed like a really convenient way to do so. This chapter sums up the end and I know I didn't bring her friends back in (shame) but I really needed to bring it to a conclusion. Hope you enjoyed it and, of course, thanks!

Effervescent-sentiments- Wow, celebration, I was actually capable of having a relatively error free chapter! Editing, as I mentioned before, is really not my strong point, but it's a relief to know that I can get it right sometimes. I appreciate all your praise and absolutely love getting your reviews so I hope you continue on my next story. Thank you!

Seisaset- Don't sweat it- school work is a killer. I'm taking a risk with AP and seminar classes next year so I'll be loaded too. I'm really not sure how I am going to keep my sanity without writing as often as I do now (which honestly isn't as often as I would like to). You would think we would get some special treatment from teachers considering we choose to write in our spare time but no dice. Anyway, I'm getting off topic. I'm going to miss your stories immensely! I decided I needed to step on it and get this chapter out just for you so that you could read it before you leave for summer. When you get back from your summer I hope you take a look at 'Objects in the Mirror'. Thank you so much for your continued reviews and support!