Rewriting the End
- a bit of randomness that probably won't make sense.
She's always reminded him of Ireland. Not the Ireland of today with its car bombs and bustling tourist trade, but the Ireland of old movies. Rolling sun-drenched fields, fluffy clouds and fluffy sheep; fairy rings, the sharp tang of the sea and the hint of magic in the air. She's always seemed out of place, out of focus. Like he's watching through a video camera that's had Vaseline rubbed along the lens. Soft and dreamy. A goddess come to earth.
It's understandable, then, that he's utterly flabbergasted to find her in the university's IT department. It doesn't feel right to see her surrounded by PCs and monitors and servers with their blinking yellow lights. He's conversing with the department head, answering questions when asked, but his eyes and mind are solely on her.
"Genna will call you tomorrow morning with your log-in information. If you need any help with your equipment, she's your go-to-girl."
He mutters his thanks but makes no move to leave the doorway. Go-to-girl. Funny. That's how he described her for three years. After a five-year absence would she still be willing to fill that role along with all the others that remain vacant? Friendconfidantloversavioranchor.
Aside from a brief nod when he first appeared, she's made no other acknowledgement of his presence. Not that he could blame her for ignoring him. He was the one to end a seemingly ideal relationship and disappear off the face of the world. Or at least the face of her world.
Since he was the one to end their relationship, it is only fitting that he should be the one to pick up the dangling threads. "Hello, Genevieve."
The last time he'd heard his name on her lips, it had been a tearful pleading. Now she spats it like a curse. Maybe to her it is. A derogatory term for people who promise forever but fail to follow through. "Did you hear about Glenna's boyfriend? He ran off with the next door neighbor." "What a Jack!" The little scenario playing in his head brings a smile to his face.
"It's got to be near quitting time. Can I buy you dinner?"
"I'd rather not."
So short and concise this new version of his old love. Can this be the same woman who could turn a simple yes or no answer into a two-minute ramble? The Undisputed Queen of Run-On Sentences?
"Please?" It's his turn to plead. His pride, that damnable male ego, puts up a token protest that is easily ignored. "I hardly know anyone here anymore and you could catch me up on all the good gossip. Nothing wrong with two old friends having dinner is there? Unless you've got someone waiting at home."
The glare she shoots him is so achingly familiar that it almost brings him to his knees. Genevieve Grady are-you-really-that-stupid death glare #7. God he's missed her.
He must have said that last bit out loud because her eyes narrow and a little wrinkle creases her forehead. "None of that, you hear? I don't want pretty lies. I'll agree to dinner if you quit that nonsense."
Would she believe him if he said it was the truth? Probably not. No matter. He's dug his hole and he'll find a way out. He has to. She's far too vital to his peace of mind.
Dinner is a surprisingly light affair. They talk about news items, the changes that have gone on in his absence, and share computer woes. It is completely unlike any conversation they've ever had before. Every word she speaks only highlight the differences between this Genevieve and the one he left behind.
Somehow, he can't quite remember and he's sure she can't either, he ends up at her apartment. A cozy two-bedroom with a fireplace that's quickly lit to fight off the late November chill. As he peels off his gloves and warms his hands in front of the blaze, he can't help but notice the stark black and white décor and frown. There's nothing of her here.
"Did you sell the house by the lake?" He can still picture the old Victorian manor with its wrap-around porch and sunny interior. Every room in that house held a special memory. Her laughing, them loving and the quiet moments that held everything together.
"I still own it."
He's had about all he can take of her terse answers. Over the past two hours he has all but groveled at her feet and if she's going to hold a grudge for the rest of her life, then fine! To hell with her. But he's going to have his say before the night is through.
"What happened to you?"
She blows out a heavy breath and flops down on the white leather sofa. One pale hand tugs at the hem of her dark skirt while the other releases her hair from its clip. The sight still makes his heart thud. Her hair has always reminded him of the sunrise. Glorious reds and golds and who needs UV rays when he's got her around.
"Nothing happened to me, Jack." There it is that curse of a name. "You left. I grew up. I got a job."
He should have been more specific. Should have asked, "What happened to my darling little dreamer? To the woman who would spend hours putting her fantasy world onto paper and sharing that magic with me?" Some of his frustration must show on his face because she frowns at him before closing her eyes and burrowing into the cold cushions.
"I gave up writing. I… you know how I get. Distracted. I can't live like that forever. It got worse after you left. I had two car accidents in three months, forgot to pay all my bills, killed the goldfish, and let the dog run away. I put it all away and took a few computer classes. It's not what I ever thought I'd be doing, but it keeps me focused."
Never one to sit still, he wanders around her living room. The floor-to-ceiling bookshelves are full of crime thrillers, political intrigue and mysteries. Not a work of fantasy or mythology reference in sight. He can remember long conversations about the different pantheons and stories.
He wonders if she threw everything away. The old hard-cover Mabinogion he searched every bookstore on the East Coast to find because he knew she preferred the Celtic and Welsh myths over Greek or Roman. She had tried to explain it all to him one lazy Sunday afternoon as they laid out on the back porch soaking up the sun.
"The Greeks always seem so harsh. Like they're telling the story out of duty or habit. And it's all to tell a lesson." She'd paused for a few moments and stared at the ice cubes slowly melting in her tea. "The Welsh are so different. Softer almost. You can feel the devotion, the love. It's not just about leaving bits of wisdom behind for the next generation. These are the stories they know need to be told."
"I've kept up with your series. You had it all plotted out into four books. Why the fifth and sixth?" He doesn't mention that he'd proudly displayed the books in his living room. Told everyone who asked, and those who didn't, that he personally knew the author. Some believed him but most did not. What on earth would Jack the ever practical have in common with the brilliant enchantress who created one of the most addictive fantasy universes ever?
Slim shoulders shrug and her eyes flutter open. "Couldn't stand to let it go. What is this, the Spanish Inquisition?"
"Why couldn't you finish it, Genevieve?" She's holding something back. It's evident in the defensive wall she's thrown up and the way she won't make eye contact.
"I couldn't find the happy ending!" She leaps to her feet and pokes him square in the chest with one finger. "You left and I couldn't find the happy ending! I wrote us - it a hundred different ways but I couldn't find the happily ever after."
He pulls her into his arms. There is a small scuffle but she doesn't put up much of a fight. He cradles her head against his chest, marveled at how the back of her skull fits perfectly into the palm of his hand. "I'm sorry. I should have never left."
She pushes back a little at this. "No matter. It's all done now. Water over, water under the burning bridge over troubled water." Her head tilts to the side as if she's contemplating what she's said. "I've never understood why, with all the bridge-equals-moving-on analogies out there, someone would write a song like 'Love Can Build a Bridge.'"
He hides his grin. It may seem like only a glimpse of the girl he loves, but it's more than that. It's hope. It'll be hard work, no doubt about that, but he can handle it. Can help her remember how perfect they are together. How refreshing she can be after hours spent with equations, velocity and distance. How he can keep her from disappearing completely inside her world of fairies and elves and demons. Remind her of long nights spent talking. He's missed her special brand of philosophy. The World According to Genevieve.
"I knew you'd come back." Her voice is so quiet he almost misses her words. "If I worked hard enough, tried to change enough, you'd come back."
Oh no. Would he ever know the extent of the damage he'd done by leaving? "I never wanted you to change, precious. Never."
"You left. I knew it was because of me. I'm forgetful and distant. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but that doesn't really apply when I'm in the same room but a million miles away. I don't blame you for leaving."
"I do. I blame myself. It wasn't you, my love. It was me. Do you remember that month before I left?" He waits for a response but she just stares up at him with those sad, watery eyes. Of course she doesn't. That would have during her third book and he recalls all too well how preoccupied she was then and how much fun it was to be a distraction. "There was Jamie and Harry's wedding, the Pullman's baby shower and then Vickie and Mark announced their engagement. I was feeling pressured so I ran."
"It had nothing to do with me?"
"I was scared." It feels good to admit that especially knowing that it relieves her of the guilt. He is so caught up in relief that he doesn't see the fist headed for his face until it's smashed into his jaw.
"Jerk! You left me because all our friends were getting married and you were afraid I'd start hinting about a ring or a kid? Me? The same person who reminded you a thousand times that I don't do responsibility? The one who spent an hour explaining to you that marriage is just a legal matter and has nothing to do with emotions? Were you suffering from an extreme case of stupidity?"
He laughs and wraps her back up in his arms. This time there is no struggle. She rises up on her toes to press a kiss on his aching jaw. If he'd known that she would use those self-defense moves against him, he never would have insisted that she take the classes. "Yes, I do believe I was."
"Are you over it now?'
"Wonderful." She snuggles against his chest and blows out a contented sigh. This isn't the end of it. There are still so many things they need to hash out. They can't just pick up where they left off. It won't ever be the same as it was but maybe it will be better. She learned a lot about herself after he left. Enjoyed a bit of freedom she won't easily give up. For now, though, she's willing to pretend that he never left. "Does this mean I can quit working at the university?"