Chapter Twenty: Happily Ever After
"Hope is the expectation that something outside of ourselves, something or someone external, is going to come to our rescue and we will live happily ever after."
- Dr Anthony Roberts
He had his car with him – the silver, convertible BMW 325i that he had called his first "child". He had left it in Huntsmen's Valley because he had planned to come back to find me anyway – all he thought about was trying to find me.
He said that he was such an idiot for not just rebelling and leaving his inheritance behind to try to find me sooner.
I slapped him across the head – gently of course – for even thinking that he had done anything wrong. Because even if he did – even if we both had made the stupidest mistakes, mistakes only led to where we were now – together.
And I couldn't think of anything better at the moment than being together…
"You sure you're ready?" Justin asked me, the smile evaporating off his face as he glanced at me seriously.
We had just gotten back from the town centre where we had to give our witness accounts. Zach looked to be in no good shape and I wouldn't blame him – he hadn't even thought that I would be missed.
I would've thought that too, a month ago…before I had Justin.
Zach had repeatedly told me that he hadn't done it out of spite but out of his serious need for money and that he only kissed me-
That was all he said before Justin yelled at him some obscenity I thought him incapable of. Of course, I glared at Justin but he just glared defiantly back. It took the policeman's calming yet threatening voice to finally stop Justin from doing anything he'd regret later. Right after that, we were kicked out of the police station, leaving our cellphone numbers behind.
"I think so," I said with a sigh, glancing at Justin before looking at the long grass turning into blurs as Justin sped down the road.
"It's not the end all and be all, you know, farmgirl? And I will be there too."
I turned back to see him and narrowed my eyes. "And you make everything absolutely fine."
"I do, don't I?" He had that glimmer in his blue-grey eyes once again. A glimmer which totally threw me off and made me grin instead.
It was so bad that a simply twinkle in his eyes could make my anger at his ego just disappear. How was I ever going to teach him to deflate his head if this continued?
"Take a deep breath." Justin said, tone of voice changing once again. "We're here."
He turned off the main road and down the familiar street lined with trees laden with golden-red leaves. The wind beating against my face suddenly stopped as Justin hit the brakes and turned to me with an encouraging smile on his face.
I felt his warm, large hand touch mine as he said warmly, "A happily ever after doesn't only consist of finding your Prince." He touched my cheek softly with his other hand.
A shiver raced through my body as I murmured, "You're so weird, you know that?"
He raised an eyebrow. "What makes you say that?"
I bit my lip. "Because you can be so egoistic and mature at the same time."
He winked at me before getting out of his car and coming around to open the door for me. I smiled gratefully to him as I stepped out of the car and turned around to see the familiar path that led to the lovely house.
I could smell the homemade cookies right there.
Taking a deep breath, I started walking down the path, Justin by my side.
Reaching the door, I took a deep breath and was about to ring the doorbell when the door opened.
And I came face-to-face with a stunned Jane, her eyes widened. Registering who she was looking at, her surprise was replaced by reserve. She tightened her lips as she glared at me and just me.
"…Hey Jane." I murmured.
"Hi," she said in a stony voice.
"I want to thank you, Jane…for everything," I said.
She looked behind me, at Justin and then back at me with the same dark expression. "Well, that's what I always do in your life, isn't it, Jeanne? You're the fairytale princess who wins the Prince and a…and a happily ever after and I'm just that other girl…the supporting character who just helps the Princess and that's my whole purpose in life."
I could see her shutting the door at me because she was starting to sound as she had when I came with Zach – bitter.
This wasn't panning out like I had expected.
So, before she could close the door on me, I grabbed her wrist and said, "Jane."
Just the simple word – Jane.
She looked at me, her face showing no expression for one moment before she was crying madly. I gaped at her for a second, so surprised that what I had said could have made her cry so much. It was a moment later that I had pulled her into a tight hug – and she let me.
Her face next to my ear, I heard her sobs which were so pained that I felt my own eyes start to water. This was Jane and she never cried. And she was crying right now.
"I'm so sorry, Jane." I murmured in her ear, eyes blurred up by the film of tears that were building up in my eyes. "I will never have a happily ever after without you in it." I pulled away and held her shoulders, looking straight into her teary eyes and said firmly, "Just because you find someone you love, it doesn't mean that your whole life will be full of joy and happiness. You are my best friend…and I love you…and miss you." I bit my lip. "I'm so, so sorry."
Jane wiped the back of her hand against her eye and said, "No, I'm sorry, Jeanne."
Her words literally shocked me. But I kept silent and let her speak.
"I've been such a…such a bitch…someone just like that slut, Courtney. And I didn't realise that until almost too late."
She wrung her fingers together, looking down at her feet. "I saw what Zach did and heard what he said and it suddenly hit me…how much you both love each other – you and Justin. And it's not like you could help him loving you…it's not like you fell in love with him on purpose to spite me. I realised then that I was exchanging our friendship – which was so great – for my unreturned feelings for a guy…and that was so, so stupid," she said, emphasising the word 'stupid' angrily. "And if I was going to let you be kidnapped when I could do something about it…when I could give you the happiness that anyone should have – a happiness you out of all people deserved – I realised what a bitch I was to try to keep it away from you."
My lips were quivering. I felt like crying again – not out of sadness this time, but out of joy. True, pure joy.
"- Jane, you aren't a supporting role that adds up to nothing in our life." I turned to look a Justin whom I had momentarily forgotten was standing behind me.
Justin took a step forward and put a hand on Jane's shoulder, squeezing it. "I think Sarahjeanne and I both realised that life isn't some fairytale or movie because life isn't that – life is real and in reality, we all have a life to live and our own decisions to make. Just because one of us gets happiness doesn't mean everyone else can't. Just because one person seems like she's the Princess doesn't mean no one else in life is." He glanced at me before turning back to Jane and saying, "In a way, it's a good thing that life isn't a fairytale story."
Jane looked from Justin to me and then back to Justin and said quietly, "You know, I always wondered why Jeanne could've ever hated you…it's a good thing I was there to help her think otherwise."
Giving me a sideward glance, Justin then grinned and said, "Yeah, I couldn't understand either. Because I have obviously been so perfect -"
"- And egoistic." I added.
We all looked at each other in silence for a moment before bursting into laughter. Then, with a heavy sigh, Jane took two steps towards me and gave me a big hug, so tight that I felt like crying once again.
"I love you, Jane." I murmured.
"I love you too, Jeanne."
* * * * *
The sun was setting and the fields coloured a strangely purple tinge. I stared at our surroundings, a smile incapable of leaving my face.
"So to the lake…then back to Newton?"
Justin's voice broke the serenity of my mind.
I turned to him and nodded. "I think they all deserve to know what's been happening…and your mother's really worried about you."
"You met her, eh?"
I nodded vigorously, "She's amazing."
"If you want to see her for the rest of your life, you'd have to think she was amazing."
I grinned at him.
When we finally got to the old Roland Cottage, we saw that there were two old cars parked up front. I had forgotten that the cottage was put back up for sale after we had left Huntsmen's Valley for Newton. To be honest, I had been hoping nobody would have wanted to buy it because I loved the cottage so much.
"Looks like the lake isn't your's anymore." Justin said thoughtfully, looking at the same direction as I was.
I glared at him. "The lake will always be mine."
"Whatever you say."
I gave him a withering look which he only laughed at as he parked the car and we stepped out of it. I took one more glance at the parked cars before we started walking towards the lake, hand-in-hand.
The weather, as usual, was lovely.
As we came closer to the lake, I saw that there were a few figures around the lake, a few pacing and other sitting near the bank as I usually did.
I felt a spark in my mind – a strange feeling of jealousy because nobody else besides me, my cousins and later, Justin, had enjoyed themselves in the evening around the lake.
It was my lake.
How possessive I was becoming.
"Maybe we should go. They might want some privacy." Justin told me.
I looked up at him with a small frown. "Technically, the lake is Huntsmen's Valley Public property…so I see nothing wrong."
"You just want to see who it is that's overtaking your lake, don't you?" Justin asked me.
My eyes widened as I stared at him, feeling a little shameful that he not only knew exactly what I was thinking but realising how bad it I sounded.
Justin grinned at me. "Come on," he said, tugging my hand and walking a little faster.
We were finally close enough to see their faces and when I squinted to examine the detail of their faces, I screamed.
And they all turned towards us, saw us, and almost all of them screamed back before racing towards me, arms wide open.
And I had let go of Justin's hands and was running towards them. The first one to reach me was Jake who practically knocked the wind out of me because he was running so fast. Hugging him felt absolutely fantastic.
And before I knew it, I was surrounded by all my other six cousins who were hugging me tightly, squealing with delight.
I was finally home.
"Jeanne! Jeanne!" I heard my name repeated by a chorus of voices over and over again.
"We missed you sooo much!"
"Tom cried so much!"
"I did not! You were the one who -"
"- We were all so upset."
"We begged Mum and Dad to let us come!"
I looked to Liam with a raised brow. "And they let you?"
"- You should go to the cottage and say hello to Mum and Dad, Jeanne," Jake interrupted Liam, giving him a glare.
"What are they doing -"
"- Oh, hey, Justin!" Jake stopped me this time, moving away from our huddle and looking behind me to where Justin was standing. He had an odd tone to his voice when he said Justin's name – as if somewhat suspicious of Justin.
"Hey, Jake. Haven't seen you for awhile," Justin replied.
I watched Jake and then Justin as they looked at each other for a moment before Henry finally broke the silence, saying, "I think you should go over to the cottage, Jeanne."
I stood up straight, a small frown on my face. Maybe Aunt Nancy and Uncle Derek had met the new owner and were talking to them – that would explain why there were two cars instead of just one outside.
But how good it was to know that the whole Roland family was here.
I finally let a grin spread across my face and nodded. "Why don't we all go over there now and give Uncle Derek and Aunt Nancy a wonderful surprise?"
I had thought that my suggestion would have really excited them, that was why I was so shocked when they exchanged hesitant looks before Jake said, "We'll let you have some alone time with them first. We'll just enjoy the lake for a little bit," whilst the rest nodded in agreement.
Pursing my lips, I nodded once again and turned to Justin. "Well, shall we go?"
Justin gave me his crooked smile. "Anytime, madam."
I heard Katie and Crystal giggle at this, causing Justin to look over to them and wink. This only made them giggle more.
I wanted to slap my forehead but instead grabbed Justin's hand and started towing him towards the house. I really did miss Uncle Derek and Aunt Nancy and wanted to see them…and thank them for the plane ticket which enabled me to finally be with Justin after what seemed like forever.
I owed them so, so much.
We walked quickly across the large field, finally reaching the cottage to see that there was a couple standing at the veranda. As we moved closer, I was able to hear a very familiar voice which made my pulse race.
"What do you mean everything will be okay?! Everything's not okay! First you make this stupid agreement which causes him to run off and now you make Zach -"
"- Calm down, Miche -"
"- I will not be calm! We've been looking for him everywhere and -"
"- Listen to me, I found out from my daughter that -"
"- I will not listen to -"
I glanced at Justin, surprised that he would interrupt their conversation.
His words, it seemed, had more of an affect than just interrupting their conversation. Just the sound of voice made them so shocked that one drew in a high-pitched gasp and the others dropped their jaws.
Justin turned to me, gave a small smile and squeezed my hand as we proceeded to move towards the veranda.
They both said at the same time before staring at each other in shock.
"Justin, wh-what…what are you doing here?" Michelle stammered.
"To retrieve my betrothed, Mum," Justin replied.
Good to see how he talked to everyone in the same odd way and it wasn't just me.
Michelle was now gaping at me, eyes so wide that I could see the whites all around them. "Isn't…aren't you…"
"That's Sarahjeanne, Michelle. I was trying to tell you that she found out that -"
My mother stopped speaking the moment we reached the veranda and stood in front of all six of them – my mother and father, Justin's mother and father and Uncle Derek and Aunt Nancy. They all looked at us, faces still reflecting shock. I could only imagine how many things were going through their mind – for it took me a while to believe that such coincidence could happen.
Justin now let go of my hand and took one large step to be right in front of his mother. I watched as he then put both hands on her shoulders and said in a quiet voice, "It's her, mum…all along. The girl that I told you I loved and would give up everything to be with. The girl I met at Huntsmen's Valley. The one who was opposite me in the Musical at school…all along," he said with a quiet laugh, "It was Sarahjeanne…my betrothed."
"I…I…I can not believe this." Michelle murmured. She then looked to me and said more loudly, "All along…"
"And all along you were trying to not fall for her because you knew about your betrothed at home…when your betrothed was the one you fell in love with." This was the first time I heard Justin's father speak. His voice was low and pondering as his blue-grey eyes watched Justin in a thoughtful way.
"It's…it's so incredible." My mother said behind me. I turned to her and smiled. She returned my smile before moving to give me a hug as well. "I'm so sorry, Jeanne," she told me softly. "So sorry for everything I put you through."
"Looks like I'll be happy to marry my betrothed after all," I told her with a grin.
"Ex-betrothed," Justin said behind me.
I glared at him for killing my special moment with my mother. As usual, he wasn't the tiniest bit affected by my show of anger and instead pulled me to his side, an arm wrapped around my waist.
At that moment, it felt like all eyes were on us as we stood together. And a moment later, they were all laughing and talking excitedly, as if Michelle and my mother had never gotten into such grave argument.
"Looks like everything turned out for the best after all."
Aunt Nancy was now standing beside me, hands crossed against her chest. She had a beautiful smile on her face, looking as radiant and lovely as ever.
I moved away from Justin's hold to give her a hug.
"I love you, Aunt Nancy," I told her.
"I love you too, Jeanne," she whispered.
We moved away from our embrace, grinning at each other.
"Thank you so much for the plane ticket. Without it, things might've turned out differently."
"Well, we're glad things turned out the way they did."
"Speaking of which," Michelle said loudly.
We all turned to face her. Her golden brows were furrowed as she said, "Where's Zach, Justin?"
Justin and I exchanged looks, biting our lips.
* * * * *
Six Months Later
"You look beautiful tonight."
"You're just saying that."
"No I'm not! How could you say that?!" He sounded really offended.
"Because you have that sheepish smile on your face."
"Sheepish? This is a sheepish smile?"
I frowned at him. "Okay, dear sir. If it isn't a sheepish smile, then what is it?" I gave him a pointed look, arms folded and waiting for an answer.
He blinked at me, his blue-grey eyes shining brightly. He opened his mouth, closed it and then sighed, making a show to drop his head in defeat. "Fine, it is a sheepish smile…but not for the reason that you think!"
"Okay, what reason is it, then?"
He took a step closer to me and, if that weren't enough, he reached out both his long arms and pulled me towards him so that I was against his chest. I put both palms on his chest and looked up at him with a frown.
"You're not going to change the subject, okay?"
"I'm not trying."
"Then what are you doing?"
"I'm smiling like this because…" He lowered his head and leaned his forehead against mine. "…I think I'm falling in love with you all over again," he said huskily before kissing me.
"Oh, geez. Get a room or go inside and actually socialise, people."
And there on the pathway stood Jane, looking beautiful in a satiny, pink dress, her golden hair straightened and falling down to her back. She had a stern look on her face before it broke into a large grin and she squealed.
"This is so exciting!" She exclaimed, letting go of her date's hand and giving me a tight hug.
"Does she do that all the time?"
"Nah, only when she sees Jeanne," Gordon, Jane's boyfriend of three months replied.
Justin gave his friend and fellow soccer team-mate a thoughtful nod.
"Talking about socialising…" Gordon said, using his strong hands to break Jane and I apart and grabbing Jane by the hand. "…Why don't we go into the HCC now? Ain't that a good idea?"
Jane batted her eyes at Gordon and said in a sarcastic way, "Whatever you say, honey."
They started walking down the path, leaving Justin and I to exchange glances before Justin made a loop with his arm and smiled at me in his irresistible, charming way. I grinned at him and put my arm through this loop and let him lead me towards the grand, white building which was brightly lit with paper lanterns.
Entering the ballroom, we saw the senior class of Huntsmen's High dancing to uplifting music and enjoying themselves. Which they totally deserved to do because, after all, we had finished all our exams and this was our last Prom.
Amazing how the last year of high school had turned out. One year ago, I would have never thought that things would turn out the way they did. That the whole of the grade would turn from treating me like a reject to an actual…human being. That turn-of-the-century had to be attributed to Luke Hawkins who somehow changed during the weeks I was in Newton so that when I went back to Huntsmen's High, he had actually called me by my first name when he said hello.
What was more amazing was that, now, I not only had my Aunt, Uncle and cousins, but also my mother and father. They had bought a house here in Huntsmen's Valley for us to stay in until I finished high school in Huntsmen's Valley before we would all – my family and Justin's family – move back to Newton and start helping with the businesses there.
And with my whole family back in Huntsmen's Valley, they were all able to see the comeback, due to popular demand, of the Disney's Sleeping Beauty Musical, in which Justin's parents were finally able to see Justin and I singing and acting that part of a Prince and Princess together – two people who had fallen in love in the middle of the woods to find out later that they were actually betrothed.
"Let's dance, farmgirl," Justin said, taking my arm and taking me to the middle of the dance floor where he swirled me around, making my white dress and dark hair fly around as well.
I laughed at the exhilaration of the turn before my heart skipped a beat as my foot bent over because of my high heel and I lost my balance. Just as I was about to fall, Justin caught me and pulled my back to his chest.
There was laughter in his eyes when I looked up at him meekly.
"Still as uncoordinated as ever."
"As long as you always catch me, I won't die."
"That's why I'll never be able to leave your side."
I bit my lip, trying not to grin from the pleasure at hearing such words. I stared at his chest for a moment before looking up into his blue-grey eyes and murmuring, "I love you, Justin."
He raised an eyebrow in mock surprise before grinning and bending his head so he was looking straight into my eyes.
He smelt fantastic.
"Remember how I told you awhile back that the first thing I thought when I saw you was how familiar you looked?"
I nodded slowly, unable to forget those moments we had spent in the first month of our meeting. Those moments I would treasure forever.
"Mum just told me yesterday that we actually had met when we were babies."
I crinkled my nose, trying not to laugh at how funny that sounded. "That doesn't have anything to do with you thinking I looked familiar. We were babies then."
Justin nodded slowly. "True. Well…maybe I just have a super-sense and know my true love when I see her."
"You doubt me?"
"I doubt many things about you."
He widened his eyes innocently. "Do you doubt my love for you?"
I pretended to think about it, causing Justin to gasp.
I laughed. "Just kidding!" I moved an around from around his neck and took the golden, heart-shaped locket in my hand and whispered, "Love is forever, remember?"
"Even in reality?" He murmured.
I kissed him on the lips. "Even in reality."
There was enough time for me to see his blue-grey eyes twinkling before he started kissing me once again.
Standing in the middle of the Huntsmen's Valley Country Club with all our peers dancing and the sound of music in the air, with everything feeling so incredible and just being with Justin…I could truly, truly say that right then, I believed that maybe, just maybe, this story would end with a happily ever after, after all.
Even if this was reality.
A/N: hello everyone! Thanks again so much for journeying with me through the edited version of Welcome to Reality. If you have already read it before, i hope you enjoyed re-reading it...without as many errors! And for those who've read it for the first time, i hope you've thoroughly enjoyed it!
Please do review this story to let me know what you think, and how i may improve.
Before i leave you, there's two things that i'd like to let you know of.
1. THIS ISN'T THE END OF THE STORY! I will be putting up the epilogue of the story soon!!! So hang out tight for the finale of the story!
2. If you enjoyed this, then you may well enjoy my newest story. I actually wrote Welcome to Reality two years ago, and so in the two years, a lot has changed. Hopefully, my writing has improved substantially, along with character development and my story line. I would absolutely love it if you read my new story called INHIBITIONS, which you'll be able to find on my profile page. Please do review it as well, as i'm always keen for constructive criticism, or comments in general :)
Again, THANKS SO MUCH for reading this story! It's always the greatest pleasure to know that your writing was an enjoyment to others :)