Epilogue. Letters written by Darby in the hospital.


I've thought of doing this for a few days, and I've mentally written this several times. I never know how to start. "Dear Colton" sounds stupid, but there really isn't a protocol for writing a letter to your husband for him to read after you die.

I know you'll think it was a mistake. You'll think it was your fault. But it wasn't. All along baby, this is what was meant to happen. I've always known I was meant to die just like this. In a poorly-decorated hospital room. I kinda feel guilty that this heart got wasted on me, to be honest.

I love you. That makes this hard. I just honestly completely love you. For someone with a fucked up heart, I really managed to get hooked on you. I love our life. I love our bed. I love having sex with you. I love our house. I love love love our pool.

You were supposed to be a fun toy. That's all. You were just supposed to be some hot boy that needed to be taught a lesson or something. I never thought you'd give up the whores. I never thought I'd care. But it just seemed from the start that you were all I wanted.

Colton, you gave me more life in the 2 years we had together, than the 19 years I had without you. I don't deserve to be here like this. I never did anything good enough to deserve to have you sleeping in the chair next to me.

I never thought of this heart thing as some kind of unfairness. I mean, not til I had you. I don't want to die. I want to stay. Please never think I didn't want to stay with you. More than anything, I want to stay with you and Charlie. But apparently, that's not how it's meant to be.

I love you.

Now, the instructions. I need you to live Colt. You have to mourn this and then move on. I'm not giving you a timeline or anything, but don't just shut down. You have to keep working and smiling and swimming and grilling and laughing. You have to keep loving Charlie.

I have a letter for Charlie too. I don't know when you should give it to her. God I don't want to leave her. My daughter. She's going to be a hard-headed pain in your ass C, and that's probably some kind of payback for all the shit you did as a kid. Don't hold on to her too tight. I know you'll think of her as your last connection to me or whatever, but the harder you hold her the more she'll fight you. And she's my daughter, so she'll be able to out-stubborn you.

I don't want to die. I don't want to leave you. I'm afraid now. I just love you so much, and I'm afraid of letting it go. I can't let you go. I'm so weak now. It's taken me nearly 2 weeks to write all this. I love you. Please make sure Charlie knows that I love her. Please don't think this is your fault. Or hers. It isn't anyone's fault. No one did anything wrong. Even Sarah. I had a limited time here, and now my time is up.

I feel it. The end. I'm just so tired. Colton, you're the greatest thing that's ever happened to me. You're the best part of every day I've ever had. You're the reason I've fought to stay here this long. You're everything I've ever wanted. I don't deserve you. I never did. But I've loved you from the beginning. From before I knew what love was. And I'll love you to the end. To the end of time, the end of me, til I see you again in heaven or wherever is after this.

I love you.

Thank you for loving me. Thank you for letting me love you. Even though you couldn't really keep me from doing whatever I want anyway. Til the end of forever, I love you.


Your Wife



My beautiful daughter Charlie.

I never imagined myself as a mother. I wasn't supposed to live long enough for it to even be a possibility, but your dad filled my existence with miracles every day. And he gave me you. And I love you so much!

I'm so sorry that you have this paper instead of a real mom. Never doubt how much I love you though. Since I found out about you, I've dreamed, literally, of being your mom. Now, those dreams are the best I ever hope to have.

This is hard. So hard. I know you're beautiful. I saw you today, for the first time, and to be honest you look kind of like a tiny doll right now. But I know by the time you read this, you'll look like a beautiful little model. I hope you look like your dad. I doubt you'll want to hear this, but he's so completely gorgeous he takes me breath away. I know you'll be the same way.

Now, the really hard part. Normally, a mom spends her life trying to teach her daughter how to grow into a beautiful woman. Or whatever. But I'm missing all of that. I don't want to die, in case that wasn't clear. I love you so much Charlie. I wanted to see you start kindergarten. I wanted to embarrass you in front of your first boyfriend, and take a hundred pictures of you when you went to your prom. I wanted to give you a baby brother to torture you and sell your underwear to his little friends. Okay, so I just watched Sixteen Candles, but still. I wanted to watch you get married to the man (or woman, if that's what you're into) that takes your breath away like your dad takes mine. I hope, above all else, that you find someone to love like I love your dad. I'm so sorry I'll miss all of that.

Okay, so your dad. Colton is stubborn and opinionated, and I'm sure you noticed that already. But I know he loves you. And, that may start to feel slightly less amazing than it sounds on paper, especially when you're a teenager. Stand your ground, but don't be petulant. He's your father, and like it or not, you need to listen to him. I've asked him not to be completely overbearing, but I know he will be anyway. I love you Charlie. When I'm gone, you'll be all he has. Please try to cut him some slack. He'll expect a lot from you, but I know you can handle him.

I love swimming. I hope you do too. But whatever it is you get involved in, please don't shut your father out. Even when you go through your rebellious teenager phase, don't shut him out. He'll act like a hardass, like he's strong and capable and completely fine, but he won't be.

Colton and I weren't supposed to fall in love. We weren't supposed to be happily ever after. But I guess, in a way, we sorta said 'screw you' to whoever decides all of that. And in return, whoever decides all of that said 'yeah well screw you too' when they ended us so early. I don't know if your dad will move on. I doubt I would have, but he's not me. If he does decide to move on and get married again, please don't be terrible to her. You deserve a mom Charlie. I'm soooooo sorry I can't be the mom you deserve.

I'm so proud of you. I know it may sound trite and contrived, but it's true. I've dreamed so many wonderful possibilities for you, and if even one of them comes true then I know you'll be okay. Never do anything you're not proud of yourself. Live every day like it's your last, but don't be reckless with the time you have. Kiss your dad every day, and tell him you love him even if you're mad at him. He can be ridiculously stubborn and hard-headed. Make good choices. Don't feel like you have to fill a position—you don't have to be a leader, or a follower. It's totally okay to just be. Don't do anything half-ass. Question everything. Be smart. Never pretend to be less than what you are to impress someone else. Never act superior—anyone that is superior doesn't need to act it.

Typically, the nerds are made fun of in high school and then they end up running the world, but there are exceptions to every rule. For instance, your dad is literally a genius. He would have been classified as a nerd in high school, except that he was a model. He may try to hide that from you, but he did in fact do some modeling in high school. I'm sure if you look really hard, you can find the ads somewhere—Abercrombie and GAP. Don't judge a book by its cover Charlie, and don't tolerate anyone that does it to you. I know you'll be beautiful, and it will be easy for people to assume you're all looks and no brains. Don't let anyone treat you like a Barbie doll. But, then again, there's no rule that says you can't let someone think you're stupid if it's in your best interest, as long as you don't actually act stupid.

Never use anyone. Don't be a slut. I'm not making any judgments on you sleeping with someone, but don't do it because you think that's the only reason someone will stay with you. I know you'll know better, but I also know that sometimes it's hard to be secure in yourself when the world around you is telling you that something about you isn't good enough.

You are good enough.

I'm sorry I have to miss you growing up. I'm so sorry. I love you so much Charlie. I hope you never ever question that. And, in case someone is an idiot, let me make this very clear. You are NOT in any way responsible for my heart failing. I've been dying since I was born. And my time is now up. It's not your fault. I couldn't stand leaving Colt alone, but I'm not—I'm leaving him with you. Please take care of him. And let him take care of you. You two are the most important beings in my world. Take care of each other.

It's taken me a long time to write this letter Charlotte Ripley Smithson. I wish I could give you more than this. But I'm tired now. I don't know how much longer I have, so I'm going to use the rest of my time dreaming of you and your dad. I love you more than I have any right to. I love you forever. I love you I love you I love you.

Hugs and kisses….