Epilogue: I Never played I Never - twice
August 15th, 2013
"Well," Alan Argeon said, "Zoë, congratulations with your victory," he said, with a glimmer of joy in his eyes. "As a reward, you get to do all the dishes. You'll be in the neighbourhood either way, right?"
Zoë rolled her eyes. "So that's my reward? I have to clean all your glasses after this I Never-game?"
"I do believe that we agreed on that, mais non?" Marianne asked with a mild French accent in her voice. She had the same glimmer of joy in her eyes that her husband had.
"I can see why you married," Zoë muttered under her breath. "You two get along."
A wave of laughter passed in the room as all the participants in the previous I Never-game laughed. Those were the same as last time, but with a few additions: Kim, Jamie's girlfriend and by pure coincidence somehow also Simon's friend, Elizabeth's younger brother and his wife, and Alan Johnson and his grandson. Alan Argeon had flown in two days earlier to get used to the jetlag: he insisted on being there on Elizabeth's birthday, saying that he had already missed too many of her birthdays.
"Why don't you ask her?" Victor pointed towards Kim, holding hands with Zoë. "Apparently, she loves doing the dishes."
"Yeah, but not so many," Kim said, her eyes widening, but then she patted Jamie on the back. "No worries, though. My boyfriend is happy to help me."
Jamie groaned. "Why did I ask you to be my girlfriend, again?"
"You didn't," Kim laughed. "I asked you. Don't you remember that bus-drive when I told you I had feelings for you?"
"Oh. Right. So now I'm doomed to do the dishes together with you?" Jamie rolled his eyes.
"Pretty much, yeah," Kim smiled before lightly kissing Jamie on the lips and every other person in the room averting their eyes in embarrassment. Many people in the room felt like this couple was even worse than Victor and Zoë.
"We will all do the dishes," Elizabeth said laughing, trying to calm everyone with a few gestures of her hand. "All of us. So don't worry. Everyone will help."
"Isn't that going to be a bit… crowded?" Simon asked, with an eyebrow raised. "I mean… if we all help, then the kitchen's going to be stuffed with people. No way that's gonna work. Let's all just draw lots or something."
"At least let Kim do the dishes with the rest," Pete gestured towards the blonde girl. "Since she seems to be so eager to do them anyway."
Kim rolled her eyes. "Fine, if Jamie helps as well."
"You know what? I'll help too," Simon said. "And Lauren with me. Four of us. That'll work, right?"
With some resistance from Lauren, those four ended up doing the dishes.
After passing by a very curious Jake, who had made a full recovery after the car crash, the four carried all the glasses and plates from dinner along while the rest of the guests were sitting in the bedroom, chatting.
"I'm still surprised that you two knew each other," Jamie said, gesturing towards Kim and Simon whilst carrying a towel in his other hand.
Kim shrugged. "He was on boxing, I was on boxing. There's really not much more to it. I just happened to be in the neighbourhood when they had their problems."
"But…" Simon said while washing a plate, "you don't strike me as very shy. Yet you somehow managed to dance around the same guy for about two years, not even daring to talk to him."
"I was really shy when we first met each other," Kim said. "I opened up during the years. But there was always Jamie, constantly making me go back to that shy person I was before. That's why I didn't have the guts to talk to him."
"You know what strikes me?" Jamie asked, drying a plate. "How you two can still be friends after all what happened."
"Took us a few weeks," Lauren laughed. "It took me a while to realize what I wanted, and that was us to be friends."
"But," Simon said, "it's still a miracle after all what I've done. My temper destroyed the relationship, and I haven't acted very friendly, and…"
"You've already apologized a thousand times," Lauren sighed, putting away the cup she was working on. "Honestly, I still like you as a friend. There's a reason why you're simply a good friend of mine now. And I don't want to hear any more of it."
Simon smiled to himself as he carried on washing, happy with the circumstances.
"Is it so exhausting to win an I Never-game?" Victor asked Zoë, in the living room. Many people around them were chatting: however, Victor and Zoë were a bit in a bubble of their own right then, ignoring the others. "Honestly, your head's been on my shoulder for the past ten minutes."
"You have no idea how tiring it is," Zoë complained mockily. "All the victory and stuff."
"It's good that you somehow escaped your fate of doing the dishes," Victor said while stroking Zoë's hair.
"I haven't exactly had a lot of sleep yesterday evening," Zoë said.
"Me neither," Victor shrugged with his left shoulder, the one Zoë's head wasn't on. "But I'm completely awake."
"You can handle it better," Zoë moaned. "I can't."
"By the way…" Victor asked, and involuntarily, his heartbeat rose a bit because he feared Zoë's reaction, "mind if Lauren comes over at my place tomorrow? We're currently in the same history class, and we have homework, and she wanted to share since I love history. But, if you don't…"
Zoë raised her head, looking Victor in the eyes, and kissed him quickly on the lips. "I promised myself one thing when the new year began, Victor. It was my new year's resolution."
"To always completely trust you and stop being so jealous. After all that time we've been together, I should know better. I think I'm doing a fair job. Last time I doubted you, it almost tore the relationship apart." Zoë smiled.
Victor smiled back. "Honestly," he said. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
"I felt something buzz," Bob said. "And it wasn't me." They sat quite close to each other, holding hands.
"I guess it must've been me," Pete said, reaching in his pocket to get his cellphone out. It said the same thing it had said twice earlier that day: one new text message. The sender was the same too.
"Is it him again?" Bob asked.
"Yeah," Pete sighed. "Daniel's been saying that it's been more quiet for him lately and he would like me to hang out with him. I said no a few times, but he doesn't seem to get the message."
"Have you told him you have a boyfriend now?" Bob asked.
Pete shook his head. "No. And I'm going to do that…" Pete said, already opening the text message without even checking its content, but then he changed his mind. "…later," he added. "Because right now, Daniel can send me all the text messages in the world. I simply don't care. I'm with you now." He switched off his phone to emphasise his point.
Bob lightly squeezed his hand. "As you should be."
"You know…" Esmeralda asked, "I'm wondering. We've been together for over half a year, and… I can't help comparing us to movie couples. With what movie couple do we have the most in common?" Esmeralda asked softly, so that only Ian could hear it.
"Well, maybe… Leia and Han?"
Esmeralda couldn't suppress a laugh. "You Han Solo? Ian, I love you a lot, but…"
"No Han," Ian smiled whilst shaking his head. "I don't see myself driving the Millennium Falcon either. Maybe… Aragorn and Arwen?"
"I'm no Arwen," Esmeralda said. "I'm not that mysterious. Harry-Ginny? No, I'm not that shy."
"And I'm not that brave."
Esmeralda playfully poked him in the side. "Liar. If I was caught, you'd get me immediately."
"Wait," Ian said, "maybe… Peter-Juliet from Love Actually?"
"I like that one," Esmeralda said after some consideration. "But then… who'd be Mark?"
"Emily," Ian shrugged. "Only a little less nice."
"But you haven't heard from her since you told her off. And we're not married."
"Yet," Ian winked. "Not yet."
"Not yet anyway," Esmeralda laughed.
As the whole birthday drew to a close once everyone had finished their coffee, Elizabeth slowly started showing out her guests. Pete's family lived in the city and Pete with them, so they were one of the first to leave, together with Bob, who slept over: the Tylers stayed longest before they went too, helping Elizabeth out with putting some stuff back. Simon left rather early as well, saying that he had a date that evening: Lauren left a little later, saying that her mother was probably worrying. Kim and Ian, however, slept over at the twins'.
In the end, everyone had left, except for three people. Alan Argeon, Alan Johnson and Marianne had all agreed to stay over at Elizabeth's to complete the birthday. As they all gathered in the living room to recover from the great birthday, they talked about the quest and what they had all been through, trying to find Alan and Marianne. They recapped pretty much the whole quest: Alan Argeon hadn't heard anything from it yet. It was mostly Elizabeth talking and Alan Johnson filling in the blanks, and Marianne and Alan listening in with a few 'aah's or 'ooh's. But, every time Ben got involved, a mild frown was visible on Alan Argeon's head.
Once they were done recapping, Alan Johnson asked the question he'd been having for a while. "But," he said, "Ben… what I can't understand is how you two once got so close and then it ended like that, no matter how guilty Ben was. And even during conversation, I noticed a frown on your face every time he got involved. Why is that? Are you still angry with him?"
"I'm mostly angry with me," Alan Argeon replied. "I… I was young, reckless and unforgiving. I had promised the world I'd hate the one who separated me with Elizabeth – when I found out it was Ben, I hated him immediately. I know he's felt sorry for the rest of his life, so I'm feeling very sorry myself too."
"He knows," Marianne said, finally getting involved with the conversation. "I'm sure he knew you forgave him. Deep down inside..."
"I hope you're right," Alan sighed. "I really do. I'd like to see him one more time."
"It's sad that he's gone," Elizabeth nodded. They had gotten a message from the nursery at Jersey's a few months after they had ended their quest and tried to go to Ben.
"But he knows," Marianne nodded, again.
"Where did you two meet?" Alan Johnson asked.
Marianne laughed. "Lyon. He was looking for you, Elizabeth, and I was very charmed by his devotion in his quest to you. I was young and horribly romantic back then, and him looking for you made me melt deep down inside. Also, he shared a first name with the guy who I was originally going to hook up with. Somehow, that helped."
"Come on," Elizabeth said, standing up. "It's time I show you your rooms."
As soon as everyone had gone to bed - Marianne and Alan Argeon shared a room, while Alan Johnson had picked a room for himself - Elizabeth got to her living room, finally allowing herself to feel tired. But she wasn't just tired: she was also satisfied, with how everything had turned out.
As soon as she was in her nightgown, she walked up to the painting of her late husband and looked at it tenderly.
"Look," she said softly. "I did it." She smiled then, knowing that Jeremy, her love of all time, knew, before she turned around and lied down in her bed.
She stared at the ceiling for a while, noticing how massively content she was with the past year. With 2012, and her life in general.
"I hope you don't mind," she said, as if her husband was lying next to her, "that I stick around for a few more years?"
She closed her eyes, a smile on her face.
She was already looking forward a bit to 2014.
Author's Note: The reason why uploading the epilogue took so very long is simple - I only just wrote it. Originally, the epilogue of I Never contained the whole I Never game I skipped in here, going through all the questions and the game again, and thereby answering all of the questions that were left - but it was REALLY long and it dragged. I wasn't satisfied with it, so I wrote this version instead. And I must say, I like it a whole lot better.
Please tell me what you thought of the whole story! Did you like the idea of posting the whole story over the course of 2012? Did you empathise with the characters? Are you looking forward to more of my work? And did you review? If you did, then read on. Because I have the following people to thank...
Seredemia: Thank you so much for your enthousiasm in reviewing my story! I loved reading my reviews and they made my day, because I could tell that you were certainly enjoying yourself reading my story. Hopefully just as much as I was enjoying myself while reading Penumbrae. You're a great writer, and a great reviewer, and I hope that you'll be there for the next story or so!
Vernelley: Thank you for your criticism in pointing out the errors! It's much appreciated. Your criticism regarding all the plots and how they were interwoven - and, of course, the ending - is also very much appreciated, and I'll be sure to go over the whole story some time, and it will be twice as awesome, thanks to you. Thank you for being my faithful reviewer, I hope you liked the story and I hope you'll be there for future stories as well!
: You are a great writer and a great reviewer as well, and reading your reviews and enthusiasm was great. Once I have the time, I hope to go through some of your other stories. Until then, I really think you should update The Memory Holder, because it's awesome. I hope you loved the story and I hope to see you again!^^
Everyone else: To all the others reviewing sporadically, or not reviewing at all: thank you for following the story and sticking with the characters, and hopefully living with them as well! I hope that you're looking forward to future work of mine and I hope to see you again!
And finally, My Beta for making this story work. As well as my second Betareader. Originally, this story was boring, especially in the middle, but every plotline got its own addition to make it work: and that's all thanks to my first Betareader. Esmeralda's plotline got Emily, Pete's and Elizabeth's plotline got Michelle and her grandmother Sarah, Jamie's plotline got Alejandro, Simon's plotline got boxing, and Victor's plotline got Victor's father telling Zoë that Victor was tired of her. Thanks to my second Betareader, I could make all those additions work. (By the way, he's on FP too: oscar-s. Thank him for me!) I could smoothen out the story and make it work thanks to those two, and I owe them my endless thanks.
And I will definitely be back, I can testify to that! It will take some time, and some patience, but I will be back! And when I will, it will be twice as big as it normally is. At least, I hope so^^
I'll see you again!