"That looks hideous, babe, and it costs as much as my tuition. I'm sorry."

I laughed and shoved the blue dress back onto the shelf. Maya and I floated around the swanky Los Angeles boutique, trying to find something "classy yet sexy", in Maya's words, for her to wear under her gown the next day. She was graduating from the University of California with a Bachelor's degree in English, which I thought was super ironic, considering she never once paid attention during that class in high school. I followed her into the clearance section, after she swiveled her head around to check the surroundings.

"Have to make sure no one important sees me in the peasant's section," she explained.

I rolled my eyes. "You're going to be a college graduate tomorrow, Mai. This is literally the one place in the store you're most likely to see someone you go to school with."

She slid hangers noisily over the circle racks, her eyes focused on the clothes like she was a lion hunting sickly deer.

"Shut it, Hailz. I'm on a mission, and you're not being a very good sidekick."

I turned and went to work on the other racks, searching for something that would go nicely with the black gown the girls were required to wear during the ceremony. In the back of my mind, there was a part of me that wished I could walk up on stage to get a diploma. The very back of my mind, like the part that considers drinking bleach just to see what it would taste like. I'd given up the idea of college a long time ago, and not because I was a "lazy bum", as Leo would have people believe.

I was a goddess. I was going to live forever. I didn't need higher education to get where I wanted to go in life, and I definitely didn't need to pay tens of thousands of dollars in tuition, even if I could use magic to deal with that. I smiled as I absentmindedly waved my hand through the racks of dresses. I loved the fact that I'd used magic to help Maya pay her tuition; being able to help someone so close to me with something so important made me feel amazing. I was so lost in my thoughts that I jumped when Maya tapped me on the shoulder.

"Jeez Louise, the clearance dresses can't be that mesmerizing."

"Shut up. What did you find?"

She pulled a simple white dress with a frilly bottom out from behind her back, tilting the hanger in her hands like shaking it would make it prettier than it already was.

"I like it," I confirmed.

She sighed. "Of course you do. You like all the clothes I pick out."

I mocked offense. "I do not!"

"Do so. Face it, Hailz, you don't know anything about fashion."

I rolled my eyes. "I don't shop with you because I love fashion, Mai."

She smiled. "I know."

We went to the register and Maya paid for the dress, along with a pair of white shoes she picked up as we made our way to the front.

"The white is going to contrast so murderously with the black cap and gown," Maya sighed as we made our way to her car, a hand me, hand me, hand him, hand she, hand them down, Toyota Avalon. Safe to say, it wasn't a new car. It probably wasn't even a new car when Maya was born.

"Murderously?" I asked with a giggle.

"Shush, you. I'm using my English degree to expand my vocabulary."

I slid into the passenger seat, and Maya pulled out of the lot. Her driving skills had stayed the same since high school; she still drove like she was in a panicked rush, like an ax murderer was swinging his weapon on a motorcycle behind her.

"Where are we going to eat? I was thinking McDonald's, but I don't want to look too bloated tomorrow."

I laughed and looked out the window at the busy line of shops that made up the County Strip Mall, which sounded way more low-budget than it was. I swore that at least seven stores in the place had door liners made from pure gold. I'd done all my shopping there, at least for clothes and house stuff, since Seth and I had moved to Los Angeles from Tower the September after Maya and I graduated from high school. It wasn't a coincidence that I happened to move to the same place Maya went to college; well, kind of. I'd always been curious about what it would be like to live in such a huge city, and even though we'd bought a house in a pretty quiet area, I felt like I was getting the experience. Maya being only a couple miles away just sweetened the deal.

"We could try Guy's Grill," I suggested. It was a small, family-owned restaurant about a mile from the stoplight we were sitting at.

"I think you want me to look fat in my gown," she growled.

"You're so dramatic."

"I am, but Guy's Grill? You know I have to order the whole menu every time we go there."

I crossed my arms. "Fine, you decide, graduation girl."

Her lip curled into an indecisive pout. "Actually, maybe you should choose. Since you're paying, and all."

My mouth dropped open. "When did we agree to this?"

"We didn't. I used my magical powers to convince you."

I rolled my eyes. "I think it would make more sense if I said that."

"No way. I've been hanging around a superhero since senior year. Something had to rub off on me!"

I laughed, and she coughed, which was obviously fake.

"Speaking of superheroes... have you... oh, I don't know... spoken to Anubis lately?"

I could feel my expression fall a little bit. I had spoken to Anubis every once in a while, maybe once or twice a month, but I hadn't seen him in person since the day I sacrificed myself to get rid of Apep. At first, I thought he had been trying to avoid Maya and I, and I resented him a little bit, especially since it had been hard for me to finally consider him a friend. But, I'd eventually found out that Apep had completely devastated the Underworld and even a gigantic portion of the Duat. Anubis had a lot riding on him. He was the only god that had any control of what happened down there, so the repair and rebuilding was totally and fully on his shoulders. I couldn't fathom it, but it would take him hundreds upon hundreds of years to get everything back to normal.

Maya had taken a liking to Anubis, and to be completely honest, I think he shared the same feelings. They kept in touch for a little while after the whole ordeal was over, but he stopped talking to her frequently after a few weeks. I think she was still hurt about it.

I sighed. "I don't think he's going to show up, Mai."

She sunk back in her chair. "I don't get why he can't just put the whole hell-building thing on hold for a day. I'm not getting any younger. He's got forever to take stock of the depressing stuff."

I shrugged. "I don't think he can afford that. He has a lot on his plate."

She groaned. "More food talk?"

I laughed. "Calm down, Mai. You'll look fine tomorrow."

She scoffed. "Says you!" She rounded a corner so widely I thought she'd take out the minivan in the opposite lane. "You look exactly the same as you did four years ago! You don't even have to eat if you don't want to."

She was right. I hadn't changed at all, and I wouldn't, ever. The rule was that any human that survived the transition from a human to a god would remain the age they were during the transition for all eternity. Of course, that rule was made up literally just for me because no one else in the history of ever had survived the transition, because no one had ever even tried to make the transition before, but still. I didn't really know I felt about it. It was definitely cool to know that I'd never have to deal with my metabolism slowing down, or getting wrinkles, or losing my sight or my hearing or my ability to walk or run, but at the same time, it was terrifying. Just like every other kid born in the world, I was raised to believe that I'd grow up, have kids, watch them grow as I withered away, and then die.

Three of those four things would never happen.

I'd definitely grown up, that was for sure. I wasn't the same person I was four years ago. I would never have kids. One thing I learned about Seth, the one thing he was insecure about, was the fact that he was the only Egyptian god who was infertile. It was a curse that was put on him by someone unimportant for something evil he'd done a long time ago. I could never have his children, and neither could anyone else. Even if I could, I didn't think it was the smartest idea for me to be a parent, given the fact that I didn't have the greatest examples in the whole world. I was fine with never being able to be a mom. It wasn't a goal of mine, even before I was a goddess.

And, of course, I'd never die, but I'd learned to accept that.

"You're right, but not eating would suck."

"Even if I had to stop eating to save my life, I'd just take death. Nothing is worth giving up food," Maya proclaimed.

"I'm sure food feels the same way about you."

"We have a love/hate relationship, but we always work through things."

We talked about Maya's classes and how much she had started to hate them near the end of her semester for the rest of the way to the restaurant, and when she finally pulled into the Guy's Grill parking lot, she grinned and tapped on the steering wheel. I knew why; the lot was almost totally empty. Quick seating, quick service. What a time to be alive.

We hopped out of the car and nearly ran to the front door, as if we were worried that hundreds of people would pull into the lot and run into the building before we got the chance to. The waitress was about sixteen, and she sat us down in a booth near a window. I sat across from Maya, and our waitress, Angelica, smiled as she handed us our menus.

"I'll give you some time to decide," she spoke as she walked away.

Maya sighed and flung open her menu, her eyes poring over the choices as her elbow slumped onto the table.

"So many beautiful specimens, so little time to experiment."

I already knew what I wanted; the same thing I always got when I came to the Grill. A pulled pork sandwich with a side of french fries. It tasted like whatever Christians thought Heaven felt like, I swear it did.

I let my eyes wander around the restaurant for a little while as Maya literally studied and discussed every single item on the menu, even the ones she obviously wasn't going to choose, like the fresh garden salad with a "dressing" of organic lemon juice. Yeah, not the Maya I knew. She finally settled on a steak, as if that took half an hour to decide. When Angelica came back, we ordered our food, and she took our menus.

"Have you talked to Leo recently?"

I smiled and nodded. "Almost every day, actually."

Leo moved back to Egypt about six months ago. He said he'd always love Tower, but that there was too much "lame energy" there, and that it was really "chomping up his vibe." At first, I didn't understand how living in the place where he was murdered would be better than living in his hometown, but then I remembered what living in Tower actually meant. It meant not only living in his hometown, but also living where his mom died, his dad, one of his closest friends, where he was kidnapped and used as a pawn to get his sister to participate in a sick game that would lead to her sacrifice, where his sister laid in a coma for two weeks... it wasn't exactly bursting with positivity and excitement. Not to mention he lived alone in our dead dad's house, and given the fact that Seth and I didn't live in the funeral home anymore... he didn't have any friends or family left there. It actually kind of made me sad. Tower had been the center of my life for so long, and now... it was like a shadow, a dark entity that made me shudder whenever I thought about it.

"That's good." She took a sip of water. "Is he totally settled back in?"

"Yeah, he said it's like he never left. I'm just glad he's found somewhere he can be his insane self."

She laughed, and then she was silent for a little bit, and I decided to follow her lead as her face got darker. Something wasn't right. I was about to ask if she was okay, but she spoke before I could.

"Crystal's mom called me earlier today."

I felt my heart hit my feet. Hearing her name was enough to send me reeling back to the conference room of the Greek headquarters, her head severed from her body, covered in blood...

I shut my eyes and quickly stopped myself. I still dealt with horrific flashbacks and even ultra-realistic nightmares, where I was surrounded and suffocated with images of my dead friends, and even my dad. I'd grown to regret what I did to him, and it haunted me. I'd wake up in the middle of the night, screaming at the top of my lungs, crying, and sweating. I actually think the aftermath of the brutal situation I'd been in was worse than being in the situation itself; I could never escape the memories, even if I tried. They were a part of me.

"Did she?" It was a dumb question, but I couldn't bring myself to say anything else.

She nodded. "She said that she was proud of me, and that she would try to make it to the graduation with my mom." I could tell she was on the verge of tears. "Crystal wanted to go to UC."

I bit my lip, pushing down the lump in my throat. "So did Kyle."

I had nightmares about Kyle more often than I did Crystal. All I could see was how Apep crushed him so quickly, so nonchalantly, without any hesitation at all. He just took one of my closest friends away from me in the blink of an eye, without giving me a chance to say goodbye to him. Granted, I didn't get to say goodbye to Crystal, either, but I was numb to death at that point. I would have visions of Kyle begging me to help him, of his mom yelling at me, her face covered in tears, asking why I didn't save him. Just thinking about it made me want to be sick.

"I still think about them all the time. My roommate tells me that I should stop torturing myself, but I can't. I wish I could," she admitted. "I used to wish I never met them."

I used to want that, too. For the first month after I left the hospital, every time I wasn't focusing on something specific, my mind would wander to everything I'd lost, everything I'd given up, willingly and unwillingly. I'd wanted to forget them so badly that I even considered wiping my own memory, but I couldn't go through with it. If I forgot about them, I'd be taking the easy way out. I'd be letting myself lose out on lessons that I'd eventually just have to relearn, and I didn't want to do that. So, I dealt with the memories. I didn't want to, but I did. I totally understood where Maya was coming from.

"It'll get easier, eventually," I said, wiping away a tear.

"I don't want it to-" her voice caught in her throat, and she patted her napkin on her eyes. "I don't want it to get easier. It'll mean that I'm starting to get over them, like I'm... forgetting them. Like I'm moving on. I don't want to get over Crystal and Kyle."

I didn't either, but as much as it pained me to think it, it was going to happen at some point. Eventually, thinking of them wouldn't hurt as much as it did now. Eventually, maybe when Maya had gray hair and glasses resting on the point of her nose... maybe it wouldn't hurt at all. Maybe their deaths would just be distant memories that gave us a quick, passing moment of sadness.

I wasn't waiting for that day to come.

Maya laughed and wiped her eyes with her napkin again, and I managed to laugh, too.

"Look at us, acting like a couple of infants the day before I sashay across the stage at my college graduation."

I laughed harder. "We're pathetic."

She nodded, taking a mirror from her purse and inspecting her makeup.

"I just miss them so much."

"Me, too."

Angelica came over with two plates in her hands, a bright smile painted on her face. Thank god. All that crying and reminiscing really made me hungry. I took a bit of my sandwich, and then picked up a few fries, and let the sadness of Maya and I's conversation ebb away.

It took us more than an hour to get finished up at Guy's, and after I paid the bill, Maya and I hopped in her car again. Her phone buzzed as she turned the key in the ignition.

"Hey, Alison. What? Now?" She looked at me, and I raised my eyebrows. I hoped she wasn't expecting me to read her mind. "Ugh. Okay, see you soon."

She hung up, and sighed. "So, bummer news. I have to go back to my dorm and sign some papers about some damage in the bathroom."

I laughed. "What did you do?"

"None of your business!"

"Please tell me you didn't break the plunger."

"It's not my fault. Who the hell uses wooden plungers anymore? Everyone knows they break easily!"

I laughed again, and she groaned. "Sorry about cutting our sister day short."

I shrugged. "It's fine. I'm already starting to wear out, anyway."

She rolled her eyes. "You are such a lightweight. Literally."

The car shook like an earthquake when she stepped on the gas, but I think it was less the car's fault than Maya's, considering she loved to floor the pedal. We jerked out of the lot, and she turned in the direction we came. We talked the whole ride about graduation, when I should show up, where I should sit, and what we were going to do afterwards. Her mom and sister were coming, of course, so we'd have to factor them into our plans.

When she pulled onto my street, she exhaled.

"I can only hope I live somewhere like this someday."

I smiled. The neighborhood was nothing like the one that surrounded the funeral home before. It was a complete one-eighty. White picket fences were everywhere, and perfectly cut green lawns were basically a necessity. Every house had a garage, and the neighbors were super friendly. In fact, the lady that lived next door to us looked a lot like Ma'at. When I first met her, I nearly jumped out of my skin, but it didn't take too long to realize that she was human and not a disguise. She didn't give me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, and she didn't look at me like she cared about me deeply, or like she would always know something I didn't.

Maya pulled up to my curb, and we both looked at the house for a second.

It was two stories, with a basement. White on the outside, no fence, though. I thought that would be a little much, considering we didn't have anything to keep inside of our front, or backyard. It sat right on the corner of my street, not too close to our neighbor, but not isolated, either. It had a red roof, three windows on the top floor, and two on the bottom. It looked like a picture right out of a 1950s Levittown, minus the tacky old stuff.

"I'll see you tomorrow, Mai," I said as I opened the door and stepped out of the car.

She nodded, and then handed me an envelope after she'd dug in her glove compartment for it.

"Bring your boytoy if you want, I put an extra ticket in there."

I smiled and waved, and she drove off. Maya and Seth had never really hit it off, but they tolerated each other, which was all I really wanted.

The Explorer wasn't in the driveway, but my Challenger was. Seth probably wasn't home, but he wasn't a homebody, so I wasn't surprised. I put my key in the front door and stepped into the living room. The house was bright and cheery on the outside, but Seth and I both decided we wanted something that reminded us of the funeral home on the inside. Not too dark, but not a playhouse, either. The walls of the living room were light gray, the couches and chairs were black, and the carpet was gray, too, but slightly darker. I tossed the tickets on the center couch, and then went up the shadow-themed staircase into our bedroom, which had the same color scheme as the living room. Our bed was the black main piece, though, obviously. I put my keys on the bedstand and kicked off my sneakers, then walked back down to the living room and into the kitchen, which was a bit brighter; white walls, marble counter and table, stainless steel fridge and freezer, and a stainless steel sink. The cupboards and dishwasher were black. It looked dark and futuristic. It reminded me of a dystopian novel.

I really liked the house, and it definitely felt like home, which was normal after four years. I grabbed a mug from the middle cupboard and a tea packet from the one next to it, poured some water, and slid it into the microwave. After three minutes, I had a cup of hot peach tea. I stood at the sink and looked at the window above it as I took a sip, not thinking of much of anything. Just looking.

Then, I felt the chill.

I heard footsteps coming from the garage, but I didn't turn around; he'd come to me if he wanted.

It was tempting, though. He was tempting.

I sipped from my mug again as his footsteps got closer, and finally they were right behind me, and his arms were around my waist. He kissed my neck, and rested his chin there.

"Wasn't expecting you back so soon."

I smiled. "You can thank Maya's dorm advisor."

I could feel his smirk. "You were at her dorm?"

"No, but she had to go back to report some damage."

"I don't know why that doesn't surprise me."

I laughed and wiggled from his grip, turning around to face him. He was still the same distance away, but the way he looked at me made him feel much closer. His body language was full tilt, and without a word being spoken, I knew I had him for the rest of the day. He was all mine, and I was all his, and I wasn't just referring to our plans for the night. I meant in life, in general. I had been through hell and come back, and so had he. When I had those terrible nightmares and woke up in the middle of the night, screaming and crying, he was always there, right next to me, holding me and telling me that everything would be fine. When I thought about everything and everyone I had lost, I didn't let it crush me too harshly, because all I had to do was look at him to remind me of everything I had gained. When he looked at me, the sorrow I felt and the pain I held inside didn't hurt as much as it should have. He was like the medicine that no doctor could ever prescribe. He fit his hand around mine, and tugged the mug from my hand, tilting it up to his mouth and drinking. He only sipped for a few moments, and then put it on the counter behind me.

"I don't know how you drink that stuff," he remarked, stepping away and grabbing a glass from the dishwasher and filling it with water.

"It's good for you," I countered.

"You're good for me," he responded with a wink.

I rolled my eyes, but I could feel the heat rushing to my face. I had to change the subject, and I decided to tell him about Crystal's mom. I'd be having a nightmare about her tonight, so I figured I might as well let him in.

"Crystal's mom called Maya. She said she might be coming to her graduation."

He took the glass of water away from his lips and looked at me, his eyes unreadable. He sauntered over, standing next to me and putting an arm around my shoulders. He put my chin between his fingers, and tilted my head up to him. His touch sent an electrifying volt through my body, so strong I felt like it actually tugged me closer to him.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I just... I miss her. Kyle too." He already knew that, but I couldn't say it enough.

He nodded. "They're at peace, sweetheart. When people die the way they did... the afterlife takes care of them. They aren't suffering."

I narrowed my eyes, but in hope, not critique. "Do you mean that?"

"I promise it." He kissed my forehead. He murmured I love you against my skin.

I let out the tension inside with a smooth exhale, letting the pleasure from the feel of his lips course through me.

"Sometimes I think about how I'll deal with loss later on. Living forever means that people I care about will die." I didn't know what made me think of that, but I kept hearing Anubis' voice, remembering when he told me I'd have to deal with death again in around eighty years.

I shuddered. I didn't even want to think about Maya... no. Absolutely not.

Seth re-positioned again, this time facing me, his hands planted next to either of my sides on the counter. He was leaning close, but not to the point where I thought he'd sneak a kiss.

"However you deal with it, I'll be here to make sure it doesn't overwhelm you." He pushed a strand of hair out of my face, but he didn't take his eyes off me, not once. His hand came to rest on the counter again. "I'll always be here for you, sweetheart. When everything else in this world and in your life falls away, because it will, I'll be here. I'm not going anywhere, ever."

He stepped closer, and I put my hands on his shoulders, squeezing gently. He kissed me quickly.

"Because you need me. And I'll always need you. Forever."

I smiled, and I couldn't have loved him more.



I kissed him, and he curled his arms around my waist, pulling me against his firm body. His lips moved expertly with mine, like he'd memorized the shape of my mouth. He lifted me up and sat me down on the counter, and kissed me harder, more desperately, as if we had anything to fear. We were free. The gods hadn't bothered us in years, and I had no reason to think that they would ever again. I twisted my hands in his shirt and I felt the desperation come over me, the need to be closer to him, to feel him on a level deeper than I could explain. I knew what was coming, and unlike the Hailey of four years ago, I wasn't hesitant at all. He pulled away, running his hands through my long hair, his eyes bordering on animalistic.

"I'll give you five minutes to get ready," he breathed, his lips curling into the expression he loved the most.

I smiled. "Why so long?"

He slid his hands over my cheeks and kissed me roughly.

"You're going to need it."

My heart fluttered, and I pushed myself off of the counter, ran through the living room, and upstairs. I didn't actually do anything; I just sat on the bed and waited for him to follow. My heart was racing like a kid waiting for Santa, and I was so grateful that even though we probably were never going to do anything as traditional as marriage, our honeymoon phase had never ended. And as I saw his silhouette in the hallway behind the bedroom door, I knew that in just twenty-two years, my life was complete.

And that ends the Secret stories! I have to thank you guys so, so, so much for not giving up on this story, even though I was so inconsistent when it came to updating it. I wish I could have kept up on my schedule, but unfortunately, that just wasn't possible and I felt awful about it. This story has been so, so amazing to write, I really do adore these characters and I'm really going to miss coming up with and telling their stories, especially because I've been doing it for such a long time (it's been more than a year!). I know I said I'd be putting the story up on WattPad, and although I still want to do that, I can't make any promises, given the fact that I'll be going away to college in a week and starting a new job, and I don't know if I'll be able to give my attention to editing and transferring both stories. Also, with that being said, this may be my last story on FictionPress for a while, for the same reasons. I wish I had finished Silhouette earlier so that I could have gotten out a couple more stories, but the cookie didn't crumble that way (cliché, I know). Again, I thank you all so, so much for your support, and I hope that you've enjoyed the stories as much as I have. I hope that you all revisit and re-read them to you heart's content, and that you don't notice the few plot holes that I forgot to cover up. Haha! And, as always, make sure you leave a review to tell me what you thought. Again, thank you so much, I will always appreciate you guys.

Till next time!