A/N: This is it; the eighth and final chapter! It takes place a little after the last chapter, and then a year after that. Feel free to review!

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Chapter 8: Happy

I had a boyfriend. Shortly after that holiday party Julian took me aside and we cleared things up- we were dating, pretty much. That party was practically our first date, he told me. I smiled and laughed as he enthusiastically said all this. What a dork.

And I knew I was lying from the start when I said that the whole thing wouldn't last long, because I was a senior, and he was a junior. Just because I graduated didn't mean that I would be leaving the apartment- I had a job at a company not too far from it. Julian was even able to drop by sometimes- to drop off lunch, we never did anything else in my tiny office, ever. (Chris suggested that I look into a Liar's Anonymous group.)

Chris actually didn't leave school, she majored in something that required a master's degree. I could never remember exactly what it was that she planned on doing with her degree, but it definitely had something to do with advanced math. Whenever she tried to explain it I got a little anxious about having to understand it- and I was also good at math.

Donnie also continued on, as our university had a medical school program- mostly he just locked himself in his room to constantly study. Chris and I understood that to get him to hang out we all had to go to a little Italian place not too far from campus. Sometimes it was a sushi place. I wasn't big on sushi but Chris dragged me because she didn't want it to look like she and Donnie were dating. I figured that she was just being careful not to appear taken, since I was pretty sure she was actually secretly seeing somebody, but I didn't do much investigating on that.

"You've changed," Julian observed one day. I decided to go outside for a while, and we ended up walking to a park, and sitting down on a bench.

"Good or bad?" I asked. Two little kids purposefully ran into each other about a hundred feet away. They fell down laughing.

"Good. I mean, it's not a big change, but it's nice," he said. I looked at him, and the way he was thoughtfully looking at the kids playing.

"Do you mind telling me how I've changed?" He looked at me, with the same thoughtful expression, and then he smiled.

"You're softer," he chirped. I narrowed my eyes.


"Yeah, like on the inside. Normally you're just straight faced, or amused. You're kind of... branching out, emotionally now. You're softer." I had no idea how he thought that, but I went with it.

Well, at first I didn't know how he came to that conclusion, but then I realized he was right. I was done with college, I was done with any inconvenient lying to my parents, and I was in a very comfortable relationship. I was comfortable with my friends, with my job, with Julian. I was more myself. (I still hated people asking me questions though.)

"Okay," I murmured. He grinned widely and kissed me. I couldn't help but smile when he pulled back, because he was happy, and it was great.

I picked Dom Pérignon for the Fourth of July party. If it tasted like the stars, surely it would be a good fit for an evening of beautiful hot explosives. There were also a few kegs lying around. Since it was an outside event it was less formal, and some people did their best to at least appear formal-casual. I avoided those people because they had sticks up their butts. It wasn't hard, they all sort of gravitated together, and my dad was not amongst them. He was eating ice cream, and I was sure that before the night was over there would be several dots of dripped melted ice cream on his shirt, pants, and somewhere on his face.

Julian brought a blanket and some folding chairs for the two of us. He had just graduated and was interning at a place that focused on athletic injuries. (He had majored in sports medicine.) He seemed very excited about his job, and that made me happy on many levels. All I wanted for him was to be doing something that he really liked, like I was.

"You said Dom perry-something right?" he asked, coming back with two glasses of our night's drink. I giggled and nodded.

"It's Dom Pérignon silly." He waved that off and sat down in the chair next to me. He handed me my glass and we clinked them together. This was one of the few wines I actually liked- wine was just weird for me.

At about a quarter after nine, the fireworks show began. There were typical gold ones, blue white and red ones, a few shaped ones. My favorites were always the ones that got really big quickly, and a few seconds later could hear the deafening boom it made. (Being the secret nerds we were, Julian and I loved the demonstration of light traveling faster than sound.)

Then, the finale group of fireworks started and they were astonishing. It was like the very fireworks themselves were intensely excited and soaking up all of the energy, and at the same time giving it all out. I probably started acting like a conductor as the final explosions were taking place, and I knew I wasn't just sitting still.

"I love you," I heard, just as the big boom of a big explosive light took place. I turned my head quickly and stared at Julian, who was staring right back at me, smiling shyly.

We'd been dating for over a year and a half, and we still hadn't said those words. Maybe he had been holding off out of fear of getting his heart broken again, and I of course would take longer to form such an emotion, and then recognize it enough to admit it, but then, there it was.

"What?" I whispered. He squirmed a little, still smiling like a little boy who just admitted something embarrassing.

"I love you, Audrey Vance," he repeated, taking a pause between the "you" and my name. I smiled widely.

Because of course I loved him back. Of course I did. We were a team, attached comfortably, and our lives formed around each other like it was something completely natural that you could find in a forest. I wanted him to be happy, and I wanted to make it happen. He was it.

"Well I love you too, silly Mr. Julian Whitley," I returned. He beamed at me and rushed to kiss me. It was excited, childish, and sweet, and it was great. He then kissed my nose and ran a hand through my hair.

"I love you," he breathed. He was happy to be able to say it, and I was happy too.

"I love you," I said. We were smiling, and probably, everyone else on the planet.

It was all happy. Happy, happy, happy.

A/N: So surely you see why I named the chapter "Happy". Those two are just so damn happy. Ugh, I want to wrap them in a blanket and cuddle with them.

So, that's the last of it. Feel free to review- just because the story is finished, doesn't mean it doesn't need anymore support.

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