The next few days passed in a blur. Josh wouldn't speak to me, understandably so. At first I was so ashamed of myself that I wouldn't speak to anyone. I didn't know how they would react to my decision. Finally, I went to my father. He told me that the decision was up to me what I did and that he would be proud of me no matter what I did. While it was a comfort to hear him say that, it didn't really help me.

The next people I went to see were Will, Mark, Todd, and Christy. Mark, Todd, and Christy said that they thought that I should stay with Josh. They argued that Josh and I had something special, something that money could never take the place of. However, like my father, they said that whatever I decided to do, they would still be there for me.

Will never spoke until I stood to leave. He called my mother a few select names that I wouldn't ever write in here. However, to give you an idea about how angry he was, I will tell you that he said, "If she wasn't a woman, I swear I would have some of my friends go after her to teach her a lesson." My jaw dropped and then I reminded him that she was our mother. To that he responded, "Not to me she isn't. She hasn't been our mother for a long time now. All she cares about is money." Before I left, he hugged me and told me to do whatever I thought would be the right thing to do.

After I had spoken to all of them, there was still one person who I felt as though I still needed to speak to. One person whose opinion mattered to me more than anyone else's did for some reason. The day before graduation, I screwed up all the courage I had and went to see her.

"I'm here to see Maria Furmano," I said nervously to the security guard.

The security guard didn't have a chance to speak before I heard, "I didn't think I'd be seeing you ever again." I turned around and saw Josh's grandmother standing behind me. "I'm glad that I was wrong. You look like you could use someone to talk to. Let's go sit on the patio."

I breathed a sigh of relief and helped her walk outside. We sat down at a little table with an umbrella over it. Out in front of us was a playground. As I watched the little children run around screaming, I felt a feeling of peacefulness settle over me. I could see why elderly people would want to live in this particular retirement home. I was so absorbed in watching the children, that I jumped slightly when Maria spoke.

"I asked you not to hurt him," she said wearily. I looked over at her and for the first time saw her appear fragile. She appeared as though she was just like paper and if you handled her the wrong way, she would crumble. The second the thought came into me head, though, I immediately became angry with myself. If there was anyone weak sitting at that table, it was me. I was the one who gave into my mother and didn't stand up for myself. I had a feeling that if Maria had been in my position, she would not have even considered for one second leaving the man she loved.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I really am. I never wanted to hurt him. And if you regret me ever being in Josh's life I fully understand. I've found myself wishing the same exact thing."

"Don't think for one second that I would ever regret you being in Josh's life and I can honestly say that Josh doesn't regret having met you either," Maria said immediately. "You've made such a difference in Josh's life. Before you came into his life, he was childish, immature, and very closed off to everyone. He had never had a normal childhood and because of that, he never really had a chance to mature. Everything was thrown so quickly at him so that when things finally calmed down, all he wanted to do was have fun. He didn't want to be serious because he had been that enough as a child.

"You know how many times I struggled with Josh to get him to tell me how he was feeling? He never would tell me what was wrong. He kept everything bottled up inside of him. It wasn't healthy and I worried about him so much.

"Then he met you. His first visit after he met you, he told me all about you. He described a beautiful, smart, fun, but slightly bitter girl who he just loved to be around. If only you could have seen the way he talked about you. When I met you for the first time, I could see that Josh had described you perfectly. I could see the way Josh already, though not knowingly, fallen in love with you and I couldn't be happier with the girl he had fallen for. My only fear was that you would never realize what you had in front of you. But you did and I'm so glad about that."

Maria put her hand on my arm on the table and then said, smiling apologetically, "Oh dear, I've strayed away from my point. What I meant to just say was that Josh matured while he was with you. He still loves to joke round, but he realizes that there is a limit. He may not open up to me, but I can tell he's opened up to you. You've been good for him, Jennifer."

I was surprised to feel a tear roll down my cheek. "Thank you," was all I managed to say.

"Honey, I should be the one thanking you after all that you've done for my grandson."

"No. Don't thank me. I'm leaving him to marry some man I don't even know so that my mother can be happy with her money again. I've hurt him so much."

She took her hand off my arm and sighed. "I will not lie to you. You did hurt Josh very much by this. When he came to see me the other day, he looked lost. He didn't talk much about it, though, as usual. He just told me about as much as you just did.

"I do know that everything happens for a reason. Perhaps this is a test for both of you. If you two are really meant to be together, which I believe you are, then you will pass it. Maybe not immediately, but if you try hard enough, you eventually will. Just be strong and I'm sure that no matter what happens, you will be happy."

We talked for a few more minutes before I told her that I had to get going. She made me promise to visit her again no matter what happened and it felt good to be making such a promise. She had always been good to me and I wanted to try and be just as much of a help to her. As I rode the bus home, I felt better about myself, but still had no idea what I was going to do.


"It is my honor to present to you the valedictorian of the class of 2003, Josh Furmano."

Josh rose from his seat and stood behind the podium. In his navy blue graduation gown he looked so wise that I had to smile when I looked up at him from my seat. He glanced quickly at me before he began to speak.

"The End. A story always ends with those words. Even if they are not written on the last page of a book, a reader often thinks about them. After all, once you read the last word, there is nothing else to do except think about what you have read.

"In a sense, life is like a series of books. You go through sections of your life and once that section is over, you can only think back on it. You can't change it because, like a book once it is published, you can't go back and rewrite it. You are forced to accept the choices you made and the things that occurred.

"High school was one of those books in the series of our life. Throughout these past four years, we have had so many experiences that have shaped our lives. We have made choices that will affect our future. We have made friends that will be in our hearts forever. What had happened has happened and it cannot be changed.

"What can be changed, is our future. As we close this book and open another, we are given the chance to wipe our slates clean and start over again. It is now, in the beginning of this book, where the decisions we make are the most important. These are the ones that will decide how we feel when we read the words 'The End.'

"Class of 2003, this is our chance to prove ourselves, to show what we are really made of. Use this opportunity wisely and don't waste it. Always bring with you the lessons you have learned and the people you have met. Most importantly, always be true to yourself, even if that means disappointing others. Congratulations and good luck in the future. May I be the one to read the words, 'The End.'"

Josh walked back to his seat with his head held high as everyone applauded his speech. I felt as though he had spoken those words to warn me of my own decision. He was telling me to remember how much my decision would affect my future. I wanted to talk to him. I had made up my mind that I would not leave the building until I had spoken to Josh.

It turned out, that wasn't my decision to make. After the ceremony, my mother first wanted to take pictures and then when she was done my father and brother wanted to take some. Mark and Todd came over to me to say congratulations and by the time that was all done and I had gone to look for Josh, I had learned that he had already left. My vision became blurry as I realized that perhaps Josh was making my decision for me.


"Jen, make sure you have everything," my mother said to me at the door to our apartment. I nodded my head and then walked back through the empty apartment into my now empty room. I felt oddly numb as I looked under my bed and in my closet. I kept on thinking that Josh would run in at any second and tell me not to go. I knew that if he did do that, I would run into his arms and never leave them. But he never came.

As I opened the top drawer to my night stand, I though it was empty, but then something caught my eye. I gasped and began to scold myself for having almost forgotten something so important. I lifted up the fake rose that Josh had given me as part of the bouquet of roses I had received from him for my birthday. I put it near my nose as though it would have the scent of a live rose. I clasped my fingers around the rose charm that Josh had also given to me. I was filled with a strength that I had only known when I was with Josh.

"Come on, Jen! The car is waiting!" my mother shouted. Holding the rose in my hand, I closed the drawer and silently said good-bye to my room as I walked out of it. My mother was smiling widely and walked happily out of the apartment. I followed her slowly, still holding the rose and my charm. As I passed Josh's door, without thinking twice about it, I crouched down and slid the fake rose under his door hoping he would understand that I would always love him.

After the driver of our car sent to us by the Morrisons introduced himself to us, I leaned back and stared longingly at the apartment building, remembering how differently I had felt about it when I had first moved in. I even laughed slightly remembering when I had first met Josh in the hallway. As we pulled away from the curb I made a vow to never turn back into the girl I had been when I had first moved into that building. I never wanted to be her, to be my mother. As much as I had helped Josh, he had helped me also. With one last look at the building that had changed my life, I grasped on to the rose charm, imagining that Josh was doing the same with the rose that I had slipped underneath his door.

The End

A/N - Wow. I never thought I would be so sad at ending this story. It's been over a year since I started it and now I have mixed feelings about finishing it. I know it isn't the ending you were looking for, but I had planned it to end this way since the beginning and I wanted to stick to my original plan.

As for the future. I have to admit that I am very tempted to write a sequel. I think I have left myself enough space to do so, but I'm not sure if a sequel would be over killing it. Please let me know what you think. I do plan on writing another story and I have a few ideas in mind, but I've become quite attached to these characters that I almost don't want to be done with them.

I want to thank all of you who have reviewed. As of right now I have received 452 reviews. I NEVER expected people to enjoy this story so much and I have to admit that I still think that this story isn't that great. However, to know that there are people who have enjoyed my writing makes me extremely happy. So, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I LOVE YOU ALL!!

And now, I must say good-bye. This is my last author's note and I admit, I almost feel like crying over it. Again, thank you so much to everyone who has reviewed. Until my next story, buh-bye!