A/N: Aw, man. It's actually finished. Done. Humph.
Anyway, a HUMUNGOUS thanks to all my readers and reviewers. I really appreciate you guys taking your time to read my story. Really.
Right, so I present you with ze last chapter in this story. Epilogue, actually. Are we even allowed to have an epilogue without a prologue? I'll just assume that we are. :)
Now read, review, and ENJOY.
I climbed up the stairs slowly, the hollow wooden thump resounding each time I took a step. Sniffling a little, I kept my eyes downcast and used my left hand which was on the railing to haul myself up at each stair.
I stopped at the sound of my name and turned around on the same stair I was on. "What?" I shouted back down.
"Come help me unpack the groceries," my mom shouted up. "Be down quick!"
Sighing angrily, I stomped down and walked up to the kitchen counter where Mom was opening up the packages. She turned at the sound of my steps and nodded towards the floor where she had dropped a few shopping bags.
Pursing my lips, I knelt down on the floor and started unpacking, still sniffling a little.
After a moment, my mom said, "Oh, Suze." I looked up at her through narrowed eyes. "Please don't tell me you're sulking because Jesse just left," she said, rolling her eyes and turning back to the bags.
Narrowing my eyes even more – it's a good thing I have big eyes –, I replied coldly, "It's not because of Jesse."
She snorted. I turned to her, my mouth hanging open disbelievingly. Had my mother just snorted at the fact that I was sniffling? Some mother she was.
I voiced that last thought to her. She snorted again, louder. I huffed and went back to unpacking, muttering under my breath.
She wouldn't have dared snort like that had Andy been around.
When I wouldn't talk any longer, my mom said, "Come on, Susie. You're always like that when he leaves. He'll come back soon. He does have those Frequent Flyer advantages."
Ha, tell me about it. Frequent Flyer advantages. The luxuries of money.
To my mother I replied, "God, Mom. It's not about Jesse, OK?"
"And, he keeps on emailing you," she went on, ignoring my statement. "Don't tell me he doesn't, because I know he does. He'll be back in two months for the summer, anyway."
Forgetting what I had been trying to keep secret from my mom, I muttered slightly anxiously, "Two months is a long time. Some other girl is sure to get her hands on him by then."
Mom chuckled. "So it is about Jesse, isn't it?"
I turned red. "So what if it is?" I shot. "I have the right to be a little sad."
"Sure. A little," Mom said, still working on the shopping bags. I could just imagine her smug smile.
Rolling my eyes in a scary resemblance of Kelly Prescott, I continued ripping bags open and emptying them. The crispy sound of crunching paper and polythene took over the kitchen for a while.
"He won't date any other girl, Susie," Mom said when we were almost done.
I couldn't help it. I gave in. It felt good to have someone reassuring me.
Chewing nervously at my lower lip, I looked up at Mom from my kneeling position and said, "You think so?" Then, in answer to her pointed look, "I mean, I know he won't but…well, those Spanish girls are pretty," I finished lamely.
I wasn't being an insecure girlfriend. I really wasn't. I was hundred percent sure that Jesse wouldn't do anything…wrong. It was just that, having him so far for so long was something that didn't exactly appeal to me. And, trust me, I've read up every single magazine article and book on long distance relationships.
My findings weren't all that reassuring, though. And I was feeling it too. Long distance relationships suck big time. I mean, where were all those Friday date nights?
But whatever it was, Jesse and I were making it work. Yeah, it wasn't exactly fun meeting him at monthly intervals when he got holidays from college, but life's like that. You can't have the cake, the icing, and the cherry, can you?
And, believe it or not, we were still totally, completely in love. Even after a year of this long distance dating. In fact, meeting after these long intervals actually made us make the most of every second we were together. Not that, we won't if he stayed near me. Make the most of it, I mean.
Gina, CeeCee and Adam had doubts about this relationship, though. So did Vivienne, with whom I had kept in touch for all this time. I listened with one ear to their gobbledygook and shot it out from the other. Because, I knew, I just knew that it would last. One measly continent and ocean couldn't separate us. And it was only for some time. Till Jesse finished college. Then…well, we decided to get to that later.
So, just trying to vent my annoyance at having him go and leaving me to yet another long wait, every time we came back home after seeing him off at the airport I would sulk for some time. Until I received his call telling that he had arrived safely in Spain.
Of course, the tears would come along uninvited.
Before Mom could answer, we heard the screen door leading to the deck at the back opening. Pete's adorable, short laughs and Andy's animated voice drifted into the room.
"There, Pete. Say hi to Mom and Suze," said Andy, waving Pete's little dimpled hand.
"Mama," pronounced Pete, his childish speech emphasizing the M's. His clothes were slightly grass-stained, his blond hair dishevelled and his wide blue eyes bounced with energy. He was an exact photocopy of Jake when he had been an infant. In fact, when I was looking through the Ackerman's old photo albums, the likeness between the two of them had been kind of freaky.
Mom laughed and took Pete from Andy. "Play time's over for you, young man. Now it's time to eat," she said, carrying him out to the living room.
I felt a twinge of jealousy as I saw her preoccupied in making him comfortable. It had been a year since he had been born but I still couldn't get used to sharing my mom with someone else. Someone else whose real mother she was.
Sighing, I gathered all the stray shopping bags and piled them up at one end of the kitchen. Then I went up to my room and flopped down on my bed. Staring up at the canopy of the bed, I conjured up the memory of Jesse at the airport early this morning.
"Susannah," Jesse whispered, holding my shoulder gently and taking me aside. Mom, Andy and David – yes, my whole family had come to see him off. He had saved my life after all – politely pretended to get busy with Pete. Jake and Brad, however, continued glancing at us from time to time – Jake, to see if Jesse was doing anything wrong with me and Brad, to see if he could find any potential blackmail material.
My eyes watering up as always, I looked up Jesse. "Yeah, you should get going. Your flight's in half an hour and you have to go through immigrations and they can be total assholes at times so you really gotta have some time on your hand and…" I trailed off sheepishly.
Jesse giving me his typical mega-watt grin. Amusedly, he raised his eyebrows and inquired, "Yes?"
I scowled. Eye check: water free.
"Shut up. You know I tend to—"
"—babble when you are nervous, yes, I know," grinned Jesse.
Pursing my lips irritably, I crossed my arms over my chest and stared pointedly at the old Japanese couple chatting on the bench.
Laughing softly, Jesse said, "Come on, Susannah. I'm leaving in a few minutes and you're going to give me the silent treatment?"
God, his voice was so damn tantalizing. Still scowling, I looked at him and said, "You're lucky I love you or else you wouldn't have those white teeth to grin at people with now."
Yeah, we'd gotten past the L-word avoiding period. Because, honestly, it was so clear that we loved each other that it would be hopelessly idiotic to deny it. So, as Jesse said, why not be up front about the fact?
That's what I loved so much about him. He was never one for pretentiousness and unnecessary drama. OK, except for the whole cheating thing last summer.
Jesse chortled. "Yes, I am lucky to have your love," he said softly and lowered his lips to mine.
Mmmm. It was a slow, sensual kiss, like we were memorizing the feeling of each other to store till the next time we met. No hands roaming, just my arms wrapped around his neck and his muscled arms securely circled around my waist. I sighed peacefully into his mouth as one of his hands moved to my hair. A sense of completeness settled over me. At that moment, I couldn't have loved life more.
Pulling apart, we gazed at each other for a few seconds then he took me by the elbow again and led us back to where my family was waiting.
After all the hand shaking and hugging had finished, Jesse slung his huge backpack over one shoulder. He nodded at everyone and then lingered his gaze at me. Walking over to me, he planted a kiss on my forehead and whispered, "Te amo, querida."
Smiling back, I whispered, "I love you too, Jesse."
He raised his eyebrows.
"I'm not totally deficient in Spanish, you know," I said, rolling my eyes.
He laughed. "I'll remember that, querida."
With that, he turned around and left, leaving me to yet another boring stretch of schoolwork and dateless nights.
I jerked out of my short doze. "What?" I shouted down.
"Jesse's called. He's arrived safely in Spain."
To be continued…