So I'm still alive. I realize it's been like ten years since I updated. Things have happened. My life fell apart, and I had to put it back together. And lately I've been thinking about how I left this story, and it basically sucker-punched my conscience in the stomach. I never should have stopped writing. I'm going to remedy that now. I hope you enjoy. And uh... Merry Christmas?
I claim no ownership of the novel or movie on which this is based. Also, pretty sure I finally earned the T rating with this one.
by Renarde Rouge
Chapter Ten: Maintenant ou Jamais*
"So won't you, so won't you talk to me?
It's time to decide
'Cause no one's gonna save you if you don't swim for the boat
No one's gonna save you if you won't take the rope
No one's gonna find you when you're hiding in the dark
No one's gonna find you"
— "End Love", OK Go
The rain beats down relentlessly on Arnaud's head as he walks back to the cottage, soaking through his clothes and dripping into his eyes. He drags a sleeve across his face, to little effect. As his thin leather shoes squelch loudly in the mud, he can hear Marie struggling to keep up with his long-legged stride. Reluctantly, he slows his pace and allows her to catch up.
Upon reaching the farmhouse, he holds the door open for her, and she ducks inside, shaking the rain from her hair like a spaniel. Moving quickly to the hearth, she picks up the iron poker and begins stirring the embers, trying to revive the dying fire. "Sorry to make you worry, Uncle," she says, placing another log in the hearth. "I made a little trinket for Quasi, but I was embarrassed to give it to him in front of everyone. You can head up to bed now. I'm going to wait until my hair is a little drier."
Arnaud watches as his niece pulls a stool up to the fire and sits down, running her fingers through the tangles in her wet hair. As he gazes at her, so young and naïve and untouched by the world, he can feel his stomach twist itself into knots. This is not going to be easy.
He makes his way over to the hearth, warming his hands in front of the fire. With some effort, he forces himself to speak. "Marie... I think perhaps we should have a talk."
She casts a strange look up at him. "Right now?" she asks uncertainly.
He clears his throat and nods. "I'm not quite sure how to begin," he goes on. "I don't wish to overstep my bounds or intrude on your privacy. I am aware that I'm not your father."
"Are you serious?" Marie frowns. "You've been my father, for all intents and purposes, for ten years now. You can talk to me about anything."
"I'm glad you think so," Arnaud replies, touched in spite of his unease. He hesitates before continuing. "Marie, you know that I care about Quasimodo. He's been a godsend to this farm and to our family."
At this a soft smile graces his niece's lips. "Yes, he has," she murmurs.
Arnaud can't bear to look at her as he says his next words, so he stares fixedly into the fire. "It would be... a truly terrible thing if he... got hurt."
He can hear the frown in Marie's voice. "What do you mean?"
"I think it's time we dropped any pretenses, Marie," he says quietly. "I know how you feel about him."
There is a brief silence, relieved only by the rainfall outside and the crackling of the firewood as it is consumed by the flames. "I... would be very surprised if you didn't," Marie finally answers in a low tone. "Apparently my feelings are painfully obvious to everyone but him."
Arnaud glances down at her, and the resigned, defeated look on her face cuts him to the bone. "I take it you disapprove, Uncle?" she asks bitterly.
"Of Quasimodo? Not at all," he assures her with complete honesty. "I think you would be hard pressed to find a gentler soul in all of France."
With a sigh, he pulls out another stool and takes a seat beside her. "But I would be lying if I said I wasn't concerned," he goes on.
Arnaud looks down at his clasped hands. For all his learning, he has never been as articulate as he would like. He has always found it easier to express himself by quoting the words of other wise men. But at the moment, his vast stores of knowledge are failing him miserably.
"I'm not sure if you fully appreciate," he says slowly, attempting to choose his words with care, "what a fragile little ecosystem we have made for ourselves here. For the moment, the people of La Courtille are more or less tolerant of our decision to let Quasimodo live here, but it's a delicate balance. Tilt the scale just a little too far one way or the other, and it all might collapse. The people might turn on him... and on us."
Being the shrewd girl that she is, it does not take long for Marie to realize the implications of his words. "I see," she says calmly, gazing into the fire. "You're afraid that if Quasi and I were together, the townspeople would shun us."
Arnaud sighs. "I'm afraid that 'shunning' would be the least of your worries," he says sadly.
Marie huffs a soft, humorless laugh. "I'm surprised at you, Uncle. I've never known you to care what people think."
"I may not care what people think of me. But what they think of the ones I love is another matter. Particularly when people have an unfortunate tendency toward fear, intolerance, and cruelty."
Her chin lifts a little in stubborn defiance, reminding him forcefully of her mother. "Maybe you don't give people enough credit," she says stiffly.
Arnaud scoffs at this, unable to help himself. "Marie, I have lived with the scorn of my fellow men since the day I chose to pursue higher learning, and forsook my duty to my family's farm. I hear their snide remarks, see their scowls of disapproval nearly every day. To them I am nothing but an elitist who looks down his nose at the common folk because he can read and write."
Marie is silent, and he immediately regrets his harsh cynicism. With an effort, he manages to continue in a calmer tone. "You and I cannot even begin to imagine the abuse Quasimodo has endured simply because of the way he looks. But I think he would agree that you give people too much credit."
His niece shakes her head, her damp hair clinging to her flushed cheeks. "So what do you advise? That I should stop caring about him because the townspeople might turn against us?"
"No. Of course I can't tell you how to feel." He clears his throat. "But... how certain are you that you will always feel this way?"
Very slowly, Marie turns her head to look at him. "What?"
"I'm in no way suggesting that your regard for him will change, but—"
"You think that this is just some silly infatuation?" she asks in a low, angry voice, her fists clenched in her lap. "Uncle, have you ever known me to be inconstant?"
"Not at all—"
"I love him," she says firmly.
Arnaud closes his eyes. "I was afraid you'd say that."
"Too bad. It's the truth."
Marie is usually such a quiet, composed young woman, that it is sometimes easy for Arnaud to forget the inner fire which burns inside her. Most of the time it is a smoldering fire, carefully contained, but every once in a while — in a moment of anger or passion — it flares into a white-hot flame. In those moments, she is a force to be reckoned with. This is one of those moments.
"I didn't plan for any of this to happen," she goes on, quiet but intense. "None of us did. But something drew us together. I don't believe it was an accident that Gabriel went to Montfaucon that day, or that I followed him there. I believe I was meant to find Quasimodo. He's..." She shakes her head, tears glistening in her sage-green eyes. "I've never known anyone like him. He's suffered so much, and yet his heart is still so pure. I don't even care if he ever returns my feelings. I just want to be a part of his life, for as long as I can."
So much for the infatuation theory. "I have no doubt that he returns your feelings," Arnaud says grimly. "That's what concerns me."
Marie stares at him silently, her expression a mixture of fury, indignation, and something like disgust. For the first time in his life, he finds himself unsettled by her stony gaze.
"You think I'm going to break his heart," she hisses accusingly.
Arnaud winces inwardly. "I think..." He swallows and tries again. "I worry that the condemnation of the people would become too much for you to bear. And that your rejection would... break him."
A single tear rolls down her cheek, glinting in the firelight. "Have you no faith in me?"
At the sight of her tears, Arnaud's composure abruptly crumbles. "You are everything to me," he says unsteadily, reaching out and grasping her hand in his. "You're my daughter, Marie. I just want to protect you. Both of you."
Very calmly, Marie draws her hand back. "Your concern is noted," she says, her eyes hollow and distant. "But I can assure you, my feelings will not change. And if the whole world turns against me, then so be it."
With that she pushes back her stool and stands up. "I'm going to bed. Good night, Uncle."
Arnaud watches helplessly as she turns and leaves, her footfalls fading as she climbs the stairs to her attic room. As he returns his gaze to the fire, he exhales a long, shuddering breath, mourning the loss of his dear little girl even as he is filled with pride at the woman she has become.
The first thing Gabriel notices upon opening his eyes in the morning is the sun. The sun! He can hardly remember the last time he woke up with the sun shining in through the little window of his room. For over two weeks, the sound of the rain lashing against the half-timbered sides of the farmhouse has sent him burrowing deeper under his blankets, unable to face another day of work in the unending downpour. Now, at last, a reason to get out of bed.
The second thing he notices is that he has slept entirely too late.
Muttering a few choice curse words he's fairly sure his sister does not know he is aware of, he throws off his covers and stands up, shivering in the cold. Quickly, he dons fresh tunic and hose, shoves his feet into his shoes, and hurries downstairs.
To his surprise, the kitchen is empty save for Marie, who is stirring a pot of porridge over the fire. As she glances over her shoulder and smiles at him, he sees dark circles under her eyes.
"Well, good morning, young Odysseus," she says in amusement at his bleary-eyed, disheveled appearance. "Eat too many lotuses last night?"
"You're so weird," Gabriel grumbles, collapsing at the table and resting his head on his folded arms. "Where is everyone?"
"Still in bed," is his sister's reply. "We all made Saint Martin proud yesterday. I'm sure we drank more wine than he blessed in an entire lifetime."
She slops some porridge into a wooden bowl and slides it in front of him. Mumbling his thanks, he somehow manages to summon the strength to bring the spoon to his mouth. The hot meal, along with the sunlight streaming in from outside, begins to warm his insides.
The door to the barnyard swings open, and Quasimodo limps in, his fiery red hair sticking up in several directions.
"Hey, Quasi," Gabriel says around a mouthful of porridge.
"Good morning," he replies drowsily, rubbing his eyes with his massive hands. "It is still morning, isn't it?"
He takes a seat at the table opposite Gabriel, and Marie sets down another bowl for him. "Did you sleep well?" she asks in that nauseatingly tender voice she only uses for him.
To Gabriel's surprise, Quasimodo casts a conspiratorial look at her. "Not as well as I would have liked," he admits with a smile.
"Oh?" She puts her hands on her hips, tilting her head quizzically to one side. "Why is that?"
A light blush stains Quasimodo's cheeks. "It's a little difficult to sleep when you're grinning like a fool," he murmurs.
Marie returns his smile, as if sharing a secret. "Fair enough," she replies softly.
Gabriel frowns as he watches this exchange. What the hell? he thinks.
At the sound of footsteps on the stairs, Marie quickly turns back to the porridge, doling out the rest into the remaining bowls. Arnaud and Bernard stagger into the kitchen, both looking the worse for wear. Breakfast is eaten more or less in a subdued silence, especially on Arnaud and Marie's part. Gabriel can only assume everyone had too much excitement the night before.
At length Marie finishes her breakfast and pushes it aside. "Now that all the wind and rain have finally stopped, we should probably check on the treehouse," she says. "Make sure it hasn't blown away."
Bernard cracks a yawn, shaking his head. "I'm sure it's fine. That thing is as solid as the house we're in now. You all did an excellent job on it."
"We did, didn't we?" Gabriel remarks, puffing his chest out in pride. "Maybe we should build a house for Quasi next."
Quasimodo smiles faintly, shakes his head. "I don't mind the hayloft."
"But it's so cold up there," Gabriel argues. "And it smells like sheep and horse manure."
If the hunchback is offended by the criticisms aimed at his humble abode, he gives no sign. "I'm just grateful to have a roof over my head," he answers. "That's more than a lot of people have."
"That's an admirable sentiment, Quasimodo," Arnaud agrees quietly. "An attitude we would all do well to adopt."
Gabriel rolls his eyes. "Fine." He sits up straight as a sudden thought occurs to him. "Hey, Uncle. What were you and Marie talking about last night? I heard you in the kitchen, after everyone had gone to bed."
Both his uncle and his sister stiffen in their seats, each avoiding the other's gaze. "Nothing of consequence, lad," Arnaud says evenly after a moment. "We just had a touch of insomnia, that's all."
"Oh." The boy's shoulders fell in disappointment. "I thought maybe she'd snuck out to see Quasi again."
Marie's face turns an impressive shade of cerise. "Gabe!" she blurts indignantly.
Gabriel shrugs. "What?"
"This is a regular occurrence, Marie?" Arnaud inquires in a low voice.
The girl's mouth drops open. "No, I—"
"Marie had something she forgot to give me earlier," Quasimodo interjects, clearly trying to diffuse the situation. "A birthday present."
"What was it?" Gabriel asks curiously.
Marie glares at him across the table. "A very poorly-made wood carving," she says flatly. "Now mind your own business and finish your breakfast. You still need to bring in the eggs."
"Yes, ma'am," he mutters, rolling his eyes. Then he smirks. "Sure it wasn't a kiss?" he jokes.
Abruptly, Marie pushes back from the table and stands up, knocking her stool over in the process. Without a word, she turns and stomps out of the room and up the stairs.
"Oops," says Gabriel.
Quasimodo sits very still, looking as if he's been struck by a bolt of lightning. "That was not appropriate, Gabe," he manages to say shakily.
"I was just kidding," the boy replies defensively, stirring the cold dregs of his porridge. "She needs to stop taking everything so seriously." Suddenly tired of the endless tension between Quasimodo and his sister, he is unable to stop himself from adding, "On that subject, though, are you two ever going to get married?"
Arnaud slams his fist on the table, startling everyone. "Gabriel!"
"Please excuse me," Quasimodo mumbles, rising to his feet and limping out the door and into the barnyard.
Gabriel watches him leave with a pang of regret, then turns back to find Arnaud and Bernard regarding him with intense disapproval.
"Tell me, son," his uncle says dryly. "Has there ever been a single thought in that head of yours that has gone unuttered?"
"I'm sorry, but am I the only one who's sick to death of all this?" he asks impatiently. "Quasi and Marie are obviously in love. So why won't they do something about it?"
A dark expression crosses Arnaud's sharp features. For a moment he looks as grim as Death. "Whatever happens between them is out of our hands," he says quietly. "It has nothing to do with us. We can only pray to God that it works out well for the both of them."
"Your uncle is right," puts in Bernard, cutting Gabriel off. "Do as your sister says and mind your own business. They'll sort it out." He gives an unexpected snort. "Or I owe Gervais Fournier ten deniers."
Arnaud blinks at the old man. "You made a bet with Gervais Fournier regarding my niece?"
Bernard smiles sheepishly. "Oops?"
Shaking his head in disgust, Arnaud stands up and stalks out of the house, muttering to himself under his breath.
Gabriel raises his eyebrows, feeling somewhat vindicated. "At least I'm not the only one who can clear a table," he remarks.
Quasimodo's chores take much longer to finish than usual. After taking the sheep out to the fields, feeding and brushing the horse, and mucking out the barn, he retreats to his hayloft, unsure what to do with himself. His mind is a confused, restless whirl. Not for the first time, he wishes he had lived a normal life, so he could be better prepared for these sorts of problems.
Girl problems. Quasimodo, the lame, disfigured, half-blind, more than half-deaf bellringer of Notre Dame, is having girl problems. Wonders never cease.
He doesn't understand how it is possible, but it seems that Gabriel was right, that Marie does reciprocate his feelings.
He gazes over at the little figurine she carved for him, and his heart skips a beat in his chest. Surely that cannot be the work of someone who is indifferent, can it? And what about the way she looked at him when he held her in his arms, the way she clasped her own behind his neck? Were those the actions of a girl who was repulsed?
And if that were not enough, she kissed him. True, it might have been just an innocent peck, as chaste as the ones she bestowed on his cheek in the past. No doubt it was only meant as a gesture of affection and good wishes on his birthday. But somehow, it didn't feel like that. It felt like more.
In any case, why would she kiss him, if she did not care for him?
He groans and puts his head in his hands. And yet, when Gabriel teased her, she became angry and embarrassed and left in a huff. Is it possible that she regrets the kiss? Perhaps she does have feelings for him, and is ashamed and disgusted by them. He can't blame her if that's the case. In fact, the more he thinks about it, he is sure that it can be the only logical explanation.
He wishes he knew what to do. This is completely new territory for him. He never expected to wonder whether or not a girl cared for him. Until now, the answer to that question has always been an emphatic, resounding no.
If he wasn't such a coward, he could ask her what the kiss meant.
He casts one last glance at his little wooden counterpart, placed with such care beside his figurine of Marie. Two creations, made by two separate artists. And yet it almost looks like they were made for each other.
With another groan, Quasimodo turns away. He has to get out of here.
Leaving the barn, he makes his way through the orchard, avoiding the pools of standing water left by the recent rains. He passes the flooded pond, and finally ends up at the great oak tree. Most of the leaves have fallen to the ground, leaving its branches bare and strangely forlorn. The treehouse does not appear to have sustained much damage from the storm, but the swing he built for Marie has wrapped itself a few times around its branch. He can't help thinking that it looks a bit like how he feels: twisted into a confused knot.
Moving with a strength and confidence borne from years climbing among the ropes and rafters of his belltower, he hoists himself up into the tree and begins unwinding the swing. As he does so, his gaze is once again drawn toward Montfaucon on the distant hillock, desolate and forbidding. For some reason, though, it does not have the same hold on his mind and heart as it once did. With a start, he realizes that he has not thought about Esmeralda in weeks. The realization comes with a feeling of shame, but also of relief.
At last he untangles the swing and lets it fall. To his surprise, he hears it connect with something solid.
"Oww! What in the—"
With a gasp, Quasimodo looks down to see Marie sprawled in a heap on the muddy ground, rubbing painfully at her head, a cloth-covered basket beside her.
"Marie!" Feeling terrible, he swings himself down onto the ground and kneels beside her. "I'm so sorry. I didn't see you there."
She starts to shake her head, then winces at the movement. "It's all right. I would have known you were in the tree, if I had been looking up instead of focusing on not slipping in the mud. That really worked out well."
He takes her hand and pulls her to her feet, still feeling guilty. "It seems like I'm always making you fall," he says, chagrined.
Marie smiles slightly, her hand still in his. "Falling isn't such a bad thing."
Quasimodo feels his cheeks grow warm. Clearing his throat, he bends down and picks up her basket. "Was there something you wanted?" he asks as casually as he can. Which, as it turns out, is not very casually at all.
"Actually, I came to see if you were hungry. You didn't come to the house for lunch." She takes the basket and uncovers it, revealing a number of small, golden brown pastries. "They're apple tarts. I just made them. Would you like one?"
As if on cue, his stomach grumbles, and Marie laughs. "I suppose that's a yes," he says sheepishly, his blush deepening.
She hands him a pastry and settles herself on the swing as he bites into it. It's warm and sweet, with a wonderfully rich, buttery crust.
"Well?" prompts Marie.
"Delicious," he assures her.
"Glad you like it."
As she watches him eat, he finds himself growing uncomfortable under her steady gaze. It is not until she speaks again that he realizes he has turned his back to her: "You know, you don't have to do that."
Quasimodo swallows. "Do what?"
"Look away from me."
Reluctantly, he turns toward her again. "I'm just trying to spare you, that's all," he says quietly.
She places her basket very deliberately on the ground beside her. "Whatever from?"
He lets out a somewhat harsh laugh. "Please don't pretend, Marie. I know I'm very ugly, and so do you."
"No, I don't, as a matter of fact." Her voice is doing that thing it does sometimes, where it sounds sad and angry at the same time. It never fails to cause Quasimodo's throat to tighten. "I hate that word, Quasi. It's cruel, and in this case, inaccurate. You are not that word."
Quasimodo shakes his head. Even if he lives forever, he will never understand this woman.
"Why did you kiss me?" he asks bluntly.
Caught off guard, Marie's mouth opens and closes, and a blush steals over her freckled face. "You... really don't know?" she inquires softly.
He gives a tired sigh and looks away, unable to bear the weight of her gaze any longer. "No, but I think I have a pretty good idea. You felt sorry for me, and you took pity on me. But now you're realizing it was a mistake." It becomes difficult to continue speaking. "I understand. And I know it didn't mean anything. If you like, we can just pretend it never happened."
A long silence stretches between them. And then Marie whispers, "Oh, Quasi."
He squeezes his eyes shut. Here it comes. The inevitable rejection. Why did he expect anything else?
"You're right," she continues, causing his chest to ache, "I do regret kissing you. But not for the reasons you imagine. I regret it because I didn't ask your permission first. And I didn't give you any warning. I wasn't even thinking about how it would make you feel. I just... did it. I'm sorry."
Opening his eyes again, he looks at her in confused desperation. "But... why did you kiss me?" he persists. "Why would anyone want to kiss a monster like me?"
Marie suddenly explodes to her feet, startling him. "For God's sake, you are not a monster, Quasimodo," she says fiercely. "You are beautiful, in so many ways."
He scoffs. "Name one."
"I'll name several," she tells him with a quiet fury that is almost intimidating. "Your eyes, for one. I've never seen anything the color of your eyes, except in a church window. Your voice, as another example. You really should sing more often, because your voice could put an angel to shame."
Quasimodo's breath quickens as she draws closer, reaching out and taking his large, callused hands in hers. "Your hands," she goes on in a softer tone. "So powerful, yet capable of making such delicate, exquisite things."
"Marie," he whispers, helpless under her steady, tender gaze.
"Your heart." She places one tiny hand on his chest, and he is certain she can feel it pounding out of control. "This heart, that's been broken and put back together so many times, but is still full of so much goodness and kindness and hope. That's what I see when I look at you, Quasimodo. And that's why I kissed you."
She is so close. And yet not nearly close enough.
"Will you kiss me again?" he breathes shakily.
He can feel her breath on his lips. "Do you want me to?"
Quasimodo's eyes slip shut. "Yes."
Slowly, so slowly, Marie pushes her lips against his, and he is totally, utterly unprepared for the sensation. Tears spring to his eyes, and his entire body gives a shudder from head to toe, but he would sooner die than allow it to end. Cautiously wrapping his arms around her, he kisses her back, marveling at the perfect way her mouth fits against his. He kisses her upper lip, then the lower one, followed by the corner of her mouth. He has no idea what he is doing, but somehow it doesn't seem to matter; an instinct as old as Man himself seems to drive him on.
He does not think about why she is allowing him to kiss her, why she does not immediately push him away. He can only focus on her — her warmth, her scent, her wild hair sliding through his fingers. His whole world, his whole universe, is Marie.
He tugs her closer, drawing her tightly against him. In response, she sighs and parts her lips, and he hesitantly explores her mouth. A groan escapes him as he feels her tongue slide over his. Intoxicating. Dangerous. Sinful. He couldn't care less.
He pulls away slightly, his chest heaving. "I don't know what I'm doing," he confesses.
"That makes two of us," she replies with a gently teasing smile, leaving him no recourse but to kiss her again.
Almost without conscious thought, he lifts her off the ground and places her on the swing, his mouth never leaving hers. His hands on her hips, he kisses her feverishly, urgently. He feels her thighs squeeze his waist, and for a moment he is genuinely afraid he might faint. Drawing his lips from hers, he begins kissing down her neck to the dip of her shoulder. Her little pants drive him nearly insane.
"Mariette," he gasps. "You're so beautiful."
"So are you."
He laughs, and she grabs a fistful of his tunic and pulls his mouth back to hers. She bites gently on his lip, drawing another groan from him. Involuntarily, his hips push into hers, and she gives a cry.
Quickly, Quasimodo draws back, trying to collect himself. "I'm... I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."
"Do it again," she whispers.
He swallows hard. "Marie, maybe we shouldn't—"
His voice dies as he looks into her half-lidded eyes, hazy with desire. Desire for him.
"Quasi, please," she murmurs.
As if in a dream, he returns his lips to hers, kissing her over and over as his body rocks against her own, almost of its own accord. Never in his life did he imagine anything could feel so good. He could die like this, a gasping, trembling mess in the arms of this maddening, amazing woman. He just might die like this.
Suddenly her grip tightens on his shoulder. "Quasi, stop," she says urgently.
"I'm not sure I can," he says, his voice strained.
"My uncle's coming!"
Her words have an instantaneous effect on him. He pulls away from her, nearly causing her to fall backward off the swing. He quickly catches her, guiding her hands to the ropes to secure her grip. His hands are still on hers when Arnaud comes to meet them.
Marie's lips are swollen, her cheeks flushed, her hair tangled, her skirts bunched at her hips. Quasimodo is certain he doesn't look much better. There can be no doubt as to what they were doing.
He stiffens, bracing himself for the shouting, the cursing, the banishment from the only place he has ever felt welcome in his entire life. But it never comes.
Arnaud clears his throat. "Marie," he says hoarsely. "You have visitors."
For the first time, Quasimodo takes in the older man's appearance. He looks as if he has received terrible news, and the weight of it is literally pulling him to the ground.
Frowning, Marie stands up, smoothing her skirt. "Visitors?" she repeats, frowning in confusion. "Who is it, Uncle?"
Arnaud's head sinks between his shoulders. "François Dupont, and... his son Lucien."
All the breath seems to leave Marie's body. She sways on her feet unsteadily. "No," she whispers.
"Marie?" Quasimodo moves to steady her. "What's wrong? Who are these people?"
She looks up at him, and he is dismayed to see tears in her eyes.
"Lucien is my fiancé," she says miserably. "My father promised me to him when I was six."
Please don't kill me. I'm too young to die. I promise this story has a happy ending. I'm just addicted to dramatic plot devices, that's all. Anyway, hope you liked the latest chapter after my unforgivably long hiatus. Let me know what you thought of it. P.S. Don't kill me.
* "Now or Never"