Epilogue: Skipping Stones
I guess this is where the first part of my story ended. Funnily enough, it seemed to end just where it began: I lived with Gram, Levi took charge in my absence, and Tyrone was alive if not well.
But, of course, things were very different now. We had Jason, and now Thalia, by our sides. I was now truly the Alpha, and the full meaning of the name was still coming to me bit by bit. And, most importantly -- this, too, took much time to fully dawn on me -- we were real now, in a way that none could have imagined before.
Things happened after Little Rock, yes, of course they did! Things happened all over the country, really, the world, and things happened to us in Three Brothers. Many, many more things happened to us in the years to come.
But when I remember these events, when I recall how an entire race who historically belonged to the shadows came into the light at last, I think that’s a separate story. The six weeks in which all of this transpired is one chapter of my life. What happened next -- Nashville, meeting Adam, the contest of champions, how Tyrone finally died -- that’s another chapter.
That morning, after visiting Thalia, I decided to go for a walk, in spite of the threatening rain. Fred walked with me, not really saying anything. I didn’t, either. I hadn’t yet worked out quite what I felt for him, but that was okay. Sometimes, I think, it’s perfectly acceptable not to know how you feel. Especially where love is concerned.
We walked down to the lake, a mile or two away from Levi’s shack, and threw stones. “Do you remember when we did this as kids?” he asked. Splash.
“‘Course I do,” I answered. Splash. “We could spend hours and hours down here.”
“I could never skip them as well as you.”
“What, you mean like this?” I wound up, slinging a perfectly flat rock. It jumped like a grasshopper across the water’s surface.
“Exactly like that.”
“But that was okay,” I said, “because when we went back to the house we’d play War, and somehow you always managed to beat me at War.”
Splash. “I just got lucky,” he grinned.
“You mean you cheated.”
“Me? Cheat? Never!”
Splash! A very large rock hit the water, spraying us both with drops. We shrieked, with laughter and from the sudden cold. “Whoa!”
I chuckled, shaking drops from my hands and hair. We sat down on the gravel shores, under the minimal protection of an almost-bare tree. “Sometimes I wish we could go back to that,” Fred said, “being a kid.”
Me too, sometimes.”
“Things were a lot simpler back then.”
“Simpler, yes,” I said, “but for me, things were never really simple.”
“True,” he admitted.
The thunder crashed above us, and fat raindrops began to fall. We pulled our hoods up, huddled together like two shivering birds. “Are you scared at all, Fred?”
“Of the future. Of what’s going to happen now that we’re, well, real. Part of the world.”
“Honestly? No, not really,” he answered. “I think there will be resistance, a lot of it, but in time, I think we’ll get at least some humans on our side. There’ll be lots of people like Holly, who understand that not all of us are evil.”
“We can hope,” I said. “But you know what?” My eyes started to tear, hidden by the chill rain. “I’m a little scared. More than a little. I know that, as Alpha, I’m not supposed to say that, but it’s true. I’m afraid.”
“You can say that, Hailee,” he said gently. “A true leader is okay with admitting they aren’t infallible.”
“Oh, I’m not. Not infallible at all. Far from it.”
“And you know what? I wouldn’t have you any other way.” Fred put his arm around my shoulder, making me shiver a bit. Thunder rolled far away from us, but the thinnest rays of sunlight were breaking through the cloud cover, tiny spotlights on the world.
It was good to be alive, I thought. In spite of everything, all the tragedy and all the madness, it was a good time to be alive. Behold, I thought, the world will never be the same again.
“So,” I finally said after a long moment of silence, “where do we go from here?”
I looked up at Fred, and he was smiling. “Anywhere you want,” he said.
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