Eternity's Edge: Embrace

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chapter 20: Epilogue

We sat on a bench in the late afternoon sun and watched as Natalie doggedly navigated herself through the monkey bars of the park’s playground. She dismounted with a triumphant shriek and then raced over to the slide, her long hair streaming behind her. Her small body gracefully molded itself to the contours of the purple monstrosity and she came to rest at the bottom in a pile of leaves. She stretched her arms out as if reaching for the sky itself, the epitome of laid-back carefree innocence.

I took Andrew’s hand and his grip was firm under his gloves, which he really didn’t need despite the cold. I leaned my head against his shoulder and he shifted slightly to ensure that I was more comfortable. From her perch atop the stairs to the slide, Natalie waved and made exaggerated kissing motions before descending it again. I waved back.

“She doesn’t suspect a thing.”

Andrew stiffened slightly and I sensed a shift in his mood. “I’ll do whatever it takes to keep it that way for as long as I possibly can.”

“Andrew—”

“Kat.” He wrapped an arm around me and drew me close. “Just let me have these moments as they are now. I’ve got plenty of time to consider what the future will bring. As for what I’ll do with it, the best that I can hope for is that you’ll be there with me.”

I raised my head and gazed into his eyes. There was such pain yet an unshakable tenacity hidden within their depths. I knew that he was suffering and that he was dreading the day when he would have to leave his family forever. I also knew that despite the brave act that he was devastated that he would never see Natalie grow into a strong, independent woman, would never have children of his own and could never properly grieve for what he would lose so long as I was around to see him suffering.

I scanned his eyes for any hint of bitterness or resentment, but all I could see was love and an unyielding sincerity. Andrew had already dealt with his conflicting emotions over his new-found nature—at least that was what he had told me soon after he had been turned—and I hadn’t seen anything to contradict that conviction.

I angled my chin slightly and he bent down to kiss me, softly yet firmly. “I’ll never leave you; you’re a part of me now.”

“And you’re a part of me.”

He raised my hand and removed the glove before bringing it to his lips. “Forever.” I shivered as his breath ghosted warmly over my skin.

“Eww.”

We turned to see Natalie standing a few feet away with her hands splayed disapprovingly on her hips. “You’re like, in public.”

Andrew laughed and set my hand down in my lap. “When you’re older you’ll understand.” He stood and playfully lobbed her knitted cap at her, which she easily ducked. I stood as well and adjusted the folds of my pashmina, more for looks than any real utilitarian function. A sudden breeze swept a torrent of leaves at us and ruffled her hair, which he tried unsuccessfully to corral under her cap.

“Here, let me.” I twined her hair into an intricate coil and then carefully lowered the cap, securing it with a couple of bobby pins. “Perfect.” She sent a grateful smile my way and then stuck her tongue out at her uncle.

He returned the favor which sent her—and admittedly myself as well—into a giggling fit. He looped one arm around me and the other around her as we headed off towards home in the dwindling light.

It had been almost two months since our world had been seemingly thrown off course and the proverbial dust seemed to have finally settled. Wendell’s funeral had been difficult for me, but necessary. I owed it to him and his family to offer what comfort I could and his children had insisted that I sit up front with the rest of the relatives. Andrew had been in attendance as well and his presence was a welcome relief as the ceremony progressed in all its grim solemnity. Various photographs of Wendell and his family were stationed amid the customary floral arrangements which chronicled his life, which was amazingly rich and full. Robert and Judy greeted family and friends with poise and dignity and I found myself admiring their strength as they accepted everyone’s condolences. Andrew’s expression was unreadable as he watched the proceedings, but I knew that he was thinking of the day when his family would be in a similar situation regarding his own fabricated passing.

I gave his hand a gentle squeeze and he offered me a small smile which held so many unspoken nuances. I didn’t press the matter and let it go.

When the graveside service was concluded I caught Robert’s eye as we were all walking back to our cars. His sister Judy was a few feet away with Benita in her arms as she and a group of attendees parted company. A silent communication passed between us and I nodded before heading away from the cemetery. I had promised him and his sister that I would find the ones who had done this to Wendell and set wrongs to right, and for him that was enough.

As per Wendell’s wishes, his estate was in the process of being liquidated via Crossman Estates and I was on hand to assist. I had long since abandoned my apartment much to Andrew’s shock, but I told him that the contents were both unimportant and easily replaceable. “Besides, it’s not like the authorities will come looking for me here or at the shop,” I told him one evening when we had come home from work and were settled comfortably on his couch. “My lease was under a false name. Believe it or not, I’ve had quite a few over the years.”

He raised his eyebrows at me. “I said it once, and I’ll say it again: you’re a complicated woman, but I love you for it.” The last I’d heard, both Wendell’s and my old apartments had been rented out to new tenants.

Time marched on heedless of whatever pitfalls befell mortals and immortals alike, and it was in times like these that I fully understood the scope of my life and what it meant to be immortal. I spent my nights scanning the internet and various newspapers for reports of missing persons and unexplained death, anything that hinted at a pattern as to the whereabouts of Wendell’s killers, but I found nothing substantial. My own wounds had long-since healed, but the emotional and spiritual ones were still raw and aching, demanding that justice be served.

As we continued down the winding path back towards my car with fall leaves swirling and eddying around us, I found myself continually amazed at how effortlessly we had settled seamlessly into blissful cohabitation—much to the chagrin of his family and our co-workers—and it was as if I had never really lived until these moments. I didn’t know what the future held for either of us, but I did know that a world without the creatures who had tried to destroy our lives was a better, safer place. Looking at Natalie and the untapped potential of her young life gave a sense of urgency to the matter of tracking down the woman who had done this to us. I knew that she and the others were out there watching and waiting, biding their time for the opportune moment to strike when they thought that I was at my weakest. I may have been left bloody and beaten, wounded more deeply than I had been in centuries past, but she did not kill me. More importantly, she didn’t kill what I loved most in this world, what I swore to protect with my dying breath.

“So are you two ever going to get married?”

Natalie’s completely-unexpected question startled me out of my reverie. “Uh, well, it’s….”

“Complicated?” She stared at me with her large soulful eyes, wise beyond her years.

“Yes. It’s complicated.”

Andrew gave her shoulder an affectionate squeeze. “Hey, remember what I said about you having no filter? You might want to work on that.”

I laughed, and this time it felt not only genuine, but right.

The future could wait.

For immortals such as Andrew and myself it would always be there someway and in some form, but for now all that mattered were these moments that we had the opportunity to share with those that we loved and which gave our endless existence meaning.

What didn’t kill me had only made me stronger, but more importantly, what didn’t kill me should beware, for I would never stop hunting it to set wrongs to right.


*******THE END******


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