Thursday, February 11, 2021

Some Things Never Change Alternative Ending


I grin sadly at her concern. Then without thinking, I reach out for her hand. Her eyes fly to Erick’s immediately, and she smoothly pulls it away. They hold each other’s gaze for a few seconds, and I know then, she’s made her choice. I pull my hand back and stand up. I reach for my wallet.

“I’ve got it,” Erick stops me.

“We’ll give you a ride,” Sean stands up too. 

I shake my head at him. 

“I think I’ll walk.” There’s no anger in my voice, no sadness either. 

Erick lifts a hand to my son, signaling to him he should let me go. I turn my eyes away, carefully avoiding looking at Jules.

“See you tomorrow,” I give them a final nod and walk away. 

I walk slowly back to the hospital, pondering my loss. We didn’t drive far. I find my way easily through the unknown streets.  People walk past me on the sidewalk, cars run by me at the usual speed, stores are open. It seems like a normal day for everyone else, people are still working, still smiling, the sun still shines, the world hasn’t crumbled. The winter breeze crashes against my cheeks, cold like her rejection. What have I lost really? Am I any lonelier today than I was yesterday?  

“You’re back,” the girl at the front desk greets me as I walk into the hospital. 

“Is she awake?” I ask her.

“I’m not sure. But you can go in to see her now. Doctor Martin came out a few minutes ago to let you know. She’s in room three twelve,” she smiles at me. “Through there,” she points to the hallway. 


The room is easy enough to find. I pause when I see the correct door. I take a deep breath, focusing now on what I will do about my mother. I welcome the distraction. Strangely, I feel at ease right now. 

I knock on the door quietly. I hear no sound so I step in. There are two beds in the room. One is empty. My mother is lying on the other one. Her eyes are closed and her breathing is steady. She’s sleeping. I take a moment to watch her. Her face is peaceful now, it reminds me of the oldest memories I have of her. When I was a kid, I used to think she was so beautiful. And when I look at her like this, I see she still is. Her skin is white, pale. Her hair is smooth, black like mine, but I can tell she dyes it now. Although she’s not young anymore, she’s still very pretty, and anyone could tell she was a real beauty in her youth. 

I step closer and sit down on a chair that is placed next to the bed. I keep watching her face. I remember her playing with me all the time when I was little. We would go to the park. She would always let me get muddy. She laughed a lot. Those are the happy memories I have of her. But then, for the months before she left, I can only see her sitting on the couch or lying in bed. Even in the middle of the day when I came home from school, she would just lie there, quietly. I remember feeling lonely, abandoned, even before she left us. 

Growing up, I used to ask myself all the time why she had left. I guess I was too young then to consider the possibility of her being sick. Then when I got older, I could never see past my anger. I wonder how my father didn’t figure it out. They were both very young when they got married, but still. 

My mother’s chest rises and falls at an even rhythm. Her lips are slightly parted, she looks peaceful, innocent. It reminds me of when I used to watch Sean sleep as a child. Is this really the face that unleashed all my anger? Is this really the person that harmed me in such a way that I became a monster, that drove me to hurt everyone around me, to lose every good thing I had? 

If she hadn’t done what she did, would I still be happily married to Jules? I’ve spent the better part of the last eight years blaming her for my divorce. I used to think she had stolen everything from me, my money, my house, my marriage, my father. But as much as I want to, I don’t think I can blame her anymore for losing Jules. How can I say Jules chose Erick because of her? If I lost Jules today, is it still her fault? But did I lose Jules today, or was it eight years ago and I’m only realizing it now? 

Today, for the first time ever, I’m able to look back at things with a clear head. I, and only I, am to blame for all my losses. I let the woman I love slip through my fingers. I let myself be consumed by my anger. It’s me I lost eight years ago. 

“I let your mother in the house,” Jules finally confesses. 

She’s taken a step back away from me and she winces now as she sees anger take over my expression. 

“You what?”

I can almost see my reflection in her eyes as she hunches down as if I’ve yelled at her. I haven’t. I didn’t raise my voice. 

Did I lose myself in that instant? Or was it before? Was it the day my mother showed up at our door?

“Are you going to the office today?” Jules asks me when I grab my coat.

“Yeah, I’ll just stop at the hospital for an hour. You’ll be there after work?” She’s turning in her letter of resignation today at my request, so she can look after Erick.

She nods. “My mom is picking Sean up from school.”

“Ok, I’ll pick him up from her place after work and we’ll meet you at the hospital,” I grab my keys. “Thanks for doing this, Jules,” I lean in to kiss her. I pull her against my body and she rests her head on my chest. “I love you, honey,” I hum the word with a smile. 

“I love you too.” I can hear the smile in her voice as she hugs me back. 

The doorbell rings.

How come I wasn’t strong enough to handle things? Was what my mother did to me really that bad? Was it worse than what happened to Erick? My mother stole all my money, I lost my house. Erick lost the use of his entire body. 

“Lift your arms and try to hold your balance,” a young physical therapist says to Erick. She’s kneeling behind him on a mattress, holding him by the shoulders. I’m standing in front of them, ready to catch him too. “You won’t fall. I promise.”

She takes her hands away, and he does as he’s told. Instantly, his body falls forward and I catch him with one arm. He pushes me away just barely. He’s not strong enough to get me off of him, and I don’t let go because I know he will tip forward if I do. He glares at me. He’s in a bad mood like he always is during therapy. I wait until he has both hands pressing on the mattress, securing his position, before I take my arm away. 

“Again,” the girl instructs. 

“What’s the point?”

“It’s a matter of practice,” she says without flinching at his tone. “You need to find your gravity center.”

Before he can try again, I put my arm in front of him, ready to catch him again. 

“Will you back off?” He hisses. I drop my arm. “I’m sorry,” he apologizes immediately. “I know I’m being impossible.”

He looks at me and I see my old friend in his eyes. He may be moody, but he’s still him. He’ll pull through this, I already know he will. He’s strong, stronger than I am. 

How could Erick surpass such a devastating injury, his personality left untouched, and I couldn’t overcome my mother’s theft?

“Help me bring the cake out,” Jules tells me on Sean’s ninth birthday. She baked a huge chocolate cake in the shape of Darth Vader’s helmet. We don’t have any money, but she’s managed to put together a small yet perfect party for our son. 

I carry the cake out and place it on a table. Twelve small boxes, also shaped as Darth Vader, are arranged around it as party favors. I don’t know what she put inside, probably gum with our budget, but they look great, and Sean is so excited. She flashes him a sweet motherly smile that makes my heart ache. 

Erick is already in the yard. She walks to him and runs a hand through his hair tenderly.

“I love the lightsabers,” he grins at her, pointing at some foam sticks she has covered with duct tape and aluminum foil. 

“Pretty cool, right?” She returns the grin. “I bet Tony wants one,” she says to Erick, knowing I’m standing right next to her. “Don’t you, Tony?” She teases like I haven’t treated her terribly for the past year. 

I look into her eyes, same old easy-going Jules, even though she too has lost her house, her job, her marriage. She has even lost her father like me, years before I lost mine. 

I sigh. I’m definitely the weaker out of the three of us. I confirm again, it’s not Jules I’ve lost, but myself. I wonder what my father would have said to me on this day. Would he tell me it’s all my own doing? I had it coming? Would he say “I’m sorry, son”? I think he would stay quiet. I picture him sitting next to me and placing a comforting hand on my shoulder. I see his calm face, his warm eyes, and I feel him accompanying me in my pain. 

My mother writhes on the bed and her eyelids flutter open slowly. 

“Son?” She whispers, her sight a little unfocused. 

“I’m here,” I say, sounding like I have no other choice. 

“You came,” her lips curve into a faint smile. 

“I did,” I mutter. “Like you wanted me to.”

“Tony, I’m so very sorry for everything I cost you.” Her voice is still weak, just barely above a whisper. “I loved your father. You may not believe me, but I did, very much.”

“Mom,” I call her. It’s hard to get the word out, the last time I said it out loud was when I was sixteen. “I’m going to let go of the past now,” I offer sincerely. “Not for your sake,” I’m not sure if she deserves to be forgiven, “but for my own.” I’ve let this resentment poison me for too long. I need to let it go, stop it from tainting everything I touch. “What you did was terrible. I can’t understand it nor condone it, but I’m tired. I don’t want to feel this anger anymore.”

“Aw, sweetheart,” she gasps.

“I’m not saying we’ll have a relationship now,” I cut her off. I’m not ready for that yet.

“But you’ll let me try?” The hope in her voice tugs at me, but I try to hold the feeling at bay. 

“We’ll see,” I concede. 

Two lines of tears wet her cheeks. 

“That’s all I ask,” she breathes.

I take a long look at her, and then I allow myself to do something I’ve wanted to do for years. I have never admitted it consciously before, but suddenly I’m sure I’ve had this craving since I was a child. I stretch my hand and gingerly run my finger through her hair. To touch my mother. I’ve wanted to touch my mother since I was six years old and came home one day to find her gone. I slid my hand from her hair to her face and stroke her cheekbone softly. She places her hand over mine to hold it in place and leans against it. 

I get back to my apartment after dark. I stayed with my mother until visiting hours were over. We didn’t talk much, but I did get her to accept signing herself in for the inpatient program the doctor suggested.  I’ll be back to check on her tomorrow. I hang my coat on the rack by the door, get a glass from the kitchen, and sit on the piano stool. I keep the scotch bottle there. I fill my glass to the top. There’s no use in pretending I will drink only a little bit. I turn to look at my father’s photograph. His kind face makes me feel a tad less lonely. 

“What do you want to listen to?” I ask him.

I start playing his favorite song as if he were here to hear me. Then I play all the titles I remember he used to request when it was just the two of us. I try to focus on the music, pushing down the thoughts of Erick and Jules out on a date this very moment. I finish two full glasses of scotch, nipping each sip slowly, savoring the liquid in my mouth in an attempt to pace myself. Perhaps it’s foolish, and I will end up drunk anyway. But I’m trying to hold it together, not let the sorrow drown me. I need to accept things. I know that’s the first step. Before Erick could move on, he first had to accept he would never walk again. If he could do that, I can accept I will never again be with Jules. I will never again hold the woman I love to my chest, nor press my lips against her soft mouth. I will never feel complete again. That’s an irrefutable truth. I need to accept that before the pain can become tolerable. 

I’ve just refilled my glass for the third time when the doorbell rings. I look down at my watch worried it might be late enough for the neighbors to complain about the noise again. But it’s not even eleven o’clock. I get up from the piano and walk to the door. 

I unlock the bolt and pull the door open. I suck in a breath when I find Jules there. She’s wrapped up in the same brown coat she wore the other night. The scarf around her neck is different though, and she’s not wearing the tall boots. Her face is pale and her nose is pink from the cold. Her big brown eyes stare at me like she’s expecting me to say something. 

“Jules,” I speak her name into the night. It sounds like a plea, I notice. 

I suppress the urge to press her tightly to my body.

“Aren’t you going to invite me in?” She says shyly. I’m sure she meant to tease me, but her nerves betray her. Has she come to let me know face to face that she has chosen Erick? I shiver at the thought. 

“Sure,” the fear betrays me too, and my voice quivers. I step aside to let her come in. She walks in and I close the door behind her. When I turn around, she’s standing very still looking at me. She starts to unwrap the scarf from her neck very slowly. Then she unbuttons her coat with unsure fingers, never taking her eyes off of me. I swallow hard as she uncovers a thin sweater that hugs her body loosely, yet in a very flattering way. The fabric is beige and soft. It falls over her torso lining in her silhouette, curving across her small breasts, falling loose over her thin waist. I can’t help my eyes wandering toward the pink skin showing over the v-neck. She takes the coat off completely and turns around to hang it on the rack next to the one she gave me all those years ago. 

“I should really get you a new coat,” she says, her back still turned to me. “This one is really old.”

“I love that coat,” I tell her, lingering in the word love

“I know,” she turns around now to face me. “I love it too.”

I gasp at the way she says the phrase. “Jules?” I caress her name. It’s a plea again. I can’t help it. 

“Tony,” she whispers in exactly the same tone. 

Then, she takes a step toward me. I take a step forward too, pulled by the gravity she holds over me. She places an open palm over my chest. I clothe her cold hand with my warm one, feeling a jolt of electricity run all over my body. The dying embers inside me ignite back into flames. She raises her eyes to meet mine, her breath hastens, and her lips part. I’m not strong enough to resist leaning my face down to close the breach between us. I press my lips against hers, and as her mouth opens to receive me, everything falls into place. All the wounds are amended in an instant.  And the soundtrack of our life together explodes around me, encompassing our surroundings. I feel fireworks inside.

I take her waist with both my hands and pull her to me. Her slender body fits perfectly inside my arms. She lifts her arms and wraps them around my neck. Her fingers run through my hair, and I pull her yet closer. I want to merge with her, never ever let her escape my grasp again. 

Our kiss is long, impatient, demanding. We’re both unleashing years of longing into this one moment of repair. And I feel my old lost self return swiftly from the underground. We pull away, both of us out of breath. I open my eyes and she follows. She blinks twice, fluttering her lashes, releasing a tear caught in them like a drop of rain on a tree branch. She slides a hand from my hair to my cheek, I lean into it and let it cure the remainder of my pain. 

She falls back on her heels; she had stood on her tiptoes to kiss me. I encompass her face with both hands and lean down again. But I don’t kiss her this time. 

“I love you,” I breathe into her mouth. I kiss her forehead, and both her cheeks before I press her to my chest and hold her tight. “Always. I never stopped.” I pull her away to be able to see her because I’m afraid she might be just a figment of my imagination. I run my hands over her elbows, then her arms, back to her waist, and pull her to me again. “I’ve loved you every single second of my entire life,” I bury my lips in her hair, taking her scent in. “And I will love you every minute that comes. I’m so, so sorry I ever hurt you. I’ll never do it again. Jules,” I breathe, “stay with me, choose me,” my voice breaks. 

She pulls away from me and a wave of fear floods me. I think I might crumble to the ground while I wait for her reply. 

“It’s always been you,” her voice is like a wind chime, an angel’s song. The air returns to my lungs. “I choose you above anything and everyone else,” she sings. “You’re the love of my life.”

“Ahh,” I gasp. “You’re my life.” 

I bend down to kiss her again. My cheeks are wet with tears. I let them fall. I lift her in my arms and press her to me like she’s a child. She rests her head on my shoulder and holds me back.

I set her back down on the floor and she smiles at me. That sweet Jules’s smile that made me fall in love with her in the first place. I grin back, tears still running from my eyes. She lifts her hands to wipe them. Her fingers stroke my cheekbone tenderly. Then she stands on her tiptoes again to kiss the place she’s dried the tears from. She kisses both sides of my face and then pecks me on the lips. She falls back to her normal height. I lean down and hold her face with one hand while I peck her too, first on the mouth, then on her jawline, down on her neck. 

Slowly, she undoes the top buttons of my shirt and presses her lips to my chest. My heart is pounding, aching in several different ways at the same time, I feel it soothe under her touch. She continues with the next buttons. Her warm breath tickles me. I run my fingers through her hair. She moves forward, pushing me delicately. I walk backward, never lifting my hands from her. She hesitates for a second before taking my shirt off completely at the threshold of the bedroom. I put my hand under her sweater and pull it off of her. She’s wearing a spaghetti strap top underneath it. It hugs her body perfectly. I slide one stripe down and kiss her shoulder. I repeat the procedure with the other strap.

She runs her hands across my back. Then, they travel to my chest and down, to the buckle of my belt. She pulls my zipper down and kneels. I pull her top off, unveiling a black lace bra. She kisses a path down my pelvis; moist, short kisses before she pulls my pants down. She stands back up and unbuttons her own pants. As she does so, with faltering hands, I can see how nervous she is. Her cheeks are crimson. Her breath is ragged. I hold her tight against my body for a second, while I kiss the top of her head, and wait for her to relax. When I let go, she looks up at me with a smile. Oh, Jules. She brings her hand back to her pants. I help her out of them and pull one of her legs to wrap it around me. I run my hand along the smooth skin of her thigh, and then I pull her up, lifting her. 

I walk us inside the room and fall backward on the bed. She pushes me to lie down with both her hands on my chest and licks a line up from my navel to my collar bone with the tip of her tongue. A shiver of pleasure strikes me like a lightning. She sits astride me now, and I press myself to her. She kisses me then, deeply. I struggle to release the clasp on her back while she runs her finger through my hair again, our lips still entangled. 

I toss her bra aside and roll to flip her on her back. I take a second to grasp her image. A soft blush reddens her cheeks, the rest of her skin is white as pearl, soft and smooth under my rough palm. I touch her gingerly with my fingertips until I find her breasts. I cloak them while I nibble at the edges. I kiss the areola just barely. I press my mouth harder against her when I feel her hands on me, down, making me gasp. I trap her nipple between my teeth and tug slightly, fighting to contain the urge of my yearning. I slid her panties down her hips and then kiss her pelvis while I take them off. I trace the outline of her triangle with the tip of my tongue. 

I take my time, I’ve wanted her for so long, every inch of my skin is burning with desire. But I want to savor the moment. She’s magic, a fairy under my hands. And every brush of her fingers against me is tinkering bliss. I close my eyes for a minute and concentrate on the way her skin feels next to mine. 

I finally slid inside her, and I’m no longer me; we are us, merged together. For an instant, I don’t dare move, like the first time I made her mine. I’m throbbing inside of her. Then, she wraps her legs around me, and we dance. I hold her torso to me, and we kiss, we hug, we touch each other. Our bodies move as one. Our pleasure explodes at the same time, making my bliss complete. 

She wakes me up at some point during the night, with a soft kiss on my chest. And I make love to her again, slowly, our fingers intertwined. 

I wake up again with the sun warming my bare torso. Her face is resting on my chest, her hair spread out beautifully across my shoulder like the trace of a wave over the sand. I kiss her head softly. I don’t want to wake her. I linger on this moment of complete happiness. 

After a while, her eyes flutter open, and she gazes up at me. A smile spreads across her face. I mirror it. 

“Aw, Jules,” I moan relieved. All the tension of the past days leaves my muscles, and I feel an ease wash over me.

I press her to me with the arm I have wrapped around her and bury my face in her hair. She smells so good.  

I make love to her once more, softly, quietly, letting her closeness wipe away the sorrow of these past years, feeling how the pieces of my world fall back into their righteous order. I haven’t forgotten an inch of her body. I travel through it now, discovering the small changes, lingering in them, relearning her. She does the same with me, as if she’s touching me for the first time. I feel my own body taking a new shape under her palms. She’s rebuilding me. When the last wave of pleasure breaks loose from inside of me, and she shudders under me, I finally recognize myself, the old me. I’ve been put back together by the love of this amazing creature I’m lucky enough to be holding in my arms. I feel complete, unbroken. 

“Aw, Jules! Are you really here with me?” I ask in a murmur while we lie down afterward, our sweaty bodies pressed together. “Are we really together?” She looks up at me from my shoulder and nods smiling. “I’ve dreamt about this for years,” I confess.

“Well, it took you long enough!” She chides me, and I laugh. I feel her body shudder next to me as she echoes the sound. 

“I’m sorry about that,” I say, being serious again. 

“How about we stop apologizing to each other?” She proposes. 

Her face is happy, relaxed now. I press her to me once more. 

“I could never apologize enough,” I breathe into her hair. “I love you,” I whisper in her ear. 

“I love you too,” her words are the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard. All the love songs of the world merge together in her voice.

I hum to myself while we shower together. I feel the most amazing freedom every time I reach my hands to her body and find her willing under my touch. I’ve restrained my desire for so long, my muscles ache from the effort. My fingers trace her paths now in absolute release. My mouth falls into hers repeatedly, it will not be denied any longer. I nibble at her neck, kiss her shoulders, and bite her breasts softly. I hold her. My Jules. 

“Will you marry me?” I break the silence abruptly. She’s standing naked in my bathroom, holding a towel between her hands. She looks up at me surprised. “Again,” I add. 

I’m naked too. Somehow, I find it appropriate. I’m bare in front of her, holding nothing back. There’s no point in hiding anything anymore. I’m showing all my cards. I love her, and I can’t wait for her to be my wife again, as she always should have been. I realize this is not the most romantic proposal, but I’m eager to erase any separation between us. 

“Pushing you away was the biggest mistake of my life. But I’ve always considered you my wife. You never lost the title in my mind,” I confess. “Now, for some divine reason, you’re giving me the opportunity to right those wrongs and, although I know I can never erase all the pain I caused you, I want to set that right. You are my wife. Will you let me be your husband too?”

She laughs. The sound is childlike, relaxed. I’m taken aback for an instant. Does she think I’m joking?

“I’m serious, Jules,” I clarify. 

She sets her mouth back to a straight line, but I can see laughter still bubbling inside her like the foam that follows an ocean’s wave. 

“I know,” she fights to keep her smile in. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh,” she swallows another chuckle. “It’s just... I always call you my husband in my mind.” She caresses the title with her tongue, and warmth fills me as I hear the words. “Yes,” she says after a while.


“Yes,” she repeats. “I’ll marry you.”

An orchestra explodes inside of me, fanfare, a brass band, the Messiah's chorus, mingled with the sound of loud waves crashing against rocks, the background sounds of when I first proposed mixed with angelic bells coming from her voice. One word, the word that fixes all that’s bad in the world. She’ll marry me. 

I walk to her and drop my mouth to hers. I kiss her, pressing her bare body against my burning skin. I never want to let go. I want to keep her in my arms for the rest of our lives. She pushes away from me after a few minutes. 

“I might need to breathe if I’m gonna live long enough to marry you again,” she leans down to catch her breath. 

“Sorry,” I say.

She laughs again. This time, I join her, feeling the rumble of happiness travel from my chest to my throat. 

“Come on,” she picks the towel up from the floor. I didn’t notice when she dropped it. “I’ll make breakfast.”

As soon as she says the words, I notice I’m starving. I skipped dinner last night again. 

“I don’t have any food in the house,” I say regretfully. Oh, how I long for her to cook for me. “I’ll take you out for breakfast.”

We step out of the bathroom and get dressed. We are both quiet, but we keep smiling at each other, exchanging stupid blissful looks every few seconds. It’s like we’re both scared to take our eyes off of each other for two long, afraid the other one will disappear if we get distracted. 

When we are ready to leave, she pauses at the door and the look in her eyes changes. 

“Your mother?” She asks cautiously. 

“I…,” I purse my lips together. “I will respect it if you don’t ever want to see her again. You’re entirely entitled to hate her,” I wait for her response. She stays quiet. “But I made my peace with her last night. I don’t want to be angry anymore. I’m letting go of the past.”

“That’s good, Tony. That’s really good. I’m proud of you,” she says earnestly. 

I sigh. 

“I’ll stop by to see her later today. But…”

“What?” She prompts.

“There’s something I need to do first.” I need to talk to Erick. A sting of pain strikes me as I realize how hurt he will be. But he deserves to hear this from me. I asked this of him, and I will extend him the same courtesy. “Do you mind if I go to your apartment? I need to…”

“I told him last night,” she interrupts me.


We walk silently to her place. We could take a cab, but I think we’re both glad for the delay, we need the extra time to brace ourselves. I debate whether we should step in together. I cringe at the image of Erick’s face when he sees us walk in. He may already know, but I’m sure it will sting to see us anyway. This is all my fault. None of this would’ve happened if it hadn’t taken me this long to be brave enough to fix things with Jules. Or if I hadn’t been such an ass in the first place. 

Then, another unpleasant thought assaults me. Sean. Will my own son be upset that we are back together? I know he wanted his mother to be with Erick. Will he go back to hating me?

We reach the building, and Jules hesitates before taking her key out. She takes her time to unlock the door, and we walk leisurely into the hallway like on the way to an execution. She opens the door to the apartment and steps in quietly. I follow. 

Erick is hunched down on his chair in front of the table, both hands curled up over it. A blank look on his eyes. He lifts his face at the sound of our footsteps. For a second, he can’t keep the pain out of his face. I wince at the way his eyebrows curl up. But it’s only a flash. A minute later, he has recomposed himself. The blank expression is back in place. Jules stays frozen in the middle of the living room. I walk forward and lower myself to the chair across him.

“I’m sorry, Erick,” I say after a long pause. 

He shakes his head at me. “This is how it’s supposed to be,” he attempts a weak smile that comes out more like a grimace. “I’m happy for you guys. I really am.”

I stare at him. There is no anger in his eyes, no resentment. He means it. 

“Thank you,” I say earnestly. “Still, I’m sorry for the pain this causes you. I would never hurt you intentionally. I hope you know that.”

“Of course I know that, Tony.” His lips twitch. The slight grin on them comes out more genuine now. “How’s your mother?” He changes the subject. 

“She’s agreed to sign in for an inpatient program. I’ll be checking on her to see how that goes.”

“So… are you going to try to fix things with her?”

“Well,” I hesitate. “Let’s just say I’m letting go of the past now.”

A snort startles me. I look up to find Sean standing behind Erick. He squints at me. 

“She doesn’t deserve your forgiveness,” he hisses.

“Son,” I take a deep breath. How can I right what I’ve done to my son? “Will you sit for a minute?” I ask him. He looks at me for a second before obliging. I summon my father’s image as I look for the words that convey what I want him to know. “I’ve spent the last eight years blinded by anger,” I start. “The resentment I felt for her has weighed on me for far too long. It drove me to hurt everyone around me, yourself included. I’m sorry, Sean. I let it poison me, and I see now that it has poisoned you, too. I don’t want that for you. I don’t want you to be like me. I was… you know how terribly I behaved. It’s time to let it go. It’s the only way we can be happy. I’ve decided to forgive her, whether she deserves it or not, not for her sake, but for mine and yours.  I hope you can try to let go of it, too.”

He stares at me quietly. I feel Jules next to me and I look to my right in time to see her sit by me. 

“Your dad’s right,” she says. “It will do you no good to be angry at her.”

“Do you forgive her?” He asks his mother. 

“I do,” she says. I look into her eyes and find honesty in them. 

“But she messed up your entire life,” he says. “You would still be with dad if she hadn’t…” He stops. Jules has turned to look at me for only a second. She’s looking back at him now, but he didn’t miss it. “You’re back together,” he hisses. 

“Sean…,” she sucks in a breath. 

His eyes shift to Erick. My friend is looking down at his hands, which are still over the table. 

“Uncle Erick,” Sean’s voice is low, filled with sorrow. 

“It’s ok, Sean,” Erick looks up then. He grins at my son reassuringly, but the smile doesn’t reach his eyes. 

Sean stands up. I push my chair back and rise to my feet, too. 

“Sean,” Erick calls before I can. Sean doesn’t turn around but he stops, frozen in place. “I love your mother,” he declares, and it stings. “I love her in all possible ways. It was never my place to love her as a woman, but I do. You know that.” I cringe at his honesty. “But I also love her as my best friend. I love your father too. They’ve done more for me than anyone could ask for. Nothing will make me happier than to see them back together, the way it always should have been.”

Sean turns around now. He looks down at Erick. He’s breathing heavily. His chest rises and falls visibly. He looks into my friend’s gaze like he’s trying to unveil a hidden truth. He seems to find what he’s looking for. His young features look old all of a sudden, and I recognize my father’s face in his. It’s strange; Sean looks like me, and I look like my mother. Yet now, I see a clear resemblance to my father in the way his jaw sets, his eyes narrowing. He shakes his head at my best friend, but his expression softens. 

“They deserve to be happy, Sean,” Erick adds. “I know you want that too.”

“Does this make you happy, mom?” He asks in a tender tone. His voice also sounds like his grandfather’s now. 

“It does, baby.”

He nods. 

“Will you treat her right?” My son demands of me. That he has to ask feels like a punch to my stomach. 

“I will,” I promise. And I vow it to myself as well. I will always treat her right. I will never hurt her again. I feel an ease soothe the pain that my son’s words have caused because I know with absolute certainty that I’m telling the truth. 

He nods at me. Then he sets a hand on Erick’s shoulder. 

“You’re the better man, uncle Erick,” he squeezes his shoulder. “I hope I can one day be like you.”

Erick’s calmed expression crumbles. He looks into my son’s eyes overcome with emotion. His mouth is opened and his lips tremble slightly. It takes him several seconds to get a hold of himself. He shakes his head then, pressing his lips together, and he moves his hand to place it over Sean’s. 

“He is,” I whisper. “You’re right to look up to him.”

“You’re not so bad yourself, dad,” he meets my eyes. “I didn’t understand before, but I know now the type of man you are. I do love you. I’m sorry if I acted like I didn’t before.”

I gasp. I can’t remember the last time I heard him say he loves me. I’m sure it was many years ago, when he was still a little child. 

“I love you too, son, more than anything.”

I circle behind Erick and pull my son into a hug. I’m overfilled with joy when he returns it. 

“Ok,” he chuckles, pulling away from me after a minute. “What’s for breakfast, mom?” He asks in a carefree tone that sounds like him again.

I turn to look at Jules and find her eyes moist. She smiles at us, though. 

“Whatever you want,” her voice is tender and soft.

She gets up and walks to the kitchen. Sean follows her, and I watch them hug too. I sit next to Erick again.

“Thanks for that, man,” I say. 

“What are friends for?” He teases, his voice still filled with sentiment.

“We’re not friends,” I wrap my fingers around his forearm. “We’re brothers.” I finish, a question in my eyes.

His blue gaze answers my question more than his nod. 

“We are,” he confirms. 



  1. Wow I can see why you would struggle with the ending. While I also really enjoyed this one (very well written and I also loved Eric's response in this one) I am still team Eric so preferred the original ending. Was glad to see this little bonus this week just the same. Thanks K.

    1. Thank you k for reading until the end. Like you said, it was just a little bonus, but let’s think about Jules with Erick and be happy for them. A big hug!

  2. Oh wow..what a SURPRISE.
    I am checking the board on Wednesday by habit..and clicking knowing I would be disapointed only to find the best surprise.
    I love this ending too. It is all your fault you mad us love Tony too ;(
    Very well written. And yes very confusing to chose which guy we want.
    Thank you SA

    1. SA you’re the best! Thank you so much for everything. I have shared this story with you more than with anyone else. Your comments have been the biggest reward I could have asked for. Thank you, thank you!

  3. ..and oh..I changed my mind.
    I am definitely team Erick


    1. And you were Tony’s main supporter! But I guess this crowd was meant for Erick. But I know you feel for Tony as I do. Thank you for sharing that sadness with me too.