NP12 – The Emptiest Day: Chapter Twelve *huge sigh of mixed relief, grief, and unbelief*

It is here at last…the end of the novel writing project!  I’m torn between excitement (for finishing my very first novel) and disappointment (because I’m afraid it will also be the last novel – I know I’ll never have another chance like this again to just sit down and write…and on top of it, to receive feedback from all you wonderful people!).  It’s been an amazing experience blah blah blah.  This last chapter blah blah blah.  You know what the blah blah blahs mean because you feel exactly the same way – I’m presuming – so I won’t explain to you what you already know so well.

The really bad thing about this chapter in particular is that…I think that, because it is the last chapter, I’m way overthinking it.  Like, trying so hard to make it better than my other chapters that it’s turning out a dud because it’s lost all the freshness of straight inspiration (not that the other chapters were terribly inspired!).  I mean, really, how is it that for the last three weeks I churned out chapters in a day and this one is taking FOR EVER?  Argh!  The last part (beginning with “and one more time the answer washed over like peace”) seemed fairly good to me but everything before that is like…yeah.  I would burn it only it’s somewhere in cyberspace and besides, I had to turn in something so that I could at least quit stressing out about un-turned-in-homework-before-our-trip.  Lord willing, I’ll edit this summer and turn out something I’m a bit more pleased with…

On a lighter note, at long last, I can share the Bebo Norman song that I told you guys about.  You know, the one that fits so very, very perfectly, but which I couldn’t find a video of because it’s such an obscure song? Get this…my dad actually went and found me a video to use!  I would say that he’s my new hero, but he always has been my hero, so it wouldn’t be correct to say he’s my new hero.  =)  The video is basically the only one of this song on the internet to date, at least that I’ve found in my multiple searches.  Even though it’s not Bebo singing, the guy sounds remarkably like him – probably as a result of the bad recording, lol.  And while it obviously doesn’t live up to Bebo’s version (bad recording, over-mic-ed harmony singer and over-fondling of the song itself), you can still get the feel of it, which is all that matters.  You’ll find both video and lyrics at the end of chapter twelve.

And finally, since this is the last chapter, I believe that it deserves an extra-long introduction, don’t you?  Wait, wait.  You mean this isn’t it?  Well, to tell you the truth, it isn’t.  This is just the introduction to the introduction.  The real introduction is even more special than this one, in that it has a title of its own.  See?

Of Endings and Fairy-tales

So…I have this horrible reputation among my friends for not liking books and movies with happy endings.  And I get teased (good-naturedly, of course) because they think I like sad/morbid endings, but before you pass judgment on me, too, let me explain.  In my opinion, the best kind of book or movie, or even piece of music, for that matter, is the kind that leaves you feeling like you want something.  Leaves you feeling just a little unsatisfied, a tiny bit sad.  Otherwise it’s kinda cheesy.

This does not mean I like sad endings…because I don’t.  At least not always.  I just like them mostly sweet with a little bitter.  In musical terms, the soundtrack to Last of the Mohicans is my favorite illustration of this (actually, the movie itself is, too, but never mind that for the moment).  I just can’t listen to that music without feeling like my heart’s going to fly.  Like I want something terribly, but I don’t know what, or like I am ready to sprint to the top of a mountain – but like I want to cry a little, too (disclaimer: I have never really been moved to tears by instrumental music.  Not yet.  But I’ve been close before).  That, in my opinion, is the mark of a really good piece of music.

To illustrate my point with movies: Lord of the Rings ends “happily”, but you end up feeling miffed because Sam gets left behind in the Shire.  Or try Conspiracy Theory for size.  Honestly, would it have been as good of a movie if Jerry and Alice had actually ended up together?  Of course not.  It’s the unconventional, real-life, almost-but-not-quite-happily-ever-after ending that clinches the movie’s awesomeness.  Maybe that’s the ticket.  The ending has to be just as unique and interesting and surprising as the story itself.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  If you create a wonderful story and then end it how everyone expects it to end, you lose the special-and-unique factor at the end, where it matters the most.

And of course, none of this applies to fairy-tale spoofs such as the Princess Bride or Amber’s story, CinderEd.  Those, being fairy-tale spoofs to begin with, have to end happily.    Although, come to think of it, you do feel just a little unsatisfied after the Princess Bride because Humperdink doesn’t die.  But that’s beside the point.  ;D

Back to my novel.  For the reasons outlined above, I decided to end my story on an unconventional, (hopefully) interesting, almost-but-not-quite-happy note.  I decided not to end with the end of the war and a wedding, but with Ethan going back to war.

(Rabbit trail: I have a funny story about that.  I was talking to my brother about this one time, waaaaay too late at night after a movie and said that “I’m ending with the fiancé going back to war again.”  At which Reece got this sad, sympathetic look on his face, which is hilarious in and of itself, and said “Awww…back to Oregon?”  Needless to say, I completely and utterly cracked up and so did he – once I told him what I actually had said – and we very nearly woke up our parents with bursts of hysterical, semi-muffled laughter.  Megan, I guess you have my brother’s pity, though I still don’t know why he thinks Oregon is such a bad place…I guess late nights do weird things to a person’s emotions.  =D)

Anyway, Ethan going back to war.  My thinking was that it would reinforce the theme of the novel (faith), be less cliché than “ever after”, and allow for some (hopefully) good, emotionally poignant conversation that would otherwise be lost in the echo of wedding-bells.  In my opinion, it’s the only way I could end this without turning it into just another chick flick (which it sort of is anyway, but hopefully it is a little more than just a chick flick).  And if any of you disagree…well.  I do apologize, because your opinion really does matter to me.  However, since I am the one who has my name on this story, I’m going to have to say: tough.  I can’t possibly do it any other way.  =D  So, not the most exciting ending in the world, but neither is it the most cliché, which is all that I’m worried about at the moment.

And now that I’ve completely spoiled an already-spoiled chapter for you, let me just say to any of you amazing people out there who actually read all 1285 words of these two introductions in their entirety, you have my gratitude and my admiration.  You also have a virtual pat on the back as a reward for making it through.  Because, at long last, you have.

The Emptiest Day: Chapter Twelve

It was quiet there in the little churchyard.  Quiet and subtly beautiful, like the silent stream of moments that slipped away beneath their feet.  From the other end of the sloping lawn came the muted laughter of Jack, Polly and Derek, but it seemed to accentuate the stillness rather than spoil it.  One by one, the red petals fell from the rose in Elinor’s hand as though they were tears of blood trickling through her fingers.

Sometimes it seems too right to be real.  Or like I am trying so hard to touch it that it is not really happening and the more I try to feel, the less I truly do.

In the vastness of that silence, the petals echoed when they touched the grass.

We are so much quieter than we used to be.  We don’t talk much now and somehow it is perfect that way.  There are some things that I can’t try to understand, too painful and scabbed for him to share, too sacred for me to know.  Even if I could somehow comprehend.  That is right, too.

Words seem so weak, so like wasted time.  Ethan and I – we say more without them.  So we are just here together.  And it is all far too right.

There were only three petals left on the flower now and Elinor regarded them as though they were the only living things in the world, suddenly conscious that Ethan, too, watched them sway in the breeze.

“Do you ever wonder…” he began, seating himself on the grass against the broad trunk of a tree.

Elinor glanced up at him, unable to resist the teasing urge.  “Quite often I do,” she smiled.  “Just now I wonder what it is you wonder whether I wonder.”

But his reply was interrupted by the arrival of a blue ball that skittered through the trees and into their conversation.

“Sorry, Ethan!” cried Jack, running up to them with a face very red from running.  “Derek threw that one; wasn’t it a smasher?”

“Smasher, eh…how about—” Ethan pitched the ball back across the green, past the moss-covered graveyard and the place where Derek and Polly sprawled in the grass.  “How about that one?”  It cut cleanly through the air until it came down on the far side of the road with a noiseless thud.

Jack watched it bounce along the road in open-mouthed amazement.  “Smasher!” he called over his shoulder as he dashed away to retrieve it.

“That was a good throw…” began Elinor, but something in Ethan’s face – strange, sudden, hunted – brought her to her knees beside him.  “Ethan?  What’s wrong?”

He shuddered, pulling away from her gentle touch with something more like a whimper than Elinor had ever heard from his mouth before.

“Ethan…are you all right?”

Just as suddenly it was over.  It dropped from his eyes and all that was left was a manly fear of self.  “I’m…I’m sorry, Elinor.  It’s never been like that before…never that abstract…it’s usually to do with sound, not absence of it.”

“What was it?”

“Shell-shock,” Ethan confessed.  “Or something like it.”  It still lurked in the brown corners of his eyes like storm-clouds on the edge of a sunrise.  “I—I suppose I was expecting that ball to explode when it hit the ground,” he finished, heavily.  “I’m sorry.”

Hello, war.  I have been wondering when we would meet.  But I expected to be more afraid when you came.

“Don’t be,” said Elinor, unsure of how complete calm and complete confusion could live in one heart without ripping it apart.  “I’m the one who should be sorry.  Would it help if we talked about something else?  Just a moment ago you asked if I ever wondered.  And I said yes…”

He laughed, raggedly.  “That’s right…and strange, because it isn’t really something else.  Elinor, I’ve been thinking.  What…what would you say about…”

“About what?”

For a fragile fragment of a second their eyes met – locked.  Elinor knew and the knowledge ricocheted off the walls of her heart like a bullet in a metal cage.

About you going back.

No.

I gave you up once…is that not enough?  But you never did really give him up.  You only thought you had.

Yes.  And it hurt so much.

“Elinor, look at me.  Please.”

So she did.

“Elinor, I came back because I couldn’t continue there in Africa…but I can now.   These two hands are as strong as ever.  As capable of…deathas ever.”

Another petal dropped from the rose and stained the grass red.  Elinor watched Ethan reach out and grab her hand, heard his touch begging her to understand something that he could not comprehend himself.

“I don’t want to go,” he whispered.  “But I’ve got to finish what I began, Elinor.  I know you don’t understand and I don’t expect you to—don’t want you to.  There is so much hurt and it’s as though…”

“Don’t…please.  Don’t try to explain.  Because – because I understand.  I think…I think I always have.”

Another petal dropped, and then there was only one left on the rose, fluttering delicately like a question mark.

“Will you wait for me…for us?” Ethan asked.

But is it waiting or is it goodbye?

And does it really matter?  It is so gray just now, God.  I can’t tell if what I’m feeling is feeling or just emptiness.

And one more time, the answer washed over her like peace and she felt its cold, cleansing touch flood her heart.  It was not a new answer.  It was a very old one, older than eternity.  But it spanned the years and the tears and the hurt of existence and though it did not lessen the pain, it washed it of every human impurity and somehow it made it clean and chaste once more.

So.

So I will just say Your name again and I will wait.

I will wait for you, for us, and for someday when.

And if someday never comes, then I will wait for the day that is coming.  I will wait…for forever to come true and for me to become You.

Something soft and uncertain and infinitely serene spread itself through the furthest corners of her soul and across her face.  A smile, she thought, but she could not be sure.  Whatever it was, she offered it to heaven and she buried this one last dream in the peace of the graveyard. 

“Yes,” she whispered, letting the last rose-petal twirl slowly to the ground.  “I will wait for you.”

****

So one more time she stood by the dock and watched the waves leap in Ethan’s eyes, one more time felt his arms wrap around her, one more time tried to fit the lifetime that might never be into the moments that ebbed silently, swiftly away.

And one more time the bell rang and the goodbyes of a hundred other men faded into the tide and time gathered the two of them into its embrace.

“God bless you, my love,” Ethan whispered.  This time, the wind did not drown his voice.  Then he was gone and Elinor was alone on the wharf.

No.  Not alone.

Because I will wait for You.

Because someday, somehow, all this pain will have purpose and all the death will be life, and all the tarnish will be gold.

And all will be nothing in the face of eternity.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And now, at long last…the song!  Introducing “How You Love Me,” by Bebo Norman, sung by some-dude-that-sounds-really-quite-similar-to-Bebo.  I’m still blown away by how perfectly it fits the end of my story.  From “hope came home” right down to “words are weak, I don’t know how to say”…it’s exactly right.

Hope came home

Home to me today

And fear has run

the other way

And words are weak

They don’t know how to say

You know I still believe in You

And should my dreams fall through

I will be safe with You

So with every breath I can breathe

I’ll sing about how You love me

I’ll sing about how You love me

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And now, at even more long last, I’m signing off.  I’ll be gone for like…three weeks.  So if you comment and your comments don’t appear for a while, that’s why.  Also, if you post and I don’t comment, well, that’s why, too.  =)  I think we’ll have sporadic internet access, but (and most definitely no offense) I think it’s just possible that I’ll have more…hm…unusual-therefore-more-exciting-things-to-do-than-check-blogs?  =D  Now, to make up for that jab, I promise to share some pics when we get back. See ya then!

~c. a.

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2 thoughts on “NP12 – The Emptiest Day: Chapter Twelve *huge sigh of mixed relief, grief, and unbelief*

  1. laurac1994 5.29.10 — 9:36 pm

    i think your ending is way more poignant than a happily-forever-after-everything-is-perfect-now type of ending would have been. congrats on finishing your story and well done!! =)

  2. Well *cough* look *cough* at who didn’t ever come and comment on your last chapter…*berates self thoroughly*. But I am here now, briefly, to say that this is fantastic. The ending is very emotional and meaningful and your last few paragraphs are beautiful and your last sentence is supurbly last-ish. Perfect ending to a great, great novel. Considering it isn’t my type of story at all–as in not something I would pick up from the library–I really enjoyed my little journey with Elinor and Derek and Ethan, etc. You are a really talanted writer and this whole thing was just fantastic. What an accomplishment! *cheers*

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