Chapter Fifteen

The Sort-Of Epilogue

If she were to write the story of her life, how would she begin?

Most people would begin at the beginning. Their mother, in her twenties or thirties, or, in rare cases, her teens or forties, gave birth in a crowded hospital in the middle of the city, and their father smiled when they saw the baby, healthy and alive. They grew up, went to school, fell in love, married, had children, retired, and died. That was basically the whole thing.

The trouble with her was this.

When was her beginning?

It wasn't a religious awakening, but it was similar to one. She had opened her eyes to a new world, one that seemed much more meaningful and purposeful than the dark shroud in which she had lived. And, in some way, she, too, had discovered a god, who was not exactly immortal, except to a particular woman's heart. And that woman, of course, was her.

Did her life begin when she was born on a sunny day at the local hospital, and her brother Taylor came to visit her in that small hospital room, looking solemn? Or when she met Taylor Gao formally on that rainy day, when they took a walk underneath the umbrella? Or the day of her first marriage, dressed in a simple but beautiful gown of white satin? The day she saw an angel—a true angel—sitting in the same room as her future husband in that hospital room?

The answer, she knew, was none of these. Her beginning was everyday, at the beginning, middle, and the end of each day, and everything in between.

Today, it was this day.

"You have to take a good picture, Taylor!" commanded little Rosalie, his little sister, a small hand on her protruding hip. "Otherwise Brooke and I will beat you up!" she threatened.

"Rosalie," Brooke warned, frowning at her confusedly. "Where did you learn things like that?"

"From Nicky," she answered innocently.

Brooke frowned, looking up. "Taylor, who's Nicky?"

"The boy who lives in the red house," answered Taylor, pointing across the street at the story-like red brick house. "You know, the one whose parents are divorced and his mother's boyfriend died in the storm. He's…oh, I don't know. Maybe eight or so? About this tall." He raised his arm to a little taller than waist level, which was taller than the average eight year old, considering how tall Taylor was. (He was over six feet tall now, having grown during high school.)

Brooke raised her eyebrows slightly. "And…how do you know all this?"

He shrugged. "It's a small town. We know everything about everyone. You'll get used to it soon."

She laughed, before pointing out, "You seem to forget that I've lived here all my life, too."

"How could I forget?" he asked, a playful grin on his face.

Rosalie, obviously fed up with them and their flirting (as she had already learned to call it), tugged on her elder brother's hand. "Taylor!" she demanded. "Just take the picture already!"

"Fine, fine," Taylor sighed. He looked at Brooke. "Why does she always complain to me and not you?"

"Because I'm more awesome?" suggested Brooke.

"Because Brooke is nice to me," replied Rosalie, snuggling up to her sister-in-law, who she adored unconditionally.

"I shouldn't have asked," sighed Taylor. "All right, guys, just sit right there."

"Are you sure the grass isn't wet?" asked Brooke nervously. "I would hate to get grass stains on this dress." She was dressed in a woven straw hat and a white sundress, and she had dressed Rosalie in the identical outfit. There was, of course, a reason for this getup, which she had promised to explain to Taylor soon.

"It's okay, Brooke," he replied. "Just sit."

Uneasily Brooke sat down, and held out her arms. Immediately little Rosalie dashed into her arms, sitting on her sister-in-law's lap. "Okay, look up!" commanded Taylor. Both girls looked up, the sun glinting into their eyes, their smiles wide. "That's good." He grinned. "That was lovely."

"We're always lovely," corrected Brooke, hoisting Rosalie onto his shoulders.

"Ow," groaned Taylor, taking hold of his little sister's feet. "Rosalie, we've got to stop doing this sometime. You're growing too big."

"I'm never too big," protested Rosalie, tugging on his hair.

"She's right," agreed Brooke mischievously. "Rosalie is always just the right size."

"Can I see the picture now?" asked Rosalie.

Ally sat on the couch, knitting an orange and yellow striped scarf for little Rosalie, who refused to sit still. Twenty minutes ago, Ally had agreed to show her Aladdin (her favorite movie) for the eighth time that night. Mesmerized by Aladdin's skillful escapade through the dusty city, Rosalie watched, her eyes wide with delight.

She had agreed to baby-sit Rosalie on extremely short notice. Brooke and Taylor had just remembered a dinner meeting with their dog-sitter (they owned a black pug, whose name was Pete ("In honor of Fall Out Boy," Brooke had said, while Ally hoped she was joking.) and the dog-sitter's younger sister.

Feeling like an old woman, Ally knitted almost furiously. "Rosalie, dearest, do you mind coming here for a minute?"

Still enchanted by images she had seen just a few minutes ago, Rosalie refused to abide by her godmother's wishes, and whimpered. When Ally said nothing, Rosalie finally stood, knowing that with Ally, silence meant anger, not contentment.

"Why are you knitting me a scarf now?" demanded Rosalie, looking irritable. "It's summer."

"So I have time to knit everyone else scarves, too," said Ally. "There. That looks nice. Do you like it?"

Rosalie shook her head. Ally laughed.

After a few more minutes of Aladdin, Rosalie looked back at Ally and said, "Auntie?"


"Can I have some hot chocolate?"

"But Rosalie," said Ally, feeling playful. "It's summer. Nobody drinks hot chocolate in the summer. The summer drink is, you know. Lemonade. Orange juice. Sprite. That sort of thing."

Rosalie looked peevishly at her. "But Auntie," she said. "Your hot chocolate is so good I want to have it all the time."

Laughing, Ally beckoned to her, and they walked to the kitchen. Ally hoisted Rosalie onto the counter, which was her favorite perch. She put in milk, a pinch of sugar, and the cocoa powder. She placed the mug in the microwave and set it to the appropriate time. Then she looked at Rosalie.

"Rosalie, what do you think Taylor and Brooke are doing right now?" she asked, just as a way to pass the time.

She frowned. "Probably kissing," she said, with as much aversion to the word as Ally had to, say, brown suede boots. "Because they do it all the time. It's kind of embarrassing," the little girl confided.

"Aw, don't worry," laughed Ally. "Adults are like that."

"Like what?" asked Rosalie.

Ally thought for a minute. "Immature," she finally decided.

Nodding solemnly, Rosalie replied, "You're right."

Although Rosalie was a smart child, Ally was surprised. She had had no idea that Rosalie knew the meaning of the word "immature." "Rosalie, do you really think that?"

"Yes," replied Rosalie.

Then Ally grew suspicious. "Rosalie, what does immature mean?"

She paused. "It means…you kiss a lot?" she guessed.

Ally laughed, retrieved the hot chocolate from the microwave, and together, they walked back into the living room for more Aladdin.

They returned home to the small townhouse Taylor owned. Brooke walked up the stairs to the bedroom she shared with him.

She sat on the bed, staring off into space for a while. After a few minutes, she took the hat off and tossed it carelessly into her closet. She lifted the soft fabric of the sundress over her head and walked across the room to the closet where she kept her dresses in nothing but her bra and panties. She hung up the dress carefully, where it would remain for many days.

She eyed the purple t-shirt and pajama pants awaiting her on the arm of the nearest chair, but instead Brooke chose to dive onto the bed. She almost purred when the coolness of the blankets reached her skin. Happily she rolled around in the blankets, mostly naked as she was, relishing the coolness.

"Brooke, I—." Taylor stepped into the room, closing the door behind him. "Oh," he said.

"Oh," she mimicked, looking at him, a half-smile on her lips. "Guess what."

"What?" he asked, smiling.

Firmly she took his large hands and placed him on her abdomen, and looked into his eyes, which were, as usual, endless pools of dark chocolate. She saw him tense. She walked into him, further, until she could feel his heart pounding—much more quickly than usual. "I'm pregnant," she whispered.

"No," he said, softly. "No. Really?"

She stepped back, smiled at him cheerfully, and said, "Ha! You fell for it!"

He sank back into his chair, rubbing his forehead. "I can't believe…I can't believe…I can't believe you…" He looked back up at her. "Are you absolutely sure you aren't?"

"Taylor, you don't have to get so worked up about it," Brooke said. "I was just trying to play a joke on you." She settled into his lap and kissed his cheek. "Don't worry. Everything's normal."

"Can you just go check?" he said.

She looked at him, a little irritated now. "What? I said it was a joke, Taylor. You don't have to…"

"Just go check," he said. "Please?"

She sighed. "Fine! I will! Don't be so insecure." She walked into the bathroom. "Just because you want me to."

Minutes later, she returned, the pregnancy test held securely in her hand. Her expression was unreadable, except for the obvious fact that she was unnerved. Taylor looked at it, and could barely hide his smirk.

"See?" he said. "I told you."

"Oh…Taylor," she murmured. She stepped closer to him and felt his arms around her, lifting her up. "I…I…" She looked at him. "How did you know?"

He fingered her cheek carefully before answering, "I'm just a genius."

"Oh, shut up," she said, and kissed him. "But really, how did you know? And don't give me a phony reason." She looked at him with a fierce expression.

"I don't know," he smiled. "It was just coincidental."

'Like so much else,' she thought. 'Like so much else.'

Wow...the end of Coincidental. That was...well, I loved writing this story, and I hoped you guys loved reading it. Thank you to everyone who reviewed it: Victoria Humblydum, akaCHEEKS, jointedlegs, Kris-chan, TheCoconutKiwi, made4reviews, shanasheart, anothercc, xWhit3StaRx, Le Holy Gaspo, OO, YuLian, Esquirella, Shefali, Mela, Snow Wolf Alpha, femaleodd, and TwEeTztheBiZaRre. It's been a cool four months writing this and receiving so much great feedback! I hope you read my other stuff, including my upcoming story (which I think I'll start in January...) and anyways, I love you all. If you're reviewing for this chapter...(which I hope you will...), could you please include your favorite character? (I hope I'm not being really...weird. (Couldn't find another word.)