Word from Fido: Oi mates! Well, this is it. After this, there's one last chapter. Thank you so much for everyone that's been sticking around since the beginning, and those that hopped on a bit later. You have all been fantastic. If there's anything you guys would like to see before the story ends, any questions that have yet to be answered about certain characters, now is the time to tell me so I can maybe squeeze it in the last chapter. This chapter is short, and easy. I'm trying to get in the Jones's heads. So, as usual, enjoy!


DEAR, DEAR, DEAR TO ME

Wednesday.

Dear Santa Claus,

Hi, it's Elizabeth Jones! I just wanted to say thanks for the awesome Christmas present! It was sunny all day. How did you do that? Can you really do anything with magic?

I had the best Christmas ever! I got to skate, and make a snowman, and play with Muffins. Maybe I'll ask for a pony next year.

Oh, and thank you for the Dance Dance Revolution! You didn't have to bring me two presents. I really like it. I'm getting good, but Maddie's better. We're trying to get Martin to try, but he won't. If I ask for him to dance next year for Christmas, can your magic do that? I don't know why he says he doesn't like dancing, he looked really happy when he danced with Maddie.

I think Maddie and Martin are in love. But when I asked them, they said they weren't and they got all red. I don't understand. Grownups are so weird. They hug all the time now, and hold hands. Once, she kissed his cheek when she thought I wasn't looking. But I saw it. I wasn't spying though! I wouldn't spy on them, I'm a good girl.

So, thanks again! I had the bestest Christmas ever, and that's all because of you! For my next Christmas gift, I was going to ask for mommy and daddy to be married again. But Maddie said that they're happier now, so it's okay. Instead, I want Martin and Maddie to get married. I promise I'll be a really good girl.

I love you Santa,

Lyza


January 7th.

My dear, dear Lucy,

I know I gave you a phone call a few days ago, but my kids are both writing letters so I thought I might join them. Lyza's writing to Santa. She's seven, and she's writing to thank Santa for the Christmas gift. I don't know how I managed to raise such a perfect little girl.

I've been doing a lot of thinking. It was so hard at first, knowing that Robert was gone. It's kind of silly, because he was never home to start with. The hardest is stopping to think of myself as "Robert Jones's wife". I'm Sydney Morrisson, mother of Martin and Elizabeth.

It's about time I got my priorities straight. I'm ashamed at how much I missed. Did you know Lyza was such an artist? She's a little Picasso, drawing and painting all the time now. I'm pretty sure it's that girl Maddie that taught her that. You know, the girl across the street that babysits Lyza every now and then?

I think that's the biggest shock of all. I'm shocked at how much Martin has grown up. I still remember when he was just a small boy, getting into little fights during recess and getting pink detention slips. Now he's practically a man. No, not practically. He is.

I'm amazed at how much he's been taking care of Lyza. I'm simply blown away. He practically raised her himself. Him and Maddie. I can recognize the little things she picked up from him. When she argues, it's the same way he used to argue. Except when she gets really, really, mad. Then I suspect her little tantrums are all Maddie's doing. Not that she throws tantrums alot. Mostly, when she gets upset, she asks me for hot chocolate. She didn't even like hot chocolate the last time I made some for her.

She's also learned a new word: 'crap'. I completely blame Martin for that one. I suppose that could have been worst. Martin's first bad word was 'douchebag'.

I'm going to change things, Lucy. I'm going to do the best I can for my kids. God, when I think of all the things you did for your kids... I just can't even imagine.

I'm going to come visit you soon. I'm going to bring Martin and Lyza. It's about time they met you. All of us could learn many things from you. I'll try to convince Steve to come, too. I know you miss him. He misses you too, even if he won't admit it.

I'm going to be okay. Robert is being an actual gentleman about all of this. He's understanding and he listens to everything we have to say. I don't know if it's permanent, or just a result of the shock of getting divorced. I hope it's permanent. He deserves it, and so do his kids. He played at that dancing video game with Lyza the other day. He looked absolutely ridiculous. It reminded me of why I fell in love with him in the first place.

I'm sad we gave up on each other. The best I can hope for now is to prove to my kids that family really does matter. That even when you fall out of love, you can still stay friends. I've spent twenty-four years of my life married to him, and I need to show my kids that that meant something. The last thing I want is for them to grow up with a fear of commitment.

Martin doesn't seem to have that problem. You should see him, sneaking out of the house at ungodly hours to meet up with Maddie. It's so adorable. I remember being that age. I'm not afraid that he's treating her with proper respect. I just hope she's not being too hard on him. I've heard stories about their little arguments, and I sincerely hope they were exaggerated.

Lucy, Lyza is asking me if we can go see Mr Billie again. I don't know why she even talks about Mr Billie. We both know she just wants to play with Muffins.

I'll see you soon. I hope that you're doing well. I love you very, very much.

Sincerely yours,

Sydney Morrisson.


January 6th.

Mister De-La-Tour,

I'm sitting next to your daughter right now. I wish I could say that I was sitting at a respectful distance from her, but I don't want to start this letter by lying. She thinks I'm writing to my dad, but I don't need a letter to tell him things anymore. You, though? My plan is to give you this letter, along with Madeleine's, then get the hell out of there.

It's not that I'm afraid of you, it's just that the last time we really had a conversation, I threatened to put the cops on you. And, you know, you have a criminal record. And your son looks like he could take down a bear in his sleep.

This is my way of offering to try again, on a better foot. Hi, my name is Martin Jones. I live across the street to your family, and I was hoping to date your daughter.

Scratch that, I am dating your daughter. I think. Whatever it is we're doing, I would really appreciate your approval. I don't know what crazy stories you've heard about me (whatever Jocelyn, that blonde waitress, has to say about me is false), but I promise that I will do my best to take care of her. I'm not looking for some fling or for some action. I respect her too much for that. I've always respected your daughter, in a twisted 'I want to strangle her' way.

She hasn't told me everything that happened in Toronto yet, but I'm working on getting it out of her, a little piece at a time. I want to know that part of her, too. You're included in that part, a big part of that, and I'd like to get to know you. Basically, I'm saying that if I see you while I work, I hope that we can talk.

I'm not good at this whole 'suck up to dad' type thing, so I'm going to stop writing before I screw up. Your daughter's done writing a letter to you. Actually, she's been done for a few minutes. I'm just dragging this out, writing really slow, because she likes looking at me when I'm busy. Don't ask me why. We both know she's way prettier to look at, and I mean that in the most objective way that I know, I swear.

So, I guess that's it. I could have made this letter way shorter: Hi, I'm Martin Jones, I have this crazy crush on your daughter, please don't kill me. But then you would have thought I was illiterate.

I am looking forward to proving to you that I am worthy of your trust.

I'll see you around, hopefully,

Martin Jones


January 6th.

Dear dad,

I'm trying this. I'm going to see if your Doctor Schnaps was right. Maybe this is going to help me get better. At the very least, it's going to help me tell you the things I can't say to your face.

I'm so, so sorry. I'm sorry that I'm making things so difficult. I don't mean to. I know you're trying so hard. Both you and Luke: you're both doing your best. I hope you know I'm doing my best, too.

I'm sorry I can't call you 'dad' to your face. I'm sorry I can't hug you. I'm sorry that I can't be in the same room as you alone without hyperventilating. I'm working on that. I'm reading your letters alot. I'm starting to know them by heart, to be honest. I went through our old photo albums. I think I'm finally starting to see you, the one you want to be.

I'm really glad you came over for dinner last night. I didn't say it, but your cake was awesome. It was even better than I remembered and I guess if there's one upside to your jailtime, it's that your cooking improved.

Is it too soon to make jokes about that? I tend to joke about the things that scare me. Well, I either joke or I jump off of buildings.

Is it too soon to make fun of that too?

I'm looking forward to when I can make fun of all of this. Seriously, I'm all eager. I've made a list of jokes and nicknames to tease you with. I thought about writing them down now, but I think I'll wait a bit. I want to be able to say it out loud and see your face when you laugh. At least, I hope you'll laugh. Do you even have a sense of humour?

See? I don't even know you. And you don't know me. If I think too much about that, I start freaking out again. There's this voice inside my head that tells me that I can't make it, that I'll screw up.

I tell that voice to shut the hell up, because you came to dinner. You knew how awkward is was going to be, but you came. I can tell that voice to shove it, because you promised you'd be here for me.

I believe you now.

I'm really, really sorry that I yelled at you when you tried to hug mom. I shouldn't have. She's so happy now, it's scary. It's like she's stuck in one of her manic phases, but without all the crazy. I don't know if you realized how happy you made her. Honestly, I'm a little bit jealous. Maybe I should go to jail for a few years, just to see if she'll be as happy to have me back.

I'm kidding again. Sorry. You'll get used to it. In no time, you'll become a pro at telling when I'm being serious or not. You should ask Martin about it. He could probably write a thesis on my bipolar sense of humour.

It's a bit scary to have someone know me like that.

He's actually the reason I'm writing this letter. I know I blamed Doctor Schnaps earlier, but it's all Martin's fault. He's sitting next to me right now. He says hi. He's writing to his own dad, I think. I don't think he'll ever give him the letter, but I know it's going to be good for him.

So, I'd like to ask you something. And don't feel bad about the fact that I can't say it to your face, I couldn't even ask it to mom's face. I had to write it down for her too. She thought it was hilarious. Martin too, actually.

Right, Martin. I know you're coming for dinner on Friday. I'd like to invite Martin as well. Yeah, I'm asking you permission to bring him to our family dinner. I can't believe it either. Did I tell you that the first time we met, I tried to kill him with a cookie tray? Of course I haven't told you. Sorry. I will, though. I have so many stories about that boy, and I can't wait to be able to share them with you.

So, yeah. I'd like to have him over. He makes me brave. I think it'd be easier to talk to you if he was around. Don't tell him I said that. His head is fat enough as it is. Anyways, he's important to me. It would mean alot to me if you got to know him as well. Besides, you can't get to know me without getting to know him. I'm starting to think that we're kind of a package deal. Martin and Madeleine. Madeleine and Martin.

Oh, wow. I'm so sorry for that. The last thing you need is to read your daughter going off to la-la land like some lovestruck ditz. I hope you're not one of those overprotective fathers that feel the need to shotgun my boyfriends. I don't want you to end up in jail again so soon.

See? Sort of kidding. You're getting there.

And I'm going to pretend I didn't just call Martin Jones my boyfriend.

I'm going to make a very unsubtle change of subject now. In case you've forgotten (I know you haven't), I'm turning seventeen next week. Come to my birthday party. You'll get to meet Rebecca and Kyoko.

Shit, I haven't even told Kyoko what's going on. She's going to kill me.

Again, kidding... I think.

I can remember an ice cream cake you made for Luke's birthday, when we were kids. It would be totally awesome if you made one like that.

You know what? This isn't as hard as I thought it was going to be.

I've been sober for twenty-two days. It's the longest I've ever gone without a single sip. I'm telling you because I know you understand how much it sucks. Mom helps alot; she makes these awesome virgin daiquiris. Sometimes I call Rebecca, and she listens to me rant for hours on end. When it gets really bad, I go to Martin's house. He knows the best ways to distract me.

I'm really sorry I put that image in your head. Please don't shoot him. I promise he's quite the gentleman when he wants to be.

I'm going to stop now, before I really embarrass myself. I'll give this to Martin, so he can give it to you. You better be nice to him! Actually, never mind. Make him sweat.

I'll see you on Friday. I'll try really hard, I promise.

I love you,

Maddie

PS: I just remembered. Mom said you met in a bike shop. Can you please, please check my bike out? There's a bet on the line!

I dotted the pen onto the paper. There. That hadn't been so hard, had it? My fingers hummed with the relief from having written everything down. Well, not everything. But it was a very good start.

"You done?"

I glanced up to the warm body next to me. Our bodies were squeezed together at the side, thigh to thigh, shoulder to shoulder. Fine, so my desk wasn't big enough to allow two people to use it at the same time. Whoops.

I hummed an affirmative. "How 'bout you?"

"Not yet. You mind if I finish?"

"Since when do you ask for permission?"

We both snorted. He returned to his writing, pen scratching out square letters. Inexorably, I found myself staring at his face: that lethal chin, the hard jaw, the surprisingly non-gigantic nose.

"What?" he asked without looking up.

"Nothing..." he raised an eyebrow, his eyes still on the paper. I felt my lips twitch. "Fine. I'm just thinking."

"Oh boy."

I cuffed his shoulder and wondered how I managed to do it affectionately. "Shut up."

He rolled his eyes. "What are you thinking about?"

"You know your ear moves when you talk? It's cute."

I reached out and traced the shell of said ear with the tip of my finger. He did look up, then, but only to glare. I couldn't help but smile at him, knowing that he didn't mean any of it. I let go of his ear and he returned to his letter.

"I'm trying to build our timeline." There was that eyebrow again, signalling his interest. "So, eight years ago: we meet."

"You tried to kill me," he recalled with a tiny grin.

"You insulted my hat."

"Oh yes, because that's as grave an offence as attempted homicide. At the very least, it was assault with a weapon."

"Anyways, I'm trying to figure out when it changed."

His hand froze momentarily, as though he was also contemplating the question. "Does it matter?" he asked.

"Not really. I'm just curious."

With a minuscule clatter, he let his pen drop to the desk. He shifted and he probably would have turned himself towards me if we weren't already so close. His breath ghosted over my face for a millisecond and then he gently places his lips over mine. I was so caught by surprise that my heart hurt at the strength of its next beat. He pulled away and I knew I was blushing spectacularly.

He smirked, satisfied. "I've always wanted to do that, for as long as I can remember." I nodded wordlessly. "I knew it would shut you up."

I slapped his shoulder again, but much harder. For my benefit, he pretended it hurt and winced.

"We've already established that that's cheating. I hereby make a new rule: you can't kiss me to win an argument."

"I am not agreeing to that. It's going to be my secret weapon."

"No, I categorically refuse-"

He cut me off with another kiss. I kind of wanted to tease him, mentioning how he couldn't get enough of me. Sadly, he could have just as easily returned that argument on me. He lightly nibbled on my lower lip and I gasped.

"No fair," I murmured. "You're actually going to be good at this crap, aren't you?"

"I aim to please."

"Bullshit. You aim to piss me off is what you do." I pushed on his shoulders. His smirk was positively cheeky.

He tapped my nose with his finger. "You're good at everything you do. This is not exception."

Oh, God, he was going to be really good at this. "Unlike skating?"

"Unlike skating." He tapped my nose again. I scrunched it.

"Really, what is it with my nose?"

He tensed. I felt his leg move as he flexed his toes. He cleared his throat. "Your freckle."

I clearly did not understand. "My freckles?"

"Freckle. As in singular. As in, my favourite freckle is on your nose." He tapped at it again.

I tried very hard not to laugh. "You have a favourite freckle? That's so atrociously cheesy."

"Oh, shut up." He huffed and bent over his letter.

I propped my chin on my hand and resumed watching him in silence. His brow worked as his pen scribbled. Hesitantly, I let my fingers trail up to his hair and pushed a short strand away from his face. It fell right back to its previous resting place. I grinned as I pushed it back again with the same result.

"Are you going to do that for long?" he asked in an exasperated tone of voice.

"I like it," I admitted. "It gives me an excuse to touch you. Does it bother you?"

His whole face rearranged itself to allow room for his small smile. "You don't need an excuse to touch me anymore."

That was the most wonderful part of all of this. I didn't need to start a yelling match just to hear his voice. I didn't need to pick a fight so I could shove him around just to get my hands on him for a second.

I pushed at the strand of hair, trying to tuck it away, to no avail. He let me play with his hair for the next minutes while he finished his letter. Then it was his turn to put his hands in my hair, and it was only to pull me closer while his mouth worked miracles on me.

Dear Maddie from eight years ago,

Don't ever, ever tell Martin Jones to shut his mouth. You have no idea what you're missing.