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"IT WILL NEVER ENDS" EPILOGUE"


IT WILL NEVER ENDS

Epilogue

I push through the crowds of Boylston Street until I get to the cross street. I pull the stroller to a crawl and then stop at the edge of the curb. I pull the top of it back and look down at Emmy. She’s kicking her feet and smiling like usual. She’s a very happy baby. She has a calm energy about her and it’s addictive.

“How old is she?” a woman asks. She’s standing at the crosswalk with us, staring down at Emerson appreciatively.

“Eleven months.”

“She’s gorgeous,” she says. “Looks just like you. Identical mouths.”

I smile. “Thank you. But you should see her father. She definitely has his eyes.”

The sign flashes to walk, and I try to beat the crowd as we rush across the street. I’m already half an hour late and Ryle has texted me twice. He hasn’t experienced the joy of carrots yet, though. He’ll find out today just how messy they are, because I packed plenty in her bag.

I moved out of the apartment Ryle bought when Emerson was three months old. I got my own place closer to my work so I’m within walking distance, which is great. Ryle moved back into the apartment he bought, but between visiting Allysa’s place and Ryle’s days with Emerson, I feel like I’m still at their apartment building almost as much as I’m at mine.

“Almost there, Emmy.” We make a right around the corner and I’m in such a rush, a man has to step out of our way and into the wall just to avoid being plowed over. “Sorry,” I mutter, ducking my head and making my way around him.

“Lily?”

I stop.

I turn slowly, because I felt that voice all the way to my toes. There are only two voices that have ever done that to me, and Ryle’s doesn’t reach that far anymore.

When I look back at him, his blue eyes are squinting against the sun. He lifts a hand to shield it and he grins. “Hey.”

“Hi,” I say, my frenzied brain trying to slow down and allow me to play catch-up.

He glances at the stroller and points at it. “Is that . . . is this your baby?”


I nod and he walks around to the front of the stroller. He kneels down and smiles widely at her. “Wow. She’s gorgeous, Lily,” he says. “What’s her name?”

“Emerson. We call her Emmy sometimes.”

He puts his finger in her hand and she starts kicking, shaking his finger back and forth. He stares at her appreciatively for a moment and then stands back up again.

“You look great,” he says.

I try not to give him an obvious once-over, but it’s hard. He looks as good as ever, but this is the first time seeing him that I’m not trying to deny how gorgeous he turned out to be. A far cry from that homeless boy in my bedroom. Yet . . . somehow still exactly the same.

I can feel the buzz of my text message going off in my pocket again. Ryle.

I point down the street. “We’re really late,” I say. “Ryle has been waiting for half an hour.”

When I say Ryle’s name, there’s a sadness that reaches Atlas’s eyes, but he tries to disguise it. He nods and slowly steps aside for us to pass.

“It’s his day to have her,” I clarify, saying more in those six words than I could in most full conversations.

I see the relief flash in his eyes. He nods and points behind him. “Yeah, I’m running late, too. Opened a new restaurant on Boylston last month.”

“Wow. Congratulations. I’ll have to take Mom there to check it out soon.”

He smiles. “You should. Let me know and I’ll make sure and cook for you myself.”

There’s an awkward pause, and then I point down the street. “We have to . . .”

“Go,” he says with a smile.

I nod again and then duck my head and continue walking. I have no idea why I’m reacting this way. Like I don’t know how to hold a normal conversation. When I’m several yards away, I glance back over my shoulder. He hasn’t moved. He’s still watching me as I walk away.

We round the corner and I see Ryle waiting beside his car outside the floral shop. His face lights up when he sees us approaching. “Did you get my email?” He kneels down and begins to unstrap Emerson.

“Yeah, about the playpen recall?”

He nods as he pulls her out of the stroller. “Didn’t we buy one of those for her?”

I press the buttons to fold the stroller and then walk it to the back of his car. “Yeah, but it broke like a month ago. I threw it in the Dumpster.”

He pops the trunk, and then touches Emerson’s chin with his fingers. “Did you hear that, Emmy? Your mommy saved your life.” She smiles up at him and slaps playfully at his hand. He kisses her on the forehead and then picks up her stroller and tosses it in the trunk. I slam the trunk shut and lean over to give her a quick kiss.

“Love you, Emmy. See you tonight.”

Ryle opens the back door to put her in the car seat. I tell him goodbye and then I start to head back down the street in a rush.

“Lily!” he yells. “Where are you going?”

I’m sure he expected me to walk to the front door of my store, since I’m already late opening it. I probably should, but the nagging in my gut won’t go away. I need to do something about it. I spin around and walk backward. “There’s something I forgot to do! I’ll see you when I pick her up tonight!”

Ryle lifts Emerson’s hand and they wave goodbye to me. As soon as I round the corner, I break out into a sprint. I dodge people, bump into a few and cause one lady to curse at me, but it’s all worth it the moment I see the back of his head.

“Atlas!” I yell. He’s heading in the other direction, so I keep pushing through the crowd. “Atlas!”

He stops walking but he doesn’t turn around. He cocks his head like he doesn’t want to fully trust his ears.

“Atlas!” I yell again.

This time when he turns, he turns with purpose. His eyes meet mine and there’s a three-second pause while we both stare at each other. But then we both start walking toward each other, determination in every step. Twenty steps separate us.

Ten.

Five.

One.

Neither of us takes that final step.

I’m out of breath, panting and nervous. “I forgot to tell you Emerson’s middle name.” I put my hands on my hips and exhale. “It’s Dory.”

He doesn’t immediately react, but then his eyes crinkle a little in the corners. His mouth twitches like he’s forcing back a smile. “What a perfect name for her.”

I nod, and smile, and then stop.

I’m not sure what to do now. I just needed him to know that, but now that I’ve told him, I didn’t really think of what I’d do or say next.

I nod again, and then glance around me, throwing a thumb over my shoulder. “Well . . . I guess I’ll . . .”

Atlas steps forward, grabs me, and pulls me hard against his chest. I immediately close my eyes when he wraps his arms around me. His hand goes up to the back of my head and he holds me still against him as we stand, surrounded by busy streets, blasts of horns, people brushing us as they pass in a hurry. He presses a gentle kiss into my hair, and all of that fades away.

“Lily,” he says quietly. “I feel like my life is good enough for you now. So whenever you’re ready . . .”

I clench his jacket in my hands and keep my face pressed tight against his chest. I suddenly feel like I’m fifteen again. My neck and cheeks flush from his words.

But I’m not fifteen.

I’m an adult with responsibilities and a child. I can’t just allow my teenage feelings to take over. Not without a little reassurance, at least.

I pull back and look up at him. “Do you donate to charity?”

Atlas laughs with confusion. “Several. Why?”

“Do you want kids someday?”

He nods. “Of course I do.”

“Do you think you’ll ever want to leave Boston?”

He shakes his head. “No. Never. Everything is better here, remember?”

His answers give me the reassurance I need. I smile up at him. “Okay. I’m ready.”

He pulls me tight against him and I laugh. With everything that has happened since the day he came into my life, I never expected this outcome. I’ve hoped for it a lot, but until now I wasn’t sure if it would ever happen.

I close my eyes when I feel his lips meet the spot on my collarbone. He presses a gentle kiss there and it feels just like the first time he kissed me there all those years ago. He brings his mouth to my ear, and in a whisper, he says, “You can stop swimming now, Lily. We finally reached the shore.”

THE END

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