Chapter 4.17: Loose Ends

Chapter 4.17 Loose Ends

A/N: GUYS, JAMES’ FACE IN THE TITLE SHOT, SO CUTE. Anywayyyyy, lol, I spent hours poring over this chapter trying to get it right, and I’m still not sure that I did, but I finally feel okay with it, so here we go! As a heads up, it’s longer than my chapters usually are, so you might want to grab a drink and/or a snack before settling down to read it. I was going to split it, but there was just no place to stop it that didn’t feel totally awkward. That being said, I hope you guys enjoy it anyway! So, here we go—Chapter 4.17: Loose Ends.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Screenshot-166

Beyond all logical reasoning, Candice’s pregnancy seemed to be going by much faster this time. It seemed like one minute, she was sharing the news with me, and the next she was wearing maternity clothes and fawning over the little bump that was our new baby.

Screenshot-175  Screenshot-195

Of course, that probably had a lot to do with the fact that this time around, we had two curious toddlers running around the house who took up all of our time.

Each morning, we’d wake up before the sun had even finished rising, and each night we went to sleep only after the sun was long gone, only to repeat this each and every day. Those days, of course, were spent feeding, entertaining, and teaching Gemma and Augustus.

Screenshot-188  Screenshot-162

Gemma was extremely curious and extremely smart. She was eager to learn to walk and spent hours playing with her blocks, examining the shapes and figuring out pretty quickly which shapes aligned.

She was also probably the fussier of the two, taken to screaming if she got upset, a fact which made many of us contemplate the purchase of ear plugs….

Screenshot-232  Screenshot-196

There was no denying it though I guess—in a lot of ways, Gemma was a mini-me, and when she had her screaming fits, I was usually the one who got her to calm down.

Not that she played favorites really, because when she was happy, she seemed to prefer being in her mom’s company, cuddling contentedly with her or playing some new game with her that she made up.

Screenshot-164  Screenshot-170

Augustus, meanwhile, was a cheerful little guy—always up for cuddles or games and obsessed with the tiny xylophone we got him. Joanne was convinced that we’d have another little musician in the family and she often encouraged him to experiment with different notes and melodies.

Screenshot-223  Screenshot-225

In general, Joanne was a great older sibling—and a huge help to Candice and I if we ever needed a break to, you know, eat or some other basic human function. My parents were a help too, but for such an elderly couple they were always very busy, running to events all over town or just spending hours expanding our yard into a thriving garden. Dad even still worked at the hospital, although these days his role was much more advisory than hands-on.

Screenshot-202

I’m also extremely pleased to announce that I did keep my promise this time around, and as such I was there for Candice every step of her pregnancy. We spent more time together than we did apart, and I always felt happier in her company than when I wasn’t, which was a pretty odd feeling for me considering the fact that I preferred to be alone most of the time.

Candice, however, was the exception—and I knew that this amazing woman always would be.

Screenshot-206

“Come on, let’s do it,” I insisted, grabbing my phone from my pocket.

“Do you seriously want to jump on that bandwagon?” Candice asked with a laugh.

“Better than being thrown on forcibly! My mom’s threatening to make me a Simbook page if I don’t make it myself! God only knows what she’d put on it.”

“Okay, okay!”

Screenshot-207

“Smile!”

Screenshot-208

Just a quick kiss!

Screenshot-210

“Hey, we’re pretty cute,” Candice giggled.

“Pfft, pretty lame. Okay, I’m tagging you right now.”

My beautiful wife and I. #truelove #isntshegorgeous #amidoingthisright #hashtag

Screenshot-212

“You’re an idiot”

“I love you too,” I said with a smile.

Screenshot-214

How I ever managed to be so stupid as to hurt this woman, I will never know.

Screenshot-228

“JAMES!?!”

When I said time was passing us by quickly, I meant quickly, because soon enough the day came upon us when Candice went into labor, the two of us taking a very tense ride straight to the hospital.

Screenshot-234

Once again, we were there for hours, but at exactly 2:24 AM, Candice gave birth to a beautiful baby boy—just one this time!

We named him Tobias and I swear we’d never been happier.

Screenshot-239  Screenshot-241

Welcome to the family, Tobias Winters!

Screenshot-244  Screenshot-247

Having Tobias so close to the twins though was…difficult. Candice and I were so sleep deprived that we’d fall asleep at the drop of a hat, passing out as soon as we sat down on the sofa, or even drifting off as we fed baby Tobias his bottle.

It was pretty terrible, and eventually my parents took pity on us one day and refused to allow us near the babies from early in the evening (so we could get to bed), until the late afternoon the next day (so we could sleep in). We complained and refused, but when it became clear that my parents weren’t letting up (how had my mom developed such a perfect death glare?), we finally gave in.

And honestly? The brief reprieve was exactly what we needed.

Screenshot-319

I felt pretty refreshed that afternoon, just enjoying a mug of decaf-coffee out of habit (caffeinated coffee made me too jittery I’d realized), and I guess it was a pretty good thing that I’d finally slept for once, because Joanne, usually so sweet and cheerful, flew into the dining room in a bit of a mood that day.

Screenshot-320

“Who is this?” Joanne asked, sounding a little out of breath as she slammed a picture frame in front of me. I jumped, startled by the sudden loud sound and shot Joanne a reproachful look as she knew better than to scare me of all people. She looked disheveled and even had a couple of dust fluffs in her hair as she tapped on the frame impatiently.

Screenshot-323

Realizing it was just better to play along, I glanced at the photo. My breath caught in my throat, and for a long moment I just stared. I felt as if I was looking at a ghost—and in a way, I was. “It’s my biological mother, isn’t it?” she pressed.

I tore my eyes away from the photo for a moment to see Joanne taking a seat across from me, looking accomplished. I didn’t have to answer—she already knew she was right.

“Where’d you find it?” I asked, glancing back at the photo again. My heart was beating hard.

“I came across it in Grandma’s stuff. She has all sorts of things,” she explained. “But is that really her?” Joanne pressed. She pushed the frame to the side and turned it so that she could look at the photo too.

“Yes,” I confirmed, sitting back in my seat.

Joanne let out a breath. She didn’t seem to know how to respond. “It’s the first time that I’ve ever seen her,” she whispered.

I let out a breath too, this time being the one to not know how to respond. Not having any photos myself, I never really had the chance to show Joanne her mom. I felt a tendril of guilt sneak its way into my stomach.

“This was prom?” she asked then.

“Looks like it,” I said with a slight frown, studying the photo.

“She didn’t wear a dress?” She raised her eyebrow, clearly finding the idea of not wearing a dress to prom preposterous.

Screenshot-326

“Oh, she did. This was taken before the prom,” I answered slowly, remembering. “She and Candice were at school late for music club. I got there early so we messed around with the backdrop before they ran off to go get ready. They arrived late, so I don’t think we ever took real photos.” It felt so weird to say these things. I hadn’t thought about these events in several years. It felt like they had taken place in another lifetime.

“Music?” Joanne asked, latching onto that bit of information for obvious reasons. Her eyes were bright. “My biological mother…she was a musician?”

I laughed a little. “I don’t know about that, but both of your moms were into music back then. Candice played guitar and Maddie played bass. Nothing serious though—they just enjoyed music.”

“Mom plays guitar?”

Played. I don’t think she has in years.”

Screenshot-342

“I so need to ask her about this!” Joanne enthused, sitting up in her chair and already planning. Her eyes looked far away, but then she refocused, looking toward me again. “Why is this the only photo I’ve ever found? Why…why didn’t you ever talk about her when I was growing up? Was—” she trailed off, licking her lips anxiously, “was she…like you?” she finally asked haltingly, leaning back in her seat. She looked like she felt bad for asking.

I wasn’t sure exactly what she meant though. Like me…in what way?

Before I could ask, Joanne spoke again, clarifying. “What I mean is, did she…struggle, with the same things? Is that—is that what caused her car accident? Is that why no one talks about her? Why there’s no photos? Why I didn’t grow up with stories of her?”

I took in a slow breath, finally realizing what she was asking. It would almost be easier to explain everything if Maddie had been an alcoholic, like me. In fact, I was half-tempted to lie to Jo, just to make things simpler for myself, but my daughter was bright. She’d figure it out eventually. She’d hunt down the name…find old newspapers…and then she would hate me for lying. I tapped my fingers on the table, my pulse quickening.

“No,” I finally said quietly. “She wasn’t an alcoholic.”

Joanne winced. “I hate labeling you like that.”

I couldn’t help but smile a bit—a small, cynical smile. “I’m not such a fan myself, but if the label fits….”

She rolled her eyes, tucking her long hair behind her ear. “So then, why does no one ever talk about her?”

Screenshot-329

I sighed, leaning back in my seat. “No one talks about her, because it hurts to,” I finally began to say. I pressed my lips together, thinking, but there really was no easy way to put it. “Joanne, your mother—your biological mother,” I corrected when she scrunched up her nose in distaste, “she committed suicide.”

Screenshot-333

There were probably a number of explanations that Joanne had considered, but it was clear from the look on her face, her skin pale and her eyes wide, that she had not considered this one. I tapped my foot without realizing it; cracked my knuckles with my thumb; took a breath—time seemed to last forever in that space.

“Y-you said that she died in a car crash,” Joanne argued. She looked desperate to hold on to that idea, her heel tapping rapidly against her chair.

“She did—but it was by her own hand.”

“She—she purposefully crashed…why?” she asked, leaning forward now in her chair, her arms on the table. She looked appalled at the very idea that anyone would consider doing that, and I knew that I would have to explain everything.

So that’s exactly what I did, and it took a very long time to do so.

I informed her that her biological mother had suffered from severe and chronic depression, and then I went back to the beginning, telling her everything that had happened since I met Maddie. Joanne was a restless listener, often getting up to pace before sitting back down, only to get right back up again. By the end of my explanation, she sat on the very edge of her seat in a daze, her eyes filling up with tears. My voice was hoarse and my back ached from sitting still for so long.

Screenshot-335

“So she…she committed suicide because of me,” she whispered, her brow furrowing as her distress became increasingly more apparent.

I could feel my adrenaline spike and I sat up straight in my chair, immediately on edge as I hastily corrected her. “No—absolutely not. I told you—she had suffered from depression for most of her life.”

“I know, but…it…it was getting pregnant at 16 that made her break down. If I had never been—”

“I know where you’re going with this—and no. If you had never been born, then it would have been something else. In the end…I think you were the only thing that made her stick around as long as she did,” I said honestly, rubbing my neck.

“Okay,” she said quietly, and then sniffled, wiping her eyes of her tears. “Ugh! I don’t even know why this is getting to me! That woman wasn’t my mother. Candice is my mother, and she always will be,” she said determinedly. She got off her chair then, beginning to pace again. “I never even would have asked if it weren’t for my stupid friends wondering why I didn’t know anything about my biological mother—but I should have just stuck with my original answer to them: I don’t know anything about her because it doesn’t matter.”

“Of course it matters,” I exclaimed, bewildered. “She…she gave birth to you.”

Screenshot-344

Joanne halted in her steps, giving me a hard look. “And that’s it! As far as I’m concerned, all she did was lend me her genetics and incubate me, and while I’m ever grateful for the incubation, my relationship with her stops there. She made sure of that,” she scoffed, shaking her head.

Screenshot-345

I looked at my daughter in surprise, barely able to believe what was coming out of her mouth.

“She was really ill,” I said, trying to impress this point upon her, but Joanne was having none of it.

“SO ARE YOU AND YOU STUCK AROUND!” she shouted. Her fists were balled up at her sides. “You had all these completely awful things happen to you and yet you always stood by me! You’ve always cared for me when no one else did! You could have easily left me or just done a really awful job at raising me, but you didn’t, and that makes you infinitely better than that—that woman!” she finished with a stomp of her foot.

Screenshot-348

I was completely taken aback, my heart racing in my chest. She was giving me too much credit. I wasn’t so sure that stubbornly taking care of her when I was in such a bad place was ‘infinitely better’ than having not been around at all. “I haven’t exactly been the great—” I began, scratching the back of my head nervously, but Joanne cut me off right there.

“I’m FAIRLY aware that you weren’t a perfect father and that I wasn’t raised perfectly, and that it probably wasn’t normal for a kid to have to remind their dad to do something as simple as eat, and that it was probably not normal for your father to get trapped inside his own head for hours, or even days at a time, but that doesn’t even matter. It doesn’t matter because you never left me! You’ve always been there for me, despite the fact that it was so hard for you and you never stopped trying!”

“Okay,” I finally conceded in a whisper, my throat suddenly feeling tight. Joanne’s eyes were still overly bright, and she stood there in silence for a moment, just biting her thumbnail before it became clear that she couldn’t take it anymore.

Screenshot-356

“You know what?” she announced caustically, kicking over her chair in frustration and causing me to jump yet again. “FUCK my biological mother because she’s the reason why you’re like this in the first place! SHE’S the reason why I had to take care of you. SHE’S the reason why you had to—to numb yourself out to the world! SHE’S the reason for everything shitty that has ever happened to this family and I HATE HER for it. I HATE HER! I HATE HER! I HATE HER!” she shrieked, angry tears escaping her eyes.

Screenshot-360

“Joanne, STOP!” I finally shouted, standing up as well. I had never seen my daughter this way—never. I’d never even heard her curse, despite the fact that Candice and I had accidently let more than the occasional word slip when she was a kid, and now—this was ridiculous. “Just…just stop!” I pleaded, lowering my voice. “None of it was her fault. She didn’t force me to do any of that. She was—”

Screenshot-354

“-a terrible woman who LEFT US ALL, thereby leaving irreparable consequences that we still deal with today!” Joanne interjected angrily, brushing her hair out of her face in annoyance. “I hate that woman!”

Screenshot-366

“Joanne Madeline Winters—” I began with gritted teeth, quickly losing my patience, but then stopped when I saw the stricken look on my daughter’s face.

“Madeline….Maddie. Of course,” she whispered, shaking her head and laughing bitterly. “Of course. Well then, FINE! I don’t have a middle name anymore and don’t you DARE tell me otherwise!” she shouted, and then stormed out of the room.

Screenshot-376

I stood there for a moment in shock, listening as Joanne’s heels pounded up the stairs. I considered going after her, but there was no reasoning with her when she was like this, so I stayed put, standing there and feeling completely at a loss.

I had imagined this conversation before. After all, I knew that I had to tell Joanne everything eventually. I knew because either she’d ask, or I’d just tell her because she had the right to know, but in every scenario I’d played out in my head, Joanne never reacted the way she did just now. It just wasn’t like her.

I had no idea what to say, or what to even do. Was it okay to let Joanne go on hating her biological mother? It didn’t seem like it to me. It would be like blaming the victim, and I didn’t want my daughter having that kind of attitude, but at the same time, I had no idea how to fix it.

I sighed, running a hand through my hair and then pinching the bridge of my nose. Why did everything always have to be so difficult?

Screenshot-122  Screenshot-253

I did try to talk to Joanne about Maddie after she’d calm down, but she didn’t want to hear it, shaking her head and walking away from me every time I tried to bring it up. Finally, I just dropped the subject—at least for now.

I didn’t really have a choice because Gemma, Augustus, and Tobias kept me busier than ever. Gemma and Augustus could walk now, which meant that they needed constant supervision, and they had even started talking, babbling short little sentences together and constantly trying to start “conversations” with everyone. They quickly grew distressed too if you didn’t seem to understand them.

They did, at least, get along better now though and liked to play “Peek-A-Boo” with each other, breaking out into giggles whenever one peeked at the other. It was pretty adorable, I had to admit, and those moments more than made up for any challenges that cropped up along the way.

Screenshot-263

Maybe it was to avoid me, but Joanne spent a lot more time outside of the house now, frequently going to my sister’s new house after school and spending time with her cousin, Ruth.

Kira always called me to let me know though, and well, I didn’t worry about her too much when she was there.

Screenshot-292  Screenshot-290

What did worry me was that sometimes I saw her chatting with a boy. He dropped her off at home once and my lungs had seized up when I saw the faces the two made at each other.

Sure, they weren’t actually doing anything, but it still made me sick with worry, especially since she was now rapidly approaching exactly the age I’d been when I had her. Not that I thought Joanne would follow in my footsteps, but still….

Screenshot-293  Screenshot-298

Again though, I couldn’t do much about it because life continued keeping all of us busy and soon enough baby Tobias was celebrating his first birthday.

Screenshot-599  Screenshot-630
Screenshot-308  Screenshot-312

Tobias was a serious little guy, very oddly focused on any toy you gave him as he puzzled over its shape, color, sound, or whatever it may be.

He was still just as susceptible to the tickle monster as any of our other kids though and he had the most contagious laugh of them all, even getting Gemma and Augustus to break out into giggles whenever he started laughing.

The three of them were so happy and carefree.

It made me feel guilty because I wasn’t sure if Joanne’s childhood had ever been this way. It didn’t used to bother me, because I used to think that she had grown up untroubled anyway, but now, I wasn’t so sure. I had tried so hard to be a good father to Joanne, but now I felt like I was being reminded—trying did not mean succeeding.

Screenshot-378  Screenshot-384

Screenshot-386  Screenshot-389

As I tried to figure out the best way to approach Joanne, the twin’s birthday snuck up on us and soon the dining room was filled yet again with cake and balloons. I didn’t even know it was possible to be sick of something as great as cake, but when I saw those frosted delicacies on the table I swear my stomach cried.

Screenshot-398

Gemma and Augustus were the perfect duo, always hanging out and inventing crazy games to play as they explored our massive home. You never knew where they were going to crop up either—one minute they’d be in the kitchen trying to get my mom to make them some crepes (hers were seriously perfect), and the next we’d be in a panic because we couldn’t find them anywhere, only to see that they had stuck out back to look for minnows in the small pond we had.

Screenshot-393  Screenshot-390

They did, however, not mind being separated at times, and the two of them were more than happy to see that we had decorated them their own bedrooms. Gemma had her own room, but we built Augustus’ room with the idea in mind that when Tobias was old enough he could share with his older brother.

We thought Augustus might get upset about this, but he wasn’t even a little angry, more than happy to someday have his brother with him.

“Just don’t let him have the room until you’re absolutely sure he WON’T wet the bed,” Augustus had made me promise.

“But you have separate beds!”

“UMM, SO!? Do you want to be in a room with a bed-wetter!?!?”

“Point taken.”

Screenshot-637   Screenshot-639

Although they usually hung out with each other, sometimes they just had to admit that their interests differed, so every now and then, you could see them on their own.

Gemma had really taken an interest in science—so much so that we even bought her a little chemistry set. She spent hours trying to mix up different concoctions, but it usually just ended up in an explosion…a fact which Candice wasn’t too impressed by.

Augustus, on the other hand, was into less dangerous activities, having taken an interest in painting. He did it more for the fun of it than anything else though, and the results were typically, well, interesting.

Screenshot-648

“Ah yes, I see now. Yes, brother, you are definitely going down! In fact, you’ve already lost.”

Screenshot-649

“Wait, how do you see that? I—I have lots of pieces left!”

“Still doomed…still doomed.”

Screenshot-650

“You liar! We’ve barely even started the game! DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD!”

Sigh.

Screenshot-640

While three of my children seemed to be perfectly fine and happy, Joanne still seemed off. It was like hearing the truth about her biological mother had somehow changed something within her, and I was determined to figure out a way to get through to her.

“This should at least get her talking,” I mumbled as I made a few final clicks on my laptop.

I just couldn’t go on letting Joanne think this way.

Screenshot-607

“Okay, wake up!” I said to Joanne early the next morning, clapping my hands once together loudly.

She groaned, rolling over in her bed and pulling the covers up over her head. I responded by pulling them back down, much to her frustration.

Screenshot-602

“Oh my god, what’s wrong with you!?” she cried, trying to reclaim her blankets. I couldn’t help but laugh. Joanne glanced out the window and then looked back at me, scandalized. “The sun isn’t enough UP yet!” she hissed. “Oh no, are you drunk?” she asked, suddenly looking worried.

“Jesus, no,” I said, alarmed that she’d even entertain that possibility at this point. “We’re going on a road trip.”

“A road trip?” she asked skeptically. “Where? Mom’s going to murder you for not informing her in advance.”

Screenshot-611

“She’s not going. Call this a….father/daughter bonding trip!”” I said with a grin. Joanne’s face contorted into one of pure horror.

“I take it back. You’re not drunk, you’re wasted.

“And you’re still in bed. Come on. We have a 4 hour trip ahead of us. Pack for the beach, okay? We’re leaving in 30 minutes!” I stated, hoping that my tone sounded final.

I left Joanne’s room then to wait downstairs, pacing across my living room. I’d taken a little more than my normal dose of meds this morning and still I felt anxious—wondering if she would even bother coming downstairs or not. It was a crazy, spur of the moment idea, but I knew that I would go crazier if I did nothing about this situation.

Screenshot-652

I didn’t need to worry though, because thirty minutes later Joanne was downstairs with a small bag on her shoulder, looking grumpy, but at least begrudgingly cooperative.

“Does Mom know that you’ve gone positively insane?” she asked, her eyes barely open as she trudged out the front door.

“Yup,” I said with a smile, following her out. “She thinks it’s great. Now let’s go!”

Screenshot-626  Screenshot-399

The journey to our location, Isla Paradiso, took three hours, the traffic light in these early hours of the morning. After eating the bagels we’d gotten from a drive-through along the way, Joanne fell asleep, her jacket bunched up against the window as she laid her head against it.

I let her sleep—not waking her until we reached the southern coast, where we’d have to take a boat to get to the island. Joanne followed me like a zombie, but by the time we got to the island, it was unclear that Joanne had ever been tired in the first place as she raced off the boat, squealing and jumping around in the hot, tropical air.

Seeing her that happy put my worries at ease—even if my plan to talk to Joanne didn’t work today, at least she’d have this one carefree day.

Screenshot-400  Screenshot-403

To make sure it was a perfect day I packed it full of activities, from snorkeling in the morning, to lunch on the beach, to windsailing in the afternoon.

Joanne was so happy (even though she’d fallen OFF her sail at some point), that by the time we finished up dinner and got back to the resort, she was literally singing, even attracting a few interested hotel guests who lingered nearby to listen to her.

Screenshot-414

We were toasting marshmallows around an evening campfire when I finally decided to bring up the serious conversation I’d wanted to have with my daughter in the first place.

“You know…Maddie would have been proud of the person you’ve become,” I began quietly, watching as the flames of the fire danced along the edges of my marshmallow, eager to eat it up.

Screenshot-422

“Is that what this whole trip has been about?” Joanne asked, looking up at me in annoyance.

“Don’t act like you didn’t know that,” I said, shaking my head. Joanne fell quiet, pressing her lips together. “You can’t spend your life hating her, Jo.”

“I know,” she finally said quietly, much to my surprise. She sighed, turning her marshmallow in the flames. “That’s what Oliver told me. He told me it was a waste of energy hating a ghost—that all it could accomplish was turning me into a bitter person. He…he told me that suicide isn’t an easy way out—that it’s actually more like…a last, desperate resort. I mean, I’m still kind of mad at her because it was stupid, but I don’t know,” she finished with a mumble.

Screenshot-424

“Well, he’s right,” I said quietly, an uneasy feeling curling in my gut as I remembered how much pain Maddie had been in. My throat felt tight. “And I know what you mean…I’m not exactly happy that—wait, who the heck is Oliver?” I suddenly realized, looking up at my daughter in horror.

She looked back at me and rolled her eyes, tucking her hair behind her ear. “The boy you saw me with, and yes, I know you saw him.” I pressed my lips together, but when I didn’t say anything, she just sighed. “He’s really nice, you know,” she said softly. “A sweet boy. You’ll like him.”

Screenshot-420

A sweet boy? I raised an eyebrow at Jo, but she didn’t seem to notice, taking her marshmallow out of the fire and then blowing on it gently.

That’s when I realized my own marshmallow was on fire, and I let out a shout before pulling it out and blowing on it hastily. Joanne’s eyes went wide in surprise and then she let out a cascade of giggles, literally clutching her sides as she laughed at my blackened char of a marshmallow. I sighed, scraping the marshmallow against the side of the campfire and then spearing a new, unburned one.

“Don’t worry, Dad,” she said once she’d regained control of herself. She wiped her eyes of her tears of laughter and then took a bite of her toasted marshmallow, chewing it carefully before she spoke again. “You know, despite what you believe, you did a pretty good job raising me,” she said, looking my way.

Screenshot-426

“How do you know….?”

“Because I know you, and I’m telling you now to quit worrying: you did fine.

I fell silent after that, just staring at the flames as they jumped and skirted along the logs beneath it, and as I stared, Joanne began to softly sing. The notes carried on the breeze—rising and falling with the air currents. She really did have talent, and I had no doubt that she could make a pretty impressive career out of it.

Screenshot-415

I glanced at my daughter, lost in her world, and then back at the fire, taking in a slow breath. For the first time, I was beginning to feel that those words were true.

Despite what I’d thought…I had done just fine.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A/N: GUYS, the next chapter will be the last for James! This was, however, the last ­full-length chapter, as the next chapter will be a semi “epilogue” of sorts and will be half as long as usual. Since this one was longer than usual though, it probably evens out, lol. That being said, I hope you’ll find that it wraps up James’ story well. Hope to see you all then!

Oh yes, and Tobias is named after the male protagonist in the fairly brilliant Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth.

Advertisements

21 thoughts on “Chapter 4.17: Loose Ends”

  1. Wow. This was an intense chapter!

    I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped when I read Joanne’s reaction to hearing about her mother. Though hearing a story like that would probably be hard for anyone to hear, it was just really shocking that she reacted that way since she was always such a sweetheart. I’m happy though that she isn’t going to let bitterness towards her mother stay within her. I think… I hope.

    James’ reactions to certain things had me cracking up. Like when he finally got a simbook page so that his mother could stop bugging him, and his hashtags were funny! Also with how he reacted when Joanne was talking about Oliver.

    “And I know what you mean…I’m not exactly happy that—wait, who the heck is Oliver?” XD

    It makes me glad that James’ life is really starting to look up. He certainly deserves it. And all of the kids are cute! I’m a bit shocked that they all came out with relatively light skin, when Candice is so dark skinned. Tobias is really adorable, and I noticed he has James’ nose. I always loved figuring out genetics (But look at me rambling. XD)

    It seems like Joanne would be the obvious heir choice, but we really haven’t had the chance to get to know the other kids’ personalities. And during Tamara’s generation, it seemed like Kira was the obvious choice, and then you went with James, which quite frankly, I loved his generation, and I can’t wait to read his final chapter, and find out who is going to do the music generation!

    Great chapter!!! Can’t wait to find out what happens next!

    1. Thank you so much! I had such difficulties getting everything together for this chapter (I re-read it like 48242 times), so it makes me really happy to see that you enjoyed it.

      James was just as shocked at Joanne’s reaction, but in her mind it seemed a “perfect” explanation as to why her dad is the way he is. A perfect person to pin the “blame” on, as it were. As for letting go of the bitterness….ehh *shrug* mostly, yeah…lol.

      I was actually REALLY hoping the kids would get more of Candice’s genetics, but as you can see James has some pretty dominant genes. The only thing I really saw of Candice was her eyes, which showed up in Tobias. Tobias actually originally grew up with that weird default brown-green EA color which matches NO ONE EVER in the family, so I just CASed it to Candice’s hair color in annoyance that more of her genes didn’t pass on, lol. I regret nothing >.<

      As for Generation 5, last time I went with the non-obvious choice, so this time I'll go with the obvious. ….OR WILL I!??!!? *dramatic music* …..ahem, yeah, you'll find out in like…a day or two, the last chapter is already written XD See you then!

      1. Whoever you pick for the music generation, I would be cool with! Though… For some reason, a small part of me is hoping that you pick either Augustus or Tobias! XD Though… That would ruin the whole girl/boy/girl/boy pattern you’ve got going on! XD And also, I guess the fact that with Augustus, Gemma, and Tobias, it’s a completely new, unknown personality that we are being shoved into! But getting inside Jo’s head would be pretty cool too! Grah! All the kids would be a good choice! I mean, not that my opinion matters or anything, since it is your choice… XD

        And I wanted to give my two cents on something that you said to Autumnrein:

        “Lastly, thank you! I feel like it’s come a long way too, which makes me feel even more pressured to try and write a great Gen 5! I keep having to remind myself not to pressure myself too much though because I don’t want to kill the enjoyment of writing x__x”

        There is no need for pressure! You are a really good writer! Seriously caught my attention right off the bat in generation 1. A good writer puts their heart and soul into their writing, and I can see that you have done that. I’m sure whatever story you come up with will be awesome!

        1. Thank you. I appreciate that more than you know!

          I hope that this next story will indeed be awesome 🙂 It’s honestly the generation that I’ve spent the least amount of time thinking about, as I already have ideas for Generation 6 and 7, lol. I’ll figure it out though 🙂 Thank you, again!

  2. I think I teared up a bit there. And I like the sounds of Oliver so far. He sounds like a really down to earth guy and a good person to talk to given the advice he was able to offer Jo.
    I’m really going to miss James as a character and his relationship with Candice. I think him and Reed were my favourites so far.
    I can’t wait to see who you will choose for the heir too. I wouldn’t mind seeing Jo’s story but since I am such a James and Candice fan I would love to see one of their children and how they make it in the world. I don’t know how you are able to choose honestly. The characters in your story seem like they are such an investment and it would be hard to let any of them out into the world and never see what they’re up to again.
    You’re writing has really come such a long way too since the beginning of the legacy. I can’t wait for Jame’s final chapter.

    1. Oliver is definitely as Jo described him–a very “sweet boy.” Haha. He’s also pretty darn smart 😛

      I’m seriously going to miss James as well–he and Reed are also my favorites, and it was hard to give up Reed too. Honestly, I think that’s why this chapter, and the little Epilogue coming up, have been so hard for me to write. I hate the idea that this generation is coming to an end, but I know that there’s honestly not much story left to tell, except to develop the kids, which is their story and not his necessarily. This means I do have to let him go, but it sucks! That being said, James and Candice will continue to make appearances–especially as the two of them are still so young. This is the first generation where the story ends before the heir reaches Adulthood o_O They’re both still young adults, albeit only for a few more days. In fact, they’ll be about “35” or so when Joanne becomes a young adult herself–crazy!

      I feel like the Generation 5 heir is both incredibly easy, and incredibly hard to choose. It’s obvious who should be heir, and who I have the most developed for, but I am also a HUGE James/Candice fan (they’re even my desktop wallpaper–I swear I’m obsessed), so that’s what suddenly makes it difficult.

      Lastly, thank you! I feel like it’s come a long way too, which makes me feel even more pressured to try and write a great Gen 5! I keep having to remind myself not to pressure myself too much though because I don’t want to kill the enjoyment of writing x__x

      James’ final “chapter” will probably be out tomorrow or so–it’s actually pretty much done, just wanted to space out the posts a bit and look over it once more.

      1. I can’t wait to read his final chapter! But you are right too. Don’t rush and remember to enjoy writing the chapters but the way you describe it I don’t think you have to worry about killing the enjoyment. It sounds more like excitement to me with so many ideas you can’t wait to get them down on paper lol. I think it’s when you want a break you need to remember not to be hard on yourself 🙂

  3. I was a pretty annoyed with Joanne’s reaction to the story of her biological mother. It was so unlike her. I kept expecting that Candice would step in at some point and defend Maddie, too. I actually thought it was pretty funny that James was so worried about Joanne’s reaction that she arranged this little vacation and then she had already figured things out due to her friend Oliver telling her it would make her bitter. How typical as a parent of a teen to get all worked up over something your teen is doing and then find out that they completely changed their mind because their friends told them to.

    I see Joanne as the heir as she is the most developed, but it would be interesting to see the other children’s point of views, too.

    1. Agreed! I actually even had difficulties writing Joanne’s dialogue because it felt like such a twisted reaction to such news, but from her point of view her dad has been suffering ever since she can remember, and she’s never really understood why, so when she heard what her biological mother had done, she immediately put two and two together and placed the blame on her. Her brain needed an answer–and that was the one she found. Of course, we know well that her reaction was unwarranted and untrue…and so did Oliver!

      I’m glad that you saw that by the way XD James did worry about it like crazy when hey, lo and behold she’d already figured it all out with the help of her friend.There is actually a lot going on in Joanne’s head that James is not aware of though, being that she’s a teen now and James has been busy with Augustus, Gemma, and Tobias anyway =O

  4. It’s apparent that the messed up childhood Jo had really toughened her up. Furthermore, she, in a way, learned what is and isn’t mature by simply helping out her dad. I still think James is really dumb, for a lot of reasons, but especially because he never brought up Maddie before. It’s almost inhumane for him not to have told her before. Just thinking of all the crap Jo must have gone through wondering about her mom (before Candice) gives me chills. Oh well James.

    Looking forward to the next Gen..

    -Panda

    1. Joanne certainly did have to take on a lot of responsibilities that children normally wouldn’t have to–like taking care of her dad and always having to worry about him in general. Luckily, she had some resources that really helped her out in this, which I think helped her rocky childhood at least not be quite so damaging (but it has had its effects o_O)

      James never brought up Maddie before because 1.) It was painful to do so and 2.) He didn’t know how to explain suicide to a child. However, as soon as Joanne was old enough, he should have talked to her, instead of her friends bringing it up instead and well, leading to this blow up x_x

      I hope you enjoy the next generation, but I should probably warn you that things about Joanne will frustrate you as well XD

      Thank you a ton for reading and commenting! ^_^

  5. This chapter was very uncomfortable for me in a very personal way. My real name is Joanne Margaret and I was raised exclusively by my father after child services removed me from my mother’s care at the age of 3. Her name is Margaret and at the age of 16, I had a brutal argument with her and I stopped using her middle name. Over ten years later, I still don’t speak to the woman and I have a lot of issues because of that. Sound familiar? As such, I feel a strong kinship with Joanne, and I understand the betrayal she must feel knowing that the one person who is supposed to love you unconditionally abandoned her. Luckily, she has a loving father and stepmother to help her work through it, and Oliver is right. Holding on to that bitterness and hate isn’t good for her.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to offload all this personal RL stuff onto you, but good job at making this story so real 🙂

    As for James, he needs to let go of the guilt he feels over Jo’s childhood. She’s a strong, beautiful, talented and spirited young girl, and he did the best he could in difficult circumstances. That’s really all he could do. This daytrip was the perfect idea.

      1. OH MY GOSH. I never even noticed that so yes, that was a complete coincidence! I believe I’d simply chosen the name because I’d recently finished the series, so of course it was fresh in my mind. That’s so cool though! I’m going to pretend now that I did it on purpose, hahahaha XD XD XD

        Great observation!

    1. That does sound familiar. I do try to keep my stories as real as possible, but it’s still always surprising to me when they reflect real life–especially when they do so on such a deep level. I don’t mind at all that you shared your story with me. In fact, I thank you for doing so and find myself feeling in admiration of you because you come across to me as a really strong person.

      Joanne does feel a deep betrayal, and that’s why she reacted to this new information as strongly as she did. I know many people were taken aback by this anger, and I remember it sort of surprised me just how strongly people were taken aback by it because to me it made perfect sense that she would be upset. As you stated so well, the one person who is supposed to love you unconditionally abandoned her, and in this case, literally chose death over being with her (or at least, that’s how Joanne views it). This conflict will come up again later in Joanne’s generation. She may not be actively holding onto that bitterness and hate anymore, which is good, but deep inside this reality still hurts her as she just cannot understand, at this point, why her biological mother would have ever done such a thing.

      Ah James, yes, he worries so much that because of his mistakes he’s “damaged” Joanne in some irreparable way, but in reality he really did do the best that he could and Joanne has turned out just fine. As you’ll see, her difficult childhood was not without some negative repercussions, but it also had the result of fostering some positive ones too. We are the end result of every good and bad thing that has happened in our lives! James also forgets that Joanne is a person unto herself with her own free-will and not just the direct result of his every action. He figured it out eventually though 🙂 That day trip really was good for them both!

  6. I got a little frustrated with Joanne in this chapter because she didn’t understand Maddie, but I understand Maddie to a T, so then it felt like Joanne reminded me of those people whom I told you before used to tell me to “Smile more.” However, I know, that depression and suicidal thoughts/actions, whether you go through with it or not, is very difficult to understand for someone who has never had suicidal thoughts, so I am not holding Joanne’s confusion against her or anything like that.
    I agree with her that James did fine raising her. I think that the big mistake parents make is that they forget their children are their own people too… In the big picture, James was a much more well-behaved alcoholic than some people. The traditional story route is the alcoholic father who beats the shit out of their kid constantly, bla bla, LOL, so I really like that you didn’t make James the stereotypical alcoholic.
    Oh man, the name Tobias will always be associated in my mind with Tobias Funke from Arrested Development, even though I have seen Divergent too, LOL. I apologize. XD

    1. Joanne’s reaction and point of view is indeed very frustrating and downright ignorant really, but like you said she doesn’t get it. Having never been in that place before and having seen the impact her mother’s actions had on her dad, Joanne just cannot understand why anyone would do anything like that. From her point of view, if Maddie hadn’t committed suicide, her father never would have gone through all of that in the first place. Of course, whether this is actually true or not is hard to say, but regardless this belief makes her feel incredibly angry toward Maddie. Luckily though she does have Oliver who talked her down from her anger a bit; or at least enough for her to consider the possibility that maybe there’s more to this than she initially assumed. I can’t say too much more on the matter though because it’ll spoil upcoming events, so I’ll just leave it at that for now….

      Thank you! That was actually done purposefully because although the type most heard about and depicted in the media is the “angry, abusive alcoholic” the more common reality is typically a lot more subtle and insidious. Therefore I really wanted to depict that image, rather than the one we so typically see. Plus, it seemed to fit in with James’ character much more–he has never been a violent man, and though you do see some increased hostility from James when he’s drinking, that’s more a result of general decreased inhibition than an actual increase in violent tendencies. Actually, the withdrawal symptoms made him much more irritable/aggressive than the actual drinking did, lol, but still it wasn’t enough to push him to that level.

      Oooo I’ve never actually watched Arrested Development so I’m not actually sure who you’re talking about :X I did just Google him though and I laughed just seeing his face, LOL. No worries XD

  7. In response to Jamess and Candice’s SimBook selfies: #SheReallyIsGorgeous #YouSeemToBeDoingItTheRightWay

    I didn’t expect Joanne to react that way at all, though, considering how lots of people don’t understand depression/suicide and either blame the person for not trying to be happy or blame themselves for not being able to make them happy, I’m not completely surprised. I wish that she knew that she wasn’t the cause of her mother’s death, that her mother wanted to love her, but her mind kept her from and instead drove her to a place where things were so dark, so dire, so hopeless there was no other alternative. I hope that she can reconcile, it’s horrible spending your life hating someone… I do think, though, that if James had brought up Maddie prior to Jo finding the photograph, even if the conversation would have been incredibly painful, she might have responded better, since she spent fifteen years of her life clueless as to who her biological mother was and the only reason she found out anything about her was her grandmother’s old possessions… At least James didn’t lie about her death, when Jo found out about the truth, her reaction probably would have been even more explosive.

    And aww, James sure has some adorable children! I’ve always forgotten to mention how gorgeous Jo is, just like her (step-)mom. And I, like LateNight, automatically associate the name Tobias with Arrested Development, which is a great show (I think it’s on Netflix).

    1. James: #IKNOWRIGHT #IamaLuckyMan #GladToHearIt….. #Hashtag

      XD

      It is so difficult, at this point in time, for Joanne to understand her mother’s actions. Having not experienced these issues herself and having grown up watching, as she views it, the “consequences” of her mother’s choices, she just cannot understand how her mom ever could have done it. Thus, in Joanne’s eyes, since she doesn’t understand the deep pain and suffering her mother went through, she sees her act as selfish. It sucks and I admit writing out parts of that reaction made me really uncomfortable, because of course it was not at ALL Maddie’s fault, and here Joanne is pinning all the blame on her and then literally hating her for it. She does seem to be trying not to hold a grudge now, but it’s difficult for her. Let’s hope that she’ll truly come to understand–her mother really did want to love her 😦

      I think Joanne would have responded better too had James brought it up earlier, but it wasn’t even really until this point in time that he even felt he could address it since he was dealing with his own demons. Not that that excuses him really because he still should have said it, but as it is, well…there went the explosion. Again though she’s….trying….it just really is difficult for her to wrap her mind around.

      James has amazingly adorable children. Wait until you see them in Generation 5 when they’re teens and such! Such gorgeous kids, but how could they not be with two such good looking parents? lol. That being said, I’ve always thought Joanne was painfully adorable too. I’ve really gotten lucky with genetics thus far!

      LOL apparently I need to check out that show XD

  8. Huh, Joanne’s reaction was unexpected, but definitely understandable.
    Ooooooh Oliver huh? Inntteerrreeesstttiinnnggg
    The twins are so cute! I think I might prefer Augustus of the two though XD
    Only one more chapter till we say goodbye to James? Awww, alright then >_> (then again I think his story is pretty much complete :D)

    1. Joanne’s reaction was perceived as more unexpected than I expected it would have been honestly, if that even made sense, haha. That’s probably because I always knew this was what Joanne was thinking though. It fact, it just made sense to me that she would feel bitterness and resentment toward her mother. After all, Joanne grew up understanding that her father was sick, but people have the tendency to want to place blame somewhere….and, after discovering her story, her biological mother became the so-called “perfect target.” After all, if Maddie had never killed herself, certainly her father wouldn’t have started drinking? Certainly he wouldn’t have been so miserable? So in pain? Certainly she would not have lived the childhood that she did….?

      Joanne forgot though, in her targeting, what it must have been like for her mother to resort to such an extreme measure. She didn’t even begin to envision what kind of place a person might be in to even seriously consider such a thing…and Maddie spent the majority of her life in that painful, dark place. So of course, Joanne’s targeting was completely misguided and wrong, but she definitely didn’t see that at first. All she saw was an explanation for everything she, her father, and Candice had endured.

      Haha, yessssss, Oliver 😉 Joanne has a someone special who you’ll soon meet! XD

      I. Love. The. Twins. LOVE. Which is lucky for you, because it means you’ll definitely be seeing more of them 😉

      Yup! The next one is the last! I often have this weird feeling that I ended this generation too soon, but I can never actually think of what else I would have written, you know? As you said, his story is pretty much complete.

So What Did You Think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s