Happy Endings and Norilsk

Following my post about Great Beginnings a couple of days ago, I find myself thinking more about the endings of books. I've just finished reading Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger and that certainly had a spectacular twist at the end but I got the feeling that some of the following chapters had been done at the insistence of her publishers to tie provide "closure" for the reader. They came across as rather a rushed afterthought and I think the author, like me, would have rather closed the book at page 442 and leave the reader reeling and guessing than throw in some happy endings.

My second book, A World Away, left a big unanswered "life or death" question at the end, and much of the fanmail I had was along the lines of "I loved your book but did they die in the crash?" People seem not to like unresolved issues or loose ends. As a result, the third book in the series (as yet unpublished) includes a small aside which suggests that the answer is yes, the bad guys were killed in the car crash. And no loose ends at all.

So I was naturally uninterested at first in a short story competition a friend suggested I enter. Organised by the Stephenie Meyer group on Facebook, the challenge was to write a short story based on Jacob and Renesmee ten years after the end of Breaking Dawn. I rather like the end of Breaking Dawn the way it is, and didn't see any need to speculate on the exact nature of permanance of that happy ending. However, a dinner table discussion about unpleasant Russian towns and the realisation that Jacob and Renesmee's relationship would change dramatically from child and protector to romance rekindled my interest in the subject. I wrote the story, and today I entered it into the competition. And I'm pasting it below. (If you haven't read the entire Twilight Saga it won't make much sense, sorry.)

Norilsk
by Anna Jones Buttimore

I remembered him. I remembered him in the same way that I remembered my mother looking horribly damaged but elated, or the explosion of relief when the fearful red-eyes had slunk away into the forest. Memories that were as brief and hazy as the last ethereal wisps of summer cloud that dissipated into the bright sunshine, but brought with them the same soul-stirring warmth. Memories of him stirred in me feelings of elation and anticipation. I was overwhelmingly happy to see him.
He was tall, far taller than me, and his burnished skin, so incongruous in this place, stretched and rippled across his taut muscles, glowing almost as much as mine in the weak winter light. His brown eyes matched my own and regarded me with a curious mixture of overwhelming devotion and uncertain suspicion. I felt a moment of alarm. Had it been too long? Did he not recognise me? Had I been wrong to go away?
“No,” my father said gently, hearing my thoughts. “We had to go. Jacob agreed.”
I felt bitterness and blame fighting in my chest. The truth was I had to go. They might have stayed in Forks but for me. The beautiful, devoted newlyweds who didn’t age, with the child who aged enough for both of them. Without me they would have enjoyed maybe three or four more years in the home they loved, surrounded by the family who were devoted to them. With me they had had to keep moving. Always cold, dark, dreary places. Alaska first, then north Wales, and finally here to Norilsk.
Forks, I remembered, had soaring forests that added a green haze to the enveloping mists. Wales had stunning mountains and ancient castles. Norilsk was bleak; the temperature rarely rose above freezing, the population suffered from heavy metal poisoning from the nickel mines, and during winter the sun rarely made an appearance at all. That suited my parents just fine; I craved warmth and light.
Jacob had understood that I had to be kept moving, kept hidden, kept safe. I remembered that he had told my father he could not come with us because he needed to stay with his pack. I remembered that I didn’t need my father’s mind reading ability to know that this was not true, that he was making an excuse to step aside so that my parents and I could be a family, just us, for as long as my childhood might last. I remembered also that I didn’t need Uncle Jasper’s ability either to feel the waves of sorrow and despair coming from Jacob. Those memories too seemed far away and as difficult to grasp as flowing water.
But now I was fully-grown, and Jacob, the warmth and light I craved, had come to me. He stood on the open porch of our isolated home, the barren snowy landscape laid out behind him as far as the distant Yenisey river. He was bare-chested and bare-footed, from which I surmised with delight that he had travelled from the station in wolf form.
I could not help but be aware of every part of him, every restless movement, from the bobbing of his adam’s apple as he swallowed nervously to the shifting of his weight from one bare foot to the other and the long, strong arms which hung pendulously at his sides, their fists clenching and unclenching as he tried to ease his anxiety. He was extremely striking, of course, but that was almost incidental to my feelings, as though I would have felt the same irresistible pull toward him even if he had been in wolf form. I should probably feel nervous too, I suspected, given that I had been brought back to Jacob to marry him, but I remembered him well enough that I could never be afraid of being with him. I wanted to be with him. I loved him already, and suspected I had since the day of my birth.
I heard my mother’s tender voice reassuring me. “Nessie, go ahead.”
Without a backward glance I did as she suggested. I took a step forward, through the front door of our comfortable home, towards this man who seemed to draw me like a magnet, seemed to mean so much to me. My betrothed. How was it that he had imprinted on me and yet I found myself so captivated, so fixated, that I had dreamed of him every night over the last ten years? This day had long been the focal point of my existence and I knew that in the same way the short centuries were delineated with BC and AD, for me my life would forever be divided into Before and After Jacob.
“Rensemee?” Jacob breathed, in a voice I could worship.
Close enough at last, I laid a hand on his hot chest and showed him, as quickly as possible, the last ten years of my life and my own joy at being with him again. I wanted to get the formalities over.
“I’ll have to tell you the long way,” he apologised, his big hand covering mine.
“We have time.”
His eyes hadn’t left my face since I had opened the door. “You are so beautiful!” he exclaimed quietly, as though to himself. Perhaps that explained why he hadn’t even looked at my parents yet. Maybe he didn’t need to. I was very like them.
This close to him I could smell the musky earthiness of his blood and hear it pulsing though his veins, but it didn’t make me thirsty; it made me… something else. I wanted him, but not for nourishment of that appetite. I just wanted him. My father sensed what I was going to do the instant before I did it and I heard his nervous gasp at the same time as I stood on tiptoe and pulled Jacob’s perfect head down to mine, pressing my lips against his full ones and feeling them yield, exult, respond. As his strong arms slowly wrapped around me, lifted me off my feet and pressed me to him I rejoiced in the completeness and perfection of our love.
I had been little more than a toddler last time we had been together, and this new dimension to our relationship might have been awkward. But it wasn’t. It was right, and good, and forever. He was vital and living and beautiful; he was my Jacob and always would be.

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