Yes, the day has come.
I never intended to write this story for SO long. I was thinking that it would be a series of maybe 10 posts, at most. And yet, it grew to the beast that it is today. Almost 40 installments.
And now, it’s time to end it.
Last week, you all had to make the decision: would Kate stay and work with Eli, or would she leave and start a life elsewhere? The response was very much in favor of Kate staying, so, here is the story you asked for.
(Be sure to keep reading after the story to find out what’s in store for Tell Me a Story in the future!)
“Before I decide, I need to know something.”
“I need to know that you can be honest with me. Everything that’s led up to this – it’s all been lies. I know that you’ve made decisions you felt you had to, but I can’t be with…” I paused, reconsidering my words, “I can’t work with someone who’s always hiding things from me. If that’s how things are going to be, I can’t stay.”
“You need to know that you can trust me.” I nodded and watched as he scratched the side of his face, stared at me, then exhaled a long, slow breath, before quietly saying, “Thomas Granville.”
“My name is Thomas Granville.”
My stomach twisted. Even his name wasn’t real. He reached for my hand, then hesitated.
“Officially, Thomas Granville died. Years ago. If certain people found out that wasn’t the case, well, things wouldn’t be looking good for me. I realize telling you my real name may not make you want to trust me, but it means I trust you. Quite literally, with my life.”
“Why? Why trust me?”
“I’ve watched you, Kate. I’ve rarely met someone so genuine and fiercely loyal to those you care about. It’s a rare quality, one deserving of trust.”
My thoughts wandered to Meera, the friend who benefited from that loyalty for so many years. My loyalty felt more like blind naivete at the moment, not a quality I was feeling particularly proud of.
“I need more than that. More than you trusting me. More than a name. If I’m going to stay, I need to know everything.”
Eli, or Thomas, or whoever he was, stood up suddenly, and walked back toward the room that had led us to the patio. He reemerged with something in his hands. A large manila envelope. As he returned to where I was sitting, he stood in front of me, holding the envelope within my reach. I grabbed for it, and he pulled it away. “This is everything. Everything that has happened. And a taste of what’s to come. But I need to know you’ll stay. If you can’t commit to that, then some things will have to stay a mystery.”
He set the envelope down on the lounge next to me. “I’ll give you a few minutes.”
He walked back inside, leaving me on the patio with the envelope. I picked it up, feeling the weight of it. Inside was the promise of answers, possibly answers to questions I didn’t even know I had yet. Did I really want to know?
I hugged the envelope to my chest. I did want to know. But even more, I wanted a future. No matter where I asked Eli to drop me, no matter where I was set up to start a new life, I had no vision of what that life would be.
Anything was better than the nothing I had waiting for me.
I opened the envelope and emptied the contents onto the lounge chair. I flipped through documents, names, dates, fake investigations; some information connected the dots, some raised more questions. But it was a start.
I shifted my gaze to a smaller envelope that had been inside the one I dumped. Opening it, I could see a variety of documents, among them, a passport. I opened the passport and a familiar face stared back from the photo.
“So, you’re staying?”
I turned toward Eli’s voice, seeing that he’d entered the patio again.
“Yeah. Or, I guess I should say ‘Harper Digby’ is staying?” I held up the passport with my face and new name inside.
“Yes. I was going to explain all that before you opened the envelope.”
“I get it. New mysterious life. New identity. But, uh,” I scrunched up my nose, “Harper? Really? That’s the best you could come up with?”
Eli smiled. “It’ll grow on you. Harper.”
I managed a smile in return. “Do you ever miss ‘Thomas’?”
“Not really. I didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter when it happened. But it helped me make new choices, choices I felt better about.”
Eli laughed. “That’s a long story.”
“Far as I can tell, we’ve got time.”
“I’ll make you a deal. Let me show you around the place and then we’ll take more about Thomas Granville over dinner. And the future of Harper Digby.
“Seems fair enough.”
Eli extended his hand, helping me off the lounge. We walked through the house and back out the front, where a black convertible sat in the driveway. We stepped in and as Eli started the car I asked, “Where are we anyway?”
“A small island. North of Madagascar.”
“You don’t seem terribly surprised.”
“Well, I get the feeling that this sort of thing won’t be all that shocking to Harper.”
Eli laughed. “This is true. Just don’t go changing too much. I like Kate.”
“I think you’re growing on her, too. Harper might need some convincing.”
The car rounded a corner and Eli sped up. The wind whipping around us kept us from saying anymore, but I enjoyed the silence of the drive. The winding road led us down to the beach, glowing in the early evening sun.
We arrived at a small restaurant, where Eli and I were immediately seated at a small table in the corner by the walls of glass that looked out at the ocean. He ordered something in a language I didn’t understand, then leaned back in his chair. “Where do we start, Kate?”
I was dying to know what was ahead for me. But I also knew the man sitting in front of me, the man who once was Thomas Granville was going to be huge part of that future.
“Tell me all about Thomas Granville.”
Eli took a deep breath and began. And so did the life of Harper Digby.
Maybe it wasn’t such a bad name after all.
THE END, YA’LL.
Well, sort of.
I left the story open ended. Maybe I’ll return to it someday. I haven’t decided. Even if I don’t, you get to imagine what the future holds for Harper. After all, Tell Me a Story was never really just about ME telling you a story. It was the story you all wanted me to tell.
I don’t have plans to jump into a new serial just yet, not with the sequel to The Ruth Valley Missing needing my attention.
In Sunken Treasure, Wil Wheaton talks about something called Ficlets – collaborative fiction where a writer would compose a short of no more than 1024 characters, and others would then comment on the piece, and if they desired, continue it. They could write a prequel, a sequel, whatever they liked. And then people could build off those stories if they wanted to.
That sounded like a great idea to me, and a fun thing to do until I have time for another serial.
So, who’s in for some collaborative fiction?
People can share in the comments, or if you’d like to continue the story on your blog, you can post your link in the comments once we get started.
Until then, thank you. Thank you to everyone who’s followed the story from start to finish. To those of you who discovered it partway through and stuck around. To those of you who sent me messages on weeks when I couldn’t write saying, “WHY?!?! GIVE US MORE!!”
You all are the bestest.
If you’ve been a fan all this time and still haven’t grabbed a copy of The Ruth Valley Missing, go grab one. The proceeds for February help pay for a friend’s cancer treatment (annasgreymatter.com). And if you stumbled on this in March, the proceeds are going to Kids Need to Read – a charity founded by the awesome PJ Haarsma and Nathan Fillion.