The Missing Epilogue from SEND

Posted Jul 3 2013, 12:45 am in

Since SEND was released in 2012, readers always ask me about that ending. What happened to Dan and Julie? Did he click the button or not?  I deliberately left the ending open because I wanted readers to decide Dan’s fate. The story was about forgiveness. Dan already earned Julie’s forgiveness. But was that enough for him? Ultimately, he needed to be able to forgive himself. I don’t think he could at that point in his life. So I gave you a hopeful ending, an ending that lets you decide if Dan’s ready to move on.

But many readers complained, so here is the ending I would give Dan, the missing epilogue in Dan’s own words. Enjoy!

 

Ten years later

 

My stomach clenched in a tight fist while I stared into the dark abyss of faces in the dim auditorium and waited for my cue. No matter how many speeches I made, nerves attacked me like it was that day in speech class all over again. But enduring the few million butterflies drilling holes in my stomach lining was a small price to pay for work I loved, work that mattered.

I never planned on making speeches for a living. I thought practicing law was what I’d wanted to do with my life. But something was always missing. I never admitted that until Holtsville High School invited me back to address the students on bullying. Seems I was something of an expert on the subject and school administrators wanted the students to hear it straight from the source.

I refused at first. I was in a good place. I’d finished law school and passed the bar exam in New York, where my parents still lived. I was engaged to a great girl. I had Kenny under control. I didn’t want to rehash the past and all its drama. Or its memories. I touched the medallion I still wore under my shirt and swallowed down the burn in my throat. Marla had never understood why I still wore Julie’s Christmas gift. She returned the diamond ring I’d given her about three weeks into our engagement. Okay, that’s not entirely true. She found the other ring in the back of my underwear drawer.

My grandmother’s ring.

She’d never asked why I hadn’t given her that ring. She’d glared at the medal around my neck, twisted off the new ring, dropped it into my hand, and walked out.

I didn’t bother trying to stop her.

Maybe it was guilt or depression but that’s when I’d agreed to speak at my old high school. I stood up on the same stage where Paul, Lisa, Julie, and I had delivered our speech that day in senior year. Funny how small it seemed. I told the kids everything – even showed them my scars. The principal shook my sweaty palm and asked if I’d consider visiting all the middle schools in the district, and I’d said yes, suffering through the red-line levels of anxiety every time.

A few weeks after that speech, I got an email. And sobbed like a two-year-old in Brandon’s arms after I read it. Brandon and I are still buds. He was the one who told me this was what I was meant to do. He incorporated me, set up a website, and just like that, DEI – Dan Ellison, Inc. – was born. Paul and Lisa stuck around, too. They’re married now. I’m god-father to their son, a chubby-cheeked infant who looks at me like I’m Santa Claus.

They named him Liam.

They’re partners in DEI. Paul is a psychologist who specializes in child development. He writes my content. Lisa handles our books. After three, almost four years in existence, DEI was a solid business venture. Our bookings extended well into the following year, despite the high fee we charged. I donated a good portion of that fee to various organizations that help prevent the crime I committed. If a school can’t pay, I speak anyway, even though it makes Brandon break out in hives.

And here I was, three – almost four years later, standing on a stage in an auditorium in my old school district, where it all began, Kenny muttering Here we go again. I ignored him and took a few deep breaths to settle my nerves. It helped. Okay, not really. Kenny had started talking again soon after that first school speech. I knew I needed to tell my doctor so she could adjust my medication, but the truth is… I kind of missed him.

You complete me, dude.

I choked and hastily covered it up with a cough.

From the side of the stage, I scanned the rows I could see in the low light, marking faces, looking for the one I hoped to reach. It had become a tradition for me at every gig to find and speak to that one child who’d rethink his own behavior and stop before he repeated my crime. There’d been seventy-two since that first email that had made me bawl like a baby. Seventy-two children who’d contacted me over the last several years, thanked me for changing their lives – even saving them. I couldn’t believe I was saving lives now! I wish–

No. I had a good life. I had no right to wish for anything. Still, my hand crept to my neck, where Julie’s medal still hung. I’d never taken it off.

The faces were familiar, even though I didn’t personally know these children. Since starting Dan Ellison, Inc., I’d seen the same expressions on dozens of faces, in dozens of schools, in dozens of towns across the country, at assemblies just like this one. The mocking grins on the popular kids’ faces. The rolling eyes and giggles from the air-heads. The rapt attention and pain-filled eyes of the ones who were already victims. The stony, silent glares of the ones who think they know it all already, but grace you with their presence because it beats sitting in class.

I tugged at the knot of my tie and wiped my sweaty hands down my suit jacket. The mid-May preview of summer heat in an auditorium that was not air-conditioned had me wishing for blizzards. Igloos. Hockey games. Anything but a room full of eighth graders.

“…please welcome Dan Ellison.”

A polite round of applause echoed around the auditorium as I took the stage with Kenny dogging my heels at the Sagamore Middle School, in the Long Island suburb of Holtsville. I would be on Long Island for the rest of the month, making the middle school rounds. Holtsville High School was only a few miles down the road. I’d thought about taking a little side trip, see if Julie still lived in town.

Dude. She asked us not to.

I hadn’t forgotten. Just wishing out loud.

With a deep breath, I stepped to the podium, shook the principal’s hand, and smiled at the kids. Show time. Just one, God. Please. I touched my medal and prayed.

“Hi, everyone. Before we get started, I’d like to do a quick survey. Who has a computer or tablet?”

All hands went up. Not surprising.

“Excellent. Okay, one more.” I took my cell phone out, held it high. “How many of you have one of these? Go on, take them out, let me see them.”

Among stifled giggles and nervous glances at the teachers seated among them, the kids revealed the phones they were not permitted to take to school, but did so anyway.

“Wow. Pretty much everybody. Impressive. Okay.” My smile faded. “Last question. How many of you know that, in your hands, you hold one of the greatest weapons mankind has ever devised?”

I waited for the expected snickers to subside, but knew I had their attention now.

“I should know. I killed someone once with one of these.” I held my own phone high again and thought of Liam Murphy.

You need new material.

“I didn’t mean to hurt anybody. I’m not evil. I was just like you – trying to be cool and having some fun. I didn’t know how much power I had. You guys are in eighth grade, right? That’s why I’m here. To tell you all about a mistake I made when I was in eighth grade. It’s a mistake I can’t undo, can’t make right, no matter how many times I say I’m sorry. Believe me, I’ve tried. So now, I talk to kids so you won’t screw up like I did.”

“Dork.” A smart aleck called out and the kids within ear shot laughed.

I glanced left, searching for the heckler, but my attention was caught instead by a good-looking pair of legs. They were attached to a woman standing alone at the side of the auditorium, her hands clutching a manila folder. She was half in shadow and I couldn’t see much of her. Just those great legs. But there was something about her, something that made my spit dry up.

A loud cough shook me out of my reverie. My eyes shot to the floor just off-stage, where my team stood. Brandon, Paul, and Lisa, my trusted friends. Paul was rolling his hands, urging me to get back on track.

I sipped some water, swallowed hard, and picked up where I’d left off.

I told the kids my story, ran through the various cyber-bulling laws that now existed, explained the sex offense list, announced my plans for the anti-bullying campaign I’d planned to set up before heading to my next speaking engagement and concluded with a question and answer session. When I looked to the side again, the girl was gone.

After the applause, I strode from the stage. My little entourage was waiting for me with grins and high fives, but I shook my head.

“The woman with the great legs…did you see her?”

Lisa and Paul exchanged a grin. Brandon cleared his throat and led me outside the auditorium and indicated an office. “Don’t kill me, Ken.” He waved his hand at the door. Printed on it was a name. Julie Murphy, Guidance Counselor.

Sweet! Kenny said.

I was thinking more along the lines of Holy God in Heaven, but “sweet” worked well, too.

Julie Murphy.

My heart pounded, my breath kept getting stuck in my lungs. Would she want to see me? Would I be able to see her and survive it? I didn’t know, I didn’t know what to do. I whirled to Brandon, Lisa, and Paul. “Is it her? We should go. She won’t want to see me.”

Lisa shook her head. “No, Ken, it’s okay. She hired us.”

She hired us? Why would she do that, after all these years? Not a single call, not even an email. Why now? A dozen different things ran through my mind at once. What did she look like? Was she okay? Would she be happy to see me? Did she still think about me, about us? The more questions I asked, the more I wanted to run – fast and far.

Man, you’re not running anywhere. Julie hired us. She took a step. Now, it’s our turn. Since the events of that day on the beach, Kenny and I have been doing a lot less head-butting and more making the best of our weird situation. When he was right, I listened to him.

With my heart in my throat, I pushed through the door. Kenny did a victory dance in my mind. Julie stood behind her desk, gold hair tucked into a twist at her nape, purple glasses to match her dress. The Bag I’d given her for Christmas during our senior year was on its own chair beside her and I grinned because she was the same, exactly the same. So many years had passed. And because she was the same, I searched her face, her eyes for the old anger, the old pain. I wanted to pick her up and spin her in circles but she only stood there. Watching. My grin faded and I nodded stiffly.

“Julie.”

“Dan.”

Hearing her call me by my old – new? name felt so damn weird, my anxiety doubled. I really wanted to sink into the guest chair by her desk before I collapsed, but she didn’t invite me to sit. Finally, I couldn’t stand the tension another minute, so I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “I’m sorry. I had no idea you worked here or I’d have told Brandon to turn down this booking.” I took a step back and her hand came up to stop me.

“Wait!”

I waited.

“It’s been a long time.” She smiled faintly.

I tried to force my body not to react to that, but the smile spread anyway. “You could have seen me any time. You didn’t have to hire me.”

She nodded. “Yeah, but I wasn’t sure you wanted to see me.”

This time, I didn’t wait for an invitation. I sank into the chair before my legs abandoned me. “Julie, I never stopped wanting to see you –“

She held up a hand and I shut up.

“Dan, I — sorry. I should call you Ken now, right?” She smiled weakly. “I had to see you. To apologize to you. I know you probably felt abandoned-“

I started to speak, but again, she stopped me. “No. Please. Just let me say this before you react. I… I didn’t mean to hurt you. I thought I was protecting you. I don’t hold you responsible for what happened with my father. I’ve forgiven you for my brother and I’ve forgiven my dad for what he did.”

She watched me, looked closely for any sign that I was still scrubbing blood off my hands like Lady Macbeth. Pangs of guilt when I thought about Liam, what he might have accomplished, frequently plagued me. But the crushing and crippling weight was gone. Julie had done that for me with a medal in a gift box.

Liar. Dr. Phillips did that for you with intensive therapy.

Okay. But Julie helped.

She came around the desk, leaned a hip against it.

“Dan – uh, Ken, I need to ask you something, something important. I need you to be honest with me.”

I could only nod. I’d give her whatever she asked.

“When you look at me, what do you see?” She lifted her eyes to mine at the end of that question and the words poured out of my mouth before I could think twice.

Gold hair, blue eyes. “Sun and sky. Strength and softness.” She’d done it. She’d grown up and become the counselor she’d always wanted to be, without turning in on herself, growing bitter as her father had done. I was impressed. Awed, really. And yet, totally unsurprised because her spirit was one of the reasons I loved her. “I see you, Julie. You.”

Julie’s not over us.

My jaw dropped at Kenny’s statement. He was right. He had to be right.

Julie searched my face for some clue that I’d lied, but every word was pure truth. She swallowed hard, sighed, and then smiled. “You asked me if I could ever see you as anything more than my brother’s bully. But the truth is, you couldn’t see yourself as anything more than that. You asked me how I could forgive if I couldn’t forget, but you were the one who could never forget.”

I nodded, my face burning. “I never did. I never will.” I tugged my medal out from under my shirt.

“You kept it.” Julie reached out, touched the medal, smiled halfway.

“Of course.”

“I didn’t give that to you so you’d never forget what you did. I gave it to you because I knew you never would. I just always wanted you to remember you were forgiven.”

“It’s been…” I drew in a breath and blurted out the truth. “Oh, God. Julie, it’s been a source of constant comfort. Whenever I remembered, got too overwhelmed, lost confidence or wanted to pull out the razor blades,” I paused and smiled for a second. So did she. “I would feel this chain around my neck and remember everything, remember you.”

“You thought of me?”

A laugh nearly escaped. Not a day goes by when I didn’t. “Julie, I tried to… move on. Get over you. I dated.” I grinned, rolled my eyes. “A lot. I met someone I thought was the one. We talked about getting married after we got our degrees. And then, I let her walk away.”

Julie’s face was calm. I’d seen that look before. So I looked at her neck where the vein pulsed wildly, the only outward sign that she was not just tense, but ready to blow. “Right. Marla.”

My eyebrows shot up. “How-“

She waved her hand, impatient. “I kept in touch with Lisa and Paul. Why would you let her just walk, Dan?”

Kept in touch or kept tabs on me? I frowned, gulped loudly, took her hands in mine and lifted my shoulders. “She wasn’t you.”

Her eyes went wide and her mouth opened, but I plowed on before she could speak, determined to push through the pressure growing in my chest. When I walked out of this office, it would be with Julie at my side. I swear, it would. “Julie, I loved you then, I love you now, and I’ll love you until I die, so please, no games. I’m begging you, tell me why you brought me here?”

Julie took in a deep breath, slowly let it out. “I want to be with you. I don’t care about anything else. I know I’m a constant reminder of… of your past… but I think—“

My hands shook, my heart swelled, a lump formed in my throat. I tugged on her hands, still in mine, pulled her closer. “Julie, please just tell me – does this mean you love me?”

“Yeah, it does. I never stopped. What’s your answer?”

Dude, I swear, I’ll rip your colon out through your nostrils if you don’t say yes.

I leaned in, breathing deeply, and Jesus, she even smelled the same. “Um. Before I answer, you should know something about me.”

Her eyes went wide but she waited.

“I… well, the thing is, um. I’m uh… crazy.”

Julie thought about it for a minute and then nodded. “Oh. Right. You’re still talking to Kenny?”

This time, my eyes bugged. “You knew?”

She shrugged. “Of course. Kind of hard to hide it. I talked to Paul about it once. And for the record, schizophrenia doesn’t mean you’re crazy.”

I sat, stunned.

She dropped to her knees beside my chair. “Dan, I know everything. I know what you did. I know what happened to you. I know how you’ve tried so hard to fix the things you broke. It took me a while to face my part in all this and for that, I’m sorry. I tried to get over you because I knew I wasn’t enough for you.”

“Julie, no—“ She snapped her hand up and I shut my mouth.

“Don’t deny it. You know that’s the truth.”

She’s right, man.

I covered my face. When I was eighteen and so in love with her I thought I’d explode from the strength of it, I couldn’t believe my luck, my fortune, and kept waiting for the inevitable reversal I thought I truly deserved.

“You needed to punish yourself so I—“ She took my hands, squeezed. “I had to let you. I begged Lisa and Paul to never tell you I’d been in touch. But the truth is, I couldn’t let it go — let you go. After my father died –“

“What? When did that happen?”

“A few years ago.”

“I’m sorry.” I offered. The words tasted hollow.

“It was hard, Dan. All that tension and blame between us. He was sick for a long time and he suffered. He died just when I found out you were engaged and I knew I’d been wrong to walk away from you, that I blew it. If you and Marla hadn’t broken up, I probably would have crashed your wedding.” She tried to laugh.

“Julie, I never proposed to Marla. She just assumed we’d get married and I never bothered to –“ I didn’t finish the sentence. That was the whole problem. I never bothered to.

“So you’re over her?”

I nodded. I hadn’t thought about Marla in months.

“Dan, I left because I can’t bring Liam back. I can’t change time for you. I thought forgiving you would be enough, but it wasn’t. For a long time, I thought that’s what you needed from me – that was all you needed from me. But then Lisa and Paul and Brandon kept me up to date on you and I started to wonder. I started to hope I’d been wrong.”

A tear rolled down her face and onto our hands, still clasped, but I knew she had to get this out so I stayed quiet.

“After my dad died, it hit me how many years he’d wasted being bitter and hateful and I – Jesus,” she dropped her head into her hands. “I don’t want to be him. I don’t want to die like that, Dan. If there’s a chance, even a tiny one, that you can look at me without regret, I’ll take it. And if you don’t want to be with me, I’ll understand, but I have to know.”

Say something, you idiot!

I tugged her hands away from her face and pulled her into my lap. “Yes. Then, now and always, yes, I want to be with you.”

I’d spent every day of my life since I was thirteen performing penance for what I’d done to Liam Murphy. I’d spent a lot of those years wishing I could undo what was past, what was done. And now, his sister sat in my lap, looking at me with love in her eyes. It hit me then that I wasn’t thirteen years old anymore. When she lifted her hands, tangled them in my hair, I wanted to giggle and sob at the same time. I didn’t have to lie, I didn’t have to pretend. I lowered my head and kissed her and it was like a bookmark that said this is your spot. This is where you left off. Only this time, I could be – I am the man Julie thought I was, the man Julie deserved.

 

14 Comments

Comments

14 responses to “The Missing Epilogue from SEND”

  1. Linda Grimes says:

    That is the perfect epilogue for SEND, IMO. Love it! 🙂

  2. Redcatlady says:

    There’s only one thing missing: Dan would’ve needed to somehow get off the sex offender registry in order to go to law school. Somebody pointed that out in the Goodreads reviews. You might revise the Epilogue a little bit to reflect that, but otherwise, I liked it very much.

    • Patty Blount says:

      Good point! He’d have been on the list until 23 (it was for 10 years and he was 13 at the time he was sentenced).

  3. […] those of you who don’t know this, here’s the missing epilogue of Send, which made me cry again. I did like the open ending in the book, but I loved finding out what […]

  4. Katie Pasko says:

    I am a student going to school, I have just read this book and I found your website making my christmas list. I am a writer myself working on a three book series and you inspire me so much!!! I love all of your books and all of them (apart from send(Because I already own it)) are on my Christmas list.

    • Patty Blount says:

      I’m so excited to hear this, Katie! Thanks for reading my work. There is no greater thrill than readers like you who me tell me you love my stories 🙂

  5. Trisha says:

    PLEASE MAKE A SEQUEL SOON I REALLY WANT TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!! (sorry if i sound angry,I just really want a sequel.This is the best book I have ever read,I have never been so glued to a book before