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[Note: This is a novel being presented in installments, one chapter per week, every Friday, from May 4 to August 24, 2012. The full novel will be published in its entirety in September 2012.]

Ending a story is actually one of the hardest things to do. You plan ahead, when you start writing, by creating an outline, with some key markers along the way. You know that you need to hit those markers to reach the end you have in mind. In between the markers you allow space for the story to grow organically. Sometimes this organic growth actually causes the writer to miss a key marker or two. Sometimes it shifts the direction a bit off course, but still ultimately leads to the ending that the author intended all along. Other times the natural growth that occurs within the story fundamentally shakes the whole concept the author intended. Key markers get blown to the wayside. The ending becomes unclear. It’s a hazy fraction of an idea, ducking beyond the horizon. The author becomes afraid of what it actually might be, not knowing in full, waiting to be led there by the story’s progression.

Jonathan was struggling mightily to round out his novel. He had wanted to write about the fun antics that he and his friends experienced in university. He had wanted to write a simple comedy that people could relate to and enjoy. He was not enjoying it. He could relate far too much. The problem with writing about past experiences, Jonathan was discovering, is that inevitably it also digs up old memories, positive and not so positive. Poor decisions and regrettable moments come to light and a new understanding by the author of those events happens. Jonathan didn’t look back on these stories as just silly vignettes, as he had intended at the beginning. He was now writing about past happenings that carried current weight. For all of his positing that adult life had made him miserable, Jonathan realised that he had long been experiencing misery.

 

Jon looked around the bar and saw so few familiar faces. The crowd that was on campus during summer was an entirely different bunch than in the fall. Who were these strangers? Where was Veronica?

In the corner of the bar, Jon saw a small circle of people that he had known as acquaintances. They were at the bar prematurely celebrating their graduation the next afternoon.

“Hey Jon!”

“Oh, hey, how’s it going?”

“Awesome! Are you here for the convocation tomorrow?”

“I don’t know. I’m going to be in town for a short bit and then I got to head back home for work.”

“Right on. What kind of work?”

“Off to a summer camp.”

“That should be fun.”

“Yeah, it should be. I have wanted to work at one for a full summer for a long time. Finally getting around to doing it before it’s too late.”

“Definitely! I worked at one three summers ago. Best summer of my life!”

“Wow, great to hear. I hope that works out for me too.”

“I’m sure you will have an awesome time.”

“Yeah, I hope so.”

“Is next year your last?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, don’t rush through it too fast.”

“You going to miss it here?”

“For sure. I have had an amazing time here. This town is crazy. It seems like something was always going on. There was always another adventure waiting.”

“What’s next?”

“I got a job. I’m starting in August. It’s entry level at a big company. Nothing much to begin with, but I will make fifty thousand to start and full benefits.”

“That does not sound too bad. I’d love to have a little money. I think it’s cost me fifty thousand for this education.”

“Probably all worth it though, right?”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Well, I’m getting dragged onto the dance floor with my friends now, but if I don’t see you before I head out of town, have a good one, and keep in touch.”

“Will do. Congrats again on graduating.”

“Thanks Jon. Take care of yourself.”

Jonathan stood off to the side and drank his beer. Across the bar he saw Veronica. She was looking around in all directions. It was as he had hoped; she was looking for him. Jon’s heart skipped a beat and then began to pound irregularly. There was that childish excitement, those butterflies that dance in the stomach. Veronica’s perfect face lit up in front of Jonathan. She came close and gave him the biggest hug he had ever felt. There was an extra warmness as her breasts pressed against his chest, thin layers of clothing all that laid between them.

“Hey! You are back!”

“Yeah. How are you?”

“I’m doing great.”

“That’s awesome.”

“How was your exchange?”

“It was great.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, I loved it.”

“Is it weird being back?”

“A little. When I landed at the airport my ears were overwhelmed with the Canadian accents. I had grown accustomed to various English accents. It was weird. I think I grew pretty good at being able to pick them out. Then I landed at the airport here and I was starting to pick out different Canadian accents. I was going, hey I think that guy is from Saskatchewan and those women are from southern Ontario and that couple are Anglo Montrealers. The Newfs were easy.”

“Haha, a new talent?”

“Maybe.”

“You’ve already got a few, so this could be a good one to add to your repertoire.”

“Gotta have a handy tool box.”

“Definitely.”

“What are you up to this summer?”

“Just working at an office. Nothing too exciting, you?”

“Going to work at a summer camp.”

“Oh, that should be a lot of fun. You would make a great counsellor.”

“Thanks. I hope it all works out.”

“It should.”

“I’m really glad to see you, Veronica. I really am. I’m glad you could make it down this weekend.”

“Yeah, well, I knew I had to see you. That’s why I told Eric we had to drive down this weekend.”

“Eric?”

“Yeah, my boyfriend. We’re living together. He thought it would be a good road trip to come down and see some of his graduating friends.”

There are certain moments when time almost stops, and everything slows down to emphasise the severity or importance of the situation. People who escape near death accidents swear that they can recall time slowing down and their entire life passing before their eyes. Jonathan experienced his entire life with Veronica pass by his eyes at that moment. He remembered the wine and cheese party where they meant. The first time at the bar when he charmed her with witty banter, egged on by her friends. The party when they were not officially a couple but they stood back to back in different conversation circles and let their hands meet. The discreet way that they both exited the party separately. The end. The first night they lay in bed together and her body fit perfectly next to his. The day he found out an acquaintance of his had passed away. The night they slept together for the first time. The end. The time he looked across the street and saw her leaving her apartment hand in hand with another man. The end. The cold stares as they passed each other on campus. The end. The reconciliation, when against all hurt feelings it was decided that they were better off talking to each other. The end. The misread emails. Today. The end.

“Oh, cool.”

“Did I tell you I had a boyfriend?”

“No, I don’t think you did.”

“So what was your favourite place to visit?”

“Um, probably Spain. Barcelona was amazing.”

“That’s great. I have always wanted to go. I hear that it’s beautiful.”

“It is. You can go all the way up this mountain in the city, Mont Juïc, and just look out over everything. From there you can see the Mediterranean on one side and then all the urban sprawl the other. In the middle, in downtown Barca, you can see all the wonderful buildings. The palace, the Olympic buildings, and above them all, la Sagrada Familia.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s the most perfect place. It’s an unfinished cathedral designed by Gaudi. When it’s all over and complete people will easily recognise it as one of the great wonders of the world. It’s so complex and beautiful.”

“But unfinished.”

“Yeah, beautifully unfinished.”

“It sounds really interesting.”

“It is. They say that the entire thing is being built by donation. Every brick has been paid for, almost individually.”

“Doesn’t seem the most efficient way to do things.”

“No, probably not. But I guess they’re just doing what they can with what they have.”

“Do they know when they expect to finish?”

“No, I don’t think so. It’s hard to say.”

“It’s hard to predict when things like that finish.”

“Yeah, they have their own story.”

“It could take forever.”

“It could.”

“Anyways, I see that Eric is waving me over to him. I should get back. We will talk later, okay?”

“Later.”

 

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