The original ending of All This Could End

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

This is for you, for Christmas! If you don't celebrate Christmas, it's an early/late birthday present! Either way, you win! The original ending of All This Could End, in case you're curious.
Probably a good idea not to read this, if you've not read the book! Largely because you'll have no clue what's going on. (Things are a lot more significant when you know who the characters are.)

This continues on from about page 154 of the finished book. So pretend the whole epilogue didn't happen, okay?
(also be aware this is not as ~polished as the finished novel is)

The original ending
They pause there, on the steps of the bank, everyone watching, guns trained on Nina. The pause lasts only a second, before a group of paramedics rush up to Spencer. What happens next occurs so quickly Spencer doesn’t even have time to catch his breath.
            Later, it’ll be the subject of a huge police investigation. The inquiry will last months, will chew up millions of taxpayer dollars, will end with three people getting the sack, and be put down to a misjudgement, a bad decision. The newspaper headlines will be never-ending, and the case of the Pretty family will have endless press coverage. Charismatic, insane Sophia, her husband, and their kids, too young to know better, will be the feature of many late-night true-crime shows and a straight-to-television movie, much to Sophia’s delight. But no one knows this yet. In the seconds and minutes afterwards, there will be confusion. There will be panic. There will be shock.
            In the moment Nina raises her hands in surrender, a police sniper shoots – the bullet hits just above her right eyebrow, piercing flesh and bone and brain in milliseconds, and going right out the back of her head so quick that if not for the 5-cent-coin size hole in her head, you wouldn’t think she’d been shot at all. Spencer is close enough to be splattered with blood, and he hears a noise like an animal dying and it might have come from his own mouth but he’s not sure. Nina is dead long before she hits the ground.
            And what she thinks of, in that final moment, are all the good things that have come before – learning to read palms from the old fortune teller, all the beautiful animals at the vet’s, her brother’s laugh, waking up to sunshine, conversations with lovely strangers, just the right song playing on the radio like a good omen, talking to Spencer endlessly while sitting on the roof of his house and imagining being surrounded by light, the feeling of always being on the verge of something great, of being invincible, of being limitless. She feels the sensation that this all could end, but it might also be the beginning.

Another deleted ending (You may notice parts of this one ended up in the final book. This followed on from the previous ending. I am prone to melodrama. I also really wanted to work in another Smiths reference).
It’s like that Smiths song. It’s ridiculous that, at a time like this, all of his experiences are relating back to pop culture references but maybe that’s the only way he can make sense of it. Maybe that’s the only way he can deal. Girlfriend in a coma.
            Maybe someday this’ll all become just a great story to tell at dinner parties – maybe she will be with him, and maybe they won’t know the people who are hosting all that well but after everyone’s third glass of wine, she’ll be explaining the surgical scar just above her eyebrow. Telling them about her crazy childhood, how the bullet only passed through one lobe and how, after weeks in a coma, she awoke and was rehabilitated. How she learnt everything again, how painful it was, but how she managed to live on. And Spencer will hoist up the right leg of his pants and tell them about the bank, trace the line of his own scar. And everyone will be awed.
            Monica was awed, certainly. Shocked into speaking. When Monica first arrived in Spencer’s hospital room, she eyed the cast on his leg and said – the first words she had spoken in three months – ‘Shit. And you reckon nothing exciting ever happens to you.’ They were the most profound words Spencer thought he had ever heard, but perhaps he was delirious on pain medication. He laughed and sighed at once. When Monica found out it was Tom who’d shot Spencer – though accidentally – she laughed (‘They’ll blame this on violent video games, for sure,’ she said. ‘Twelve-year-olds shooting people!’).
            ‘No more communicating through lollies, then?’ he asked.
            ‘Death to conversation hearts,’ she said, grinning. She sat down by the window. A chair badly in need of reupholstering, probably bought second-hand sometime in the 60s, orange stuffing poking out through holes in the red vinyl. But the view out of the window was nice, though Spencer tired of it after that first day, of the park beside the hospital. Summer. If this were a normal summer, he’d be out in that hazy heat. At the beach or at the pool or lying under a shady green tree. This is not a normal summer. ‘Might keep up my vow of silence while I’m at school, though. Annoying Ms Stanthorpe is just way too much fun.’
Monica was there when the doctor told Spencer’s father they were hopeful that Nina would regain consciousness after her surgery, that only one lobe had been affected, that her chances of rehabilitation after a head wound were really quite good, all things considered.
In the first few days afterwards, Spencer wasn’t allowed up out of bed. Monica and his father brought snippets of news about Nina and McDonald’s Happy Meals. Bridie arrived at the very ending of visiting hours the second day, wearing a hot pink leotard, a green tutu and several thousand strands of beads looped around her neck and wrists and ankles.
‘You ought to watch the news,’ she said upon making an entrance (Bridie never just walked into a room, even a hospital room; she made an entrance), not bothering with pleasantries. ‘We had journalists come to our house, you know? Mum absolutely loved it. Lucky the swelling of her nose went down. Better they’re talking to her than making stuff up. I heard a report saying you were twelve. And then one that reckoned you were dying. I’ve been feeling really out of the loop.’
‘No hey, how’s it going, Spence, how’s the bullet wound?’ said Monica.
‘The mute! She speaks! Praise the lord!’ Bridie waved her hands above her head, beads jangling together. All three of them laughed.
Bridie came around and sat on the edge of Spencer’s bed and swept him up in a hug. ‘But seriously,’ she said. ‘I’ve been really worried. Especially since I heard you were on the brink of death. Wanted to make sure I was in the will, just in case. To the endlessly brilliant Bridie, I leave all my worldly possessions!
Spence laughed. ‘Maybe I’ll let you have my laptop. Clear the browsing history, would you? Now that I’ve promised it to you, you can’t smother me, though. There’s a witness.’
Bridie smiled, paused. ‘Are we going to tiptoe around the whole “Nina being a criminal and now possibly dying in this hospital” thing?’
‘You’re not much of a tiptoer, Bridie.’
‘No. I’m not. You know, after she left I wanted you to hate her and forget about her. As quickly as possible. And you didn’t, and I knew you wouldn’t, because you’re too forgiving of people and she was so nice to you and everyone else when she was around. You still cared about her even though she left you like that. And now this whole bank robbing thing… it makes everything a lot more complex.’
‘I can’t hate her. She’s done bad things but she wouldn’t have done them if it were up to her. And now she’s…’
‘Have you been up to see her?’
‘Not yet. Not allowed out of bed.’
            ‘Shall we nick a wheelchair?’ suggested Monica, glancing up from her book.
            Spence laughed. ‘You’ve changed, Monica. Hanging out with that Tom kid.’ And there was a pause as the three of them wondered where Tom was at that moment. ‘Maybe we’ll get a wheelchair tomorrow. Go visiting.’
            ‘It’s a date,’ said Bridie.                                                                                                                   
The police came and asked lots of questions. Did he know about any criminal activities Nina or her family were undertaking whilst they were friends? How could he have been apparently so close to someone and not known that these things were going on? Was she exceptionally good at keeping secrets or was Spencer exceptionally unobservant? It wasn’t as if she had ever outright lied to him – had he asked so, do you and your family dabble in criminal activities? Bit of bank robbing on a sunny Saturday morning? perhaps she would’ve told him. He felt the police underestimated the downright blindness that could be caused by someone wonderful and kind caring about you as much as you cared about them. And it wasn’t as if it were really her. It was her parents. And he could tell they just thought he was a stupid teenager. He didn’t particularly care. He thought he was a stupid teenager too.
On the upside, the entire incident had shook his father into action – maybe his ceasing to be a zombie was only a temporary thing, at least until Spencer was out of hospital and the calls from reporters and the police stopped and things returned to how they were before, but still, Spencer was grateful that his dad was laughing again. Monica talking made a big difference, too.
Things were not as they had been before – things could never be again as they were before Spencer’s mum had left (even if she returned now, they were all changed people who wouldn’t slot together into a family neatly anymore) – but within his family, things were better. If not for what had happened to Nina, the bank robbery mightn’t have been such a terrible thing after all.
 Sometimes, staring at the off-white ceiling in the early hours of the morning, he hates her. He hates that she didn’t tell him to begin with, that she didn’t tell the police earlier, that she left without saying goodbye. He hates that he didn’t stop this from happening, that there was nothing he could have done. But she could have. He hates that she didn’t. It’s not her fault she was shot in the head, that she’s in a coma. But there were so many things he wish could have been different, things that might have prevented it from happening. And she certainly had influence over some of them.

Three days after the bank robbery and his arrival in hospital, Bridie insists upon taking Spencer to see Nina in intensive care.
            ‘She’s still unconscious,’ says Bridie, helping him out of bed and into a wheelchair. ‘But it’s really not that bad. She looks all right. Maybe you’ll wake her up.’ She winks. 'Our very own sleeping beauty. Though you'd have to be dashingly handsome for that to work, and really...'
            ‘Did you steal this wheelchair?’ interrupts Spencer. ‘I mean, shouldn’t we wait until a doctor gives permission for you to drag me around the hospital?’
            ‘I borrowed it. You need a wheelchair. This is not just a joyride,’ says Bridie. ‘The doctors are busy. Your dad seemed okay with it.’
            Spencer doesn’t really mind that Bridie is making him get out of bed and actually go somewhere (even if it’s only a different level in the same building) for the first time in three days. He was going insane lying there all the time, though chatting to Monica helped. What Spencer does have a problem with is going to see Nina – the last time he did, he thought she was dead. And he’s still afraid she will die, and he’s not sure how he’ll feel when he sees her – whether he can handle it.
            Of course, had he asked himself a week ago whether he could handle his ex-girlfriend taking him hostage in a bank robbery, he would have undoubtedly thought he would have a mental breakdown if that unlikely situation came to pass. But as yet it doesn’t seem as if he’s entirely lost his marbles, so perhaps he’s tougher than he gives himself credit for. Or everyone is capable of adapting and dealing with whatever situation they’re in.
            Spencer thinks of untranslatable words to distract himself. Like mamihlapinatapei from Yagan, an indigenous language of the Tierra del Fuego region of South America. A wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start. And Spencer thinks of how useless all these words are, all this random knowledge is – they won’t help him do well at school, or impress anyone. The only thing he can do is distract himself – from his family falling apart. From Nina.
            Spencer’s father returns to the room, a mobile phone to his ear. He smiles vaguely at Bridie and presses the phone into Spence’s hand. Spence mouths ‘who is it?’ but his father is already looking away, staring absently out the window at nothing, hands twisted together, eyes sad.
            Spencer puts the phone to his ear. ‘Hello?’
            ‘Spence. Oh, Spence.’ Her voice sounds quiet and far away. It takes a moment for him to recognise her voice – the fact that it didn’t occur to him that she’d be calling is sad, how he’d given up on her – but he remembers that she is and will always be his mother. And he and his father were taken hostage in a bank robbery, and he was shot in the leg. Of course. Of course she’d call. ‘I’m sorry.’
            ‘Mum,’ he says. He remembers his anger, his numbness, in the months after she left – yelling at his dad. But he has no anger now. Maybe he’s moved beyond it, maybe it’ll hit him later. Right now, he’s just grateful to hear his mother’s voice.
            ‘I’m coming home,’ she says, her voice a whisper. ‘I’m coming home.’

Bridie takes Spencer upstairs, to the level Nina's on. She grins at the nurse in the lift.
'I don't know how you can be so cheerful,' says Spencer, when the nurse steps out.
She shrugs. 'It's how I deal with things. Plus, hospitals are not generally the most joyous of places, especially not this level. I'm doing my best to lift everyone's spirits.' She adds, with humour, 'It's really quite selfless.'
Spence laughs. 'You're so humble.'
They make their way down the corridor in silence, the rhythmic sound of Bridie's heels clacking against the linoleum soothing rather than irritating. The world is still fuzzy at the edges from pain medication, but Spencer still feels a sharp pain through his knee. Getting up and into a wheelchair to be careered around the hospital by Bridie was perhaps not the best of ideas.
'Here she is,' says Bridie, slowing. There's a door, like all the others along this corridor, with a window in it, a curtain pulled across.
'Hang on, wait,' says Spencer. Bridie stops outside the door. Is he prepared to see her, still and bandaged and connected to machines? Is she even herself like that? 'What do I say to her?'
Bridie turns to face him. 'Are you serious? I get that you were too awkward to speak to her when she was conscious, but really, Spencer, you are far too shy - the girl's not even awake...'
'I don't regularly converse with coma patients.'
'Pretend it's a Spanish soap opera. Profess your undying love. I don't know. I told her what a legend she is at school. And about the news. And I updated her on the end of the whole bassist affair.'
'I'm surprised your crazy hijinks didn't rouse her from her slumber.'
'Ha,' says Bridie. She pauses, thinks for a moment. 'You realise what a good opportunity this is, right? You can say what you really feel for once in your life. It's not like she'll think you're being awkward. Be as honest as you like, and she won't remember a thing when she wakes up–'
'As the unendingly wise George Michael said,' Bridie says, 'You gotta have faith.'
'Maybe we ought to just play her some bad 80s pop.'
'We can't stand here forever,' she says. 'You go in and see her, declare your love and share with her some random did-you-knows and bitch shamelessly about me and my shamelessness, and I'll procure a boom box and some Wham CDs, hey? I bet she'll be sitting up and laughing before you can say wake me up before you go go.' She grins.
'Sounds like a plan,' he says, smiling. 'I'm ready.'
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