The Ending of the Beginning

author, writing, end of the storyAs Thea regained consciousness she wondered what the ending of her story should be. (https://roughwighting.net/2018/11/30/on-the-last-day/)

And then she wondered which story she wanted to end.

In her fantasy novels, her readers insisted on a concrete “good wins over evil” finale. But as a middle-aged woman, Thea believed that . . .

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

Thea had assumed her story stopped 27 years ago when her lover was killed by a drunk driver and she was seven months pregnant. She fell apart – she wasn’t proud of that – but her life ended when Ernie died. She barely remembered labor and the birth of a son.

A blonde-haired young man slapped her face gently. Thea’s eyes opened just the teeniest to assess the situation. Was she ready to continue her story, or should she just return to her fantasies of dragons and knights?knights, fantasy stories, adoption,

She mumbled,

“Our story may have any number of endings but its start is a singular choice we make today.”

“I was given this ring when I turned 25,” the man responded. “I made the choice then to search for my beginnings.”

Thea sat up, the room blurry and her vision dizzy. The young man looked at her with an “Ernie” expression –doubt and love and wonder all mixed into one handsome face.

He continued, “I think I found my answer when I stopped at the bookstore yesterday and found your photo on the back of Dragons of the Night.” As he held up his ring finger, the inscription For You gleamed in the darkened living room.

Thea stood up and faced the stranger who wore Ernie’s ring.  “Have you had a good life? Good parents? Are you loved?”

The man’s eyes clouded, but he admitted. “My mom and dad loved me, spoiled me, disciplined me, and allowed my wings to sprout. I own a business and I’m engaged to be married.”

With satisfaction, Thea explained:

“I always had this idea that you should never give up a happy middle in the hopes of a happy ending, because there is no such thing as a happy ending. Do you know what I mean? There is so much to lose.”

“Are you my mother?” the young man blurted.

Thea raised her hand, then placed it on the blonde’s cheek, lightly caressing it. “I am a woman whose breath has just been stopped. I am a woman who didn’t believe in light or love, just in fantasy and hot baths. I am a woman who’s not sure she deserves a new beginning.”

Enveloping Thea in a hug, the young man whispered,

“Life is not so much about beginnings and endings as it is about going on and on and on. It is about muddling through the middle.”

Thea sank into the deep leather sofa, sighing, then acquiescing. Pointing to a door, she said, “Go into the guest room, look under the bed, and pull out the box.” She heard him rustling around. Then a gasp. He returned with Thea’s gold ring, the inscription I Live” still shining despite being hidden for so long.

For You,” her son whispered.

As they both cried, Thea realized the truth about writing the endings of her stories, and about continuing her life:

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Richardson Bay, San Francisco Bay, Tiburon

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” Frank Herbert
“Our story may have any number of endings but its start is a singular choice we make today.” Faisal Khosa
“I always had this idea that you should never give up a happy middle in the hopes of a happy ending, because there is no such thing as a happy ending. Do you know what I mean? There is so much to lose.” John Green
“Life is not so much about beginnings and endings as it is about going on and on and on. It is about muddling through the middle. “Anna Quindlen
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Seneca

 

91 thoughts on “The Ending of the Beginning

  1. A perfect treat this morning and I am deeply touched by your story, Thea’s surprise reunion with her long-lost son who seems the kindest of men. I love how you’ve embedded the quotes within the story and they are all wonderful reflections on beginnings, middle and endings. As a huge fan of John Green’s book I like his words and his books definitely follow this belief, I agree with Anna Quindlen about muddling through the middle of life … hopefully one occasionally filled with joy and love, just as for Thea!

    Liked by 5 people

    • My writer’s secret, Jill. I had NO idea where the rest of Thea’s story was going, so I looked up quotes about endings. And that’s where I received my inspiration. In some ways, the idea of no “real” endings may help an author or two. 🙂 xo

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  2. My favourite quote in here today is one I hadn’t read before – “Our story may have any number of endings but its start is a singular choice we make today”. How true it is!!
    Happy Friday, Pam. Hope you have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the quotations (and story) about beginnings and ends. Coincidentally, I’ve just started reading Kate Atkinson’s novel Life After Life, in which a woman keeps dying at different stages of her life and then being reborn on the same date.
    Beautiful photo, too! 🙂

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    • I ADORED Atkinson’s Life After Life. I noted it as the best book I read that year. I kept getting goosebumps toward the end. Then I read her book A God in Ruins, and that one became my favorite book of that year. (2015) May we all live each of our days, our middles, to the fullest. ❤

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      • When the book came out, I had wanted to read it, but somehow never did. I just read her latest book, and so I went looking on the library shelves for this one. It’s such a Merril book–time and history. 🙂 I’ll have to look for A God in Ruins after I get through my current library books.

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    • And then that “very end” may just be the beginning… Yes, Diana, when I found these quotes (looking desperately because I had no idea how to end Thea’s story), I realized that we authors have an “out.” How can a story possibly ever really end?

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  4. Fascinating. Thank you for your story–and the wisdom sprinkled throughout. I have been journaling for the past half hour and am now going to contemplate beginnings and endings. Wow, thanks again. xoxoxo

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  5. Loved it! Not so much because of the characters back stories . . . but because of the truths you shared that resonate with me. Thanks for “muddling through the middle” of their story without feeling the need to end it with a “happily ever after.”

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  6. We all agree this story is a sweet treat. Beginnings, middles, and endings fascinate me too as a writer. Also, the idea that time is circular. With your literary agility, I’ll bet you could write a piece with such a theme.

    Thanks for this story, the quotes, and the tender ending here, Pam. (Now it’s time to put white lights on the tree!)

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  7. Thank you Pam for sharing this very beautiful story. It is so emotional, philosophical with deep truths. I have read it a couple of times and love it.
    The quotes woven in are perfect and each a mantra for the day.

    As we never know when the middle is I guess every day could be either of the three – beginning, middle, end. As long as we live it we can’t go wrong.

    Miriam

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    • I’m so glad Thea’s story “spoke” to you. These quotes remind us, I believe, that the middle is the most important time of our life and it’s what we’re IN every moment. Or, as my yoga teacher suggests, “live in the NOW, not the then and the when.” ❤

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      • Interesting idea, Pam. Here’s my shoot from the hip: needlepoint takes a lot longer, but the results are crisp, concise, and memorable (as in remember-able). Writing (aka journaling in this simile; no, better to use published pieces) takes a more circuitous route, we often don’t know where we’ll wind up when we begin (For us pantsers, anyhow), we rewrite and rewrite, but our words will (eventually) reach a lot more people than those who might wander through our walls. Hmmm. Good point. I shall no longer pine for needlepoint needles. (They do use needles, I’m assuming). Now off to my keyboard.

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  8. Absolutely wonderful, Pam! Inserting the quotes at the best spots, weaving the story around them. I am so very satisfied with this muddling, no beginning, no ending, all middle fabulous story!

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  9. Another heartfelt short story Pam. This was beautiful. And certainly, the middle is the best part we shouldn’t rush through. Have you ever consider compiling your wonderful stories into a book? ❤

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  10. “Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow…”

    But I agree: there is no “then,” only what we imagine it to be. The many middles—the “nows”—are the living (and, of course, determine that which we imagine “will be”).

    There’s a song by an artist named Cindy Morgan where she sings this:

    “So many things I thought would bring me happiness,
    Some dreams that are realities today.
    Such an irony—the things that mean the most to me
    Are the memories that I’ve made along the way.”

    I’ve always connected with this expression.

    Pam, did you just decide to include the many quotes into your story? Or was it a challenge? And if the latter, what was the specific challenge?

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