Chapter 629 A Conversation With Reth - Part 2

"When I first started writing your story," I say slowly, "I knew it needed to be more than just a story. I wanted to connect with people. Really connect with them. Person to person. So I started to think about what it was I would say. If I could only show a person one valuable thing in real life, what would it be? And how could I do that with a story?"

Reth nods as if he's anticipated this. "And?"

"And I realized that I have had a lot of love in my life that many many people don't ever get to experience in the flesh," I say. "Love from family, love from friends, romantic love, parental love… I know that I have received more love in my life than most people even dream of. And I also know, because of the work I've done, that most people receive so little love, they don't even know what it looks like. So… I prayed to write a story that would show people what real love looks like. In all it's various forms—friends, siblings, parents, spouses… I wanted to show people how God defines love. What it looks like. How it acts. How it thinks. And what it offers."

"Which is everything," Reth says, nodding.

I can't help smiling. "See, you say that, because you're good at that. Most of us aren't."

He shrugs arrogantly, but I see the shadow in his eyes. "I am not… untouched by the losses and pains of my life."

"I know. That's why they love you. Because you have the courage to keep going, keep loving, keep giving yourself even when you've been hurt so badly. Most of us curl up. We give up. We get so afraid of being hurt more, we don't offer ourselves even for the good stuff, because to do that we have to let our guard down and that means being vulnerable to the bad stuff too.Â

"But… that is life! And the Creator can strengthen us, buoy our hearts so that we aren't dependent on these broken people to love us as He does."

"I know. And that's your story. How one person can affect the lives of others. Give and receive love—even to the greatest loss of themselves… and how that's the very best love there is. God gave it to us through Jesus, He taught me how to love that way. I'm not as good at it as you. But I'm trying. And that's what I wanted to show people."

Reth looked thoughtful. "The fact that they grieve me—grieve all of us—would suggest you've done your job, then," he says simply.

I mutter something about Alpha Male bullshit, and his eyebrows pop up.

"You're such a… male," I say, rolling my eyes. "Just because something is true, or practical, doesn't stop it from hurting!"

"Perhaps you're the one who needs to think on that, Aimee," he says quietly.


"Because you're the one who's avoiding answering the question."

"No, I'm not!"

"Okay then, tell me. Why did you write my death, Elia's, Gahrye and Kalle's?"

I know what he's doing, but I answer anyway, because it needs to be said. "Because that is real life—no matter how long it lasts, all of us die. And I don't want to see anyone die pointlessly. We have to live now!" I say stubbornly. "And because the Creator told me to. Because I always swore I wouldn't flinch from the truth about life and love in my fiction—that's why you feel real for them, Reth, because you have a real heart. Real love. It's something we all want." I sigh. "We all got to experience it for a time and now it's gone."

"I am not gone. Love is not gone. Only this story has ended."

"Yes, but it's just another ending, isn't it? Our lives are full of Endings. Here, we saw beautiful love, and now it's gone."

"The Creator is not gone, and He gives this real love far better than I do."

"I know," I say softly, and now I can smile. "And that's what I hope they'll all realize. That being where you are, with the people you love, and the people who love Christ and know how to love like He does… that there's nothing better than that."

"There really is nothing better," he says, smiling widely now. "Do not fret, Aimee. The wonderful friends may be angry with you, but I am not. I would never go back. Life in paradise is… paradise," he says with a chuckle.

"But aren't you missing your children? Your grandchildren? That's what they all want to see! You, meeting your grandchildren and playing with them and…" my eyes well with tears, because that's what I want to see, as well. And it's just not possible.

Reth gets out of the chair and comes to stand next to my chair. I know he wants to hug me, but I'm being stubborn. Because I know that hugging leads to saying goodbye, and I'm not ready.

I'm not ready.

But he reaches for my hand and draws me out of my seat, and despite my tears, he doesn't speak to me as if I'm a child.

"I do not miss them because I know—with certainty—that there will come a day when we will all be there. Our children, our children's children. All our dearest friends. Until then, what Elia and I have is a life, Aimee. A real life. I touch, and taste, and feel. I am joyful. I run, and sing, and none of it hurts. There is no fear. There is no pain. All of us exist together in perfect peace. And no, there is no sense of loss. Because I can see that the Creator took me through the journey here not because that was the end goal, but because it was the road needed to reach this place—this perfect place. And that my children and theirs need to do the same. All of us have to walk that dark road, Aimee. But when we know the Creator, we are embraced and celebrated at the end of it. Can you even imagine?"

I shake my head, because the idea that the Creator would celebrate me has honestly never quite felt real to me.

Reth leans down so we're eye to eye. "That life is so. Much. better," he says emphatically. "If you could experience it now, you would never question whether or not you should have sent me there. You would only wish you could be there too. And make no mistake: Your time will come, and I look forward to greeting you when it does."

He does pull me into his chest then, and I go reluctantly, but not unhappily, because the picture he's put in my head gives me joy.

Every loved one.

Every heart.

Every soul.

I want all of them there. I want all of us to have that life that we were created for. The one that doesn't hurt. The one that our souls know exists, and is why we look around every day and say to ourselves… it wasn't supposed to be like this.

"There is a plan, Aimee," he says, his voice rumbling under my ear. "And you are just like me, walking in it. Sometimes you make the right choices, sometimes you don't. But in the end, all that matters is whether you have seen the truth. Because the truth truly will set you free—because it gives you real love. And real love truly does conquer everything in this world."

"I know," I sigh into his chest.

"Knowing and accepting are two very different things," he says, straightening to look down at me pointedly.

I nod. "I know."

We look at each other for a long moment, then he smiles and nudges my chin with his knuckle. "Thank you for giving me a voice."

I blow out a breath and my eyes well. "Thank you for being… you. Thank you for reminding me how to love. Probably even more than you showed them."

He nods solemnly. "I've been here for a purpose, and that purpose has been served. I hope we will meet again, that there is still some hidden corner of this story that we might share together. But if we do not…" he trails off, frowning as if he's worried.

"What? What is it?"

Reth smiles. "Do not fear, I only want to make sure I do not break my promise."

"What? What promise?"

He looks around as if someone might overhear, then leans down to look at me conspiratorially. "I do not mean to tease. My heart is real. But I wanted to thank you for giving me so many chances to… roar," he says with a wink. "And such… delightful ones. Elia and I… we're very grateful."

I  can't help it, I laugh and throw my arms around him, giggling. "Honestly," I say, "On behalf of many, many women who adore you, Reth, I have to say… No, no, thank YOU."

I'm not sure exactly when he disappeared. I wasn't aware of taking my seat again, and yet now I find myself sitting here, the room around me empty of his shadow, his weight, his voice…

I turn over in my mind the ways I might meet him again, and there are glimmers of hope that perhaps, sometime, that chance will come.

But… I look around to make sure there's truly no one around, then I turn to meet your eyes.

I know, weird, right? But we're here together. So let's do this.

I take a deep breath.

"Thank you," I say. "Without you, Reth and Elia, Elreth, Gar… all of them would have been nothing but a dream. Instead, they're a beautiful reality that we got to share. But even more than that…" I swallow, because this is hard to say. "Even more than that, thank you for being here for me. All the ways you've supported, encouraged, and loved me… they humble me. So thank you. Thank you for sharing Reth with me. Thank you for loving him and his family as much as I do. And thank you for still being here over 1300 chapters later.

"I hope and pray that there will be some more time for us to spend with the Royals of Anima, but just in case there's not… thank you. I carry you in my heart with me for the rest of my life because you were instrumental in making my dreams come true, and letting me walk out my purpose. And I don't think there's a better gift a human being can give to another.

"Thank you for being here, and I pray that You know the Creator. And if you don't, I pray that you'll ask Him to show Himself. Because we all need the kind of love Reth and his family give. And Jesus, the Creator, loves you even better than that.

"And if we never speak again, I pray He blesses you for the blessing you've been to me."



"Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."Â

  Matthew 11:28-30