Epilogue: It's Okay Not To Be Okay

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[A/N: Songs for the chapter:
- Gabrielle Aplin // Start of Time <3
- Owl City // Vanilla Twilight]

Some people will tell you that grief eases over time, that it becomes less of a burden as you learn how to live your life again, the way you did before.

Sadly, it doesn't work like that - at least not in real life anyway. Life will force you to carry on, that part is crushingly true; but the grief will gnaw at your memories, making them hazy and dull. Think of a fuzzy TV screen during a horrific storm, grey and flickering every few seconds. The picture is still there, but it isn't clear, it isn't sharp and it isn't the same anymore.

Soon, all you'll be left with are faceless figures and voices that don't match up the same way they used to. So you'll cling onto photographs, hoping they'll jog your memory and they will suffice for the time being until you need something stronger to remember them by. Eventually you give up and force yourself to move on. This may happen at any point: months, years or even decades. Sometimes never at all.

It took me almost nine years to distinguish the difference between my grief and guilt. Allowing Dr Jillian to point out the fine line between the two and with Tyler's constant support, somehow I managed to do it. I did it. I overcame my guilt by accepting that the drunk driver who crashed into my father's car was at fault, not me.

Thing is, acceptance is a tricky thing. It's like a large mouthful that's hard to swallow and gets stuck in your throat. It took me nine years to realise that smaller bites would get me much further than trying to accept the guilt all in one go and now that I've started college with Tyler, I've had to reschedule my weekly appointment with Dr Jillian to monthly appearances but I'm still working on it. I'm working on accepting my guilt, and in hindsight, I can see it happening. I can see myself getting rid of it once and for all. Although my inner conscious tries to remind me of the guilt I wore for years like a second skin, I hope that I never crack again.

Tyler has promised to piece me back together. He says it's okay for me to break every now again and I love him for that. Miraculously, he has accepted the broken girl I once was, nurtured her with unconditional love and wouldn't mind doing it again and again and again until I'm perfectly healed again. Even if I can never be fixed again, he says it doesn't matter.

Sometimes, it's okay not to be okay.

A soft poke on my cheek draws me back to reality and I turn my head, not bothered that the sand will be hard to take out of my chin length curls.

"What are you thinking about munchkin?"

Sea-green eyes regard me carefully, studying my face for any tears but Tyler needn't worry. I'm good now, I'm more than good.

"You," I stretch my lips into a small smile. "And how much you've changed my life for the better."

Tyler lifts up our interlinked fingers in the air before pressing them to his chest and he uses his free hand draw a pattern on my wrist. I realise, moments later, that's he's tracing the outline of the pocket-watch tattoo I got days after we started college, about two weeks ago. It's identical to the one he has on his hipbone but much smaller, constantly reminding about the fragility of time and how fleeting and sparingly short some moments can be. Having a constant, daily reminder of all that I've overcome is motivational so that there's no reason for me to ever falter again.

I feel strong. I feel in control.

"What are you thinking about?" I ask teasingly, rolling onto my side so that my chest is pressed against his rib cage.

Our legs are a tangled mess, fortunately the proximity between us is comforting and addictive. I inch closer and press my lips to his cheek before pulling away and resting my head on his shoulder. With a mocking smile he laughs.

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