Hello, my name is Kim Lenox, and I believe in Happily Ever After.
When my husband was in grad school, we rented a little house in a little neighborhood near the university. There were a few other younger couples like ourselves, but most of our neighbors were elderly, and had lived in their little houses in that little neighborhood for their entire adult lives, and raised their families there. There was one couple that lived diagonal to us, a very quiet but obviously happy pair. We’d see him out early in the mornings, tending to his garden, and see her through the kitchen window. Sometimes on cooler evenings, they’d sit out in the yard together under the trees. I remember talking to her once, and her smiling and telling me they were going to have eggs and toast for supper. They led a very simple life, and I know they’d had a fair share of hardships, but it was clear life had bonded them deeply, and they were devoted to one another.
At Christmas, my husband and I went to visit our families for about four days, and when we came back, we saw that their entire family had come to visit. I knew they had three grown children, and lots of grandchildren. Eventually, all the cars left. It wasn’t until a few days later that another neighbor told me the family hadn’t come for Christmas–they’d come for the funerals. The husband had died one day and she’d passed two days later. I read the wonderful story of their real life romance and years together in their obituaries, as written by their children.
I think of that couple when I think of happily ever after. In romance novels, characters live through betrayals, hardships, and yes, sometimes attacks from vampires or demons (is that really so different than real life?) and they find love, and then on page 385 (or whatever that last page is!) they are granted their happily ever after. Happily ever after is a really flexible concept! The way I see it, HEA is a springboard for the reader’s individual (and subjective!) hopes and dreams about “whatever happens next”. We’ve all got different fantasies and ideas of what that should be.
“Happily Ever After” can mean the characters spend the rest of their days (kissing passionately and) riding in a yacht up and down the Riviera three months out of the year, and then heading home to Fifth Avenue for (more kissing) and parties the other nine. Or it can mean growing old together, and sitting out in the garden under the trees on cool evenings, and having eggs and toast for supper.
You can probably tell which version I prefer, but that’s me. What is your idea of happily ever after?