I read the book Verity by Colleen Hoover. Good book, terrible ending...so I wrote my own. I guess there are a few spoilers so I suggest you should read the book first, but stop at Chapter 24 and pick up here.
Yep, that’s it. That was Verity, by Verity Crawford, co-authored by Laura Chase. But since you’re still reading, let me explain.
Seven months later
Verity “died in her sleep” seven months ago and yesterday I sent in the final manuscript of the last three books. All together, all complete. It wasn’t hard once I got started, even with a newborn on the way. Verity was good, her characters excellent, her style frightening and original, but not at all difficult to emulate once I sat at her desk, looked out her window, fucked her husband. Whoops. To her credit, the series was very well constructed, enthralling and intriguing even to me as I wrote. Verity had done most of the heavy leg work in concept, and after weeding through her endless stacks of notes, it became apparent that the books were already as good as written. I just had to follow along. That is until book ten.
That’s when I took liberties.
I picked up the series with three of the Noble Virtues left, Courage, Honor and Truth. I published Courage as book eight, Honor as nine, and truth as ten. But instead of titling book ten under the final Noble Virtue, I chose to title it Verity, the meanings being the same. Verity broke from the storyline of the first nine books, and instead took the reader into the house of the author who created the series, not unlike a modern day Misery. The story began after her crash, followed Verity from fame to destruction, from hostage to death, all interwoven with diary entries I fabricated along the way. But don’t worry, I maintained the most important writing style Verity held dear, the one that shocked and excited the fans from the start of the series to the very end: I wrote from the villain's point of view. Mine.
Obviously, I submitted it as a work of fiction. The public knew Verity had died after a tragic struggle stemming from a freak car accident. Since Verity’s publicist was adamant that the readership believe the original author was heavily involved in the writing of the final three books; hoped they viewed “Laura Chase” more as a ghost writer than the brains, no one even considered the book to be based on the actual events that took place within the Crawford house. The readers would think Verity, the genius that she was, would brutally kill herself off as an appropriate way to complete the series. This strategic plot decision would be made even more sinister and exciting by Verity’s real life death. Moving the book from average, thriller series to cult classic. Corey was beside himself with anticipation. “The readers are going to freak the fuck out.” He kept saying.
No one but Jeremy knows the truth. But at this point, one hand resting on my protruding stomach as we rode the train into the city to meet with Corey and the publicist, and one hand resting on the soft hair of Crew seated beside him, what was Jeremy to do? He was the one who killed her, after all. Maybe everything leading up to it was my doing, but he was the one who stuck his fingers down her throat, made her choke on her own vomit, ended her life.
We are in this together now.
Seven months and four weeks earlier.
I guess the best place to start is when mom and I realized our living situation was not sustainable. My writing was non-existent, her cancer treatment was expensive, and we were days away from eviction. That was when mom heard from one of her nurses that the author of the wildly popular Noble Virtues series had been in a crash, was in bad shape, needed a full time nurse and constant care. Mom applied. Her application was a shoo-in. Her nurse experience, her immediate availability, her willingness to drop everything and move closer to the Crawford family. The only hitch was her chemo, which we needed to keep secret, but Verity’s husband was the one who suggested a stand-in nurse on weekends to give her a break. It all fell into place. She got the job. Four weeks before Corey called me up, mom, or should I say “Alice”, was already laying the groundwork, and I was waiting patiently for the call.
We already had the drugs we needed since mom, who had been sick for years, was thoroughly addicted to her meds her doctor prescribed her, and had been hoarding them for a couple of months. Sedatives and Morphine and a mixture of god knows what else. Anything that, in excess, would keep Verity alive, but silent, bed-ridden, and seemingly brain dead. The goal was to keep her that way until the books were finished. The goal was to make sure I got the advances and money for finishing the series. The goal was to pull this stunt, split the money and disappear. The goal was never to fall in love. The goal was never to kill Verity. But every author knows - writing takes you in interesting directions.
No one seemed all that surprised when I announced my mother’s alleged death. No one seemed to notice my detached and unemotional reaction to her death either. That often happens when someone is sick and dying slowly, people don’t ask too many questions.
The accident, the skull-crushing before the first meeting with Jeremy, was a complete coincidence, and in the moment, one that I thought might ruin everything. I had never actually laid eyes on Jeremy Crawford before that morning, only in pictures off the internet. I was horrified when I looked up at the man who asked me if I was ok and realized he was the same man I was about to con. I assumed he’d get suspicious. He would second guess his choice, second guess bringing me into his household despite Alice’s insistence on the similarity of my writing style to his wife’s, second guess subjecting his son to an omen like that. But locked in that bathroom with Jeremy, washing my face in the sink, I took a breath and played it well. I striped slower than was necessary when he offered me his shirt; laid hard on the charm, which quickly snowballed into flirting and then lust. Within the hour, I got the job. I took the job.
Alice noticed my attraction to Jeremy immediately. She thought I was being careless, she expected me to blow the entire operation. The coolness she showed me throughout the time at the Crawford house was real, but then again, that had been our relationship for as long as I can remember. But I never blamed her, we both needed this to succeed.
I found Verity’s journal on the first night, but it wasn’t until my feelings for Jeremy began to grow did I start forming my idea for the final book. But his devotion to his wife was sickening and an inconvenience. I had to make Jeremy leave her. I could fake compassion and investment into her recovery, but after the books were written, after my work was done, how could I make him choose me over her? I began rewriting her journal. The plan materialized from there. I would show him what Verity had done to his children. I would make him believe she had played a part in their death. I would begin planting the seed that she was faking her condition, that she wasn’t disabled, and that she was dangerous. But be careful what you put into the world, it may bring it to fruition.
Verity began speaking to Crew. At first I didn’t believe it. My mom knew what she was doing. An addict knows better than anyone how drugs work on the body. But I began to realize the problems came when Alice traveled back to New York on weekends. The stand in nurse was not pumping Verity with the drugs mom was using, and in those few days, the meds would slowly begin to wear off. Verity would come-to and she became more active and vocal than we could afford. Instead of panic, I let it play into my narrative, asking Jeremy leading questions about her condition. I admit, I did panic when I saw her that one night. Standing on the stairs watching her husband kiss me in her own living room. I had to start acting.
When I showed Jeremy her journal, it all happened so fast. We killed her that night.
As soon as Verity was gone, Alice’s job was effectively complete. But she was a loose end. I feared she might turn up years later, unannounced when she blew her half of the money. How would that look? Jeremy still doesn’t know that part of the scheme. So I ended that chapter as well. Many people already thought she died, and the others would assume she took off with her remaining drugs and died in a ditch. My whole life my mother was frightened of me. In the end, I suppose she had good reason.
I am still not sure if Jeremy knows I wrote the manuscript too. I don’t know what exactly he knows to be true - what was my fault or Verity’s fault - and I believe it will remain that way. So far, he has chosen to move forward into this new life without looking back. Like I said, he has more still to lose than anyone else.
So here we are, expecting a baby in two months time, riding the train to the city, acting like a family. We’ll disappear, I suspect, just as mom and I had planned. Take the endless stream of money flowing in from these last three books and start our life elsewhere.
And to use a few words I found in the original diary, Verity’s words - yes, her words, the last thing she possesses I choose to steal as well…
“So Be It.”
- Emily Menges