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The Letter

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It arrives at the apartment before them -- the trip from safehouse to hotel to where they were to be finally settled was longer than expected, the days stretching into months until Elizabeth felt like she had never left, that she was still asleep on the plane and trapped between worlds -- and was waiting for them on the dinning room table. 

The place had a too-clean feel about it, that spoke of something awful having occurred here before it was boarded up, waiting for them. She tries to put on a smile as she reaches out to touch the faded wallpaper, lingers over the tarnished-looking surroundings, conscious that this was luxury here, knowing that Philip was watching her all the while. 

He doesn’t seem all that happy with the place but says nothing, staying close to her, as if happy only for the lack of physical distance between them. The animosity that had crept between them in the months before was no longer spoken off, killed by adrenaline and external forces, forgotten in the long stretches of solitude. If anything they were closer than ever now, physically and mentally, unable to move and think and rest without the other by their side. 

She tried not to see it as a handicap. 

As they explored the place, making note of the canned food left for them, the smell of gas heat lingering in the air, she spotted the envelope. 

It sat neatly on the table, stark white against the polished wood, and there was something about it that nearly stopped her heart. 

Maybe it was the unexpectedness of finding it here, something personal and for them in this place that still did not feel right. Maybe it was the idea that some person lingered in these rooms before them, as if the evidence of that was not all around. Maybe it was just her frayed nerves, not yet fully relaxed, keeping her alert even when she did not want it, resisting all attempts to ease her back into a restful life, whatever that was. 

She was staring down at it as if it were an alien object when Philip came up to her, rested his hand on her hip and dragged her against him until she could find some comfort in his weight. 

“What is it?” he asked, voice breaking the silence. He reached out to get it and she hates herself for not acting first, for being locked on the spot and paralyzed for what feels like the first time. 

She didn’t like it, this weakness, this weariness. He told her time and again that she needed sleep but she did not wish to take the pills they gave her, merely contented herself with resting in his arms, with trying to forget and block out all that was happening around them, with hoping that she would wake up on that plane, not yet facing the debriefing and the silence and the questions that it birthed.

Before she could answer he opened it and she saw it out of the corner of her eyes, words neatly typed on a page, her brain reverting back to her childhood to make sense of them. 

She felt him swallow and reached out for his hand, instinctively, felt the press of his ring against her flesh. 

“It’s from my son,” he said, and his voice was unlike anything she had heard before -- or at least something she had not heard in a long time. Thick and unsure and almost proud, and she could not help but picture him in the hospital doorway in 1967, regarding her with confusion and some other emotion that had made her smile and hide her eyes. 

She felt herself tremble, her throat grow thick, and she squeezed his hand for support. 

“You should write him back,” she heard herself saying. “It would be see him.” 

Her voice sounded strange in her ears. When he smiled at her softly she averted her eyes, once more.