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Chapter 13

 

“I want to try word association today, okay?” Audrey asked a few minutes into their session. On healthier, less complicated patients, Audrey used this tactic to get know her patients. She had been counseling Sarah for a while, so she didn’t need to get to know her. Instead, she was hoping to relax Sarah enough to sneak behind her walls.

Sarah nodded, her eyebrows dipping a little to the center of her forehead, but she remained quiet.

“Good. You know how this works then? I say a word and you say the first thing that comes to your mind. We’ll start with an easy one. Ocean.”

“Blue,” Sarah answered promptly.

Audrey nodded. The response was predictable. “Blue then,” she said, building on Sarah’s response.

“Harm’s eyes,” she said and then clapped a hand over her mouth; she flushed, but her cheeks pulled up a little, letting Audrey know that she was hiding a smile behind her hand.

“Red.”

“Poppies.” Sarah removed her hand from her mouth and twisted her fingers in her lap.

“Okay,” Audrey drawled the word out, “that’s a new one. Why poppies?”

“Did you see the ‘Wizard of Oz’? I always thought the scene where they fell asleep in the meadow of poppies was so pretty. They, the poppies, were all red and they contrasted so nicely with the green city behind them. It always stuck in my mind.” Sarah lifted her hands, palms up, and let them fall back onto her thighs. “I wear a lot of red, I think, partly because of that color.”

“Interesting.” Audrey refrained from commenting further. But there were questions forming that she could save for a later date. Most children never watched that scene with anything approaching Sarah’s admiration. They wanted Dorothy to succeed. And it seemed Sarah envied Dorothy’s nap. She readjusted her plans for the next session and continued on with the game. “Dogs.”

“Jingo.”

“Jingo?”

“My dog. I had to send him to Vermont, though. I was just away too often and it was too cruel to him to keep him locked up.”

Audrey thought a pet would be a wonderful idea for Sarah. “Did you ever consider a puppy?”

“I’m away too often,” she repeated, then frowned. “Or I was. Maybe I should reconsider.”

Audrey glanced around her room and uttered her next word as if the décor inspired it and that she hadn’t been thinking of the right phrase for the last few days. “Travel.”

“Planes.”

This was not the way it was supposed to work, Audrey wanted to huff. “Planes.”

“Paraguay.” The word slipped from her lips.

“Paraguay?” Audrey meant to ask, why Paraguay, but it sounded like a version of the association game. Watching Sarah’s body tense and her eyes lose focus, she realized that her unintentional continuation may have served its purpose.

“Screams.” She started to rise and fell back against the chair. Rather than looking relaxed, she reminded Audrey of the street performers who dress up as statues in the cities. Her muscles were too tense, her stillness too controlled.

“Screams?” Audrey prompted softly.

“They don’t stop.” Her hands cupped her ears and fell back to her sides. “I could hear him – Clay – screaming across the courtyard. All night long. It echoes in my head.”

“Why was he screaming?” Audrey hoped her tone sounded neutral but she was afraid that she sounded more like an interested onlooker, grotesquely fascinated by the car accident before her.

“They were hurting him. I don’t know what they did exactly. I mean, I have a pretty good idea, but I can’t really say. I don’t know what falls within the parameters of classified.” Sarah’s jaw clamped shut and she turned her face away. “He couldn’t walk. When they brought him back, he couldn’t walk.”

“Sarah,” Audrey tapped her lightly on the wrist with a finger, “did they hurt you?”

“No.” She shook her head, her brown hair splaying against the side of her face. “No. He – he – Clay tried to protect me. He said, he, um,” she licked her lips and drew a deep breath, “he said he loved me and that he wanted to protect me.” Her fingertips touched the base of her throat lightly. “May I have a glass of water?”

Audrey got up to pour a glass. “He told you he loved you?”

“Yes.” Sarah sniffled and took a long pull of water from the glass.

“Why does that make you unhappy?”

“What?”

“Why does it make you unhappy to know that someone loves you?”

“Because,” she took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, “ because he was right. Everyone who loves me dies or wants to die. I just hurt people. I seem incapable of doing anything else.”

“Clay said that?” Audrey was proud of herself. Her voice sounded normal.

“No,” she shook her head. “Not Clay. Harm did.” She looked over at Audrey before glancing away again. “But he’s not wrong.”

“Why do you say that?”

She leaned forward, face in hands, elbows on knees. Her feet bounced a little, sending tiny vibrations of movement throughout her body. “I’ve – so many – there are so many people who are hurt because of me.”

“Why isn’t he wrong?” she repeated the question, her tone a little more strident.

“Oh God.” The words tumbled from her mouth, sounding more like a call for help than oath or prayer. “Oh, God.” Her hands were shaking and the water sloshed at the lips of the glass. Moving slowly, Audrey leaned forward and eased the glass from her grip. Sarah’s fingers had tightened around it, Audrey could see the whitened knuckles, and she didn’t know how much pressure it could before its walls caved in.

“Sarah, calm down.” Audrey soothed. “Inhale slowly. Now let it out. That’s it. Once more. Good girl. Now let it out slowly.” She waited until Sarah seemed steadier. “Now,” she prompted, “start from the beginning.”

“No.” Her voice was firm. “No. I don’t want to talk about this. I just want it all to stop.”

“What do you want to stop?”

“The pain.” She pressed her lips together tightly. “I’m so tired of it. I’m so tired of hurting people.”

“How do you hurt them?” Audrey rubbed her fingers across her forehead, trying to ward off the vague pain of a tension headache.

“I don’t know. I just do. And the worst part is, I stay okay. I’m healthy, up until a few days ago, I had a good job, and I have a nice apartment. I stay okay and every where else, everyone else’s lives turn to dust and they are left to pick up the pieces of their lives after I touch them.”

“Who do you think you’ve hurt?”

She swept her arm across her body to encompass the whole room. “Everyone.” She let her arm drop against her side. “Just everyone. First Eddie died when I was teenager, then my husband. Someone killed my ex-boyfriend because of me. Harm lost his career. Clay was hurt.” Her voice rose as she listed her transgressions and then dipped to a near whisper. “I’m no damn good.” She brushed her hair back from her face. “It’s like the theory of karma? Only I’m paying in this life. And I don’t suffer, I just have to watch everyone around me sink into a black hole because of me. It would just be so much better for everyone if I just … disappeared.”

“Do you think everyone would agree with you?”

“Depending on the day,” she sighed. She rubbed her eyes, swiping at the tears. “No,” she admitted. “I’m not a teenager, Dr. Hepburn. I don’t want them to miss me. It’s not about showing them how much they’ll miss when I’m gone. I want them to be safe. To be happy.”

“So you do realize that they’ll miss you?”

Sarah studied her cuticles. Her answer was long in coming, and Audrey was about to ask her question again, when Sarah forced her answer out. “Yes, but sometimes I don’t get it. I thought the Admiral finally saw through me. When he wouldn’t let Harm rescue me,” she clarified. “I would have died down there, probably in a pretty ugly way, too. I thought maybe the Admiral thought it was for the best. But when I got back, he was happy to see me and he came to visit me in the hospital.”

“You thought the Admiral wanted you to die?”

“Well, no. Not really, not rationally. It would have been more like sucking poison out of a wound, unpleasant but necessary to keep everything else alive.” She choked on a laugh. “It sounds crazy.”

“It doesn’t sound crazy. Stop saying that now. You’re confused, you’re hurt, but you aren’t crazy.” Pursing her lips, she glanced down at her notes and tapped her pencil rapidly against her notepad. It was rare that she couldn’t find the words she needed. It was, she sometimes joked, how she got into therapy in the first place. She needed an outlet where she had willing ears to listen to her. It was also rare for her to be angry at people she didn’t know. She reminded herself that statements were ten percent intention and ninety percent perception, that there were two sides of Sarah’s story, possibly three or four sides, but none of that quelled her very real desire to choke the living daylights out of someone. Preferably the man whose comment seemed to have precipitated the events. Her fingers tightened on the notepad and threatened to snap her pencil. “So,” she said after a minute, her voice oddly pitched, “let’s go back to Harm’s comment.” She glanced down at her notes. “He said what exactly?”

Sarah sniffled and rubbed her eyes before answering. “He said that every man I’ve ever been involved with is either dead or feels like he is.”

Audrey drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. This session was rapidly becoming more exhausting than her Pilates class. She studied Sarah carefully before saying, “But that’s not why you tried to kill yourself.” It was meant to be a question, but as the sentence left her mouth, it grew conviction and emerged a statement. Because it was rapidly becoming clear that Sarah didn’t try to kill herself because of one careless comment. As she watched for a reaction, Sarah’s muscles contracted, tensing against the chair.

“What?” she asked, reaching for a tissue to blow her nose and buy herself time.

“That’s not why you tried to kill yourself,” she repeated.

Sarah shook her head. “No.” She licked her lips nervously. “Why?”

Audrey resisted the urge to sigh and pushed her hair back from her face. “If you hadn’t already been depressed, rather, if you hadn’t already believed that that was the truth, you wouldn’t have reacted that way. You would have reacted differently.”

“Differently how?” she demanded.

“Well, without knowing all the facts, I think other women might have reacted with a jab to the nose.” Audrey smiled to let Sarah know she was joking.

“I was being really horrible to him.” Sarah shrugged. “We were fighting the whole time. He flew down to rescue me and I picked a fight.”

“You haven’t learned to fight fair yet?”

“No,” she breathed. “We really haven’t.” She brushed at the link on her sweater, studying the knit carefully before continuing. “It wasn’t him. It wasn’t even that comment. It just didn’t really help I suppose.”

“So what was it?”

“It was,” she paused, “it was me. It was me. I don’t know, you know, if I was ever really happy.”

“Why is that?” Audrey tried to remember details of Sarah’s life from her file.

“I just – every time I think I’ve finally found it, it slips away.” Sarah stared hard at the paneling on the wall, as if the cherry wood held the answers to her problems. She cupped her hand, turned it over, and stretched her fingers out. She turned her gaze back to Audrey. “It just goes away. And I’m tired of it. I’m tired of waiting for something good to happen only to have it take away again.”

She leaned her head against her palm. Now that she had started talking, she was incapable of staunching the flow of words. “I never believed in fairy tales. Or if I did, I stopped early. There didn’t seem to be any point. But there’s always that one stupid part of you, you know,” she fisted her hand against her chest, “that wants to hope.

“I thought, I really did, that when he showed up that that was it. And then we were so mean to each other.” She waved a hand. “It wasn’t all his fault. Or all my fault. But I’d really thought, really believed it, that our time had come.”

“What happened?” Audrey prompted gently.

“We just couldn’t stop the bickering. And Clay was hurt, Harm was jealous, and then it turned out he resigned because he thought he loved me. And I,” she sighed, “I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.”

“But that still wasn’t what prompted your attempt.”

“No.” Sarah pulled her knees to her chest and hooked an arm around them. “No. At some point,” she exhaled sharply, “at some point, I listened to us. We couldn’t love each other and say those things. At least, not in a healthy way. How could I say those things to him? How could he? It was sort of like that realization killed me. Or killed what little hope I had left, anyway.”

“You lost hope?”

“Yeah, I guess. It was more like I didn’t have any faith left. I destroyed everything.” She lifted her shoulders in a shrug. “I always do.”

“So you were pinning all, or the little left, of your hope on him?”

“No,” she said, refusing to make eye contact. “Not really. But – it’s just that – he gave up so much. Clay was hurt. And it was all because they thought they loved me. I get so tired of trying to find new reasons to hope for something good. I had destroyed two more men’s lives.” She glanced over at the doctor. “I’m just one of those women who is no damn good.”

“So you tried to kill yourself?”

“It sounds stupid when you put it like that.”

“No, it doesn’t.” Audrey leaned forward. “Sarah, I’ve seen teenagers who want to kill themselves because they think they aren’t pretty. Hell, I’ve been that teenager.” Audrey shrugged. “What I’m trying to say is, whatever your reasons are, they’re your reasons. Which makes them legitimate and not stupid.”

“Okay.” Sarah brushed at the drying tears and smiled a little. “Um, I think I may have given you the wrong idea. About Harm, I mean. He’s not a bad guy. In fact, he’s been pretty terrific recently.”

“Sarah,” Audrey answered her smile with one of her own, “you may need to rethink your definition of love and just learn how to fight fairly.” She reached out to pat Sarah’s knee.

“Maybe,” she murmured. “I just don’t know what to do anymore.” She tugged on a lock of hair. “I know, rationally, that I’m not just an unwitting black widow. But I don’t know how to get back to the person I was before I believed that.” She sniffled and blew her nose. “I’m just lost.”

“Consider me your compass,” Audrey soothed and handed her a fresh a tissue. “Lean on me a little and we’ll find you.”

 

Chapter 14

 

They were hours away from home, sitting on a blanket that he dug out of his trunk on beach on the Eastern Shore. He'd picked her up, kidnapped she had argued over dinner, after her session with Dr. Hepburn. Her eyes had been red, puffy, and glazed with a dazed, tired expression. He should have taken her home, tucked her into bed, and stayed with her until she fell asleep. He should have asked her about her session. He should have, but he didn't. Instead, he turned his car north and headed into Maryland.

The sky had painted itself in colors different from its ordinary black and white. It had been Mac who had spotted them. The ruby red aurora borealis with a thin band of silver weaving itself into the red. It was rare to see them this far south, but the storm on the sun had a greater influence on the night sky than the effects of smog and pollution. They sat for hours beneath the colored sky, watching the lights until they vanished, ebbing back into space like the tide shrinking back from the shore.

The lights were gone now and the sky was filled with tiny stars. He watched as she created new stellar maps seen only in her head. Her finger traced patterns in the sky. He could see the looping lines, circling around tiny clusters of stars, but didn't know which stars fell into which groups. There were tiny curlicues, giant rambling lines, angles and hard lines, all etched invisibly in the spaces between the stars.

But the sky remained a jumbled mess, tiny dots piled on top of each other, the blinking lights of an airplane, the smooth arc of a satellite, and she couldn't organize them all. Her hand dropped to her leg and she took her gaze away from the sky to steal a glance at him. "Harm?" she asked, her voice hushed in the dark.

"Hmm?" His voice also low and quiet. The deserted beach commanded the subdued tones. Under the night sky, the sand and water had formed the mortar for a kind of cathedral. An homage to the spectacular, more daunting and impressive in its vastness than those created by man.

"Is this what it feels like when you fly?" Her hand swept towards the sky. "Does it feel like you're sitting in the stars?"

He shifted and sat up. "Most of the time, you don't really get a chance to look around."

"But in Sarah?" she persisted.

"Sometimes." He rested his elbows on his knees. "It's a pretty amazing sight."

"Do you think anyone else saw the Northern lights?"

"I guess."

"It's odd, isn't it?" She tilted her head back to study the sky again.

"What's that?" The starlight and the sliver of the moon combined to wash the beach in a weak, white light, leaving the scenery painted in shades of black and white. He watched the column of her throat stretch, the pale lines of it curved as she dipped farther back. He wanted to reach out, to touch the fan of black hair that shifted as she scanned the sky.

"So many people probably missed the lights and all because they didn't bother to look up." She angled her face slightly and glanced at him from the corner of her eye. "They miss so much." She pointed. "There's a shooting star. You know, in Japan, they're considered bad luck." She frowned. "At least, I think they were."

"I think I prefer to think of them as good luck. Did you make a wish?"

"No," she sighed. "It might have been a satellite."

"I remember watching them as a kid. I used to lay out on the front yard and watch them at night."

"Yeah," she agreed. "God, that seems like so long ago." Her lips quirked at the corners, pushing her cheeks into a smile. "My mom used to have this ugly purple velvet skirt that I wore around the house as a ball gown."

He stretched himself out on the blanket, hands laced together beneath his head, ankles crossed. "Somehow I can't picture you doing that."

She glanced down at him. "I wasn't born an adult, you do realize."

"I know," he defended himself. "I just always pictured you as a solemn little girl."

She reached out and pinched his forearm lightly. Brushing off his indignant cry, she said, "I did manage to have some fun, thank you very much," she said haughtily. She sniffed lightly and turned her face to the sky, more for the pose of affected indignation than studying the sky.

He snaked an arm around her waist and pulled her back against the blanket. She slapped his chest lightly but didn't struggle away from him. "Thank you for doing this tonight," she said quietly. "I really needed it."

"You looked like it." He brushed a strand of hair from her face. "Did everything go okay today?"

She bit her lip and rolled over to her side to push herself into a sitting position. Resting her cheek against her shoulder, she studied him before saying, "Dr. Hepburn said we needed to learn how to fight fairly."

"When did she say this?"

"Earlier today," she answered slowly. "She's not wrong you know."

"Probably not," he agreed. He propped himself up on his elbows before sitting up completely. He was entering into this conversation reluctantly. He could already tell it was going to be unpleasant. He could feel the tension ooze across them, a sick slime that appeared whenever he started to feel comfortable around her. Her spine was straight and rigid, an unyielding line of hurt and nerves. "What else did you talk about?" He asked the question that would snowball itself into an avalanche of he said, she said, filled with the detritus of past hurts and accusations.

"Lots of things," she evaded. "Fairy tales," she told the water.

"Fairy tales?" he repeated. "My mom used to read me some of them when I was a kid. She called them folk stories. I was five before I realized I'd been had." He sighed in fake disgust at the memories. He didn't add that she also took him to see "Snow White." Or that he had once wanted to be Prince Charming.

"Poor boy." She stared at him for a minute before adding, "You know, I used to think that they just messed up little girls' lives. I guess that's not true."

"How do they mess up little girls?"

"And boys, apparently," she amended. "Well, okay, maybe not children's lives, but adults' lives. We just become so accustomed to happily ever after and the idea of someone swooping down on a white horse that we abandon realistic love in favor of something that ends before you see Cinderella throwing a fit because the Prince forgot their anniversary and attended a State dinner."

He snorted. "And the boys?"

"You do the same thing. You base your ideas of a perfect woman a character who is so beautiful that woodland creatures sit at her feet." She sighed. "We ignore the fact that we might fall in love with someone who can't sing well enough to charm the birds or who has never seen a white horse outside of the movies. We hope for the unrealistic fairy tale love and then, in the end, everyone is disappointed."

"This is what you talked about today?"

"Sort of. Not just this anyway," she clarified. "But it, disappointment, not fairy tales, seems to be a running theme in my life."

He leaned forward a bit to see her face, but she kept watching the waves.

"You know I love you, right?" she asked softly. "You don't have to say it back or even feel it. I just wanted you to know that I do." She smiled slightly.

He didn't know how to answer. She had a spectacular gift for startling him into silence. Luckily, she continued without leaving room for his response. "I'm telling you this now, because I finally think I really mean it." She paused and drew a deep breath, holding the way a child does before jumping into cold water. "You need to go back home."

"What?" He wanted to shout and nearly gave into the urge.

"You have to move back to your apartment," she explained patiently.

"No." He shook his head. "You need the company."

"I'll get a dog."

"Damn it, Mac." He stood up and paced away from her, shoving his hands into his pockets. "Weren't you the one who said you were sick of this dance?"

He wasn't surprised to find that she'd followed him. She touched his shoulder gently and the pulled her hand away quickly. "I'm sorry." She tugged at the bottom of her sweater. "I didn't mean to make such a mess."

He turned to face her, arms crossed over his chest. Her body was curled over, huddled against the wind and some weight only she could feel. He wanted to shake her. Did she think she was the only who got hurt by these conversations? "What did you mean?"

"I wanted." She stopped. "I need." She turned slightly into the wind and sucked at the salt air in big, greedy gulps. "God, Harm," she said at last. "I have no idea who I am anymore. I'm just gone. There's nothing left and soon it's going to suck you in, too."

She pinched the fabric of his shirt between her fingers, anchoring herself to his arm. "You need to leave. You can't honestly say that this time hasn't taken its toll on you. You can't do it anymore."

"What if I want to stay?"

"You can't," she said emphatically. "I need you too much right now." She tugged lightly at the fabric in her hand. "I need to learn how to stand on my own two feet again." It was contradictory and she knew it. But she didn't know how to explain it to him. She was depending on him too much. One of them would get hurt and she didn't know how she would be handle it.

"Are you leaving?"

"No." She shook her head in denial. "I'm staying."

"Mac," he began.

Her hand dropped away. "We talked about Paraguay."

"What?"

"Dr. Hepburn and I. We talked about Paraguay, sort of." She shrugged. "I told her why I tried to kill myself. Rather, she helped me understand my reasons. Didn't you ever wonder why there wasn't a note?"

He did. Now that she was getting better, or at least pretending to for his sake, he had allowed himself to relax a little, to let his concentration slip occasionally. He no longer wanted to follow her into the bathroom to make sure she'd come out. He didn't worry about whether she'd be there when he returned from work. He could suppress the urge to check to see if she was breathing late at night.

When he stopped focusing on all those worries, though, he began to wonder about other things. Like, why she tried to kill herself? Or, why didn't anyone notice she'd deteriorated to a point where suicide seemed like a reasonable alternative to everything else? Why didn't anyone notice that she needed to be rescued again?

She shrugged again, bunching the material of her sweater between her shoulders and her ears. "I don't think I really knew at the time. I was just so empty, so tired of feeling that way."

"Pretty odd, considering you were the one who blew me off in Paraguay." His voice was bitter; he just managed to keep a mocking tone out of his voice.

"I know," she replied. "Harm, I know I hurt you. I'm sorry. I really am, but I can't," she broke off and wandered closer to the water. "I don't need your guilt on top of mine. You know that thing you said about me and my exes?"

He felt sick. He was certain he was going to throw up. Please, he prayed, please let it have been something else that started this. "That was a cruel thing for me to have said once, let alone twice."

"Yes," she agreed. "It was … careless. But I understand why you said it. I wasn't exactly being sweet and innocent at the time."

"Please, Mac, tell me that wasn't the reason for this."

"Harm," she placed a hand on his cheek, "it wasn't the reason. Honest. It just sort of came at a bad time and confirmed a lot of things I'd already been thinking."

He ran a hand down her wrist, circling her forearm like a handcuff.

"Please," she pleaded, "don't look like that. I swear, it wasn't that comment. It wasn't you. I did all of this. Not you."

"Obviously," he ground out between his teeth, "that's not true."

She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly but didn't answer him. They stood still, frozen at the edge of the water. His fingers cuffed her wrist; their arms were trapped between their bodies. Her gaze was fixed on the water. "It is true," she insisted quietly. She brushed at a strand of hair that was flirting with her lips. "You hurt me, yes, but I could survive that. I don't know how to make you believe that. Maybe I did it because I thought my last chance at the fairy tale I've always secretly wanted had disappeared. Somewhere along the way, my last dream died and it took me with it."

She stomped her foot in the sand and looked at him. His lips were pressed into a tight line, hardening the features of his face. She would have given anything to start this conversation over. To not have it at all and let fate direct the rest of their lives.

"Why did you say that it would never work in Paraguay?" he asked after a minute of silence.

"Did you hear us?" she asked him. "The things we said to each other?"

He nodded. "Did you believe it when you said it?"

Her knees weakened and she sat down without freeing her arm from his grasp. He followed her down, lowering himself on to the sand. "I don't know," she admitted. "Maybe."

"I went down there because--" Her fingers on his mouth prevented him from finishing his sentence.

"Don't say it yet." She shook her head. "I'm not ready to hear it. I won't believe it now."

"When will you?" he questioned.

"I don't know," she said. "I'm no good to anyone like this. I just need time to get back on my feet."

They sat in silence. Her left arm was stretched across his body, his fingers rubbing the inside of her wrist. She wondered if he knew he was doing that. She wondered who he was trying to soothe. "I'm sorry I hurt you in Paraguay," she apologized softly again. "When I heard you say you resigned - Clay was hurt, you lost your job, and once again, I was to blame. I couldn't - Harm." She trailed off.

"What?" he asked.

"I - living has never been easy for me. It's been more like surviving. I got tired of just trying to take it one day at a time." She shrugged. "And then everything sort of fell apart from the inside out. I can't explain it any better. Paraguay or why I tried to kill myself. I really can't."

His fingers tightened around her wrist and loosened slightly. He transferred her wrist to his right hand and bent his knees, never losing contact with her skin. "Mac, I hate talking about this kind of thing," he said. "I think I prefer the big gestures."

"Like resigning or flying your mom across the country?" she asked with a smile. "It's okay. You don't have to. I think I'm all talked out for the day."

He pinned her hand to the sand. "Okay, then you sit and I'll talk." He stared at the water and listened to the waves, trying to gather his thoughts. This was their last appeal. Tonight, the judges would render their final decision in Rabb v. Mackenzie. He needed his argument to be flawless. "We haven't been close for a while," he said.

She shook her head and swallowed. "No, we haven't."

"This past year, I don't think I recognize us anymore. However you choose to define 'us,' I don't think we fit the description. Paraguay, I guess as you said, confirmed everything I'd thought, too."

"You too, huh?" she sniffled quietly.

"I went down there to rescue you," he said. "And to tell you I loved you, and then I saw you kiss Webb. Maybe we just weren't meant to have anything other than friendship."

"Okay." She tried to stand up, but he kept her hand trapped beneath his. "Please let go."

"Not going to happen," he told her. "The thing is, I don't think we are meant to be just friends. None of my friends have ever hurt me the way you have. I've never hurt them either."

"Would you just tell me what you're trying to say?" Her voice was growing impatient.

"I never cared about my friends the way I care about you. So, you need time, you got it. But I'm not going anywhere."

"Oh." Her mouth dropped open. "Oh. I thought - I thought you were angry with me."

He paused before answering. "Furious, actually. First, because of Paraguay and then because of Clay. And then this."

"This?" she asked.

"Did you honestly thing that I'd be happy that you tried to kill yourself?" he demanded. Sometimes, he marveled at the sheer stupidity of this woman. He gave up everything to bring her back from Paraguay. And with a few thoughtless words and one careless gesture, she nearly took it all away again.

"No," she said in a small voice.

"God, Mac," he pulled her closer to him, "you scared me."

"I'm sorry." She pushed herself far enough away to see his face. "For everything."

"Me too," he echoed. "I'm not going anywhere. You want me to move back to my apartment, fine. But I'm not leaving you."

"It might be better for you if you did."

"No. It wouldn't." He tugged lightly on her wrist and she moved back into his arms. "You need to learn to stand on your own. Good for you. I'll stand next to you."

"Okay."

 

Chapter 15

 

Once, when she was younger, an alcoholic and foolishly in love with a man who really was no good, she hiked into the backcountry of Sedona with too little water and not enough sense. She walked across rocks and dry soil until she stood at the edge of the canyon. Spread out below her feet, the canyon was a sharp contrast of reds and greens beneath a deep blue sky. She could see Castle and Pyramid Rocks in the distance. The horizon was hemmed in by a towering wall of red rocks, banded by a thin layer of white and green limestone. She stood on a ledge, buffeted by the high desert wind, and watched the scenery until her husband tackled her from behind and brought her down, laughing as she narrowly avoided the edge of the rock.

There were days when she missed the sharp dry heat of the high desert. The early shade of the canyon floors. She missed the rocks and the sand, the strong yellow light that sunglasses couldn’t quite filter out. She missed the wind and the dust devils. The jumbled mess of stars in the night sky. She missed the way the desert wouldn’t let her forget, wouldn’t let her slide from day to day, the way it reminded her each day that she was alive.

Since she left Arizona, when she needed to calm down, when she needed to quell the nerves that threatened to overwhelm her, she pictured herself standing on top of that red rock under a cloudless sky. Sometimes, even when she was happy, she would picture that place and herself in it. She bolstered the canyon walls with the good memories, drawing them out when she needed support.

As she huddled in a chair next to Harriet’s desk, she tried to remember the calm that she felt at the edge of the canyon. She tried to remember the silence. But she was acutely aware that she was sitting in the middle of the JAG bullpen in a sweater and jeans waiting for Harm to get out of court. Harriet’s chatter was soothing, easing the tingles caused by the stares of her former co-workers. She knew they didn’t mean to make her feel like a fish in a glass tank, but she couldn’t help wishing that they could find something else, anything else, to do.

“You know what I don’t get?” Harriet asked. She tapped her fingers against the keyboard and scanned the bullpen. When she caught a stray stare, she glared at the starer until he or she turned away. Until Commander Rabb got out of court, she had appointed herself to take care of the Colonel… Mac… Sarah.

“Quantum physics?” Mac hazarded a guess.

“You know what else I don’t get?” Harriet smiled, relieve to hear the Colonel … Mac … Sarah make a joke.

“What to call me?”

“That makes three things.” Harriet cupped her chin in her hand and studied the other woman. “What do I call you since you brought it up?”

“My name is Sarah,” Mac suggested. “Of course, Mac is a little closer to Ma’am.” She curled her fingers into her palms and forced her hands to relax against her thighs. “I feel underdressed,” she confessed in a low voice.

“What if I just call you A.J.’s godmother? It’s a beautiful sweater.” Harriet nodded at the soft red sweater.

“Harm called while I was out shopping,” Mac said. “I didn’t have time to change because he has to be back in court this afternoon.” She exhaled softly. “Thank you. And what don’t you get?”

“Men and long hair.”

Mac wrinkled her nose slightly and asked, “Men with long hair or their fascination with women who have long hair?”

Harriet paused and thought for a moment. “Both actually. But I was referring to their fascination with it. I had to make a hairdresser’s appointment and Bud wanted to know why I didn’t let my hair grow out. Never mind the fact that even if I were to let it grow, it would still have to be shaped and trimmed. But with two kids and a job, maybe I don’t have time to do my hair every morning.”

“Did you breathe at all during that?” Mac marveled. Her nerves were abandoned as she tried to sort through Harriet’s thoughts.

“No.” Harriet heaved a sigh. “I don’t think so.”

“I don’t know what to tell you,” she said. “Mostly because I don’t know what you said,” she teased.

Harriet waved her hand. “It wasn’t important. I was just blowing off steam.” She glanced up and smiled at the bullpen doors. “Here comes Harm.”

“Goody.” Mac sighed. “He’s going to make me eat vegetables.” She pushed herself out of the chair and smiled down out Harriet. “It was good talking to you, Harriet.”

“Same here, A.J.’s godmother.” Harriet smiled back. “I’m glad you’re -” She broke off and flushed, unsure how to phrase her thoughts. “Okay,” she finished lamely.

“Thank you,” Mac replied softly. She glanced in the direction of Harm’s office, forcing herself not to look at her old office. But she saw it anyway; the room was dark and she absurdly glad that whoever was now occupying it wasn’t in it at the moment.

She knocked lightly on the doorjamb to Harm’s office. “You harangued?” She smiled to take the sting out of it.

“I called you, if that’s what you mean.” He looked up from a stack of messages and raised an eyebrow.

“You say potato.” She shrugged.

He dropped the stack on his desk and grabbed his cover. “Do you have time for lunch?”

“That’s why you called, right?” She gestured to the door. “Feed me.”

“Actually, I called because,” he started, then sat down behind his desk and motioned to the chairs in front of it, “I have to go out to the Seahawk tomorrow.”

“Oh.” She sat down heavily. “Okay.”

“I have to go home after work to pack.”

She frowned and picked at a spot on the edge of his desk. “Why did you call me then?”

“I wanted to tell you in person,” he explained. He smiled sheepishly. “I was worried about you when I couldn’t reach you at your apartment.”

“I’m not made of glass,” she huffed. “I was out shopping. You see me everyday. You call every lunch hour and every night when you get back to your apartment.” She ticked off the list on her fingers, smiling so he would know his concern didn’t bother her.

“I know.” He shrugged. “I still worry. I’ll call as often as I can while I’m gone.”

Her frown reappeared and deepened. She tucked her feet under her chair. “Okay,” she said again. She paused and built red canyon walls in her mind. “No. Wait. Maybe I’ll go away.”

He sat upright. “Go where?”

“Just a vacation,” she placated. “I was thinking of going to Sedona. I miss it,” she explained on a sigh.

The corners of his mouth pulled into a straight line. “If you wait, I’ll ask for leave and go with you.”

She stretched across the plateau of his desk and touched his arm. “You just got your job back,” she reminded him. “What are the chances the Admiral is going to give you the time off?”

“Slim to none,” he admitted grudgingly. “Mac, I don’t like this.”

Oak Creek ribboned through the sand, washing away tiny grains of the canyon floor, deepening the chasm. She concentrated on the way the water washed over the rocks, the way the fish slid downstream in its current. “I think I need to go.”

“Are you coming back?” he asked warily. His hand closed over hers, tugging slightly, pulling her closer to the front of his desk.

“Of course,” she answered immediately. “How long will you be gone?”

He shrugged. “The JAG on board had a family emergency. I’m just filling in.”

“I’ll be back before you then,” she said. “Besides, I have a job interview next week.”

“Really?” He tightened his grip on her hand, loosening it slightly when she grimaced under its pressure.

“A family law firm. It’s mostly matrimonial work, but one of their attorneys worked on VAWA. And they want to expand their adoption department to handle foreign adoptions.” She turned her hand over and curled her fingers against his palm. “You buy me lunch to celebrate the interview, I’ll buy dinner when I get the job.”

“Deal.” He stood up and walked over to her. Crooking his arm, he held his elbow out to her. As she slipped her hand around it, he frowned. “Where’s your jacket?”

“In the car,” she sighed. At this time of year, the trees in the canyon would be a deep golden color. She sighed again and patted his arm. Rising onto her toes, she placed a light kiss on his cheek.

“What was that for?” His eyes were wide.

“Because you care,” she explained.

“I always did, you know.”

“Yeah,” she said softly, patting his arm and smiling a little. “I do now.” In Arizona, it was still mid-morning and the canyon walls glowed in the strong light.

 

Chapter 16

 

“I thought you said you would beat me back to D.C.?” he asked. He flipped thought the mail, weeding out circulars and junk mail from the rapidly growing collection of bills.

“I thought you would be gone longer,” she protested.

“Apparently, it wasn’t as big of an emergency as we were all lead to believe,” he snorted in disgust. “Most of my time was spent in transit.”

“I’m sorry,” her voice drifted through the speakerphone.

“When are you coming back?” he asked.

“I – I,” her voice faltered. “My interview was re-scheduled. I got a different flight back.”

His hands hovered above his mail and lowered to the countertop. He held his breath and counted to ten.

“It’s so beautiful here.” She changed the subject quickly. “I forgot how much I loved it out here. You should see it one day, Harm. You’d love it.”

He counted to ten again. “Are you coming back here?” he asked softly.

The conversation grew quiet. He could hear her carefully measured breaths, the soft inhalations and shaky releases. “Are you coming back?” he repeated.

“Yes,” she said softly. It sounded more like a question than an answer.

“Mac,” he said, pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. “I can’t chase after you and bring you back.”

“I know. I don’t want you to,” she said quietly.

“I just can’t keep doing it,” he persisted.

“I’ll come back,” she promised.

“If you’re happy and you want to stay, then stay. But I can’t keep running after you.”

“Harm,” she broke in, “I’m going to come back.”

“Alright,” he agreed. His hand hovered above the ‘end’ button, knowing that she would begin to make her excuses and leave the conversation.

“But now I have to go,” she said. “I’ll call you later, okay?”

“Okay,” he agreed, sighing at how the conversation had deteriorated. “Bye,” he added, but she was already gone.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

The breeze caught and pulled at her exhalation, stretching it into a sigh that drifted into the canyon. She wrapped her arms around her thighs, tucking her forearms between her bent legs. The wind pulled strands of hair from her ponytail and whipped them across her face.

It would be so easy to stay here. She could stay cradled in the canyon’s walls. She could use them to build a fortress from her problems, to lock herself up in them and never leave. It was far from D.C., far from her troubles. They couldn’t reach her here; they were locked up in the neutral walls of the tiny apartment where she had tried to kill herself.

Destruction was slower here. It came in deep, slow breaths of wind, in the soft gurgle of the creek. It was a constant, wearing at the rocks and soil, tearing at he sand. But it would be so easy to ignore it and try to settle down.

She shook her hair back, turning her face into the wind. She had been lying to him when she talked to him earlier. Lying by omission, but still lying. She had thought about staying. Since the moment she’d steered her rental car in the direction of Sedona, she’d thought about staying. Not staying, she admitted, so much as hiding.

So, here she was. Did she stay, try to plant roots in the rocky soil and wear slowly away, like the canyon walls? Or did she let the wind pull her East?

She didn’t want to go back almost as much as she was homesick. She missed her friends. She missed him. When he called, she wanted to beg him to come out. But she couldn’t ask it anymore than he could do it. She wanted him to see it though. She wanted him to see that there were bright spots in her past; even at the worst times, she had had good things.

He was disappointed in her, she could hear it in his voice. The tired, slightly angry tones said just as much as he didn’t say. He was convinced she was going to run and he’d had enough of the chase.

Well, so had she. They spent so much time getting ready to run, whether to chase or be chased, that it was no wonder they were exhausted. It was a miracle they could recognize each other’s faces, they spend so much time looking at the backs of their heads. She wanted to be able to face him. She wanted to tell him that she loved him. But she was afraid of him. Afraid that he was her last chance at that stupid fairy tale ending. If she never told him, if he never knew, then nothing could ruin it. She would never have to be unhappy, because she would never be completely happy.

She tugged on the bottom of her jeans, ripping a string on one of the cuffs. Wrapping the string around her finger, she watched the canyon floor. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and waited. She waited for something to prompt her along. For someone to make her move. It amazed her how tired she was. Until she’d been able to sit still, she hadn’t realized how far she’d run. She’d had enough of running away. It was time to stop. It was time to go home.

 

Chapter 17

 

The country was reduced to two colors: black and a glowing, creeping orange that clumped and oozed into the darkness. It was hard to imagine that, during the day, the tangle of lights and dark empty spaces were cities and fields. Night had homogenized the landscape, had made it unrecognizable from her plane.

They were circling Dulles. The plane had been turning lazy circles in the sky waiting for clearance to land. The woman next to her was chatting nervously, her fingers curled like claws on the armrest. Mac could see sweat on the woman’s forehead and her face had somehow turned pink and pale at once.

It surprised her how much she wanted the plane to land. And not only to get away from her seatmate. She couldn’t wait to get home. All she wanted was her own bed and to call Harm. She’d called earlier to give him her flight information so he’d know when she would be back. He wasn’t in, so she’d had to leave a message on his machine, and, now, she really wanted to talk to him. She just wanted to hear his voice, to know that he wasn’t angry with her.

“This is my first time to DC.” The woman next to her broke her chain of thought.

“Oh?” Mac raised an eyebrow and dragged her attention away from the window.

“My daughter and her husband moved here a few months ago. He got transferred.”

“Oh?” Mac said again, because she really wasn’t interested and because she couldn’t think of a more original response.

“They just had a baby.” The woman released her grip on the armrest to rummage through her purse. Despite herself, Mac watched, fascinated, as a pile began to form on the woman’s lap. Eyeglasses, a wallet, a ticket and boarding pass, receipts, and a checkbook were heaped on to the woman’s legs until she found an envelope at the bottom of her purse. “Here it is.” She waved the envelope triumphantly. “This is my grandson, Mark.” She pointed to a baby swaddled in blue. “Isn’t he adorable?”

“He’s very cute,” Mac agreed, passing the picture back to the woman.

“Do you have any kids?” A mechanical whir signaled the lowering landing gear and had the woman gripping the armrests again. “God,” she confessed, abandoning her line of questioning, “I hate flying.”

“Really?” Mac questioned. “I guess I’m used to it.”

“I never would have gotten on a plane if it weren’t for my daughter.” She smiled. “I think I would have been content to never leave home. Or, at least not go any farther than a comfortable drive would take me. Say, you never said, why are you going to DC?”

Mac smiled. “It’s home.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

The concourse was busy and filled with people who weren’t Mac. He watched, arms crossed over his chest, leaning against a wall, as people poured out of the terminal. The lines at security grew and ebbed. The flow of humans waxed and waned. And she was late.

Rationally, he knew it wasn’t her fault. Hell, she didn’t even know he was waiting for her. But he was still annoyed. He was tired and frustrated after an awful day in court. The judge hadn’t ruled in his favor once. Evidence damning his client, evidence that he had counted on being ruled inadmissible, was now admissible. There wasn’t a hat or a rabbit large enough to save his client; all he could do was wait and appeal the verdict.

Her message reminded him of when he was little and used to dive into a cold pool after a hot day playing with his friends. It was a shock. It was a relief. She had promised that she was coming back, but there was a part of him that hadn’t believed her. A very large part of him.

As much as he didn’t want to admit, the time while she was gone had been good for him at first. He didn’t have to plan his schedule with her in mind. He could go straight home after a long day without worrying that she would be hurt by his actions. He didn’t feel the need to call her every five minutes.

For the first time in months, he remembered what it felt like to be single. And for the first couple of days, it had felt good. And then it started to nag at him. Then he began to worry about whether or not she would stay away permanently. All the times when she had run or he had dodged her advances flashed in his mind. They played over and over again like a bad slideshow. As the reel of bloopers and missed chances grew longer, the more he began to wonder about her and whether, from then on, if he would have to fly to Arizona to see her.

And then, as the worries swirled about him, sucking him into a cyclone of doubt and fear, her voice was on his answering machine. The message was short and to the point. It contained flight numbers and times and a quiet explanation about catching a cab because Harriet had dropped her off at the airport.

The screens that listed the departures and arrivals flickered and changed as new flights took off and landed. Finally, he saw that the listing for Phoenix had changed. Her flight had arrived. He started to scan the crowd for dark heads.

She nearly bobbled her carry on when she saw him waiting for her. She hadn’t called him so that he would pick her up. But she was ridiculously glad to see him. She wanted to be a cliché. She wanted to run down the long hallway and throw her arms around him. “Hey,” she called out as she approached him.

“Hi.” He pushed himself up off the wall. Leaning down, he kissed her cheek and grabbed her carry-on.

“What are you doing here?”

“Picking you up?” he questioned. “Mac, I thought you were more observant than this,” he chided.

She threaded her arm through his. “I’m glad you came.” She brushed a strand of hair back from her face. “I wasn’t looking forward to the cab ride,” she teased. “Or the cab fare.”

“It wasn’t a big deal.” He nudged her in the direction of the baggage claim. “Are you hungry?”

“You’re asking me?” She pointed towards her breastbone.

“Right.” He shook his head. “I forgot who I was talking to.”

She leaned her head against his arm and sighed a little. He looked down at her and smiled. “Tired?”

“No,” she answered quietly. “Just happy to be back.”

“I thought you were happy in Arizona.”

Her shoulder bumped his arm as she shrugged. “I was. It was really beautiful. I’m just happy to be home.” She added in a soft voice. “I missed you.”

He reached up to pat her hand. “I missed you, too.”

She tugged lightly on his elbow, pulling him to a stop. They stood in the middle of the airport. Activity eddied around them, hovering at the edges of their inactivity. She could hear a loud speaker paging someone. Carts beeped, announcing their presence. She pulled her hand back and twisted it in her other hand. “Harm, I,” she stopped and bit her lower lip.

“What?” His voice was tired. She stuffed her hands into her coat pockets to keep herself from smoothing away the lines on his forehead. “Are you moving to Arizona?”

She gave into temptation and brushed a thumb over his forehead, her hand resting against the side of his face. “No,” she said. “I’m staying.” She stomped on the ground. Burying her face in her free hand, she mumbled, “God, this is embarrassing, but I need to tell you this.”

“What?” he repeated his question.

She lowered her hands. “It’s just … I’m going to sound like such an egomaniac. I swear,” she muttered under her breath, “this went so much better in my head.”

“You practiced this in your head?” he asked amused.

She huffed. “Yes.”

“Maybe I can make this easier on you,” he suggested. “What was I doing when you practiced?”

“You were shutting up and not making fun of me.” She glared at him. “I love you,” she blurted the words out.

He opened his mouth and she put her fingers on his lips, covering them. “I’m almost ready to hear it back,” she said. “But not yet.”

Pushing her hand away from his mouth, he asked, “Any idea when you will be?” He raised an eyebrow. “Is there a timeline?”

She looked away from him, directing her gaze back to the terminal’s long corridor. “Soon.” She raised and lowered her shoulders. “Maybe in a month.”

“Mac,” he drawled her name. “I was kidding about the timeline.”

“Well, I wasn’t. Tell me in a month,” she insisted.

“So how about in the mean time?”

“Give me a hug?”

He pulled her into his arms and rested his head on top of hers. She leaned against his chest and smiled as she felt him kiss the top of her head. She might never be Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty and he would probably never be Prince Charming. But if this is how Dorothy felt when she returned to Kansas, then fairy tale endings were just unnecessary. She didn’t need the birds to sing or the stars to twinkle brightly. She just needed him.

 

Chapter 18

 

Once upon a time, long ago and far away from Washington, D.C., a little girl sat under a dark sky watching the stars above her head and made a wish. Hundreds of miles away, a boy, older in years but not experience, faced west, as if staring hard enough could make a whole continent appear on the horizon, and wished. With backwards glances at the structures behind them, lit from within to ward off the night, the boy and girl wished for a concept, for something they were both too young to understand except in its simplest forms. 

The boy looked out at the dark ocean and asked for the family he once knew. The little girl wanted the family that she had always dreamed about. That night, after wishing and wishing, they would both go to bed, still hopeful that the stars had the power to bring them what they wanted. When they woke up the next morning and saw that everything was still the same, they would believe a little less, their hearts would be a little harder, and their dreams a little farther beyond their grasps.

For years, they would repeat this ritual until time and age made them give it up. They gave up wishing, because it only ever brought disappointment. And then one day, they met. Only in fairy tales, in bedtime stories that parents tell their children to protect them from the monsters that could still be warded off by nightlights and hope, would the boy and the girl, now a man and a woman, fall in love immediately.  Only in fairy tales would they be able to fix each other quickly and not add to their lists of disappointments.

But this wasn't a fairy tale, it didn't resemble the bedtime stories parents murmured to sleepy children.  And the man wasn't even allowed to tell the woman he loved her for another two weeks. It was frustrating because she hadn't set any rules for herself, only for him.  When they hung up the phone at night, she whispered it as her good bye.  She sneaked the words into their conversations and he wasn't allowed to say them back.

Which was worse, he wanted to know, suspecting he loved her when it was against the rules, or knowing he loved her and not being allowed to tell her? The effect was the same; he was stymied and he hated it. He hated her time line and he hated that he was still a little angry with her.

He was angry that she could have been so selfish. He didn't understand completely her reasons; he never would. But he understood that her pain had been too big for her to see around it, too big to see the alternatives. There were times when she grew silent and pulled away and he wanted to shake her. To tell her to open her eyes and see him standing in front of her.

But it was getting better. As she got better, the anger diminished. It hadn't disappeared, but it had lessened. And he knew, just as he knew that he loved her, that when she let them say the words, the little spark of anger would be extinguished, gone in a little puff of smoke and a soft sizzle. 

On the night before Thanksgiving, a cold front slid down from the north on an icy wind and rain. She curled up on his couch, watching as he peeled sweet potatoes for tomorrow's dinner at Bud and Harriet's.

"Why did you volunteer to make those again?" She wrinkled her nose in distaste as she crossed the apartment.

"Because they're good for you," he said patiently.  They'd had this conversation five or six times already.

"But they're orange," Mac said predictably. She eased onto a stool and watched the peels fall into a small pile on the cutting board.

He set the potato and peeler down and sighed. "You eat oranges and carrots," he pointed out.

"That's different." She waved a hand in front of her, brushing aside his comment.

"How?"

She grinned sheepishly. "I - uh - I like them?"

"You need to eat more vegetables," he said firmly, resisting the urge to tell her how ridiculous she was being.

"I do," she protested. "You make me."

He picked up the vegetable again. "It's only because I love you."  The words slipped out of his mouth and hovered between them. His grip on the peeler tightened.

"Huh," she said on a shaky sigh. "I was wondering how long it would take before you said it."

He raised his head. "You told me I couldn't."  The spark that had been smoldering flared. "What the-" He choked on the words. He wanted to ask why she had made him wait. If this was some sort of test he didn't know he was taking.

She raised a hand quickly, thumbing away tears before gesturing for him to stop. "No, no." She shook her head. "For once, I know what you're going to say and I swear I wasn't."

"You weren't what?"

"Playing a game or testing you."

"Then what was it?"

She shook her head again and blinked. "I don't know. Honestly? I thought I needed the time." She blew out a breath and studied the ceiling. "I needed to like me again before I could believe you could. But mostly? I was scared."

"Scared of what?"

"You know," she insisted.

"Of it all going badly?" At her nod, he said, "Me too."

She rounded the island and wrapped her arms around his waist, leaning her forehead between his shoulder blades. "I'm glad you didn't stick to the time line."

He patted her hands. "Me too," he repeated. Grabbing her forearm, he pulled her around until she stood in front of him. He cupped her face in his hands. "I do love you."

"I love you, too." She sniffled, nodding a little to emphasize her words.

He kissed her softly, moving a hand from her face to her neck.

"Harm," she said quietly when they pulled back. Her hand curled lightly over his wrist to keep him close.

"I know." He shushed her with his free hand.

She pulled the hand away from her mouth. "This doesn't fix everything with me."

"I know," he said. He wanted to ignore her statement, ignore the little hurt it caused, but he couldn't.

"But it makes it a lot better," she smiled.

He smiled back. "Good."

Maybe, one day, years from now, on a night like this one, when their children asked for a bedtime story, they would read them the fairy tales they didn't believe in. Or, maybe, they would tell them about a little boy and a little girl who made wishes and hoped they would come true. And maybe, on that rainy night, they could tell their children they had. Those were just maybes and, for now, it was just the two of them. And outside, the wind swirled and shook the windowpanes. It whistled around the corners of the building. The rain formed icy puddles and the storm drains choked and gurgled with water and leaves, but, inside, it was warm and dry and that was all that mattered.

 

The End

 

 

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