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The Letter

***

I was standing at the counter

I was waiting for the change

When I heard that old familiar music start

It was like a lighted match

Had been tossed into my soul

It was like a dam had broken in my heart

***

It was a wonderful June day. Blue skies, gentle breeze, plenty of sunshine. The perfect day. I decided that I would do some of the little things that I had left neglected for far too long.

To start with, my little flower bed overlooking the ocean needed to be weeded. I had been working for half an hour when I saw Templeton start down the path that led to the beach. Five minutes later, I got a nagging feeling that something was wrong. I glanced around but didn't see anything out of the ordinary. Shaking my head at my own silliness, I went back to gardening.

//Where's Templeton?// It suddenly struck me, that was what was odd. Templeton had taken the path down to the beach, but he wasn't down there. It had been over five minutes and it shouldn't have taken him that long to walk the narrow path.

Needless to say, worry caught up with me pretty quickly and I dropped everything, heading for the steep path. I tried not to think of what could have happened if he had fallen. //I would have heard something...wouldn't I?//

I was halfway down the path when a noise off to my right caught my attention.

"Templeton?"

No answer.

"Templeton, if you're there, please answer?"

Another russle of bushes, "I'm here, Mrs. Eta."

"Thank goodness! I saw you start down and then I didn't see you...I was so worried!"

"I...I didn't mean to worry you."

"I know you didn't," I couldn't see him where he was but after looking closely, I saw a rough path to where I supposed he was sitting. "Ah...Templeton, I feel odd talking to a bush. Do you think I could come sit over there with you?"

For a moment I didn't think I would get his permission and when it finally came he said it so low that I almost didn't hear. Of course, I'm no fool and I surely wasn't going to ask him again in case he changed his mind. I pushed the clingy bushes away as I made my way over to him.

He was sitting on a small outcropping overlooking the beach. I can't tell you how much my heart was pounding at the though of him sitting on the edge like that.

However, I could tell that he had a lot on his mind and so I didn't ask him to move. In fact, dispite my own fear of falling, I sat down beside him and let my legs swing over the side.

We sat like that for, oh, must have been fifteen minutes without saying a word.

"Do you come here often?"

It shocked me a little when he burst into laughter, considering just a minute before he had looked so troubled. "Mrs. Eta, are you trying to pick me up?"

Finally getting the joke, "Maybe. How am I doing?"

He was trying to catch his breath now, "I think you need a new pick-up line."

"Well, it's been a while since I had to use one...So, do you?"

Confusion, "Do I what?"

"Come here often?"

"Oh. Yeah. I come here to think about stuff."

Not wanting to get in too deep just yet, I decided to lighten the mood a bit first, "Aren't you afraid of falling?"

"Huh?" He looked down as though for the first time noticing that his feet were swaying over a twenty foot drop, "Oh, no. I like the height. It's kind of second nature to me now."

"Oh, why's that?"

"Oh, um...well, back in 'Nam I was always the lookout while Hannibal and BA stuck to the ground. I'd sit in the trees and wait for the VC."

Not exactly what I had in mind for 'light' conversation, "What do you think about?"

"Huh...Oh, you mean up here? I don't know...stuff."

"I see. Stuff." Might as well get down to the grindstone, "What are you thinking about today?"

He was staring out at the ocean again. It's odd how beautiful he looks at moments like these. Oh, I know he's a georgeous young man //even if I hadn't noticed, that grandaughter of mine tells me often enough//, but it's not that.

It's like watching something in the wild. Every emotion played out on his perfect features, every thought clearly spoken in his eyes. He held his face up to sun and closed his eyes, letting the warmth dance across his skin. It was almost magical. He leaned into the wind as it blew his hair back, sun glinting off the gold highlights. It looked as though he could have lept into flight at that very moment...

"I got a letter today," the spell was broken as he dropped his head to stare at his feet. "It was from someone...someone I never thought I would ever hear from again."

***

After taking every detour

Getting lost and losing track

So that even if I wanted

I could not find my way back

After driving out the memory

Of the way things might have been

After I'd forgotten all about us

The song remembers when

***

"It's been three years."

"Since you talked to them?"

He nodded, "Caterina D'Agostino."

"Was she a client?"

"No," the corners of his mouth curled into a smile, "she wasn't a client. She was...We met under unusual circumstances."

It was beginning to make sense to me. She must have been one of his past girlfriends. However, I could tell by the look in his eyes that she had meant perhaps a great deal more than just a girlfriend. He had a faraway look, as though he was caught up in the memory of her. The look I get when I think of my dear late husband.

"Tell me about her."

***

We were rolling through the Rockies

We were up above the clouds

When a station out of Jackson played that song

And it seemed to fit the moment

And the moment seemed to freeze

When we turned the music up and sang along

***

He took a breath and glanced at me. I saw unshed tears there, but memories of happiness too.

"She was...is...an amazing woman. She looks like an angel..."

I smiled thinking that it suited the expectation. An angel for an angel...

"The last time I saw her, her hair was dark, long and flowing. She turned and the wind caught it and she was smiling as she tried to keep it from her face...She laughed, it sounded like bells. I've never seen anything so beautiful..."

I was mesmarized by hs description, "Go on."

"Um...I remember she started cryng, I reached out to wipe away her tears...Her skin was so soft, the color of caramel...and her eyes, it was like looking into a hurricaine...deep green, flecks of gold...I had to bend down to kiss her."

He was smiling and at that moment he was there. Three years ago, saying goodbye to the woman who had captured his heart.

"She was so tiny. I thought she was so fragile, but she was stronger than me. She gave me one last kiss and then she started up the stairs to her plane. That was the last time I saw her."

We sat in silence. I, wondering about the mysterious woman who had captured my Templeton's heart, and he awash in a wake of emotion.

***

And there was a God in Heaven

And the world made perfect sense

We were young and were in love

And we were easy to convince

We were headed straight for Eden

It was just around the bend

And though I have forgotten all about it

The song remembers when

***

"How did you meet?"

"Um...I was in Seattle. Hannibal had decided that we all needed a break. He went to Maggies and BA went to stay with Mrs. B. Normally I would have sprung Murdock from the VA, but he was busy convincing the shrinks that he was not just textbook insane but a book all his own."

We laughed a little at that. Just like HM. No more 'insane' than I am, but sure trying to drive the doctors mad.

"So I went to Seattle with...a friend." He turned an adorable shade of pink then and had to clear his throat before he could continue, "After we got there though, we had a falling out..."

If he had blushed any more he would have burst into flame. Normally, I would have teased him. However, since he seemed to forget about his troubles as he told his story I let it slide.

"I was getting into a cab someone, Caterina...Cat, gave me a shove and I found myself not only in the cab, but with a lovely young lady in my lap. You can imagine my dismay..."

"Oh, I'm imagining..." I just couldn't let that slide. I laughed as he blushed yet again.

"Ah...yes, well...So that's how I 'met' Cat. But that's not the unusual part. Turns out that she was being tailed by this bunch of Italian guys. So being a gentleman, I of course offered my help."

"Of course..."

He was smiling again, "we shook them rather quickly and then I offered to buy her dinner. And that you could say was the 'beginning of a beautiful friendship'. We spent every moment for the next two weeks after that, together. Mrs. Eta? Do you believe in love at first sight?"

"I do and it sounds like you do too." I was a bit confused now, if they had liked each other that much, what could have kept them a part?

***

I guess something must have happened

And we must have said goodbye

And my heart must have been broken

Though I can't recall just why

The song remembers when

***

"Yeah." He must have seen the questions in my expression, "There were complications."

I nodded for him to continue. Watching as he took a deep breath before plowing ahead.

"She...her family...they were involved in some...uh...underhanded dealings."

I couldn't quite keep the shock out of my voice as I suddenedly realized just what he was saying, "the Mafia!"

He was back to staring at his feet again.

"Templeton! How could you get mixed up in something like that?!"

"I didn't know! Well, not at first. By the time I found out, we...well, we were already...involved."

"What happened to the girl?"

"She went back to Italy. We decided that we...loved...each other too much to risk the other's life. The goons who were following her eventually found us and forced he to go with them. She had no choice! They threatened to kill me if she didn't go with them." He let out a deep sigh, "that day at the airport was the last time I saw her."

***

Well, for all the miles between us

And for all the time that's passed

You would think I haven't gotten very far

And I hope my hasty heart

Will forgive me just this once

If I stop to wonder how on Earth you are

***

"Well, what does she say in the letter?"

"I don't know. I haven't opened it yet."

"What?! The woman of your dreams writes you a letter after tragically being separated for three years and you haven't read it yet?!"

He pulled out the letter and was holding it as though it would disappear at any moment. It came as no surprise that his hands were shaking. I couldn't imagine living the story that he had just told me.

It was unreal. Things like that were left for the movies. I can't now say that I could have opened that letter any sooner had I been in his shoes. What if the news was bad? What if it was good? What if?

I placed my hand over his and gave him a gentle squeeze. He smiled and gave a nervous little laugh before his face slipped back into a serious mask.

"Mrs. Eta, I'm scared. What if...?"

I couldn't think of the reassurances he needed so I simply said, "maybe she just wants you to know that she is well. Maybe she's happy. Maybe she wishes you to be also."

"Maybe you're right."

"I'll leave you to it then," I started to get up when he gently grasped my wrist.

He looked me straight in the eye and I could see that he wanted to ask me, but didn't want to compromise me.

"You never told them?"

He glanced back to the house, where undoubtebly the rest of the boys were. "I never told anybody. Not until now..."

I placed my hand over his again, "It'll just be between us then."

He let out a breath that he probably hadn't realized he had been holding, "Thanks."

I nodded my head and carefully made my way back through the bushes.

***

But that's just a lot of water

Underneath a bridge I burned

And there's no use in backtracking

Around corners I have turned

Still I guess some things we bury

Are just bound to rise again

For even if the whole world has forgotten

The song remembers when

Yeah, and even if the whole world has forgotten

The song remembers when

***

I walked slowly up the path all the while thinking of the story I had just heard.

I reached the quite of my backyard and sat down by the little flower bed over looking the ocean. I found myself glancing where I knew he was still sitting. His secret spot.

I wondered just how often he sat there with the sun on his face and the wind in his hair, silently contemplating the mysteries in his life. Like something wild tying to be free...I knew then that that wouldn't be the last time I found him sitting there.

After letting it sit in my mind I couldn't quite recall why I had been astonished at the revelation. It would have been like that for him. Nothing was ever easy for my Templeton, or ordinary. Why should love be?

I hoped that the letter was good news.

***Fini***