Rhea bit the pad of her thumb as she watched Peter’s eyes run over the letter she had handed him with trembling hands. The diner was busy around them, loud voices and laughter filling the space as effectively as the bodies they came from, but her entire focus remained on him, on the slight frown pulling at his brow when he reached the end of the letter and started again. She knew the letter so well that she recited it in her mind as she continued to watch him.
You know your own handwriting well enough to realize who wrote this note. So hi, me.
By now you’re probably very confused and wondering what’s going on, so here’s the short story. The attack on the Kavanagh clan went very, very badly. On a scale of one to ten, the badness was at least a thousand. They fought back, and they didn’t just come for the agency. They came for our families, our friends. In the end, everybody you loved or cared about was killed. You found a lot of them yourself. You had to make sure they wouldn’t return as vamps.
Read those last two sentences again. Let them sink in.
Now you know why you don’t have any memories beyond the day before the attack. I couldn’t live with them. Believe me, you wouldn’t be able to either, so don’t try to break the spell.
Yes, it’s a spell. That’s the how. Always loved knowing the ‘how’ of things, didn’t you? Or is it didn’t I? It’s weird to be talking to myself.
What’s left for you to do is to decide what to do with the rest of your life. I can’t help you there, because obviously, if I knew, I wouldn’t be doing this spell. I’m getting a ticket for the first bus out of New York. Trust me—trust yourself—when I tell you not to come back.
Find a job, get new friends, start a new life. Stay away from vamps and Special Enforcers. And most of all, do not try to remember.
At last, Peter folded the letter back up and placed it on the table between them. Rhea reached for it right away, her hands still shaking a little. She had unfolded, read and re-folded again that piece of paper so many times in the past two weeks that the paper seemed ready to fall apart along the creases. Almost reverently, she slipped it back in her purse. She never went anywhere without it, sometimes slipping her hand inside her bag to touch it and assure herself it was really there and she wasn’t caught in a too-vivid nightmare.
Across from her, Peter took a sip of coffee. It had to be tepid by now. The waitress, probably too busy, had not been back to refill their cups. Rhea remembered he had always liked his coffee strong and dark, with no milk or sugar. In her first years at the agency, she had brought him back a cup every time she had gone to the deli down the street for lunch. He used to smile when he thanked her, which never failed to make her flush, and Carol and Paul would—
The realization was sharp, painful as a punch to the gut, as it always was. Carol and Paul were gone, along with everyone from the agency, everyone she had cared about. She closed her eyes rather than allow tears to rise yet again.
“And you’re certain you wrote this letter?”
Peter’s voice was like a safe line, familiar and welcome despite its slight hint of incredulity. In a world she still didn’t recognize, it was the one thing she felt she could cling to. She opened her eyes again to find that he was observing her, his arms now crossed on the table. His eyes seemed to shine under the bright lights of the diner, and the few silver threads in his hair seemed more apparent than they had been at the store.
“As certain as I can be, considering. I’ve tried writing the letter over, and I could superpose the two almost perfectly.”
He shook his head in what looked like disbelief. Rhea’s stomach lurched unpleasantly. She hadn’t told anyone about her past since arriving in Miami, and he was the only person who had ever read the letter. She needed him to see that it was true. Then, maybe, she would stop hoping that she would wake up soon and find herself back in New York.
“It is my handwriting,” she insisted, almost begging him to believe her.
A muscle twitched in his jaw and pulled at the few fine lines at the corner of his mouth. He had aged gracefully, and he still looked like the same strong man she had once known.
“All right, let’s assume you wrote this,” he said, still sounding a little skeptical. “What I don’t understand is this. The agency was about to eliminate the Kavanagh clan when I left. That was more than five years ago.”
Rhea looked down at those words, sliding a little on her chair. Unfortunately, her teacup was empty, and would not help her suddenly dry throat.
“I know.” She could still feel the remnants of the panic that had taken hold of her when she had realized that five years had vanished from her life. “I guess… I guess I held on as long as I could before erasing my memories. Or maybe it took me that long to learn how.”
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