There it was, still tied with a faded pink ribbon. He blew on it and dusted off the packet of letters with his hand. As tenderly as if it was she herself, Henry held the packet close to his breast as he descended the attic stairs.
The single lamp in the corner of the living room welcomed him into the embrace of it's circle of warmth. Nevertheless, he hugged an old sweater around himself as he sat down in the stuffed chair.
A fragrance of lilac lingered in the pages. He closed his eyes and recalled the first time his senses were arested by it.
The girl with auburn hair, so perfectly matching the leaves that autumn, and blue eyes that drew him immediately into their depths, turned to him, laughing at one of his silly jokes.
“Henry, I love the way you make me laugh.” Abby's laugh, peeling like tiny bells, was one of the things he loved most about her.
Wiping a tear, he untied the ribbon and lifted the first of her letters from the stack.
“September 12, 1943”, he read. “I remember this one. Germany, I think. She was expecting our first child and only hinted at it in the letter.”
“And won't you be surprised, darling, when you see the new addition to our home. I'm working my brothers pretty hard to make sure it's ready when you come home.”
The next one was dated a few weeks later. “October 19. Hmmm. By that time, she probably knew it was twins.” He chuckled.
“Darling, the addition is coming along quickly, and will actually need to be about twice the size as I'd thought. You certainly will be surprised, and pleased too, I'm sure.”
“I was that, my love.” He wiped at his eye with his left thumb as he continued through the stack.
“Yes, this one. This is where I started to suspect something other than room additions.”
“Henry, darling. I met the most wonderful lady at church yesterday. Her name was Barbara. I think maybe the first Barbara I've ever actually met. I like the name. What do you think of it? Barbara Ann, maybe?”
"Yes, sweetheart. I love the name. She called yesterday. She and Edward are coming for Christmas, along with Henry Jr. and his family. The kids are getting big you know.”
No, she didn't know, but in the place where she lived in memory, she knew all.
The next letter made him bow his head and weep.
“Darling, I miss you so much. So much is happening now; if only you could be here too.”
Another face came to mind and he angrily dismissed it. She'd been French, and alone too.
“I'm sorry Abby. You never knew; at least I don't think your ever knew. Anyway, I won't let her memory besmerch this time. I've asked the Lord for forgiveness and I know he has, but I never asked you my love. I'm asking now, now that I don't even know if you have any idea who I am.”
Putting the packet aside, he rose from the chair. The clock stood at 4 a.m.
“Time for another pill”, he reminded himself.
He took the pill and a glass of water to the bedroom, his body begging him for sleep. But this he did because he loved her.
“Abby, honey. Wake up. Wake up. Time for your pill.” Why he had to wake her up to give her a pill to keep her calm he'd never understand.
She moaned in her sleep and turned. Her eyes opened then, and their blue depths, which still took his breath away, drew him deep inside. Slowly, she smiled.
“Abby, do you know me? Are you smiling for me, sweetheart? Does this mean – do you forgive me?”
The smile remained, dimming only slightly as she dozed once again.
“Of course I do, Henry”, he heard her say, in that place in his memory. “I love you, my darling.”
“I love you, too, Abby.”
He curled on the cot by her bed, a smile softening his face as he fell into a peaceful sleep.
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