P.S.I. Part II -- The Thaw

Chapter 14 -- Letters

Home | Chapter 1 -- The Dead Eyes of the Prophet | Chapter 2 -- Rooster & Mundelein | Chapter 3 -- Where's Mike? | Chapter 4 -- The First Visitation | Chapter 5 -- Two Bridegrooms and a Baby | Chapter 6 -- Adding Emeralds to Sapphires | Chapter 7 -- Body Memory | Chapter 8 -- "I Wish You'd Take Better Care of Him!" | Chapter 9 -- Farewell, Big Red | Chapter 10 -- The Real Brin | Chapter 11 -- As Newfangled as Pringles | Chapter 12 -- When the Fat Lady Sings | Chapter 13 -- The Video, The Article and The Interviews | Chapter 14 -- Letters | Chapter 15 -- The Thaw | Chapter 16 -- Where She Walked | Epilogue | Author's Notes | Soundtrack

Stick candy.
Mike wanted both and wanted them yesterday.
"I've never known you to eat like that," said Marco.
"It's what I want," said Mike.
When Ms. Coe came for Marco's lesson, he off-handedly made a comment in reference to Mike's cravings.
"Craving carbohydrates and sweets is a sign of depression.  You may wish to get some help.  I would advise it--and the sooner the better," she said.
Despite Marco being in the same room, lonliness would wash over Mike like an ocean wave.  Their being in the middle of a rainy spell didn't help, either.  Gray, gray, and more gray.  Betsy had never been able to call him, as her "asthma" had actually been inhalant pneumonia, and he very nearly lost her to that instead of to Geoff.
Mike remembered the grim look on Cap's face when he came in the day after Betsy flew back to Kentucky.  "It's about Betsy, isn't it?" he recalled himself asking.  Cap nodded.  "She actually has inhalant pneumonia, and I'm afraid you probably won't be getting any phone calls from her."
The two looked at each other steadily, and Mike said, "She could die from that, couldn't she?" knowing full well that she could.  Cap closed his eyes, nodded, and said, "Yep."
And now with the gray day, he was adding the tears of the memory to the tears of grieving.  He felt as if he'd be crying for the rest of his life.
Just like the dream. 

A full two months had passed since he'd seen her last.  Now he would never see her again.  
He didn't know it, but his depression was taking its toll on the nurses.  Cammie caught up with Dixie when their shifts ended.
"Miss McCall, may I please have a word with you?" Cammie asked.
"Sure," said Dixie, as she walked to her car, which was turned into an impromptu conference room.
Cammie started crying immediately once she got in.
"Don't tell me--Stoker," said Dixie.
Cammie nodded.  "We've already had to change out one of his pillows twice because he saturated it with tears.  I've been in this profession for twenty years, and I've never seen grief like this before."

"I'd be worried about you if you didn't feel that way.  We're only human."
"I catch some of my girls silently weeping in the corners of the supply rooms behind the station.  An orderly was dabbing his eyes when he left Stoker's room yesterday.  I had to order him to take a break."
"The orderly?"
Cammie nodded and blew her nose.
"I'll tell Dr. Brackett about all this.  He needs to know."
"Thank you, Miss McCall.  Thank you."
No sooner had Cammie left did Dr. Brackett find Dixie about to drive away.  He smacked the trunk of her car to get her attention.
"Kel!" she said as he got in and she put the car back into Park.  "Just the person I needed to talk to."
"Something told me I needed to get over here.  Now, what's the problem?"
"I just got finished talking to Cammie.  Seems Stoker's depression is getting out of hand.  It's affecting the staff."
"Love is Blue"--the Paul Mauriat and his orchestra's rendition--came on the radio.

"Gosh, it's been forever since I heard that one," he said regarding the song.
"How ironic," said Dixie.  "Cammie says Mike's saturated two pillows with tears.  I assume he's working on his third."
"I'll get Social Services up there to him.  And a psychiatrist.  With Joe out sick with pneumonia, we've been too shorthanded for me to go up and talk to him."
A brief hug and simultaneous weeping.  They both dabbed their eyes as they separated.  "I'll see you tomorrow," said Dr. Brackett as he got out of the car.  "Kel!" said Dixie as she leaned over onto the seat.   Dr. Brackett leaned over to her and pecked her on the lips.  "Sorry about that," he said.

Dr. Morton took it upon himself to talk to Mike.  The physician had heard about the dream, but hadn't had the time to visit.  Once he saw how depressed Mike was, he started debating as to whether or not to breach the subject.  He took his stethoscope off and put it in his pocket so he wouldn't hit Mike in the face with it when he hugged him.  Then pulling up a chair, the doctor straddled it.
"Man, I know something of what you're feeling.  I went through Nam, and I won't bother with the details.  But I've found that dreams are sometimes messengers.  What was the one thing that kept coming up?" said Dr. Morton.
"Everything happens for a reason," said the weeping Mike.  "I was put on this Earth to do a job that only I can do.  And to stop trying to shirk my responsibility."
"Right!  Now, I don't know the reason why she was taken from us, but I know there's a lesson to be learned from all this.  Can you tell me what you're feeling?"
"Mad as hell that Geoff did that to her.  Frustrated that I couldn't defend her.  Believe me, if I could've gotten my hands on him, he would've died.  Now I'm wondering why there aren't laws against guys like him.  I'm disgusted with the situation, and overwhelmed with the prospect of spending the rest of my life in tears because he cheated me of the greatest thing that ever happened to me.  Had he taken her hostage instead, I would've gladly given my own life for hers."
"That's incredible.  I'm so proud that you were able to get that out.  A lot of guys have no idea what they're feeling, and they end up exploding because they can't find the words."
"Dr. Morton, ER stat. . .Dr. Morton, ER stat," rang the page.
"You did a great job," said Dr. Morton as he put the chair back.  "I hope I can get back up here soon.  Keep up the good work." 

Cap stopped in briefly.  They'd had a run in the neighborhood, and his face was covered with soot.
"My brother said there were letters Betsy had wanted to send in those packages, but either didn't finish them, or they just didn't get mailed for some reason."
Mike rooted through the large mailers.  At last he found them.
On an airline napkin:
                             I'm doing better already, and I'm only
                             flying over Kansas right now.  I thought
                             if I could work with hay, and own a cat,
                             I could breathe anything.
                             I miss you.  I hope you can get over
                             to KY soon.  But, then again, I'll
                             probably recover faster than you will.
A much longer letter was on notebook paper:

                           Oh, my dear affianced manfriend,
                            how our being apart makes me languish.
                           I'm a prisoner in my own house,
                           but it's not like I've any ambition
                           to do anything.  My cat didn't
                           understand why she couldn't be with
                           me.  Poor thing.  I kept trying to
                           tell her that she'd only make me
                           sicker, but she meowed all the more
                           desperately.  We've had to send
                           her to a cat-sitter for the duration.
                           Either Bobby or one of his cop friends
                           is here all day or night.  I told them
                           to stay downstairs on watch.  If they
                           sat out in the hallway outside of my
                           room, they wouldn't see Geoff trying
                           to climb the tree or something outside
                           my window.  Surely the presence of
                           more than one KSP patrol car outside
                           on the street would make him think
                           twice about attacking.
                           But, then again, as crazy as he's gone,
                           he may try anything.  I would have
                           no qualms about shooting him in the
                           head if he came after me again.
                           I've been wanting to call the cathedral
                           here locally to reserve the church for
                           our wedding, but seeing as we have no
                           date yet, I can't do that.
                           I asked mom to pick up the latest issue
                           of Modern Bride, though.  I'm also
                           making my list of things to do, and trying
                           to decide on a maid or matron of honor.
                           I may just make life simple for myself,
                           and ask Barbara.  Have you thought of
                           who you want to be your Best Man?
No, I hadn't gotten that far yet.
                            The thought of marriage used to make
                            me cringe, and after Geoff, I didn't
                            even want to go out.  But I met you,
                            and all that changed.  I mentally
                            started planning our wedding the day
                            I met you.
Mike buried his face in his pillow and bawled.  Had he known that, he would've popped the question much sooner, and they possibly could've gotten married before she died.
                            I spoke with Dad & Uncle Hank about
                            what you could do once back on your
                            feet.  They agreed with me that you
                            have great potential do to many things
                            within firefighting.  Oh, my dear
                            manfriend, please do not give up
                            on yourself!
The color of ink changed.
                            You'd think, in a house full of
                            civil servants, there'd be a working
                            pen to be found.  If this letter ends
                            up being written in crayon, don't
                            be surprised.
Hey, that's okay.  I don't care if it's written in chalk on a paper sack, just get it to me.  Mike, you moron, what ARE you thinking? 
                           Another coughing fit.  I'm exhausted.
                           I'll have to close here.  Remember,
                           I love you and want to be there with
                                            All yours,

Her closing words warmed his heart and consoled him.  And if he didn't know any better, he'd swore she was standing next to the bed.  Marco looked up with a "huh?" look on his face.
Mike reached out to where he felt her presence.  He thought he was falling asleep, but started feeling consolation.  Then regret from within him--regret that they never had the chance to live their life together--started mixing with the consolation, and he began to cry again.
The feeling of her presence left.  How could he possibly feel consoled and sad at the same time?  He thought surely one would give way to the other.  Perhaps he was wrong.

And why was "Love is Blue" playing in his head?

Time to unplug the freezer. . .