Another in the "Fate's Boundary" universe. Third in the series, following "Those Darkened Skies," but it's Alex's turn this time, and a significant chunk of time has passed. Please share your thoughts, I love all sorts of feedback very much:) Luv, Buff

Photographs on the Mantel

May 10, 1943

Tunis, Tunisia

Samantha,

You have no idea how much light your letters bring to this bleak world. And I appreciate you checking in on my father, I worry about him and Uncle Jon in that house all alone. Without someone to keep them in line the entire property would be a war zone in a matter of days.

It was only with your last letter that I realized I have never mentioned my mother to you. What an odd subject to leave out, isn't it? I suppose my father has a lot to do with that. He still hurts, I can tell. He thinks I don't know. He thinks that after all these years, I still don't see. I was so young, and my memory is so fuzzy that I often regret not paying closer attention. I have forgotten so many things. And at the same time, others are crystal clear to me, especially when I look at my father.

We hardly ever speak of her, for what is there to speak of? She was beautiful, I remember that; I can look at the photographs on the mantel and wonder what she'd look like now, ten years later. She was smart, too, and when I was little I used to follow her around at work, gleaning as much detail as a five-year old can from an grown-up conversation. My father was proud of her; he knew how important her little corner of the world was to her, would have given her anything to make her dreams come true. In past years I have wondered whether she ever regretted fitting her dreams into the sudden mold of husband and child, whether without me or him or any of it she would have done better, climbed faster, lived longer. And then, when I watch my father talk about her, I know she didn't regret a moment.

Most of the photographs we have of her are from digs, taken on Uncle Jon's old 35 mm to document sites and artifacts. We have more pictures of her hands than her face. But sometimes, Uncle Jon would, for no apparent reason, bring his camera over to the house on a random day. He'd hide it behind his back and catch us unawares, braving dad's threats of violence and mum's protests that she'd blinked when he snapped the photo. The best one, they didn't even realize he took. It's from some distance; Uncle Jon must have been on the porch. My parents are on a swing that was attached to an old oak tree in our backyard. Mum has her head on dad's shoulder and they're just sitting there, frozen in a private, unimportant moment. That's how I think of her. She doesn't appear to me in the desert or at the museum, in her element. She's on that swing with my father, always.

Ten years is a long time, and it takes you much less time than that to stop crying. I know he misses her, as we all do. But when he speaks of her, you can see it so clearly in his eyes. Sometimes I myself almost expect her to walk around a street corner and tell me to watch my language or eat my vegetables. I know he sees her everywhere. He doesn't need the photographs on the mantel to remember that she was beautiful, to remember every detail of her. Where my memory is faded around the edges, his is perfect, and I know it will remain so until the day he dies.

After reading over this letter it occurs to me that I still haven't really told you anything. Again, there isn't much to tell. One night she was there, and when my father woke up in the morning she was dead. Someday I'll tell you the whole story, a story that only a handful of people lived through. She lived through that story several times over, and died suddenly at the age of thirty-two. Her name was Evelyn, and she was my mother.

We took Tunisia three days ago and it is rumored that more surrenders will take place in a matter of days. I may not get the chance to write you again for some time. I'll come home to you soon, and collect on that promise you made me. You are in my thoughts always.

Alex

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