Disclaimer I own very little, especially not CSI NY.
Notes Chapter 32 - the final chapter. THANK YOU to everyone who's read, reviewed, alerted and favourited and to everyone who's discussed it with me.
Thank you to autumngold for your review; to marialisa for helping me with ideas; to electric-dreamer, Miss Poisonous, iluvCSI4ever, afrozenheart412, Blue Shadowdancer and chrysalis escapist for extra thoughts for this chapter - hope I haven't missed anyone out. Dedicated to Blue Shadowdancer for helping me with this chapter, and for updating XD
Here is the last (very long) chapter, enjoy and please review!
Lost Letters: Chapter 32
'Shadows we are, like shadows we depart'
… Dear Jenny,
This is it, my first letter from the big city! Sorry for taking so long to write, but you know why I was hesitating to do so. However, here I am and now you know where that is. I'm getting myself settled and am setting myself up with ways to make my fortune, I hope anyway. I've met a great guy called Joe who I'll tell you all about, and I've found myself an apartment, with a wonderful neighbour called Mrs Adams. Maybe you're wondering why I didn't email, or call your cell? The fact is, I got to thinking and realised I needed something a little more permanent to send you after all that's happened. I'm guessing there's very little trace of me now at home, so at least if I write to you, you've got something to keep of me that's going to last a while longer than an email or a phone-call. Maybe that sounds arrogant? I hope not; I know you'll understand what I mean. So here's the first of what I hope will be many more letters to come; a new city, a new life. I'm looking forward to the future. Whatever happens.
Write soon, please don't forget me, yours always, Rita
Stella looked into the eyes of the man walking towards her.
Instinct, whetstone sharp after everything that had happened to her since another pair of eyes had stared into hers and almost robbed her life, launched her to her feet. A chair toppled backwards; the door swung with a jangle; the man's hand moved inside his jacket pocket.
Without conscious thought, her hand flew to her side.
It was the other man in the photograph; the one Flack had shown her in the hospital, exposing the man who attacked her and his companion. The man who had hidden beneath a baseball cap, the unknown figure. And now he was standing in front of her whilst their surroundings slowed and slowed and froze.
The noise backdrop of the cafe faded and faded and muted. Freefalling memory and fear inside, but she took it and made it hers; not his, not the other man's. She took it and alchemised base fear into pure certainty. Stella did not wait to see what the man in front of her was drawing out of his pocket.
She was faster.
She gripped her own weapon in her hand, raised it, and knew she was not going to fail.
"You've come to ask the rest of your questions, haven't you girl?" Mrs Adams regarded the young detective with a smile she did not feel inside. The empty apartment above was still an oppression, vacant as it was of the laughter that used to echo, the running feet, the living voices. Now just the resonance of memories and ghosts.
Rita was gone.
The knick-knacks and ornaments that festooned Mrs Adams's shelves no longer rattled as the front door slammed. They sat and gathered dust. Stilled and sad. Too many times she had chastised the girl for her crashing doors and banging footsteps; but Rita had understood. She hoped anyway.
Mrs Adams ushered the detective in, settled her into an armchair and pressed a drink on her. Joshua watched from a shadowy corner. His burnished eye glowed, judging, before he sauntered out and stretched up onto the detective's knee, swirled himself round and draped luxuriously over her legs. He blinked in ecstasy and a long rumbling, purr erupted from his throat.
"Well Joshua-boy, looks like you got yourself a friend there. Don't you be digging your claws into her knees, that ain't polite." A smile wrinkled across her face.
"It's okay, really." The woman tickled his ears, "He's a handsome cat, Mrs Adams."
"And he's particular about who he lets stroke him, girl. He knows people, that old cat does, knows their hearts, whether they're good or bad. You've a good one, I can tell." The detective smiled shyly, and Mrs Adams sat back, "But you need to ask your questions, so let me hear them, girl."
The detective, Lindsay Monroe - she remembered her name - whose brown eyes warmed to mahogany as they caught the sun, rested a light hand on Joshua's back, "Mrs Adams… I need to know - what happened to him? To your son?"
With no other key than a voice that understood, Lindsay opened an old heart, tied shut with sealing wax and ribbons, and Mrs Adams found her memories and her life spilling out as a younger heart listened. It was time for answers, for the story of her life to be told to another, not just to the ink and paper she had sealed it into.
In the basement apartment, the same as many others across the city, but unique and unlike any other, the sigh of over-stretched air conditioning measured each moment. Mrs Adams let the bindings that held the pieces of her heart together fall away.
Everything in a slow-motion dream blur around her, Stella held her gun out; aiming at the man in the baseball cap who was still moving towards her. Startled gasps from customers; tinkling cutlery dropping to tables and to the floor; cups smashing and white pieces of broken china flying upwards as they fell down; it all happened behind a dim veil, beyond her.
The man was in front of her.
"Drop your weapon! Now!"
Her voice rang with the return of all the anger and authority that had been stolen from her since the crime scene; and it gave her a stanchion to hold onto whilst all around her began to eddy into chaos.
She would not fail.
But the man did not drop the gun that emerged from his pocket. Screams and horror erupted as people dominoed to the floor around her. Only Mac and herself left standing.
Two against one.
In one swift-motion lunge their adversary was across the floor, his weapon swinging between them, between all the people crouched in terror on the floor.
His mouth opened in a sneer, "You know what, detectives? You really shouldn't be here…"
"You know." The old lady's voice creaked; an old sound, the sound of weather-beaten oak trees bending, not breaking.
Lindsay nodded, "I know. I read what you wrote. But I still don't understand all of it, and that's why I'm here. You said when I first visited, after that one box had been stolen, that there were lives and deaths in the letters, and I see that now, but why would someone want to steal them so badly?"
"He wanted them. He came for them a month ago, a man claiming to be my son, saying he wanted to find out about his parents, and how they were, but I… I turned him away because there was cruelty in his eyes, even though he tried to hide them under a cap, and I didn't recognise them. He tried talking nice at first, and gave me all kinds of proof that he was who he said he was, and I realised then he was telling the truth, he was my son. But I couldn't give away my life to him, my letters. He only wanted them for bad, for blackmail against his father. They weren't for him, not to the man he'd grown up to be, however much that might be my fault."
Mrs Adams raised a face that was carved with strains and sorrows, and Lindsay wished she could ease some of them and tried to, "None of this is your fault…"
"Don't judge that too hastily, girl. Not until you've heard all I have to say."
Lindsay did as she was bidden, and listened as the story unfolded.
Stella caught Mac's eyes for a blink of a second and they read what was in each other's. She cursed herself for not moving fast enough to prevent the man drawing his gun, and threatening her partner and a cafe full of people. But it was his words that drew the most anger.
"I have every right to be here." There was nothing but surety in Stella's voice, nothing but the officer she was in her stance as she faced him, "You're the one who shouldn't be here."
The man laughed and it jarred like a cracked bell, "You think? I tell you, lady, in less time than you realise, I'm going to finish what my idiot associates didn't have the guts to do…"
"You're doing nothing!" Stella spat, and her gun did not waver. It all began to snap into place. This was the man pulling the strings, the man who had orchestrated the killings and the suffering; the shadow that had eluded them, "You're going down. We know your association with the man we've got waiting trial, the man who tried to kill my colleagues and me. You pull a gun in a public place, you're making a big mistake, mister. Drop your weapon!"
Another laugh, "You ain't in any position to tell me what to do. Drop your piece or I start firing on everyone here, starting with the other detective. You get to watch it all before I kill you."
She saw Mac reaching towards his holster; saw what was about to happen as the man swung his weapon. Saw the inevitable.
Mrs Adams's story unfolded.
An unhappy marriage for a young woman, hastening into dreams of wedded bliss that became nightmares. Married to a rich, cruel and overbearing man who spoke never with fists, but with derision and poison in every word. Leaving his wife in his shade, withering without love and affection. Until amongst the whirl of Manhattan Society, amongst the peacock wives and strutting husbands, she saw kind eyes that drew her towards them, melted her inside them, and pulled her into a whirlpool of clandestine trysts, delicious secrets, and then the scandal of a pregnancy outside marriage.
A child that could not be kept. A husband that would not keep her. A lover who did not keep his promises.
She was left with nothing but her name. All Mrs Adams had now, was worked for with her own hands, no one else's. And through all the years, she had wondered what happened to the baby boy she gave up for adoption. Until he had called at her door, and set into motion the chain of events that led to so much hurt.
Mrs Adams finished speaking and her head bowed. Tears splashed onto trembling hands, and Joshua leaped down and shadowed towards her.
Lindsay spoke softly, sadly, "You did what you had to, things were different forty years ago, you did the best you could for your son. What he's done with his life, what he's become, that's down to him… He is what he's become."
In a smear of seconds, Stella saw fingers squeezing a trigger.
A bullet exploded from a barrel. And then another, instantaneously. A scream caught on a stylus-scratched record rang round and round her head.
A man fallen.
A baseball cap knocked from its owner's head flew across the floor as he crashed down.
One man standing.
One woman standing.
Stella groped for Mac's gaze and found it. She lowered her weapon. The other man lay on the floor, her bullet in his shoulder. His bullet lodged in the wall. In a single stride, Mac was across the floor kicking the dropped handgun out of the way, bending over the swearing man. Her hands unwrapped themselves from her piece, found her cell phone and called the number she needed to.
And then the phone clattered onto the table and she realised her legs were not as steady as they had been, but a chair was pushed underneath her and she sat down, and lowered her head, letting grey motes dance in her vision for a moment…
Mac's hands were on her shoulders. Stella lifted her head and managed a smile as a drink appeared between her hands. The café was full of far more people and voices than it had been. A few sips of scalding black coffee burned down her throat before she spoke again. His hands stayed where they were, an unobtrusive support. A laugh that shook only a little carried her next words, "I told you I wasn't going to get hurt…"
The worry in his eyes did not lessen, and she forced a smile onto her face, "I'm fine. Really." A glance over his shoulder showed the backs of a group of officers, "What's the deal?"
"They're taking him to Angel of Mercy, and then we start the questions."
Stella nodded as Mac gradually released his grip on her, but not his proximity. She met his eyes again, "You want to know why I hit him in the shoulder."
"It was deliberate."
Another nod, "I knew I could disarm him without a kill shot…" She looked through the gap to where the man was being removed on a stretcher, "Too many deaths, Mac. And too many questions I think he has the answers to."
His hands wrapped round hers, "We'll get the answers, Stella. Thanks to you. You got him. Well done."
She smiled. She had not failed.
It was all over.
Twenty one days since the crime scene; since two colleagues, two friends, two of a family, had almost been taken away. But now they were together, restored and at peace with one another.
Danny, enthroned against hospital pillows, made his judgements on the changes wrought in faces: Mac, still with haunting in his eyes, but a gaze that saw everyone even as it flickered every few seconds to his face and Stella's; Stella, sitting next to him, paler than she should be, but with vitality undiminished as she spoke to Angell; Angell, squeezed into the same plastic chair as Flack, and Danny did not miss the press of her knee against her partner's; Flack, his forehead crinkled in a frown, but laughing suddenly at Adam's remarks; Adam, another pair of eyes that darted back and forth between Stella and him, even as he spoke in a bolder tongue to Hawkes; the doctor, perched on a bench at the end of the bed next to his fellow medic; Sid, who had pumped Danny's hand and renewed a promise to take him to a game when he was out of hospital.
All with him, encircling him.
And Lindsay. Next to him. Her hand on his, thumb chafing his palm in the softest rhythm. A smile in love-hued eyes that was for no one else, before she turned to answer a question from Sid.
Danny seized the moment to reflect. They had the two men at the heart of two cases that had become tangled so dangerously. The man responsible for the injuries to himself and Stella and for three proven homicides: Rita Franklin, Joe Delaney and Jake Matthews - given a name only two days before due to Hawkes's painstaking reconstructive work - was behind bars; and found culpable also for the cold case murder of his stepmother. His name revealed at last: Jason Sampson, born in Iowa, now serving life in Riker's. But names seemed unimportant now, it was only a label and a formality.
It was the people who owned the names that mattered.
Rita, the girl whose crime scene had also become his own, was the tie to the case that Lindsay solved, the lady and her letters. More letters. Love letters that Rita had been sent to steal, and had not done, leading to her death. Death ordered by the other man they had in custody; the manipulator of so many lives, including Meg Stevens and Christopher Mendes, also awaiting trial. The figure behind the curtain was now revealed; Thomas James Kent, the son of the old lady who had begun the story, Mrs Adams.
Through a handful of letters that held the remnants of love; lives and deaths had played out. And now the final page.
Conversations lulled for a moment, and Danny asked the question that had itched at him since the morning of the crime scene.
"One thing I haven't figured out yet, guys…" Every face turned, and Danny pushed his glasses up, "The letters Rita had, all the different names and addresses - you solve that mystery in the end?"
Mac smiled, and turned to Lindsay, who flushed, "You got the person who worked that out right next to you, Danny."
"Don't keep me in suspense, Montana."
She squeezed his hand, "Her friend Jenny told me. She was writing them for people in the neighbourhood who could no longer see to write, old folks who still wanted to keep in touch the old-fashioned way. They dictated to her, she wrote them up and mailed them, and was paid a few dollars per letter, whatever they could afford. My guess is Thomas James Kent thought she was trying to trick him, that she really had stolen Mrs Adams's letters and was going for blackmail herself, and so he had her killed, and the evidence destroyed."
There was a mourning silence in the room, and Danny held onto Lindsay's hand.
He did not let go even as the group began to disperse as other duties called: Mac and Stella to visit someone important, as they put it; Flack and Angell to the precinct, and from there elsewhere, Danny grinned to himself as his wink to Flack was met with a glare. Adam, Hawkes and Sid were heading back to the lab.
Sid was the last to depart, hauled through the doors by Hawkes as his last sentence flew past Danny's ears; something about a story he had to tell him sometime, of what he had once found in a corpse…
As Lindsay blanched, he raised his eyebrows. She shook her head, "You really don't want to know. Trust me."
Then it was just two of them left, and the moment to give Lindsay what he been keeping since persuading his mother to bring him a sheet of her 'fancy scented' paper, an envelope and a pen. Propped up in pillows, with her help, he had scratched laboriously the words he wanted to say, cursing the cast on his writing hand. But it was worth it.
All the words that had stoppered up at the times they should have been said: the pain at hurting her; the grief of moments lost; the joy in her presence. A love letter. His first, but maybe not his last. He handed it to her and watched, feeling his skin flush as she read and her face wavered and the sheet drifted onto the bed.
He cleared his throat, "Figured it was time I wrote someone a letter."
She was warm around him, her hair soft against his face and her lips against his.
Nothing more needed to be said.
"You did good."
Angell took Flack's hand as they walked out of the hospital, "You've stood by each and every one of us through all this."
She felt Flack slow and in synergy, she did too. Her gaze wandered over his face, seeing a little less of the hollows in his cheeks.
He stopped suddenly, "And you've been at my side, Jess. I don't know if you realise how much… how much I appreciate that."
Her head tilted, and she gazed into eyes that matched the serene sky, "What say you let me make us dinner then? I'd appreciate that."
Flack raised his eyebrows, "I was thinking more of taking you out someplace for dinner."
"Don't trust my culinary skills, Don?" She grinned, "Seriously, I like cooking, and I do the best lasagne."
Sun sparkled in blue irises, "You do, huh? Guess I'd better be the judge of that."
"Maybe I'll even find you a little something special for dessert." Try as she might, Angell could not keep the wink out of her voice, and a grin spread across her face as she strode ahead, knowing Flack was following in her wake.
Mrs Adams sat in the September afternoon, listening to the trees lilting in the breeze that blew away some of the heat that had subjugated the city too long. Through her open door, tendrils of smoke from papers collapsing to dust and ashes, curled upwards. Lithe, grey ghosts merged with the rings of smoke from her pipe.
The letters were gone. All of them. Ink and paper and old silk ribbons burned away to nothing, back to before they existed together.
Except what they had done, and all that they had recorded, could never be undone. The hearts broken were still not mended.
She sat alone. Joshua was disappeared into the cool nooks of the building; stalking his secret pursuits. She sat and watched the world pass, whilst the white wisp clouds drifted across cerulean skies above. No one looked down and saw her. Just another old lady, out in the sun, watching her time go by.
But then a young woman, walking on her own amongst the crowd, halted by the railings; with a tumble of red hair and a dress that swirled around her.
Another swirling dress, another young face smiling down, the crash of a door slamming…
Mrs Adams rose from her deckchair, "You looking for someone, girl?"
"I'm looking for a Mrs Adams. Do you know her?"
She huffed, "Should hope to by now, the years I've lived with that name, guess you've found who you're looking for. Come down and talk to me."
The young woman trotted down the steps and stood in front of her, wringing her hands round each other, "I'm sorry to be bothering you…"
"Ain't no bother. Company's always welcome. So who are you, and why'd you want to be speaking to such an old lady as myself?"
A smile fleeted over her features, "I don't think you're such an old lady, not really."
"Older than you by a good many years, girl!" Mrs Adams retorted, "And you ain't answered my question yet."
A hand was thrust out, "My name's Jenny, and I wanted to come speak to you about my friend, Rita. She told me so much about you, I thought you could maybe tell me a little more about her."
Straying gleams of sunlight glinted fire in Jenny's hair, and stirred a spark in the old lady's heart.
Eyes sparkling with diamonds, Mrs Adams clasped the offered hand, "Come on in and make yourself welcome then girl. A friend of Rita's is a friend of mine."
The two women stepped through the dappling shadows. An old hand, worn by the years, and a young hand unscarred by time, joined in the remembrance of a friend.
"You know the way to a man's heart, Jess." Flack sat back with a sated look on his face and a scraped clean plate in front of him, "The best lasagne I've had in years, and believe me, that's saying something from a man who's eaten many lasagnes in his time."
"Not going to argue with you…" Angell smiled at the outraged look she teased into his expression.
"You suggesting I got a few too many pounds about my person?"
It made her laugh outright, "Sensitive, Don? Anyhow, even if you had…" She pushed her chair back and moved round to gather the plates off the table, leaning over so her hair fell over her shoulder and brushed his arm, "I'm not going to complain about a little more Don Flack in my life."
There was silence for a moment, and then Angell felt a hand sweeping her hair back, and tingling over her neck. It stopped her hands at their task and sent a thrill of heat through her veins. The hand moved to the back of her neck and fingers caressed her skin to a sensual burning.
Her hand found the line of his jaw and her fingertips ran along it before straying to his lips, silencing any more words from him. She took hold of his other hand, and pulled him gently to his feet.
They stood in accord, eyes locked, hands furled round each other, fingers restless, needing. And she drew him onwards, upwards without protest, without words, without pause. Anything else could wait.
Neither of them spoke during the drive. Mac kept his eyes and mind solidly on the traffic, not letting the memories of the last time he had driven the same route. He would not replay again the moment Lindsay and he flew across the ground to the burned mass of wreckage…
The moments were passed. They had survived, all of them. He drove on through the ebb and flow of cars and pedestrians, Stella sitting beside him with her elbow propped against the window and her chin cupped in her hand, gazing out with her own thoughts.
It was only as Mac pulled up on the waste ground that she turned to him, "This is where I was?"
"Yes." His hands stayed on the steering wheel.
She nodded, and opened the door quickly. Mac watched her for a moment as she stood at the side of the car looking in the direction of the river, black and silver in the sun, before he got out and joined her.
A quick smile met him, "You okay?"
"Just about to ask you the same."
They were silent for a few moments while the breeze sighed round them; lifting their hair and whispering across the nape of Mac's neck.
"I don't remember it, only those moments in the car and being dragged away, then nothing much else." Stella said, her arms wrapped around her and her gaze wandering over the present and the past.
His arm brushed her side, and he kept his eyes from the blackened abrasion on the ground, not far enough away from them, "Maybe just as well."
"Maybe." She turned to look where he was refusing to. Her arms pulled closer round her body, and she shook her head, "I was lucky, Mac. If he hadn't…"
Mac stopped her with a hand on her shoulder, stopping his own horrors of the possible, the things that had not happened, "You got out, Stella. You survived."
"Thanks to him."
"And your own strength."
"If you and Lindsay and Angell hadn't found me…"
"But we did." Mac saw the phantoms behind her eyes, still not exiled. Neither were they from himself.
She nodded, and then with a quick, bright smile, pushed herself away from the car, "Come on then, we're here to see someone I've been wanting to meet for a while."
Zee was sitting on an upturned crate in the doorway of the warehouse, soaking in the sun rays and smiling into warmth that lay like chiffon over him. Life was good, and for the living.
He saw the car pull up, and remembered suddenly the day and night nearly three weeks ago when his life had changed irrevocably: the car with the two men shouting, words flying round them like hail; and then the shot, the man falling.
He remembered ducking back into the doorway, peering out; too far away to be seen, but close enough to see the other person beside the car, unmoving. And then the flames, blazoning the black metal as the man ran away.
He remembered running, feeling the heat through his battered sneakers. A woman beside the car; no second thought as he grabbed her arms and pulled her away.
He remembered the horror of the car exploding with a howl of banshees as he tried desperately to hold onto the woman lying in his arms; remembered her eyes fluttering then closing; remembered cradling her, her blood on his hands, begging her to wake up, please, wake up, please…
Panic. Terror. What do I do? I've killed her. My fault. My fault…
He remembered the noise and the sirens, and more cars, more people. All spilling into his territory. The three people with lights and questions that dazzled him.
Searching for her. Finding her. Taking her away. Whilst he had been pulled along in the tides of people and questions and noise…
All in the past.
Zee returned to the present, and the two figures getting out of the car. He watched them talking, seeing the river breezing in their hair. Watched them turn and walk towards him.
She was leading the way. Stella. He had discovered her name from the detective with the long dark hair, and had held it tightly, saying it over and over in his head. To help her.
It had worked. She was safe. As she reached him, he stood and this time, he was in her arms. Feeling warmth and vibrancy in her, glimmering in her eyes as she stepped back and held onto his hands. Her companion, the man whose fear had enveloped him that night, stood behind her; and Zee saw hopes of peace in his eyes.
Words he did not expect, but were no less welcome. He lowered his eyes, and scuffed his sneakers in the dust, trying to brush her thanks away, "Couldn't have left you there…"
She repeated her words, and so did the man. Detective Taylor. Zee remembered his name as well. The man who had come searching for his friend.
Zee looked at Stella. And saw the sun through her hair, falling on her skin, and felt its light replace the darkness that seeped into him that night when he thought he had killed her.
She spoke again, "You saved my life. There must be something I can do for you?"
He shook his head, vehement, "No. No. Didn't help you for any reward. Don't need any help, got everything I want here. I'm happy."
They accepted the truth of what he said and talked a little longer until the sun climbed higher. Then Zee watched them walk away, back to the car, hands brushing in step and smiled at what he guessed at.
They left him a man alone. As he preferred to be. He sat back on the upturned crate, turned his face up to the sun and smiled.
Life was good.
Stella stood next to her partner on the bridge across the boating lake, amongst strewings of leaves. A boat passed below, ripples ebbing from its bow until the water smoothed.
"You want to head home?"
She shook her head, and turned to face him, "Not yet. You don't know how good this feels, just being outside."
"I can guess." He smiled, but still the lines of concern, and fear, were round his mouth, "I don't want you to run yourself down…"
Stella laid her hand on his chest, on the scar he carried, and came to a decision as to what she had to say, "Mac, I know what I'm capable of. And… and this might be hard for you to hear, but…" She looked down at herself, and then back to him, "Some day... some day you might lose me for real - we do a dangerous job, we both know that death in the line of duty's not impossible, but we still do the job. And someday I might lose you. That's part of the deal when… when you care for someone very much, you have to accept that one day, they might not be there any more. You know that."
The breeze blew round them and stirred the leaves over their feet. Mac's eyes cast down, and Stella kept the warmth of her hand on him.
"I do know that." He said finally. And one hand moved round her waist, laying gentle on the healing wound she carried herself.
Silent together for a moment, not breaking their hold on each other, until a smile crept onto Stella's face, "You know, it also means that whatever time we have, however long that is - and I'm telling you Mac, I have every intention of living to a grand old age - it needs the most making of it."
It brought brightness back into his eyes, and his mouth crinkled, "Well, we have the afternoon free, so what do you have in mind?"
Stella looked at him, and ran her hand down his arm, her skin brushing over the thin shirt material. It stirred a memory, and her lips puckered into a grin, "I seem to remember you saying something about hating buying certain items of clothing… maybe we could remedy that."
Ignoring his mild protest, she took her hand in his, and led him off the bridge and through the rustling leaves.
They walked away together, hands joined, as the sun lighted through the trees upon them.
It's over! The longest story I've ever written! I started this in June after posting a handful of letters, with no idea how and when it would end, but this is the ending, and I would really love to know what you think.
Please, please review, even if just for this chapter; if you've been reading through, I'd love to hear from you, and will always reply. Two stories are upcoming - a collaborative crossover and a sequel to 'Cowboys'. So until then, thank you for reading, Lily x