Disclaimer - I am a thief and I have stolen House, Cameron and a bit of dialogue from Role Model. I'll return them when I'm done. Maybe.
Letters from Home, Chapter 1
It's a beautiful autumn day, sunny and warm, the mugginess of summer a fading memory. A few brightly coloured falling leaves dance in the slight breeze before landing in the middle of a quiet residential street. A lone female jogger rounds the corner and sprints as she spots her welcoming front yard a couple of blocks ahead. Step, step, step; one, two, three, she counts rhythmically in her head, slowing to a walk when she is a couple of buildings away from home. When she reaches her townhouse she cuts through the grass to her front door and collapses into a heap on the doorstep. Grabbing the bottle of water she had the foresight to leave outside, she twists off the cap and takes a long swallow. It's a little on the warm side after being out of the fridge for awhile, but it hits the spot just the same. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she sets the water down and pulls off her iPod. She's been listening to jazz, something she rarely does anymore as it reminds her of him. Today, that was okay somehow. She supposes time is finally giving her the emotional healing that distance had not. She concentrates on slowing her respiration to a normal rate and leans back on her elbows, raising her face to the sun. She's always loved the outdoors and she's pleased to once again live in an area where she can run outside year-round. It's what she likes best about her most recently adopted hometown. She had a treadmill where she used to live, but it just wasn't the same. Of course, her old city had good points of its own, but she tries not to think about them anymore.
She decides she'll go in, grab a shower, and then spend the remainder of her day off in her tiny backyard with a good book. She uses the railing to pull herself up off the steps and does a couple of quick stretches before turning to head inside. As she is about to pull open the door, she notices the corner of an envelope sticking out of the mailbox mounted against the beige siding. An optimist by nature, she never fails to get a little rush of anticipation any time she checks her mail. You never know what you might find – an invitation to a party, a cheque for dividends from some long-forgotten investment, a newsy letter from an old friend. She's pragmatic enough to know that the envelope is most likely a bill - though not an overdue one, she's far to organized for that - but still the hope for something interesting is always there. She opens the mailbox, reaches in, and pulls out not one but several pieces of mail. Opening her door and walking into the small entry way, she flips through the mail envelope by envelope. Bill, flyer, bill, something addressed to her next door neighbour - she'll hand-deliver that later - and another bill. She tosses the mail on the table beside the stairs as she traipses up to the bathroom. She doesn't notice the thin, white envelope addressed in a strong black scrawl that slips out from between the pages of the flyer as the mail lands on the table.
Humming to herself, the freshly showered young woman descends the stairs, mystery novel in hand, sunglasses perched on the top of her head. She starts for the kitchen, having decided that a cup of tea and a blueberry muffin would be the perfect accompaniment to her book. Spotting the mail on the table she remembers her neighbour's letter and decides to take it to her now before she settles in for a lazy day. She reaches for the pale blue envelope she knows does not belong to her but freezes mid reach when she sees what she missed during her earlier perusal of the mail. An envelope emblazoned with a familiar logo. Bold, black printing. A Jersey postmark. Him. A letter...from him.
After returning home from her letter delivering errand, she makes her tea and slips though a set of French doors to her small patio. She sets her cup and book down on the little table and settles into her outdoor lounger. She's decided to forgo the muffin for now; her stomach is feeling a little unsettled. She pulls the letter out from between the pages of her novel and brushes her finger over his lettering. Has she ever before seen her name written in his familiar scrawl? She's not sure, but she doesn't think so. Why was he writing to her? How did he even know her address? She smirks a little at that last thought; of course if he wanted to know her address he'd have his methods of finding it. From her personnel file, if in no other way. But why would he want it? They hadn't seen or spoken to each other since the night she'd quit...
She goes to his apartment after the speech that wasn't. He attempts a joke but the mood in the room is anything but jovial. She says what she came to say.
"You don't need to worry about firing anyone. I'm leaving."
"Why? Is this another noble, self-sacrificing gesture?" he asks. "You trying to protect Foreman?"
Was he trying to tell her it would be Foreman and not her? Did it even matter anymore? "No."
"So this is just, 'Don't fire me, I quit.'"
Can't he see he hasn't left her with any other choice? "I'm protecting myself. You asked me why I like you. You're abrasive and rude, but I figured everything you do, you do it to help people. But I was wrong. You do it because it's right."
Near tears, she extends her hand. He glances at her then looks away. She thinks in that moment she has ceased to exist for him. She withdraws her hand. "There are only two ways I can deal with things. One is in my control. That's to leave. Goodbye, House"
She walks out the door.
She'd wasted no time in finding a new job, a new city, a new life. Leaving the previous one behind was easier than she expected. She doesn't miss the town or her tiny apartment or even her co-workers, not really. She does sometimes miss the job, the puzzles, him. Her new position doesn't hold the same challenges, but it suits her well enough for the moment. Her new boss is courteous and bland and absolutely no threat to her emotional well-being. She supposes she's happy enough and certainly she has less stress in her life. But now it seems her past has come back to haunt her. She snorts. Geez Allison, melodramatic much? Just open the damned envelope. Taking her own advice, she slides a finger under the flap and swiftly separates it from the surface to which it had been glued. She pulls out a single sheet of folded paper. Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she unfolds the page. Several seconds pass before she opens her eyes again and reads:
Where's the damned sugar?
In lieu of signing his name, he has adorned the page using the self-inking stamp bearing his signature that she herself had requisitioned when she first started answering his mail.
She reads the letter again and then for a third time, not quite sure what to think. Her mouth quirks into an unwitting smile. By the time she's read it for the fifth time, she's full-on grinning. She sets the letter down carefully on the table, under her book to keep it from blowing away, and heads into the house in search of stationery.
When she returns, she dashes off a quick reply and folds the cheery yellow paper in thirds. She hesitates just as she is about to enclose the page in the matching envelope. Slowly, she unfolds the paper and considers all the possible implications of what she is thinking of doing. Coming to a decision, she adds a few more words to the bottom of the page, refolds the letter and stuffs it into the envelope. Quickly she seals it before she can change her mind. She addresses the envelope from memory – funny the things that stick with you – and goes inside again, this time in search of her shoes and keys. She'll go and mail it now before she has time to overthink it. After all, he'll most likely never read it. She knows how he is with mail.