Casablanca is the copyrighted property of Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. This is a fan story intended for entertainment purposes only. No compensation has been received or will be accepted for this work, and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended or should be implied.

A Private Blessing

It was Saturday, so she had come to the graveyard with flowers. For this chilly late-February afternoon she'd chosen snowdrops. Ilsa bent down and nestled the pot into a secure position against the stone.

"I miss you, my love," she whispered to the grave. The gray sky above her fit her mood.

She whispered the words in English, a language that she'd long since become used to speaking easily. She'd spoken it before the war, of course, and fluently, but it had still been a second language. She'd had to make a point of using the language instead of the words coming from her without any thought at all.

After so many years in America, though, it had almost become her first language. She'd been told that her accent was barely noticeable anymore.

Ilsa sighed and eased her body back onto the bench, feeling the cold in every bone of her body. She was old. Her hair had faded to gray a long time ago, and the dream of returning to her beloved Europe had faded with it.

She and Victor had come here with cash, but no ongoing means of support. Although they had succeeded, making a life in this new land had been difficult. There had been a lot of hard work and no little amount of luck. There had never been the time or money to go back to the place she'd once thought of as home.

Still, she counted her blessings. Were it not for luck and an undeserved kindness, they might never have had the chance to make their life in America at all.

She had no idea what had ever happened to Rick, what he'd done after she'd gone, whether he'd found another love.

At first, she'd avoided correspondence for fear of exposing either him or themselves. If evidence of their connection fell into unscrupulous hands, it could have meant disaster. After a while, she'd been so busy trying to build her new career and support Victor that time had simply slipped away from her.

She didn't admit it to herself until years after the War had ended. She'd never contacted Rick again simply because it would have been too painful. Until meeting him, she'd never believed that it was possible for a woman to love two men.

She'd loved Victor, with all his noble patriotism. She'd also loved Rick, with his different kind of nobility and, yes, patriotism.

A sudden gust of wind blew through, and she pulled her coat closer around her body. The snowdrops twisted against the wind. For a fleeting moment she wondered if they would snap off or if the pot would tip over, but everything stayed in place.

She was lucky, she decided. Some women never got the chance to love even one great man.

Tomorrow, she would go to another graveyard, nestle another pot of flowers against another stone. She wouldn't be alone then; there were any number of friends and associates who would come with her in support.

But today, Ilsa was alone. "Yes," she said. "You were great. As great as the things you did for me and for others. I will never forget you."

It had been sheerest chance that she'd seen the obituary and found out where he lay, but Ilsa considered it yet another blessing as she traced Rick's name on his gravestone, remembering.

Written for sakru, as "Remembered Blessings," for Yuletide Madness 2008.