DISCLAIMER: House isn't mine. Chloe is.
Mom was right. The worst thing is House being right. The funny thing... well, funny-ironic, not funny-ha ha.... the funny thing is, I didn't realise he was right until I opened my mouth to tell him he was wrong.
"Oh my god... you're right," I said softly.
I could feel myself on the verge of breaking down, and obviously, Dr. House could see it too, because he abruptly pulled the box on the desk towards him and started digging through them all.
"How many of these have you read?"
I swallowed hard. "Just- up until you got shot."
He grimaced slightly. "Yeah, that's pleasant reading. Here."
He had pulled one out from the very bottom and flicked through a few pages before handing it to me.
"That's the one from the year you were born."
I took it silently, and gently caressed the covers.
"Chloe..." We both knew this was going to be awkward, but I just let him find his words.
"Your mom loved you. More than anything in this world. She didn't want to leave you. That's why your dad has a never ending supply of messages from the dead," he said bluntly and I smiled despite myself.
"She didn't want to miss anything, and she didn't want you to feel like she was missing anything."
I nodded slightly, my throat tight as I avoided looking at his face and then saw the time.
"I should go home. Dad will be home soon, and I don't want him to see me upset."
Dr. House nodded and we both stood as I repacked the box.
I turned from the doorway and he met my gaze steadily. "What you said... you said you are in love with my mother. Do you still love her?"
"The word am seems to indicate present tense," he retorted, but I ignored the sarcasm. I knew he'd give me the truth.
Sure enough, he sighed and nodded. "Yeah."
I bit my lip nervously. "Dad and I... we talk about what she was like, or what she would have done in this situation or that one.... the few memories I have. I can't talk to him about... about why he loved her. Or how much I miss her. We don't talk about the letters."
"Maybe you should," he said quietly.
"I used to try," I admitted. "But Dad gets upset, so I stopped trying. Do you think I could talk to you? Maybe, sometime? Mom said I could."
As I knew he would, his head snapped up. "What?"
"The letter for my sixteenth birthday.... she wrote that she hoped you were still in our lives, and that if I ever needed to be able to talk about something where I need to hear the truth, I should talk to you. The letters... the diaries... I need to hear the truth."
Dr. House seemed speechless, which is a rare occurrence. Finally, he nodded. "Sure. And Chloe? Happy birthday."
I smiled in thanks and left his office, much more gracefully than I had entered previously.
I actually got home about thirty seconds before Dad did. It gave me enough time to dash upstairs and put the box under my bed to read later.
"Hey, tadpole!" he greeted me as I returned downstairs.
I good-naturedly rolled my eyes and he embraced me. "Hi, Dad."
"Happy birthday, sweetie. What did you do today?"
I shrugged as I followed him into the kitchen. I had already decided on the way home not to tell him about the diaries and my conversation with Dr. House. The shoes and clothes in the attic on the other hand....
"Not much. Went to mom's grave this morning, came home. Hung around the house relaxing."
"Wow, the life of the high school graduate," he teased.
I grinned. "Well, we can't all save lives."
Dad laughed. "Alright. So what does the birthday girl want for dinner?"
"Chinese," I replied immediately and then paused. "Dad? Do you think I could have my letter now? Instead of after dinner?"
Dad got his 'I'm-thinking-about-your-mother' look almost immediately, but nodded.
"Sure, hon. Sure."
I hung awkwardly around in the kitchen until he returned with the familiar envelope in his hands.
"Never gets any easier, does it Clo?"
I smiled and shook my head, hugging him tightly. "Thanks Dad. I love you."
"I love you too, sweetie. I'll order dinner while you... do that. OK?"
I nodded, and took the letter upstairs to my room. As always, the envelope simply read "Chloe."
"My dearest Chloe.
Happy birthday, sweetheart. God, I can't believe it. I'm trying to picture you as an eighteen year old... but as I'm writing this, you're dancing around in the living room in the tutu we haven't been able to get you out of for a week. Please tell me you're not still wearing that tutu.
So, twelve years from now... you'll have graduated high school of course, so you'll have read the letter I wrote only yesterday for that occasion. I hope you're happy, baby girl. Your Dad and I have been trying not to let the fact that I'm sick interfere with your childhood, so I hope you're happy.
You may not know what I'm about to tell you, but I think at eighteen, you should know. I was married before your Dad, Chloe. I was twenty-one and I fell in love with a wonderful man named Sam. Six months after we were married, he died of cancer.
I promise you there is a reason why I'm telling you this. As I write this letter, it's been fourteen years since Sam died; and there are times when I'll be thinking of him, and I can't quite remember what he looks like. Or how he laughed, or the sound of his voice. And each time it happens, I have a momentary panic and a surge of guilt. My point for this letter is... if that happens to you, you one day can't remember the small details about me- never, never feel guilty. It's just fact that the human brain can't remember everything forever. We're not elephants. The only thing I want you to always remember about me, is that I love you more than anything in the entire world.
I'd give anything to be able to be celebrating this and every birthday with you in person, and I'm so glad I at least got six beautiful years with you.
I love you Chloe. Happy birthday.
I wiped my eyes as I folded up the letter carefully, and sat in silence for awhile, just replaying my clearest memories of my mom, rereading and rereading the letter. Dad's knock on my door made me jump a mile.
"Hey, kiddo. The food's arrived."
I hadn't even heard the doorbell and nodded quickly. "Ok."
I put the letter aside on my desk and followed Dad downstairs. As we entered the kitchen, he put an arm around my shoulders and squeezed gently. I smiled and returned the embrace before going to get dinner. And even over the Chinese food, I swear I could smell lilies.