It's been three months, and he still hasn't told Emma.
Marie's been pushing him to do it, and he can't quite decide how; a telegram seems too impersonal, a letter too untimely (not that that matters anyway; it's been three months) and the telephone slightly awkward, given his speech impediment.
He eventually decides on a telephone call, deciding that he owes her that much if he can't be there to say it in person. Marie's gone out to give him some privacy; the last thing she says before leaving is a pointed 'Telephones work best if you actually pick them up, love,' to which he only replies with a glare.
He sits and studies the thing for a minute, eyeing it as though it were a target he's been tracking instead of a hunk of Bakelite and wire. Finally he picks it up, dialing the operator, and gives her Emma's name and phone number. He has to repeat it twice before the operator can understand him.
It takes exactly two minutes and seven seconds for the operator to connect the circuit; he counts the time in his head, imagining the switchboard lighting up. The operator comes back on to tell him he's connected, and then the phone begins to ring.
He's seen a switchboard before, with its massive tangle of cords stretching from one end to another. He wonders how long the wire is that's making this tenuous connection between him and Emma.
It's been a long time since he spoke to her. He wonders if she's found someone as well.
It worries him somewhat that his heart is still so steady. Even after all these years he's still unable to muster any feeling for his twin, when he'd die for a woman he's known only a year.
Maybe she's out. At least he could say he tried.
Someone finally picks up; a female voice speaks, its familiar tone tinged with the crackle and pop of the phone line.
"Harrow residence, this is Miss Harrow. To whom am I speaking?" Richard is silent, not entire sure he can find his voice. Emma speaks again. He can hear her expression through the phone line: she is frowning, head cocked to the side, brows knitted. He used to make the same expression, their mother had said. Back when he had a face.
"Hello? Is anyone there?" He returns from his reverie and leans into the mouthpiece.
"Emma? It's Richard." He wonders if she'll be able to understand him; he rarely uses the telephone, since even Marie has trouble comprehending his damaged voice over the buzz of the lines.
Emma appears to have no such trouble.
"Richard! It's been a very long time." He nods without realizing it, and then remembers that she can't see him. It's always surprised him just how much of his communication has become completely nonverbal these days; talking is difficult, and people are often unforgiving.
"I know. How…are you doing?" She laughs a bit, and he feels his mouth twitch with what might be a smile. At least it's something.
"I'm doing fine. Still living with Aunt Annabel, you know how she is, still teaching. What about you? The operator said the call was from Atlantic City. I thought you were in Chicago?" Her voice is cautious now; he left Wisconsin for Chicago after finding himself disconnected and alone, unable to relate to his family after the war. Chicago meant a tiny, miserable flat. The veteran's hospital and that damned test, and finally meeting Jimmy. He doesn't want to talk about Chicago.
"I met a…man there, he gave me…a job. Took me back…to New Jersey with him." She picks up on his discomfort and moves on quickly, her tone just a bit too bright.
"Well that's great. Atlantic City's on the coast, isn't it? Do you spend a lot of time at the beach?" He sighs and runs a hand through his hair, tired already of the hour of small talk he's likely to endure if she keeps up like this. Emma had always been the outgoing one, of the two of them. He interrupts her shortly.
"I got…married, Emma." There's a pause as Emma digests the information, before continuing on in earnest.
"That's wonderful! What's her name?" Richard smiles genuinely now, thinking of his wife. She'll be back soon; she's only going for a walk on the boardwalk, a few blocks away from their flat.
"Marie. She's from New…Orleans. We met a little more…than a year ago. Got married in April." There's silence on the line for a few seconds, long enough that Richard wonders if it's suddenly gone dead.
"Richard, that was three months ago." Richard can hear the hurt in her voice and for the first time feels a small pang of emotion, regretting having not called sooner. His voice is quiet when he replies.
"I know." The pause that follows is interminable and awkward as they both search for something else to say. Richard lands on something first, wincing even as it comes out of his mouth.
"Anyways, that's…why I called." Marie walks in through the door and closes it quietly, setting her things down and sitting down next to him at the table. She raises an eyebrow and nods towards the phone. He shakes his head at her and watches her walk into the kitchen, almost missing Emma's next sentence.
"Well, it's good to know you're happy." His eyes fall on the wedding picture on the mantelpiece; Marie had several copies made, all of which are sitting in a box under the bed. He thinks for a moment and decides on a peace offering; she is his sister, after all.
"Thank you. I can send…a photograph, if you'd like."
"I'd like that very much." There's another long silence between them. This time, it's Emma who speaks first.
"Well, goodbye then, Richard." He imagines her face one more time, so much like his old one. She's probably sitting down next to a window, the sun shining on her dark hair. He remembers her being incredibly beautiful, remembers having to turn away boys at the door for trying to court her before their mother said she was old enough.
He imagines, but he feels nothing.