Title: 'The Letter'
Disclaimer: 'Scarecrow and Mrs. King' is the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot-the-Moon Productions. I make no money from the story and no copyright infringement is intended.
She sat at her desk, drew a pen from the drawer and began to write. This letter was probably the single most valuable piece of information she could share with the brave soul to follow. It took grit and nerve, patience and perseverance, love and understanding to do the tasks ahead. That poor brave soul would need them all, in spades.
My dear Brave Soul,
Treasure this book. It will help you, guide you, and give you strength for the coming days. You are entering the most difficult journey you have ever taken. I won't lie, it won't be easy. But I promise you this, my dear one, it will be worth it.
Use our words; take them to heart. We are you and you are we.
The afternoon sun slowly sank into the distant horizon, and yet she continued to write. Everything she knew, including the things she wasn't supposed to know, was looped across the pages. Sometimes she paused to dab her eyes; others she giggled at the humor she was sharing.
Dear Soul, your Chief will almost never be able to share what is happening at the office, except in the most vague of terms. This will frustrate and infuriate you, but you must persevere. You are the unsung hero whom no one will remember, you are the rock and nest to whom your eagle returns...eventually.
There will be times your Chief is wounded and broken, and will offer no explanation. Nor can you ask for one. 'Need to know' and 'Classified' will be your by-words. You will hear them so many times, it will make you want to scream, but you must persevere and hold onto 'eventually'.
She could write volumes, and it wouldn't say nearly enough. After all, she was the previous brave soul to receive the journal, and if the fates were kind, the new one would be sitting at a different desk many years into the future writing to the next successor.
Pausing for a moment, she leafed back through the pages of her predecessors. Wise words she had read so many times she could almost quote them. She had turned to this journal when she needed strength, endurance and faith. Some of the pages were watermarked, not a few of those stains from her own tears. In some places, the ink had run, but she would never consider typing these words, these comforting (and sometimes bracing!) words. Written, they meant more. A helping hand across the generations, someone who has been there and knows.
He knew about the book, of course he did. Trying to keep a secret from him was akin to hiding an elephant...extremely difficult and not really worth the bother. He'd not read it though. He understood this was something he wasn't a part of, even though he was part of the reason it existed. All of the keepers of the Brave Soul Journal knew and would know the bittersweet reason for making it this way. Not that he hadn't asked, of course. More than once, he'd demanded to know what was so 'damned important about her damned book'-and stomped away in frustrated muttering when she merely smiled and returned it back to the shelf. Particularly when the words 'need to know' followed behind him.
The hour grew late. It was dark now, stars sparkling across the midnight sky. She finally came to a pause, not finished with her mission but deep enough in that she could reach a stopping point. Leaving the desk and journal behind, she shook her numb fingers and wandered into the kitchen. A quiet dinner alone again. She had canceled the reservations hours ago. She knew better than to believe they'd keep them, on this night of nights. A fleeting smile crossed her face as she gently left a plate warming in the oven. He would be home... eventually.
She had to cling to that word, allow it to resonate in her soul. Eventually. The next Brave Soul would find solace in it as well, although it wouldn't be easy. But, as her mother has always said, if it were easy it wouldn't be worth doing.
Be prepared for anything. Develop a good network in the service industries, not only across the city but around the world. Know where you can get a last minute dinner reservation for 18 and where you can find someone willing and able to take care of uprooted pets and plants. The quiet dry cleaner and impromptu plumber. Your 'family' needs to be reliable and yet flexible, because it is in them you could be placing your Chief's peace of mind and sanity.
There will be many solitary nights, interrupted plans, and dashed vacations. You are living with one of the world's cops. Learn to enjoy eating and attending social events alone, while remaining prepared for the Chief to turn up out of no where... and not always alone.
Learn to lie convincingly. This skill will serve you well, be it when encountering nosy neighbors, members of the fourth estate, or even that random enemy who has determined where you live. The quieter you are, the more convincing. Particularly when dealing with Russians.
Carrying a glass of rich red wine, she walked the quiet house. The movers would be coming tomorrow, and the day after they would be living far away. Cozy in their retirement, finally able to put that big word behind them. She worried for a moment, hoping it was going to be enough. Praying it would be enough. Knowing it had to be enough.
Develop some portable interests. Gardening, baking, volunteering. Be prepared to bid your own career, if you have one, adieu. Dear Soul, your career is now protecting your Chief. While your Chief gives all to keep the world safe, you need to give all to keep the world's cop safe... and sane. Make sure to vary your interests. Learn how to sew (trust me, you'll need to) and put in those little all-important pockets in convenient places in every jacket and pair of trousers. Stain remover will be on every shopping list, and never ever soak something bloody in hot water! Vinegar and baking soda will be very useful friends. Tums, Excedrin, and Tiger Balm (preferably the unscented kind, particularly if your Chief should be doubling for a superhero) are essential.
Know where to find the impossible, and notice when it needs to be replaced. You never know when fresh reeds might be needed to please the royal head of a tiny nation you couldn't find on a globe without a magnifying glass.
He crept in the door, the hall dark. Locking the familiar door for the final time, he gave a long sigh full of equal parts regret and relief. She had waited long enough. It was over.
Dropping his coat and hat on the couch, he followed the stream of warm lamp light into the den. A loving exasperated smile curved his lips as he watched her write in her Need to Know journal. He'd never read it, although the temptation was very real. She looked ageless, sitting there in the large comfortable leather chair, but so young. Younger than she had been in a very long time. It was almost as if each word on the page brought her closer to the beginning. He could see the faint tracks of tears on her soft cheeks, although she'd be certain to deny them... should he be brave enough to inquire. He cleared his throat softly, and nodded when she looked up. No words were needed. They'd been together for so long they could read each other's thoughts. Love sparkled in her deep brown eyes as she wrote a few final words with a flourish. It was over.
In closing, my dear friend, never forget you are not alone. We are you, you are we. Someday you too will be leaving a long letter to the next Brave Soul. Share what you've learned and learn from us.
Taking a moment to flip back several pages covered in her neat script, she dropped the ribbon in place and marked her own legacy for the next generation. The book closed with a decisive snap. It would be delivered tomorrow.
She left the desk and its heavy weight of obligation behind, feeling lighter than she had in years. All of her worry and fears, trials and anger, hope and love was there in that slim volume. Waiting for the next Brave Soul to need them... to be nourished by them.
Their fingers linked, the man and woman walked into the kitchen. He was tired, worn and exhausted, yet there was a new spring to his step. Drawing her stiff fingers to his lips, he caressed them softly before turning her free. She pulled dinner from the oven while he sipped on her glass of wine, the midnight sky glittering with a million stars. It was over.
His hand on the small of her back, looking dapper in his tuxedo, he guided his Brave Soul into the ballroom. Thunderous applause greeted their arrival, causing their cheeks to pinken faintly with surprised embarrassment. One by one, as they slowly passed, people reached out to squeeze their hands. Their slow progression was halted now and again as particularly close friends offered words of congratulations. In her right hand was the book.
There, standing at the foot of the stair, the newest Brave Soul was waiting, gazing up at the new Chief. Sparkling brown eyes held rich hazel ones as they neared, step by step. Upon reaching the bottom riser, he extended his elbow and led her protectively to the couple standing quietly nearby.
Solemnly, the men exchanged a grave handshake and then pulled each other into a warm embrace while their ladies watched. For a moment, the women touched hands and clung in reassurance and understanding. It was over. And it was just beginning.
Then, Jeanie Melrose pulled away and approached Lee Stetson quietly. Extending the book, she kissed his cheek and whispered in his ear, "Lee, everything you need to know is here. Including my fruitcake recipe."
He looked at the book, startled, and then nodded slowly before sliding it into his breast pocket.
As the newest Brave Soul led his Chief to the dance floor, Amanda looked at her husband in askance. Her simple arched brow spoke volumes as the music washed over them. His cheek dimpled, but all he said was, "Need to know."