David made his way down the corridor and hesitated at the door. As his hand slid into the left pants pocket to find the keys, his head lowered. He pursed his lips and drew a deep breath, dreading what awaited him on the other side, what he always found in this tragic daily routine.

Finally, David turned the key and opened the door to his dark, empty apartment. He flipped on the light switch so the subdued glow could ease a chill that had taken up residence there. In one hand was the large stack of mail he had just pulled from his long-neglected mailbox. He didn't see much point in checking it anymore, as it was always stuffed with junk mail and bills. He couldn't imagine it would hold anything of importance.

David briefly took notice of the large object that had again become his sole piece of living room furniture: the trunk. He casually tossed the mail beside it and strolled into the kitchen to grab a Dos Equis out of the refrigerator. As he took a long swig of the beer, David's mind began reeling with images of what that old storage box had come to represent.

Once he realized she was gone, he wanted something tangible, a reminder of her - of them - to focus on. He needed something to help him remember the 2nd best time of his life, when Maddie came banging on his door at 4 am. In the past week David had pulled the trunk back out of his bedroom and positioned it in the exact spot it had been that morning.

He slowly approached it and sat down on his side as the memory of her head buried against his chest washed over him. After a few moments, she had pulled herself back up as her teary cornflower blue eyes gave him the unmistakable green light. Somehow, comforting Maddie, sharing that tender kiss with her had made him feel safe too. He remembered stroking Maddie's hair and telling her, "You look awful" even though up to that point - stripped of all the glamour - he had never seen her look more beautiful. From those precious moments to the milk truck caper, "Bowling for Brunettes" and the sunrise, David knew...knew without a doubt that Maddie loved him.

David took another long drink of the amber liquid, set the bottle down on the floor, and retrieved the junk pile. He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, and sadly flipped through his mail. As he went through the stack—bill, bill, bill, all marked 'Final Notice'—suddenly an envelope caught his eye. It was lavender, Maddie's signature color. Sure enough, he looked up at the left-hand corner to find simply 'M. Hayes' in her elegant script. The fact that she didn't address it from her parents' house gave him a tinge of hope, that she wasn't considering her childhood bedroom a permanent residence. David wanted to believe this was Maddie's intention, a subtle hint letting him know she would return to LA.

She had written him back. He stared at the envelope in utter disbelief for what seemed like an eternity. Finally he came to, shaking the stupor out of his head. He had to open the damned thing to know what was inside. Did he want to know? It was a loaded question but one that could be answered in a heartbeat - with a resounding 'Yes.' David didn't just want to know; whatever was tucked inside that envelope, the Musings of Madolyn Hayes, had become more important than water...air... He had mentioned these necessities of life in reference to a client years ago, trying to convince Maddie that searching for Tupperman's perfect wife was a noble pursuit. Of course, Tupperman turned out to be a fraud and a murderer, but that was a different story.

The point was David never thought it possible to find a love that deep for himself, the kind that makes it difficult to breathe when it's disappeared, under a bed in some foreign country...or in this case, Chicago. Maybe, just maybe this letter could help him know her mind again, at least in some small way. David relied on his ability to read Maddie; it was the best way to keep their relationship on an even playing field. Now the field was under water; everything was murky, unclear and he couldn't make sense of it anymore.

David, deciding to look for answers, turned over the envelope but ever so gently slid his finger under the flap. He had a feeling this would be a keepsake item and didn't want to rip it to shreds in desperation. He took another deep breath, drawing in her scent as he unfolded the paper, and started to read...

Thanks to all the ML fan fiction writers out there-you've inspired me with your unique gifts and passion for these characters. A special thanks to one in particular-while it seems the tide has no way of turning, her encouragement and support in the early phases of this piece will not be forgotten