Cold War

Contributor: Mel S.

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“I just don’t understand, Bill. Why can’t I come with you?”
“Ellie, please understand. You can’t ask me any more questions. I’m only authorized to tell you that the President has requested a team to investigate certain Communist threats and I’ve been chosen as part of that team. I have to move to Sacramento today. Alone.”
Ellie swirled the last of her scotch and soda, listening to the tinkling of ice against the glass, and demurely crossed her legs. She risked a furtive glance into his eyes to determine if there was another reason for him to abandon her. She only saw concern and sadness in his baby blues. She selfishly wanted him to tell her everything, to defy his superiors and take her with him. Or at least tell her what he was getting himself into and why she couldn’t help. She had the distinct feeling that this would be the last time they would see each other. She wanted to leap across the cheap hotel table and hug him close, to breathe in his smell, and beg him not to leave. But her legs would not move. They both sat silent, avoiding each other’s eyes, the sound of the swirling ice breaking the silence.
“How will I know that you’re okay?” She kept her eyes downcast, the tears threatening to spill down her perfectly powdered cheeks.
“The room has been paid for a month in advance. I’ll call you as often as I can. You’ll know it’s me when I say ‘tulips make your eyes smile’. Will you remember?”
The tears spilled then. Coursing down her cheeks in hot streams.
“Of course I’ll remember. That’s the first thing you ever said to me.”
The Santa Monica winds whistled through the fence as they sat in vacillating silence. They had only been married a year, still getting to know each other. Bill knew that Ellie loved him. Not as deeply as he loved her but he’d had a head start. He was a patient man and knew that she would come around—if they only had more time. Now, it seemed they might never get the chance to grow into the love they were capable of. Bill involuntarily reached for Ellie’s hand and then withdrew it just as quickly. She hadn’t noticed, lost in her own thoughts.
“My bus leaves in 20 minutes,” he said. His insides felt like they had turned to stone. His guts churned, burning him up with worry, regret, and wistfulness for the fleeting love of his life. He stood, slowly leaned into her, and kissed her softly on the forehead.
“I love you, Elisabeth,” he whispered.
Her hands trembled, the ice clattering in her tumbler. She did not lift her head as he padded softly across the tiny room. She did not look at him as he stuffed his cigarettes into his trousers. She did not stand as he picked up his satchel. She did not say a word as he exited the room, looking back over his shoulder to capture one last look at his wife. The door clicked shut behind him.
“I’m pregnant,” she whispered and drained the last of her scotch.

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