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"My Dearest Sally,

If you’re reading this, I’ve broken my promise to you. I’m sorry, baby. I know I promise you every time that I’ll come back, and this time, I’ve broken that promise. I’m so sorry.

First, I want you to know that I love you and Chris so much. I want you to know how hard it’s been to say goodbye every time I’ve climbed aboard that great beast. But I’m not the kind of person who can live my life confined by what could happen, and neither are you. So, I don’t know what kind of accident or malfunction has taken me, I don’t know if there’ll be anything left, I don’t know if time has passed, and I’ve been declared lost or if it was, well, obvious. But no matter the circumstances, I know you’ll do the right thing. And if you’re reading this, I’ll always be watching over you and Chris.

I can only try to imagine, as I sit here writing this, what you might be feeling. You’re probably angry with me, and that’s okay. You’ve had to take a back seat to the the barber’s chair so many times, and I doubt you can ever get used to something like that. I can only hope that you were proud of what I’ve done, and understood why I had to do it. You’re grieving, and I’m sure right now it seems like it’ll never be any better. But it will.

Oh Sally, we’ve had such a good life together. You’ve been more than just a wife. You’re my best friend, my partner, my soul mate. You’re such a wonderful mother. You’re so incredibly strong. Do you know what goes through my mind when we’re sitting on that pad? Our honeymoon in France; you were so beautiful on the balcony against the Paris night. That first house on the base in Houston; remember how the doorbell rang every time we used the remote to open the garage door? Chris’s birth; that little hand reaching up to grab my pinky, so small and so perfect. These are the memories I carry with me every time that bird lifts off, that sustain me during the long stretches, and make me yearn for home at the end of the road. But if you’re reading this, I guess I’m home, in a way.

Tell Chris that I‘ll always be proud of him. I can already see some of the man he will become, and he’ll be amazing. The way he cares about others. The way he looks at things from all the angles. He gets those things from you. Tell him that he’s the man of the house now, and I know I can count on him to take care of things, be responsible. Tell him I’ll miss seeing him play Little League this year, and I hope they go to the championship. I wish I could see what he’ll be ten years from now. Will he follow in the old man’s footsteps? Or will his path take him somewhere else? I don’t know which, but I do know that he’ll do great things, and he’ll make a difference. Tell him I’ll always be there with him, in his heart, no matter where he goes or what he does.

I know things will be hard for you both for a while. But eventually the pain will fade enough for you to move on with life. I know you’ll never forget me, but more than anything, I want you to be happy. Don’t think that being happy is in some way a betrayal. It’s what I want the most for you both.

There’s so much I still want to say to you. But really, we’ve already said it all. We’ve already said the most important thing. I love you. I love Chris. We said it every day, and never took it for granted, never said it without really meaning it. I do wish I could see you both one more time, touch you, kiss you, let you know that yes, it’ll be all right. To hold you while I tell you that we’ll be together again some day. But if you’re reading this, I’m already home.

All my love forever,

Alan”

Sally Virdon stared at the words written on the creased and wrinkled paper while absently running her hand up and down her swollen abdomen. Her husband’s last words to her and her son. When he wrote the letter before his last mission, neither of them had known about the daughter she was carrying, who would be born in less than a month. Neither had known it would be his last mission, but as always, Alan had prepared for that possibility.

Wiping a tissue across her eyes, she carefully refolded the precious pages and put them back into their envelope. She had found the letter in her dresser drawer while packing her hospital bag. The day that the General and the Chaplain had brought it to her three months ago, the day that Alan had been declared lost and legally dead, had been so terrible, so devastating. If she hadn’t been further along in her pregnancy, she might have feared losing the baby from the shock. But this was Alan’s baby, her last bit of him that she had left, and she wasn’t going to let anything happen to their baby girl, to Allison.

Sally pushed herself off the bed with one hand pressed into the small of her back. The aches and pains of pregnancy seemed so much worse this time, but that’s what she got for having a baby while on the back side of thirty. But their little “oops” was worth every moment of discomfort.

‘Ok, Sally, time to stop feeling sorry for yourself, you’ve got things to do,’ she sighed to herself. She tucked the letter back in the dresser drawer, and finished packing her clothes into her suitcase.

************

Alan Virdon stood from where he had been bent over a furrow in the ground, mimicking very closely the movements of his wife. He pressed his hands into the small of his back, arching it, and heard a satisfying crack.

Shielding his eyes, he raised his face to the sky, wondering for the zillionth time what Sally and Chris would be doing right about now, in their time. Polar’s farm felt so familiar, that it was easy sometimes to forget their circumstances, just for a moment. He vowed to himself, again, that he would do everything he could to return to his family.

Because even though he may have returned to Earth, it most certainly was not home.