Sara slipped out of bed and shrugged into her silk robe as she quietly made her way into the kitchen of her flat. It was early, but she hadn't slept well during the night. There was no reason not to get up and face the day… except that she wished she was the type of person to curl up in bed and watch Netflix all weekend.
She put on a kettle of water and measured black tea into a silver ball infuser. While she waited for the water to boil, and then the tea to steep, she studied the simple white envelope she'd received in the mail the day before. There was no return address, but her name and home address were written in careful block lettering. The postal service stamp was faint but appeared to be in French.
Other than a few business contacts, Sara didn't know anyone that lived in France. No one that would be sending her mysterious envelopes anyway.
Her tea timer beeped, so she removed the infuser from the water. Steam was still curling from the mug as she stirred in a teaspoon of sugar and a little milk. Then, she took the mug and the envelope onto her small balcony where she could overlook her little corner of London.
The city was starting to come alive. Sara felt like it was all happening around her though while she was stagnant. Honestly, she'd felt that way for the last twelve months, ever since Peter had called with the news of Neal's death.
Sara prided herself on her independence. She had even told Neal once that the world hadn't stopped turning when he'd fled New York for anonymity of the Cape Verde islands. At the time, she didn't think she'd see him again, but then he'd been there in the FBI evidence warehouse when she'd gone to speak to Peter. Her life had been less vivacious without him, but she'd been able to live it. She'd worked, she'd dated, she'd enjoyed expensive dinners and wore designer dresses. Life had gone on without him.
The last year had been entirely different. She felt the loss of Neal like she'd lost a piece of herself. She'd been wholly unprepared for his death and was still reeling, which unsettled her greatly.
She set her mug down on the balcony railing and turned the envelope over. Inelegantly, she tore it open with her fingernail. Her manicurist would be appalled, but Sara was ready to see what this was about.
There was a white card inside. She pulled it out and flipped it over to reveal a sketch of the Champs-Élysées with the Arc de Triomphe in the background. It was one of her favorite images of Paris.
Tears filled her eyes as she lightly touched the initials in the corner. NC. Carefully, she opened the card and gasped. Neal had been affectionate and a very thorough lover, but there were things he couldn't say. Things that she'd wanted to hear, but he'd always danced around. Now, they were in front of her in black and white and in his unmistakable handwriting.
I love you, and I need you.
Sara couldn't believe it. She pinched herself, but she didn't seem to be dreaming. Hurrying back inside, she grabbed her cell phone and found Peter in her list of contacts. While it was ringing, the time difference occurred to her. It had to be one or two in the morning in New York, but she didn't care.
"Burke," Peter answered, voice gruff from sleep.
"Peter, it's Sara."
"Sara?" She could hear rustling over the line, and she assumed that he was getting out of bed and moving somewhere that he could talk. It took him a moment before he asked, "What's wrong?"
She wasn't pulling any punches. "Is Neal alive?"
Peter was silent for long enough that she thought the call had dropped. Before she could check, he said, "I'm not sure. Why? Have you seen him?"
"No. What do you mean you're not sure? You called me last year and told me that he was dead, Peter. Dead. You had identified his body."
"I know, but there have been some developments this week that made me think otherwise." He explained Mozzie's visit, the mysterious bottle of wine on the stoop, and the storage container with the newspaper about the Louvre. He told her everything.
"So, he's alive?"
"I'm pretty sure he is. I'm also pretty sure that he's in Paris. I haven't been able to get there yet to take a look around."
"You don't need to."
"What does that mean? What happened, Sara?"
"I got a card with a Paris address and a date. Next Saturday. It's him."
Peter took a deep breath and released it slowly. "It is him, isn't it? He's really alive."
"I think he is. This is crazy, Peter. It feels like a dream."
"It's not a dream. Will you call me on Saturday, after you see him? I'm not going to come after him, but I just… I need to know."
"I'll call," she promised.
They said their goodbyes and disconnected.
Sara's tea was cold now, but she took a sip anyway as she watched the sun rising over the buildings in the distance. It felt like color was seeping back into her world. While she had many questions, she was confident that she would get at least a few answers now. She just had to get through the next week so that she could see him again.