When the small window on her cell door was tossed open and the package thrown through before the opening slammed shut, the suddenness of it all made Helena jump, startled from her reclined position on the small bed. Having just enough time to see the word “FRAGILE” stamped across the box in big letters, the woman made a flying leap and managed to catch the box before it hit the floor. Grumbling about “bloody lackeys and their incompetence” and wondering what the Regents’ hiring criteria was, she brought the parcel back to her bed to examine.
The package was about the size of a shoebox, though much heavier than the average pair of boots. It was wrapped – double-wrapped, it seemed – in brown paper and liberally covered with clear tape. The only thing that had escaped the adhesive wrath was a letter with her name written on it attached to what was presumably the top of the box. Recognizing the handwriting immediately, Helena tore off the letter and quickly opened the envelope, noting with slight dismay but not with any surprise that it appeared to have been opened and resealed several times.
If you’re reading this, then a dozen other people already have too and have decided to pass it on, however reluctantly, though we both know who may have had a hand in that.
Helena smiled, not because her suspicions had been confirmed but because she and Myka were so alike in their thinking. “Two Mykas!” she had recalled Pete saying once. Pushing away the momentary pang of sadness, she continued to read.
Hopefully the package I sent has accompanied this letter, or some of it might not make sense. If it has, then I’d like to personally thank the Regents who are all reading this before you are.
This made Helena actually giggle, and it felt good to laugh after so long. It felt good for Myka to make her laugh.
I’m sending you this so we can talk without anyone (except aforementioned Regents, of course) being able to trace us. I think it’s a pretty good idea, if I do say so myself.
Helena smiled again, imagining the proud, mischievous grin Myka would have if she were speaking these words aloud. In fact, reading the letter, it was as if Helena could hear Myka’s voice in her head, reading it to her. Not objecting to this strange phenomenon in the least, Helena turned back to the letter.
I can’t tell you exactly what I’m doing, but I can tell you that the Regents are allowing me to speak on your behalf at your trial. I don’t care if it makes me look like a traitor in the eyes of everybody at the Warehouse; I have faith in you, Helena, and I know you aren’t the evil person they all make you out to be. You’re a good person, Helena, and I’m going to prove it.
Helena had to take a moment to brush the tears away. Myka’s belief in her filled her with such gratitude that her heart hurt, but in the best way.
I can’t say much more in this letter, but know that, if the package came with it, I’ll be talking to you soon (or, as soon as you get this, anyway). The Regents have no right to deny you hope.
Be safe, Helena.
Helena froze, straightening where she sat. She looked wildly around the room for the source of Myka’s voice. She had heard the last words from somewhere, she swore, but after a few seconds of complete silence, she figured she either imagined it or was going mad. She turned back to the letter with disappointment she’d never admit to.
Be safe, Helena.
Helena knew she hadn’t imagined it this time, and suspiciously looked around again. It was only when she looked back to the letter that she realized what was happening. Henry Solomon Wellcome’s Pen, she thought to herself, her own mind whispering as if for fear that someone would discover Myka’s – now their – secret. The pen belonged to the inventor of invisible ink, and years of secret love letters on blank pages gave it the power to deliver messages by far cleverer means: spoken words in thought without any appearance on paper for the intended recipient of the message and that person only. Oh, Myka. Helena smiled, her heart stumbling in its rhythm at the significance of such a gift – the gift of hearing her voice even if the package had never made it – overwhelmed her. My clever, darling Myka.
She listened to the words one more time as she finished reading the letter.
Be safe, Helena.
Helena folded up the letter as delicately as possible and put it reverently in the front pocket of her jumpsuit; she had no doubt that she’d be taking it out just to listen to Myka’s voice over and over again. The promise of constant communication was far more enticing, however, and Helena eagerly tore into the package she had put aside in favor of the letter. The packing tape eventually surrendered under her onslaught, and a moment later Helena found herself rooting through the same kind of packing straw used in various Warehouse boxes. When she unearthed the contents beneath the straw, her heart stumbled all over again.
“Paul Revere,” she murmured aloud as she pulled the lantern from the box. “Oh, my dear Myka.”
Carefully placing the lamp on her nightstand, she stared into the glass globe for a moment before turning the small knob on the lantern’s base. The lamp lit, as she expected, but within the golden glow that filled the globe, Helena could see Myka sitting on a bed, papers scattered around her. The brunette was biting her lip and twisting her hair around her finger as she concentrated on the file in front of her, and the familiar endearing habits made Helena smile even as her breath caught in her throat. It took her a moment to find her voice.
The former agent’s head immediately snapped up in the direction of Helena’s voice. When she saw Helena’s face through what must have been the second lantern, she burst into a brilliant smile and all but lunged for the lamp. “Hi!” she said, still grinning as she propped her chin in her hands and her elbows on the bed, and though Helena couldn’t see past Myka’s face, nor would she have it any other way, she could imagine the woman kicking her feet like a child.
“Hello there,” Helena replied with a chuckle. “So one good thing did come of the American Revolution, it seems,” she quipped. “Communicative lanterns. Remind me to thank Mr. Revere for sounding the alarm.”
Myka rolled her eyes at the jab, but smiled nonetheless. “I knew you’d recognize it the instant you saw it,” she replied. “I’m just glad the Regents let you have it.”
“Believe me, so am I. And the letter especially….” Helena let the words trail off, but ended the sentence with a wry smile instead.
Myka blushed deeply enough that it was visible even through the glass of the lantern, and she glanced aside as she shyly tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Well, I had to give you something…just in case,” she added softly as she looked back up to meet Helena’s eyes.
“I’m glad you did,” Helena murmured back.
There was a moment of serious silence that neither agent knew how to break until Myka finally cleared her throat, scrambling to find a relatively safe topic of conversation. “So, uh, how…are…you?”
The inanity of the question was such that the two of them burst into laughter. Helena reflected again on how good it felt to laugh and to laugh with Myka. “I’m fine, my darling, how are you?” she asked with a lazy grin.
Myka had to keep herself from visibly shivering. True, Helena always used “darling” in her vocabulary, but the “my” she had put in front of it, consciously and intentionally or not, gave her a thrill she delighted in but was determined not to show. “I’m fine, Helena,” she replied with the same grin. Especially now that I’m talking to you, she wanted to add, but kept that bit to herself.
“So what should we talk about? Because if you believe I’m going to say goodbye after only a few minutes, you’re highly mistaken,” Helena teased, though Myka caught the serious, almost desperate undertone of her words.
“I didn’t believe that for a second,” Myka replied in the same playful tone, but Helena, in turn, heard the reassurance laced within her words, and wasn’t able to hide her sigh of relief.
“So what should we talk about, darling?”
Myka suppressed another shiver as she thought for a moment. “Um…ah, I know. Apothegm.” When Helena gave her a strange look, Myka continued, “Apothegm. That’s the word I chose. Now you have to pick something starting with ‘m’. It’s a word game,” she explained, suddenly feeling shy and more than a little foolish.
Helena, though, thought it was a brilliant idea. “Matriarchal,” she replied, mirroring Myka’s position and propping her chin on her hands. Myka grinned.
The game went on for nearly two hours, and their combined knowledge of words made them sound as if they were spouting off a dictionary. That is, until Helena decided it was time to fight dirty.
“Aloof,” Myka threw out. Helena smiled mischievously.
“Helena!” Myka exclaimed, her eyes widening as she jumped.
“That’s a name, not a word, darling,” Helena chucked, “nor does it start with an ‘o’.”
Deciding that two could play at that game, Myka’s smirk soon mirrored Helena’s. “Orgasmic,” she enunciated, letting the word roll sensuously off her tongue.
Helena grinned. “Cunnilingus.”
“Tsk, tsk, two different versions of the same oral stimulation,” the agent teased, and Helena chuckled again. “Sexual,” she continued.
Helena stopped herself just in time, the moment after she opened her mouth, the moment before she let the word escape. Love, she nearly said. Suddenly she found herself wanting to scream it, to proclaim it to all who could hear. But she stopped herself, even though her heart was pounding as if in attempt to break free and reveal the truth. Scrambling for safer territory in a decidedly unsafe word game, Helena replied with, “Lustrous.”
The game continued for another thirty minutes or so before, after “monosyllabic,” Myka covered her mouth with her hand in an unsuccessful attempt to hide a yawn.
“Circumlocution, and if you’re tired, darling, get some sleep,” Helena admonished, though playfully.
“Negligible, and I don’t want to stop talking with you,” Myka whined.
“Eponymous, and I’d hardly define the past several hours as ‘talking,’ per se.”
“God, we really have been talking for hours, haven’t we? Sepulcher,” she added.
“Yes, and I’ve enjoyed every rapturous minute of it,” Helena replied.
The Victorian woman’s tender smile sent Myka’s heart fluttering, but she tried not to let it show. “Sad,” she murmured as she rearranged herself on her bed, adjusting her lantern so she could see Helena from where her head lay on the pillow.
Helena chuckled. “Now I know you’re sleepy when you’ve resorted to words like that, darling.” Myka grinned.
“Tell me a bedtime story?” the agent asked, and Helena’s grin grew to match hers.
“All right, darling, under the covers with you,” Helena commanded. Once Myka had done so, the author began. “Once upon a time there was…a cat. Named Myka.” When the real Myka began to giggle, Helena mock-scowled at her. “Do you want a story or not?”
“Sorry,” the agent replied, though she was still smiling and on the verge of laughter. “I’ll be good.”
“I doubt that,” Helena shot back, and Myka giggled again. “Anyhow, this cat….”
Helena continued to weave her whimsical if nonsensical tale until Myka’s eyes had closed and her breath was even with sleep, her smile never having left her face. Helena watched her fondly for a moment, wishing she could capture the image before her and keep it with her always. After a few more minutes of indulgence, Helena smiled and reached for the lamp.
“Good night, my darling Myka,” she whispered before extinguishing the flame.