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My Last Night

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He waits to go upstairs until he hears the shower turn off, til her footsteps still on the hardwood floor above him, til it’s quiet. Like in the old days. He takes his own shower in the dark, feeling about for the towel rack. He curses when he steps on the plug to the hair dryer, dangling out of the bottom of one of the cabinets. Elizabeth’s breathing is even and heavy in bed and doesn’t change when he climbs in beside her.

Martha hadn’t cried, he thinks. That morning, she hadn’t cried. Was he remembering it correctly? He tries not to think about it, but when he closes his eyes he sees her face in the window, sees the bounce of her ponytail as she’d climbed into the airplane. He blinks and sees the face of the boy in Tobolsk, beaten and bloody, split lips begging him to stop. He blinks. The Navy Seals. Blink. Annelise. Blink. Gene Craft. Blink.

Her voice comes from beside him in the inky darkness. "My last night in Smolensk I slept in my mother's bed like a child."

In the dim moonlight through the curtain, he can make out her profile, looking up at the ceiling. The slight upturn of her nose, her proud chin. She wets her lips before she speaks again. "Until I was seven years old we only had one, and I'd sleep curled at her side. She let me hog the blankets, even on the nights when it was below freezing. But we had two beds that night, and I just wanted--"

She gives a frustrated sigh, like she’s disappointed in herself, even all these years later, for needing someone beside her. Philip often wonders if he’s the biggest concession she’s allowed herself in life.

"I didn't get much rest,” she continues, “and we woke up when it was still dark out to go to the train station. I wasn't hungry but my mother told me to eat a big breakfast, that I would need it for the journey to Moscow. She was right, of course. I had two eggs. Normally I only had one but my mother insisted. I knew if I ate it she wouldn't have one for the following morning. But I didn't want to seem ungrateful. I knew it would probably be the last time I saw her and I didn't want her to remember me as ungrateful."

When he’d met Martha’s parents he’d been struck by the fact that he’d never met Elizabeth’s. Martha had called her parents yesterday, she’d told him, last night when neither of them could sleep. She told him she thought about jumping from the bridge, that she’d thought about shooting Gabriel and maybe she would have if Philip hadn’t taken her gun. When he said she didn’t know how to shoot a gun, she told him Stan had taken her to the shooting range. She told him all this as they lay in the strange bed, two people who’d known each other almost as intimately as two people could, not touching.

Elizabeth startles him when she reaches out and takes his hand, her index finger tentatively grazing his palm, her pinky hooking into his. Her voice is quiet. "Of everything we've done for our country, of everything that's happened, one of the hardest things was getting on that train, knowing my life was going to change forever."

A minute passes. Her finger traces cyrillic letters in his palm, or at least that’s what it feels like. М… и… ш… а. "You should get some rest," he says finally.

"I know it wasn't easy for Martha,” she tries one last time. He hears the quiet urgency in her voice. “I know it wasn't easy for you."

It makes him irrationally angry to hear her say Martha’s name. It makes him angry that it makes him angry. He pulls his hand away and says, "You have no idea what it was like."