February 18th, 1968
Alexander is upset. He's crying, his face soaked with hot, salty tears. His face isn't the only thing that's hot. He's hot. It feels like his blood is boiling. His skin in on fire. It doesn't make any sense because they're surrounded by water and his mother is there. She would never, ever let anything hurt him. She promised him that a very long time ago. She would never let anything bad touch him. "Maman, s'il te plait," he cries out. Maybe she'll hear him. Maybe the pain will go away. It does, for a moment, when he feels her arms wrap around him.
February 19th, 1968
Her arms go slack, but Alexander is too distraught, too ravaged by the fever, to realize it.
February 19th, 1969
Alexander is 12 years old, and he is upset. He's only been 12 for a little over a month and they tell him that 12 is too old to be crying like he is, crying with great, gulping sobs, fat tears rolling down his cheeks. He's curled in on himself, his face screwed up as he sobs, too afraid of the other children in the home to pull the blanket down below his head. His skin still burns like a phantom, his breath and his crying heating up the air under the blanket, but he thinks he deserves it. If his mama didn't get to breathe clean, cool air, then Alexander shouldn't get to, either. It's not fair. It's not fair. Life isn't fair, and neither is death.
February 13th, 1976
Private John Laurens doesn't understand what's going on with Alexander. He's known the man - no, not a man, he keeps reminding himself, none of them are men, they are just boys playing dress up in camouflages instead of princess dresses and with machine guns instead of plastic wands - since Hamilton was 18 and he was 22. Laurens and Hamilton. They have been inseparable since the first day they met. But as inseparable as they are, Laurens has never seen Hamilton like this. He's quiet, which he never is. He's contemplative, which isn't all that strange. But he's just... Quiet. It's worrying. Laurens ponders on it that night as he sits on the top bunk of their shared bunk bed, cleaning his guns. He's swinging his feet, humming, and thinking about Hamilton. The man he's thinking about - no, the boy - is underneath him, sprawled out reading a book General Washington loaned him. Laurens knows this because he can see the tips of Hamilton's toes dangling over the edge of the mattress.
"Hey, Hamilton," he says. He gets a grunt in response, hears the turning of a page. He takes that as his cue to continue speaking. "What're you doin' for Valentine's Day?" He hopes to get a laugh out of the boy, something a bit more then the quiet he's gotten for about a weak straight. Hamilton is quiet for a while before he answers. "Dunno," he says. "Probably finish this book." It's an economics text, Laurens recalls. Something the kid has been very interested in for some reason. Laurens goes quiet again, too, and he thinks for a long time before he speaks. "What's up? And don't try and say nothin', 'cause I know somethin's up."
More silence. Laurens has been getting used to silence. "Nothin'," Hamilton says, and he turns another page.
February 14th, 1976
Laurens doesn't know what time it is, but he knows it's dark. It must be really early morning because they don't sleep a lot. He doesn't know what wakes him for a few moments, so he shifts on his mattress, attempting to discover the source. One of the springs creaks and Laurens stops when he hears another noise from below him. Hamilton must have done something. "My mother will have been dead for 8 years on the 19th," he says, and this time Laurens is the quiet one. He doesn't know if Hamilton had intended for him to hear that at all or if it was by chance that Laurens had woken up at all. He stays quiet.
February 19th, 1976
Private John Laurens stays quiet.
February 13th, 1978
"Hey, Hamilton," Laurens says. They're out on patrol, their backs to each other as they ride on the back of the military truck, bouncing up and down every so often as they head over obstacles. "What're you doin' for Valentine's Day?' Hamilton cracks a smile at the inside joke. Each year, the period of his contemplative sadness decreases slightly, but they both know the deadline is approaching. "Dunno," Hamilton says, and Laurens grins, too. "Think I'll probably finish a book." Laurens debates his next words before he says them. "What about next year?" he asks. "Spending it with anybody?" He says this because next year, their terms will be up. Next year they will both be back in the states somewhere. Hamilton ponders that and Laurens can feel him shifting, feels Hamilton's back move against his own, hears the shush of the fabric of their uniforms sliding against each other.
"Anybody in particular?" Laurens asks, and Hamilton laughs. Laurens loves the sound of his laugh, as sappy as it sounds. He'd do anything to hear Hamilton's laugh. "I'd thought about seeing you," he says. Laurens is sure he'll never get rid of the smile that appears on his face after Hamilton says that, and he turns to see the younger man. Before he shifts the rest of the way around, the truck triggers a mine and Laurens is throw away.
The last thing he thinks before his face is slammed into the dust is Not this close. Not another one.
February 13th, 1978
Not this close, Hamilton thinks, scrambling for his weapon, scrambling to find Laurens in the chaos and the wreckage. Scrambling to find John. He couldn't do another one, another day to mourn...
Not another one, he thinks desperately, staggering and stumbling, his ears ringing and his head swimming. "John!" he screams, his voice raw and ragged. "John! John!"
February 19th, 1978
There is no February 13th, but there is still a February 19th.
January 13th, 1979
Alexander is going home. He doesn't really know where home is, though. John has fallen off of the map, and the older man would be the only home he has left. But he has done his time, served his four years, and now they're going to pay for him to go to school. So, he decides to go to school. Somewhere far away from the island of St. Croix, as far away from February 19th as he can get. As far away from the memories of losing the only man he had loved.
February 19th, 1979
As far as Alexander runs, he can't run far enough, and they follow him.
December 18th, 1979
Alexander didn't think he'd make many friends away at school, but somehow, he does. He meets a girl named Angelica Schuyler, a girl he falls a little bit in love with. She's his age, 22, but she's four years ahead of him in her law courses since she started at 18 instead of 22 like he had. She drags him to a Christmas party, except she doesn't call it a Christmas party. "It's a winter's ball," she tells him. "It sounds a lot cooler and it's inclusive." Alexander smiles and he goes with her to the party.
But he's still Alexander. Four years in the armed forces and John Laurens couldn't make him any less awkward. He's still dreadfully awkward. He takes a red plastic cup half-filled with something - Angelica pushed it into his hands - and tries to make his way away from the boombox blaring something almost too loudly for him to decipher the lyrics. "Oh, no, you don't!" Angelica yells. She grabs his elbow and tries to steer him away from his hiding place. "Where are you taking me?" he yells back, and she flashes him a charming grin. "I'm about to change your life," she says, and drags him away. "That's not an answer," Alexander says, but no one hears him, and he doesn't mind.
December 19th, 1979
It is a little after midnight and Alexander asks Eliza out on a date because of course he's already in love with her. She's perfect. How could he not be? She's witty and laughs at all of his stupid jokes. She's smart, too. And kind. She's so, so kind. How could someone who wants to build orphanages and has her eyes not be kind?
Every emotion he's ever felt he's felt so strongly. He feels loss, like the loss of his mother, so acutely. He falls in love quickly and it takes a lot to make him stop loving. He falls in love with John Laurens at the drop of a hat and he never stops.
So is there any world where he doesn't ask Eliza if he can take her out hours after meeting her?
Thankfully, she says yes, and he only falls more in love with her.
December 21st, 1979
Angelica says the Schuylers are going back to Albany for the holidays and that Alexander is coming. He protests, but two Schuyler sisters gang up on him and he really doesn't stand a chance. So, he goes. He meets his new girlfriend's parents after only dating her for a full day. Mrs. and Senator Schuyler aren't the only people he meets.
They are sitting at the kitchen table, Alexander and Eliza sitting with their shoulders touching as they eat a late breakfast, Angelica with her feet up at the other end of the table, listening to music playing from a Walkman in front of her. She's throwing bits of a napkin at Alexander and Eliza across the table. She doesn't stop until Mrs. Schyler reappears in the doorway. "Feet off the table, dear," she says, swatting at Angelica, who takes a full 10 seconds to move her feet. "We have company." Alexander and Eliza don't look up from their breakfast plates, Eliza blushing and laughing at something a grinning Alexander said. "Company?" Angelica squawked, crossing her arms over her chest. "You didn't say we were having company!"
Mrs. Schuyler rolls her eyes, sweeping the pieces of napkin in the center of the table into her palm. "It's one of your father's associates," she says. "Senator Laurens and his son."
Alexander balks at that, stopping in the middle of a sentence and sitting straight up. "I'm sorry, ma'am," he says, his face white, "but can you say that again? Who's coming over?" Mrs. Schuyler shakes her head slightly. "Not coming over, dear," she says. "They're in the sitting room. Senator Laurens and his son." Alexander doesn't have time to panic and Eliza doesn't have time to do much else except put her gentle hand on his arms. Looming in the doorway was Senator Laurens of South Carolina and his son, John. Alexander's John.
John does a double take, too. They haven't seen each other in four years, but almost an entire tour of duty at each other's backs, and they would both know the other one anywhere. Alexander is definitely startled, to say the least. He hasn't seen John in person since he pulled him out of the sand that fateful day they'd hit a mine. Alexander was spared only because he managed to avoid most of the shrapnel. John had written him letters after he'd been discharged, promised that when Alexander was done they'd see each other again, but... Then the letters stopped. And Alexander hasn't seen him since.
John looks like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. He's pale, his eyes wide. "Hamilton," he says. "Laurens," Alexander says again.
Eliza looks confused. "Alexander," she says, "do you know him?" Alexander nods. Before he can speak, John does. "We fought together," he says, "way back when." Alexander doesn't speak for a long time, but Eliza takes this as an answer. Angelica's eyes narrow across the table but she doesn't say anything, either.
The tension is palpable, but eventually, Senator Laurens leaves the room to have words with Senator Schuyler, and the two sisters are left alone with Alexander and John. "What the fuck," Alexander says finally. "What the fuck. I dig you out of the fucking sand and that's the last time I see you? Because you completely stop talking to me?" He doesn't say I loved you because that's a lie. He never really stops. "It's a long story," he says, and Angelica sighs loudly. Alexander looks up, having forgotten she was there at all. "And it looks like he's gonna hear it." She gets up, picks up her Walkman, and disappears. Eliza stands up and kisses Alexander on the cheek, whispering reassurances that calm him considerably before she follows her sister.
"So," Alexander says, "tell it." He sits down and nods to the chair, watching John's every move. He sits down on the edge of the chair, looking all for the world like a bird perched on a wire about to fly away. "I panicked," he says, not quite meeting Alexander's eyes. "In the hospital, I still felt military. I was still Private Laurens. But when they let me go... I wasn't Private Laurens. I wasn't the guy you knew. I had to become who I was before, and I didn't know if you'd like who that was." Alexander is quiet for a while. "I think I understand," he says slowly. "I'm not happy," he adds, "but I think I understand. You could've at least sent me a break-up letter." John smiles weakly. "We would've had to have been together for me to do that," he points out. "But we weren't. You're not my ex-boyfriend. You're an ex..." He trails off and Alexander finishes his sentence. "Ex-something," he says, and John nods in agreement. "Yeah. Ex-something."
They sit in companionable silence for a few moments but the silence is broken by Alexander asking for his address, for a phone number, something. Some way to talk to him again. After a long silence, John gives him both and they leave the kitchen together. It's one less loss for Alexander to mourn. One less February 19th.
December 31st, 1979
The watch on Alexander's wrist is counting down, down, down. He's on the roof of Eliza's childhood home, holding hands. He squeezes her hand gently and his watch strikes midnight.
January 1st, 1980
"I think I want to marry you," Alexander says when they finally pull apart from the kiss, heels bracing themselves so they don't slide off the pitched roof. "Alex," she says with a laugh, "we've known each other for a little over two weeks." Alexander shrugs. "I stand by that," he protests. "Just wait a few months. I really think I want to marry you."
February 4th, 1980
Mrs. Schuyler frowns as she sorts through the morning's mail. There's a letter there addressed to her dear Eliza, who is at school. It's from a Private Laurens, but he leaves no other identification, no other address. She slides it into another envelope and forwards it to her middle daughter's address.
February 7th, 1980
Eliza is with Alexander when she gets the mail. They're in her dorm room, Alexander hanging upside down off of the couch trying to memorize something for one of his law classes. She sits beside him like a normal person when she realizes she's expecting something from her mother. "Wait here," she tells Alexander, leaning down to kiss his forehead. "Mmhm," Alexander says, his eyes not quite leaving the paper held inches from his face. She laughs and shakes her heading, padding down the hall and down a few flights of stairs to the mail room. She grabs the small package inside and the three envelopes waiting there, not even looking at them until she is back up the stairs and walking down the hall towards her room. The package is from her mother, of course. A letter from her father, one from Peggy. Then there's another from her mother. She frowns at this one as usually her letters are enclosed in packages. She peels it open as she nudges the cracked door open wider with her hip. She closes it with a foot and drops the rest of the mail on the table before opening the letter. Inside it is another letter sent to her by a Private Laurens.
She frowns at the name. Private Laurens. Of course she knows him. He's Alexander's friend. But why is he writing her? She slides to letter out of the second envelope, peering at the contents. His handwriting is very careful and his message makes her heart twitched.
His mother died on February 19th. Be easy with him then.
There's a space and then he writes again,
Take care of him.
It isn't signed.
Eliza takes it and stores it in the top drawer of her dresser. She thinks to herself that she's going to do exactly what it says.
February 19th, 1980
Eliza takes care of him as best as she can. He goes to class like normal, but he's stiff. He doesn't speak. He doesn't want to go out after classes like he usually does, doesn't even want to listen to music. She doesn't press him. She figures he needs to be alone, so she lets him be alone, but she makes sure he knows she's there if he needs her.
February 19th, 1981
"Hey, Eliza?" Alexander says. She blinks, sitting up from where she's sprawled out on the grass next to him, squinting in the sun. It’s a rare, not freezing day in February. "Yeah?" she says. He sits up, too, now criss-cross in front of her, studying her eyes intently. "You remember New Years' when I told you that I wanted to marry you, and you said we'd only known each other for two weeks?" Eliza laughs, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. "I do recall," she says.
“I held up my end of the bargain,” he says. “I waited a few months. I still wanna marry you.”
Her heart catches in her throat. He reaches under his t-shirt and pulls out a dirty silver necklace. On it are three charms, two dog-tags and a ring. He unclasps it and removes the ring before draping it back around his necklace and tucking it away. She knew he wore the dog-tags, but the ring… Her throat closes again. “Have you always worn that?” is the only thing she can think of to say. “No, the ring is new,” he says with a laugh. “I’d give you my mother’s, but she didn’t have one. I bought this one for you, been wearing it since I bought it, waiting until I knew the time was right. It’s not a lot, but I really, really want to marry you.”
Alexander unbends his legs until he’s on one knee, the ring in two fingers. “I meant what I said the day we met. War would’ve been worth it to meet you. And I’d really, really like it if you’d give me the gift of getting to be by your side every day for the rest of my life. Because God knows I’m too stupid to live the longest.” Eliza laughs, but she’s laughing through tears. She takes his face in her hands and kisses him all over, covers him with kisses. “Is that a yes?” he asks when he can breathe again, and she throws her arms around his neck and holds him tight.
It’s definitely a yes.
February 20th , 1981
They’re lying in bed after having celebrated their engagement, skin to skin with blankets and sheets knitted and tangled around them. Eliza thinks he’s asleep, but she pokes him with a question anyway. “Why the 19th?” she asks. “It’s the day your mother died.”
Alexander is quiet for so long that she starts to think he is asleep and she turns over to try and sleep herself, but he does speak. “It seemed right,” he says. “And my mama… I think she’d like to know I was happy, especially on a day I’m normally…” He tapers off, a wordsmith of the ages at a loss, finally failing in his quest. “It’s alright,” she tells him. “I understand.” He kisses her cheek again and falls asleep.
April 2nd , 1981
Alexander holds a letter from John Laurens in his hands. “It’s been forever since he wrote me back,” he jokes to Eliza. They’re in his dorm this time, his fiancé dozing on the sofa as he crossed the living room. “You would’ve thought he’d dropped off the face of the earth again.” Eliza blinks sleepy, barely lifting her head. "He said yes, didn't he?" she asks. In Alexander's latest letter, he's asked his best friend to be his best man at the wedding. He is terrified writing it that he'll say no, despite Eliza's assurances he'd agree. "Dunno," Alex says. "I haven't opened it yet."
He carefully opens the letter, a lot slower and more gentle than he normally does. Normally he rips them open, scattering bits of paper everywhere. But this one he's careful with. Quickly, his eyes dart over the text and he grins. "He said yes!" Alexander yelps, throwing the letter to the ground and bounding towards the couch. Eliza rises to her feet just in time to be tackled with a hug and spun around. "Oh, he said yes, he actually said yes!"
"I told you he would," Eliza says, laughing a little as she kisses him on the cheek. "I think you're more excited about him saying yes than you were about me..." Alexander pretends to pout, letting her stand on her own again so he can kiss her on the lips, long and slow. "I'm very, very excited you said yes," he says cheekily, and he gestures to the couch. Eliza laughs and plops down on it again, beckoning Alexander closer.
April 3rd, 1981
Alexander finishes reading John's letter. There's an anecdote about buying a car and nearly hitting a deer the next day. He mentions he's been feeling a little ill lately, probably because of his brief jaunt to the colder north. But Alexander's favorite part of the letter is the part when he says he'll be Alexander's best man, that there would be nothing short of Hell freezing over that would stop him from being there.
May 12th, 1981
There's a drugstore close to campus, Eliza recalls. Sometimes she and Alexander walk there late at night when they run out of snacks during a movie. There's a drugstore and since it is a drugstore, they should have the EPT. Eliza doesn't know much about it except it's supposed to tell someone whether or not they're pregnant which she'd really like to know.
She makes the short walk by herself, finds the product, and plops it on the counter to purchase it. She offers the young male cashier tending the register a smile as she takes the bag and starts the walk back to her dorm. That doesn't take long either, but what does take a long time is the test. There's the matter of collecting exactly three drops of urine and then getting it in the test tube and then mixing it with something weird in a plastic vial... Eliza feels like a chemist and she isn't a chemist, she's a social worker. A social worker who just wants to know already. But she can't know. She has to wait for 2 whole hours.
Eliza is grateful that Alexander has a long class and a discussion with the professor afterward.
May 12th, 1981
They're almost done with school for the year, and although he loves learning, nothing makes Alexander happier. Of course, he isn't even close to being done. He's nearly finished up his first year, so he still has many ahead of him. But Eliza is almost done, bless her. She would be finished with her master's in social work come the end of May. He's still looking forward to the summer. He'll have time to get ahead with his summer classes, have time to plan the wedding, have time to look for an apartment, have time to spend with Eliza and John. He'll have time for everything. It'll be great, he thinks. It'll be really great. Their life was going to be great.
"Lizzie!" he calls in a sing-song voice as he enters the dorm room, pulling the door closed behind him. He doesn't hear her, doesn't even hear the record player going. He frowns and calls to her again. "Liz? Where are you?" He finally hears her voice, calling to him from her bedroom. "In here, Lex!"
He follows the sound of her voice, humming happily. He kicks his shoes off and leaves them outside the bedroom door, dropping his bookbag next to them. "I was thinkin' maybe we call Jack up," he says. "We call Jack up and we get your sisters and we have a party for you the day you turn your thesis in. We could-" He stops when she speaks back.
"Only if we don't drink," she says. Alexander laughs and shakes his head. "We're in college," he says. "Someone's gonna get drunk." Eliza smiles up at him from where she's sitting criss-cross on her bed in one of his sweatshirts. "It won't be me," she says, "because I'm pregnant."
It takes Alexander a few moments to absorb this. She's pregnant. His girlfriend – his fiancée – is pregnant and the baby is his and he's going to be a father. He's going to be a father. "Really?" He says finally, his voice small. Eliza nods, tucking a single strand of dark hair behind one ear.
"Yeah, really," she says. "We're gonna have a baby."
Unsurprisingly, Alexander is the one who starts crying first.
May 13 th , 1981
They haven't told Eliza's parents or her sisters yet, but Eliza lets Alexander write a letter to John. She knows he's anxious to talk to someone about the development, about how excited he is to be a father. So she watches him write to John with a smile on her face and she coaches him through his nerves when he decides to write one to General Washington, too.
May 26 th , 1981
John does come up, and so do Eliza's sisters. The pretense is that it's a party to celebrate Eliza turning in her senior thesis, which she does earlier that day. The real purpose is to tell them that they're having a baby. They take it well, Alexander thinks. He pulls Eliza into a deep kiss and doesn't notice when John smiles sadly in front of him. He doesn't notice when John smiles like he knows something the rest of them don't.
July 4 th , 1981
Alex and Eliza decide to have their wedding outside. It's summer, after all. They may as well take advantage of it. They also moved up the wedding from their original December plan because of the impending birth of their child. They get married in Albany, behind Eliza's childhood home. Alexander stands at the top of their makeshift aisle, beaming. John is behind him and Eliza's sisters precede her in, dressed in bright blue sundresses and carrying bright yellow sunflowers. But none of the colors are as bright as Eliza in her radiant white. She is beaming so brightly that Alexander doesn't even think the sun could outshine her.
July 4 th , 1981
John thinks the same thing about Alexander. He smiles again, that same sad smile of someone who knows more than they're letting on.
July 4 th , 1981
General Washington congratulates the happy new husband with his wife on his arm. "Good to see you again, General," Alexander says, and George almost laughs. Almost. He doesn't usually laugh. "We aren't in a war, anymore," he says, and Alexander nods gently. The beaming groom watches his wife stand across from John Laurens, laughing and smiling at something the other man said.
"I don't know, sir," Alexander says. "I think we are, and it's just a little bit different."
July 5 th , 1981
John Laurens leaves Albany for South Carolina with his heart heavy. Alexander stands on the porch with one arm around his wife, waving with the other. He's smiling widely. He's happy. He's so, so happy.
John smiles, too. He smiles sadly as he drives away.
August 20th , 1981
Alexander does go back to college in August, but he forgoes law. It's not for him, he decides. Besides, he's impatient. It'll take too long and now he has a wife and a baby on the way. He goes back for political science and journalism, taking classes around his job. His job is something he is very proud of. General Washington needs an aid in his offices. An aid and a speechwriter. Alexander is happy to accept.
December 31 st , 1981
Alexander's child is late. Of course, the baby is not just his child. The baby is very much Eliza's too. But since the baby – they decide to be surprised about the sex – is over a week late at this point, Eliza has taken to calling them Alexander's. The baby is late but Alexander loves them just the same, and Eliza does, too, although they're very ready to meet her.
To take his wife's mind off of the impending labor, Alexander helps her into the elevator and when they get out, up a staircase and onto the roof. He had made a deal with the super a few days earlier to get rooftop access. "Alexander, it's cold," Eliza says, laughing as she bundles close to her husband. The wind pulls at the night gown and the bathrobe she's wearing. "Why are we even up here?"
Alexander smiles and kisses her on the forehead. "Because I wanted to be romantic," he says. "Remember the first time I said I wanted to marry you?" Eliza smiles at the memory.
"Of course," she says. "We were on the roof at my parents' house. We'd only known each other for a few weeks." Alexander smiles again, squeezing her hand. She leans against his chest and he tucks her head under his chin.
"It was also New Years'," Alexander says, "like it almost is now."
Eliza leans up on her tiptoes to give Alexander a peck on the lips. "I love you," she says before she settles back down against his chest. They watch the skyline together until Alexander's watch chirps at midnight.
January 1 st , 1982
Eliza stiffens slightly. "Alexander," she says, and her husband looks down at her. "Your baby's finally coming."
January 1 st , 1982
It takes awhile for their baby to arrive, but Alexander is there by Eliza's side the entire time. She never screams at him, but the grip on his hand is probably enough to crush his fingers. He spares a thought to be grateful he's ambidextrous. It takes hours, but in the end, they have a few visitors in the waiting room. Angelica is a little tipsy and Peggy is escorting her, cross at being still underage. John isn't there. He lives in South Carolina. But General Washington is there. Senator and Mrs. Schuyler appear, as well, but Alexander hasn't seen any of them. He only has eyes for his wife. And then...
"Happy New Years," the doctor says, his words punctuated by wails of a crying child and the exhausted breathing of Eliza. "It's a girl."
Alexander watches in awe as the doctor places their baby girl on Eliza's chest. Eliza looks at her with such love in her eyes that Alexander melts even more. And he isn't crying. Except... Except he is. "Lizzie," he says. "Lizzie, can we-" He doesn't even need to finish.
"Rachel," she says. "We're gonna call her Rachel."
January 2 nd , 198 2
They take Rachel home and Alexander cannot remember a time he has ever been happier.
January 7 th , 1982
"Alexander, there's a letter for you from South Carolina."
Eliza's voice glides through the open door and Alexander can't even pause to smile at it. He's too engrossed in the challenge of changing his daughter's diaper to notice that she sounds sad. For such a small thing, it's a very difficult task. He sticks his tongue between his teeth, chewing on it while he works. "It's from John Laurens," he dismisses, his focus back on the task at hand. "I'll read it later."
"It's from his father," Eliza says sharply and Alexander freezes. In all of his years knowing John Laurens, he had never once received a letter from his father.
"His father?" Alexander whispers. Rachel babbles on the bed in front of him, reaching for Alexander's long, wispy hair. He straightens up, holding her to his chest. "Will you read it?"
Eliza swallows hard, peeling the envelope open with shaking fingers. "On Sunday the 27th of December," she recites, her eyes darting along the page, "my son died. He had been ill since April of 1981 but neglected to inform anyone of the seriousness of his ailment, if he even knew."
There might be more of the letter. There may not be. To Alexander it doesn't matter because the world is falling apart around him. He sinks onto the bed clutching his daughter close to his heart, his breath coming in short gasps that roar in his ears.
"Alexander," Eliza says, and suddenly she's right next to him. "Are you alright?"
Alexander can't answer. He is crumbling.
January 7 th , 1982
He doesn't even get to attend the funeral. Henry Laurens didn't write him until it was all over.
January 7 th , 1982
Rachel Hamilton cries in his arms and Alexander realizes that even though he is falling apart, he must keep going.
January 8 th , 1982
Somehow, he does.
January 7 th , 1983
And he keeps doing.
May 24 th , 1984
He graduates from college. The day after his graduation, his wife gives birth to two lovely twins. Boys this time. They call them George after his almost father and John after his ex-almost. Eliza doesn't mind at all.
January 1 st , 1985
Rachel is three. She is three years old and she has vanilla cake smeared all over her face and Alexander falls even more in love with her. She is one of the three greatest things he has ever created.
January 7 th , 1985
John has been dead to Alexander since 1982, but Alexander keeps living. It isn't that he's forgotten John. He could never do that. Somewhere along the way he realizes he's still alive and he must make the best of it. He does make the best of it. He raises his children. He becomes a politician in his own right. He decides he's going do his damnedest to save the world.
December 13 th , 1990
Alexander's daughter is almost 9. His twin sons are 6. His other boys, Philip and James, are 4 and 3 respectively. He's sitting in his office, shivering and thinking about what they're doing at home while he waits for a phone call. Probably making cookies. Eliza loves to make cookies around the holidays and Rachel adores helping. His sons just like to lick the egg beaters and eat the chocolate chips. He wonders if there will be any left when he gets home when the phone rings.
He takes the call as quickly as he can. Some rich person wants to donate to Washington's campaign. As soon as he hangs up the phone, Alexander snatches up his coat as he's off. He throws open the door leading him to the outside world, to civilization, to wind and snow and cold but freedom, when he sees the woman.
She looks out of place. Cold. She's wearing a dark red dress, something that should compliment her but manages to only make her look uncomfortable. Her make-up is flattering but thick and it doesn't succeed in covering up the bruise on her neck.
"I know you are a man of honor," she says. "I'm so sorry to bother you but I don't know where to go and I came here all alone..." She reaches up and tucks a curl of dark hair behind her ear, her eyes locked onto his and begging. "My husband's doin' me wrong and suddenly he's up and gone, and I don't..." She falters and Alexander falters, too.
"I can give you some money," he says, "and I can walk you home." She graciously accepts his offer.
"You're too kind, sir," she says, and Alexander shakes his head. She doesn't need to call him sir, and he tells her so and asks for her name. "Maria Reynolds," she says. Alexander nods.
"Maria Reynolds," he repeats, and he remembers that.
"This one's mine, sir," she says, and Alexander shakes his head again. He pulls out his wallet as he does it. "Alexander," she amends and he smiles, producing 30 dollars in folded bills he had in his wallet. He hands them to her.
Maria takes the money, smiling shyly at him. She tucks another lock of hair behind her ear. "I should head back home," Alexander says, but she shakes her head.
"You oughta stay," she says. "Just for a minute. Get warm before you go back out." Alexander hesitates and finally relents, following her as she leads him into the apartment building.
It's a rundown place, certain not somewhere Alexander would want his children living. His frown deepens as he follows her up the stairs. She finally stops at the third floor, leading him down a winding hallway that he swears he saw a rat scamper across. She unlocks the door with a key she pulls out of the pocket of her dress and leads him inside.
The inside of her apartment isn't much better than the outside. There are glass beer bottles everyone and little orange bottles of prescription medication on the kitchen counter, too much for even one or two people to ever need. The carpet is pulled up in places, there is mold on the ceiling, and the television plays only static. Most concerningly, he sees a child's stuffed toy on the moth-eaten sofa. She turns to him, raising her head, and looks him in the eyes. "Stay?" She says.
December 13 th , 1990
Alexander takes a step back. "Hey," he says. He doesn't want to insult her, but this isn't a great place. He knows. He grew up in places like this. He saw bruises like the ones she tried to cover up on his mother. "Something's not right."
Maria breaks down slowly, not all at once. Her confidence falters and her shoulders slump. She swallows hard and he can see it working in her throat. "I'm sorry, sir," she says, and he sees her start crying. He steps forward quickly, taking the smaller woman into her arms. "I'm sorry, sir," she repeats, tears rolling down her cheeks quicker. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I just... I don't..." She hiccups and tries to wipe her eyes. "I don't know what to do. I don't have enough money to keep my girl in daycare and I don't know no one else to take care of her and..." She trails off and he tries his best to soothe her.
"Hey," he says. "Hey, look. It's alright. It's alright, Maria. I've been where you are. I can help you if you want my help." Maria looks up at him, her eyes shimmering, and she says yes.
December 14 th , 1990
It's past midnight and Eliza is still awake even though the children aren't. They've been in bed for hours. She is, however, growing concerned. She hasn't heard from her husband in hours. Her mind starts to spin. Has something happened? Something terrible had to have happened to him... She chews on her nails nervously as the smell of chocolate chips wafts through the apartment. But finally, finally, she hears the door open.
She leaps to her feet and is at the door in seconds, praying it's Alexander. It is, and she relaxes, but he isn't alone. There's a woman in a red dress next to him with a 6 year old girl on her hip fast asleep. Alexander's eyes say he'll explain and Eliza's heart, of course, says yes. She's never been able to tell anyone who needs help no.
December 14 th , 1990
The children take the arrival in stride. However, they don't need to for too long. Peggy Schuyler comes to visit, bringing Christmas treats for her niece and nephews, and offers the young woman the spare room in her apartment. It's more private than the Hamiltons' couch, after all.
Maria thanks Alexander profoundly and kisses him on the cheek as she and her daughter leave.
December 2 5 th , 1990
Life happens, and it keeps happening. The Hamiltons get a dog for Christmas, a mutt they decide to call Colin.
November 28 th , 1991
Peggy brings Maria Lewis and her daughter Susan to Thanksgiving dinner. She announces that they are dating. James asks if that means he's allowed to date a boy. Eliza says yes. James announces that he is dating a boy in his preschool class named James Jefferson-Madison. Alexander chokes on his wine.
April 1 st , 1992
George Washington asks Alexander if he wants to be treasury secretary, provided of course that George takes the November election.
"This is a joke, right?" Alexander says, narrowing his eyes. "You're shitting me. You gotta be shitting me."
The corner of George's lips twitch slightly, as close to bursting out laughing as the man is ever going to get. "When have I ever shitted you?" He asks. Alexander ponders that for a few moments.
"Okay, never," Alexander admits. He accepts the job.
November 3 rd , 1992
George Washington wins the election easily.
January 20 th , 1993
It is the middle of President Washington's inaugural address. Alexander is in the front row with Martha and his own wife. They intended to leave the children with Peggy and Maria, but their new youngest, AJ, refused to leave his mother so they brought him along. AJ starts crying in his mother's arms. "Alexander, take him," Eliza whispers in his ear. They don't want to make a scene. Alexander takes the baby, rocking him gently and humming under his breath. But the baby doesn't stop crying.
"Fuck," he says. "AJ, c'mon. Please. For your papa. Come on, buddy..." He keeps rocking the baby, but the infant refuses to stop crying. In fact, he cries louder. Alexander's heart stops when George stops speaking and makes eye contact with him.
The newly sworn in president looks back up at the crowd. "If you'll excuse me for a moment," he says. There are plenty of murmurs of confusion as he steps down from the podium towards the front row where Alexander sits holding his baby. "May I?" He asks. Wordlessly, Alexander nods and hands little AJ over to his grandfather. Almost instantly, the baby stops crying.
"What the fuck," Alexander whispers softly in disbelief. Eliza can't believe it either. He rocks the baby in his arms for a few moments, trying to coax him back to sleep. It works until George goes to hand him back to Alexander. He wakes up and starts crying.
"Could I take him?" George asks. "I've only got a bit more. Maybe he'll be more soundly asleep by then." Alexander nodded again. This is not happening, he thinks. It isn't. His surrogate father is not giving his inaugural address holding Alexander's baby.
But George climbs back up to the podium and finishes delivering his speech with AJ sleeping peacefully in his arms.
June 2 nd , 1993
Angelica Schuyler returns from a vacation in London. She isn't alone, however. On her arm is a man named Aaron Burr that Alexander vaguely remembers serving with.
Eliza also tells him that she's pregnant again.
Alexander is fine with this. He is. He's fine with all of these developments.
January 11 th , 1994
It's Alexander's birthday, but he couldn't care less about that. He has another baby born that day, a little girl they call Angelica Margarita.
November 4 th , 1996
George Washington sighs. "I need something for my headache," he says.
"You're telling me," Alexander says. He dry swallows two pills and passes the bottle to George. George takes his without water, too. "Four more years," Alexander says. He never thought he would tire of politics, but he's nearly tired of politics already. He started early, after all. And he has children to raise.
"Four more years," George echoes.
November 5 th , 1996
They get their four more years.
March 10 th , 1999
Alexander is in the Oval Office at the time, pacing back and forth in front of the desk. His arms are crossed angrily over his chest. "I don't get it," he says. "I don't fucking get it, George. It's not child murder, it's a slight tax increase to provide better medical care. It's the opposite of child murder!" George hums and nods slightly. He tries to listen, but sometimes when Alexander goes on and on, he pretends the batteries of his hearing aides died.
They both straighten up when a 17 year old girl bursts through the door clutching a letter in her hands. She looks almost exactly like Alexander, his same wild hair and his same wild eyes. "Pops," she says, beaming, holding the paper close to her chest. "Grandpa, guess what?" George sits up and turns his hearing aides back on discretely.
"I got accepted!" Rachel cries happily.
"Oh my god," Alexander says. She throws the letter to the ground and throws herself on her father. The letter says Harvard but Alexander would be beyond proud no matter where it was.
December 13 th , 1999
Alexander is in his office. He's usually in his office. George has countless speechwriters at his disposal, but for his farewell address, he wants Alexander. Alexander swears to do a good job, the best job he ever could. This is for George, after all. This is for his father. His father who is finally going home. It's late but Alexander is determined. He doesn't have much longer. He is so engrossed in his work that he almost doesn't look up when the door opens. He starts to speak but before he can speak, the man at the door does. It's one of George's assistants, Tobias Lear. "It's George," he says desperately. "You have to come."
Alexander is up in seconds, following Lear out of his office and towards the president's personal quarters. He was getting into bed, Alexander learns, when he stopped by the bedside, told his wife his head hurt, and then fell over. Martha called for the doctors, but they wanted Alexander, too. They didn't know how much time he had left.
Alexander is breathless when he bursts into the room. There is George, laid out on the bed. He seems to be sleeping or perhaps as they'd place him in a coffin. One hand is on his chest and his face is pale. His wife is beside him, tears pouring down her cheeks, clinging to his other hand. "Alexander," she whispers, and Alexander falls next to her.
"Papa," he says, his voice breaking. "Papa, what happened? Papa, you can't..." George's eyelids flutter barely. His lips almost part as his eyes finally open. "Tis well," he whispers, looking at them. "Tis well," he repeats and closes his eyes.
December 14 th , 1999
Alexander is there and Martha is there when he succumbs to the stroke.
December 31 st , 1999
The mood is much more subdued than it is most years. Alexander and Eliza have always loved New Years Eve ever since that first one they spent together years and years ago. "At least you're still here," Alexander says softly, leaning against Eliza's chest. They are laying together on their home's balcony, watching the stars.
Eliza kisses his forehead.
January 1 st , 2000
"I'm not going anywhere," she says.
February 4 th , 2000
They finally move into their new home. It's uptown in New York, away from Washington, DC. Alexander is happy to be away from it. Happy to be away from the place his father died. He is happy, happy also because his daughter is coming in for the weekend. They have just seen her for the Christmas holidays, but she wants to help with the moving, getting things settled. Alexander is happy for the first time in awhile.
He's sitting on the floor of their spacious living with his 6 year old daughter Angie, coloring pictures of unicorns and puppies and flowers. Happy things. Eliza is in the kitchen making dinner. The rest of their brood are scattered about the home, doing whatever they please, he imagines.
The landline in the kitchen rings.
Alexander ignores it, coloring in a flower petal bright blue. "You gotta color in the lines, Papa," Angie says. Alexander kisses her on the forehead.
"Of course, babygirl," he says, and he tries his best to stay in the lines. However, his crayon jerks when he hears his wife scream. It's a blood-curdling scream, the likes of which he's never heard, and his heart trembles in his chest. Something terrible has happened. Something terrible.
Eliza doesn't stop screaming.
February 4 th , 2000
Their daughter, Rachel, had been taking the train up to New York to visit their new home when she got into an argument with a man named George Eacker. When she got off the train, he shot her in the back.
February 9 th , 2000
The house is quiet when they come home after the funeral. No one says a word. George and John are solemn, too. They are the oldest now. They do not like it one bit. James and AJ are still crying, try as they might to stay strong for Angie. Angie keeps sniffling, almost crying. She doesn't understand why they had to leave Rachel. She doesn't understand why her big sister isn't coming home.
The house is quiet when they finally get everyone up to their rooms. There is no music, no laughter, no running water, no boards creaking. There is nothing at all. Nothing but the silence and Alexander and Eliza standing in their living room in black, all alone. "It's quiet uptown," is the only thing Eliza can say, because what else can she say? Their daughter is dead.
February 10 th , 2000
He shatters, but he's still alive. Somehow, he's still alive.
February 11 th , 2000
He feels dead, but he's still alive.
November 24 th , 2000
George Eacker is given the death penalty for the murder of Rachel Elizabeth Hamilton. Alexander doesn't like the death penalty much, but he can't bring himself to fight it. He can't. Not when his Rachel is gone.
January 1 st , 2001
It's still quiet uptown.
July 4 th , 2001
It is their anniversary, so Eliza and Alexander have a drink. Alexander smiles at her. He thinks of everything that he's lost. He thinks of his mother. He thinks of John. He thinks of George. He thinks of Rachel. But more than anyone, he thinks of Eliza. Eliza is still here. He is still here. They have to do something.
July 4 th , 2002
They've finally done it. The project is Eliza's brain child and it has been since way back when she was in college for a degree in social work. Alexander and Eliza open a home for youth escaping abusive homes and for those who simply don't have a home. They call it the Rachel Hamilton House. Alexander is happy. He has finally done what he set out to do. He has finally changed the world.
July 12 th , 2002
He sees his daughter in the eyes of every single child they help. He sees his daughter and his father and his ex-almost and his mother. He sees everyone and he helps all of the children he can.
May 31 st , 2004
Alexander's head hurts. This isn't unusual. What is unusual is the intensity and the frequency of the headaches. Eliza takes him to the doctor.
June 1 st , 2004
He has cancer, they tell him. He has cancer and it's metastasized and spread through his entire body so far that there isn't a thing they can do except wait. He won't see Christmas, they tell him.
Alexander doesn't want to die. He has a family. He's saving the world. He doesn't want to die, but there isn't a thing they can do.
He is going to die.
June 3 rd , 2004
They tell the kids. The older ones first, George and John and Philip and James and AJ. They understand but they don't cry. Not in front of each other and not in front of their parents at least.
They tell Angie next, their sweet little Angelica. She's quiet for a really long time before she speaks. "Why?" She asks. "Grandpa and Rachel and... Why do people die?"
Alexander doesn't have an answer. He doesn't know how to answer.
June 12 th , 2004
Alexander goes to South Carolina. The entire time John Laurens has been dead, this is the first time Alexander goes to see him. He goes alone because this is something he needs to do alone.
He stops in front of the gravestone and stands there silent for a very long time. For a man known for his way with words, he is left speechless. But it is alright, he thinks, because John would know what he was trying to say. John always knew.
He goes home and knows it's the last time he'll ever see John Laurens.
June 14 th , 2004
Time is ticking. He's getting sicker and he knows it. The children know it. Eliza knows it. Eliza, his dear Eliza... His heart aches when he thinks of her. He can't believe he's doing this to her. She doesn't deserve this. He tells her in bed that night, tears in his eyes, that he's sorry. "What for?" She asks.
"For dying," he says, and she shrugs slightly. Eliza leans forward and kisses him on the forehead.
"It happens," she says. "Shit happens. It's not fair. It's definitely not fair, but it's the shit that's happening. We have to deal with it. Don't apologize for things you can't change." Alexander thinks on that for awhile.
"You're brave," he says. "Far braver than I ever was. Than I ever could be. You're strong." She is strong. He thinks that she'll be okay without him, but God, he doesn't want her to have to be. He wants to be there.
July 12 th , 2004
He collapses at home and they hospitalize him. Everyone knows this is the end. Peggy and Maria and Susan come to visit him. Angelica and Aaron are there. He sees Martha. He sees everyone one of his children. But they aren't the only ones he sees.
He sees his mother. She is standing there, beaming at him, one arm around a little girl that looks just like Alexander. "I'm proud of you," she says. The girl, his Rachel, leans over and kisses him on the forehead.
John Laurens is there, but he isn't John Laurens. He's Private Laurens. He's young and happy and alive. He smiles at Alexander.
He sees George Washington. He lingers at his wife's shoulder and puts a hand on Alexander's. He doesn't speak, but he doesn't need to. He never needs to.
His children are still there. Every one of them gives him a kiss. Angie is still too short to reach, so she has to lean over. Alexander looks up tiredly and sees Eliza and he can't help but smile. She looks beautiful even though there are tears in her eyes. "It's okay," he tells her, or he thinks he does. He doesn't actually know if his lips move. "It's okay, my dear. It's okay."
Alexander falls asleep.