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Never Forget

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She pressed the tips of her fingers under her right eye, blending in the concealer she’d lightly dabbed onto her skin the moment before.

Ali had introduced her to color corrector a few years back, helping her to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Today she hoped to hide the discoloration brought on by nights past of fitfully tossing and turning.

The nights seemed endless recently.

She dropped the makeup brush she had pinched between her fingers and instead gripped the edge of the counter.

The nights were endless.

The dark bled into day.

It all seemed the same.

She leaned forward, staring at herself in the mirror.

Sometimes she didn’t recognize the person staring back.

She felt Henry hovering before she saw him step up behind her. “You okay?”

Her eyes found his in the glass.

He’s hesitant, she saw it on his face, in the wrinkles of worry around his eyes.

She nodded as if she hadn’t been hovering over the toilet five minutes ago. Now, as her eyes dropped to the sink, she bit her bottom lip, keeping herself from gagging all over again.

“The kids are downstairs with breakfast.”

She still remembered hearing his comment of, “Be extra nice to Mom today,” as she’d walked down the stairs last year.

She bowed her head, cutting their stare as she leaned her weight into her arms.

The countertops are made of similar granite that had been in the master bath of their first home in DC. Then, the ivory white of the sink had been stained. She’d watched blood, dirt, and dust swirl down the drain, leaving a ring of scum around the top.

She’d shed her clothes, tossing them in the corner, before she’d scrubbed her skin raw in the shower. She thought she’d pitched her blouse, her skirt too, but she’d found out a few years back that Henry had set them aside, donated them to be displayed in the museum in New York.

…She’d been pissed, rightfully so, for about a month before she’d decided to forgive him.

She sucked in a breath, rummaging through her makeup bag with one hand as she pushed her hair away from her face with the other.

She’d been in Wedge 1 of the Pentagon, the C ring between Corridors 4 and 5.

She was lucky to be alive.

…Henry tells her that God, maybe even her parents, had been looking out for her that day.

She pulled the top off the tube of her favorite shade of lipstick and effortlessly swiped it across her lips.

Henry was still standing behind her, waiting for her to break but she wouldn’t, she couldn’t afford to this morning.

“It’s faded.”

Her eyes snapped to his through the mirror. And she stared, stared until her gaze darted to the reflection of her left cheek.

“It has.”

As she raised a hand to her face, touching the small scar on her cheekbone, Henry crossed his arms over his chest.

“Isn’t that what you wanted?”

Wasn’t it? She’d spent years applying creams before bed and heavy makeups in the morning. She’d spent hundreds of dollars on products to hide a past that she had wished to forget.

She shook her head, pulling the zipper of her makeup bag before turning towards the door.

“Elizabeth.” Henry caught her arms.

She kept her eyes on the hardwood, on her bare feet, on the blue nail polish that was painted on her toes… Anywhere but his face.

His hands squeezed before sliding down to her wrists. They felt warm and soft, yet firm and safe. “Why don’t we take—”

“No.” She swallowed.

She knew he’d try to coax her back to bed. He’d pull back the blankets and snuggle close, pulling her into his chest just as he did that night fifteen years ago. They had both cried for the country, for the lives lost, for the friends lost. She’d laid awake for the four hours of rest she’d allowed herself before making the drive to Langley.

She lifted her head, forcing a smile as she met his eyes. “I’m fine.”

She was fine, other than the fact that blue skies in the morning left her skeptical during her morning commute.

“I’ll be in Fairfax,” she said as she stepped past him.